New York Knicks Digest: January 2011 Edition


New York Knicks Digest: January 2011 Edition
M.D. Wright
1.5.2011

Here we are, in January of 2011, about halfway through a nice 2010-2011 NBA season, and the New York Knicks are above .500 (20-14, .588) this late in the season for the first time in TEN YEARS. Unreal.

One of my boys from way back, Mike Boyd and I joked that the Knicks would be brutal for a decade (while internally thinking maybe 3-5 years max, after Patrick Ewing was treated horribly at the end of his Knicks tenure), but little did we know it would actually pan out that way?

Now they’re watchable again. Leading the NBA in scoring (although they were near the top the past couple, they weren’t palpable like they’ve become in 2010-2011) and have some energetic players.

I’ll give a brief write-up of the season thus far, a little blurb on each of the players and where the team can go from here until the completion of the season (and hopefully beyond).
——————

Back in early November, after a couple of nice thrilling wins at the beginning of the season, the Knicks plummeted sharply. We basically thought, “Oh well, looks like Stoudemire was a bust, they’re the same ol’ Knicks”, and began tuning them out like we always do after about… oh, Thanksgiving?

But no, something went off around Veteran’s Day.

Amaré Stoudemire began playing like an All-Star and MVP-level Power Forward and the rookie, Young Landry Fields, who barely played substantial minutes the first few games of the season, has since (in my best Marv Albert Voice, using his go-to quote for players who get on hot stretches) “COME ONNNNN”, as he has gotten more playing time. And Raymond Felton is showing (and reminding those who saw him coming out of high school and at the University of North Carolina) what he could do with a team that actually has the capability to score more than 90 points in a game.

They’ve been thrilling to watch. They’re not elite yet, and are admittedly missing a true inside presence offensively and defensively, along with a solid compliment to Felton in the backcourt, but they are fun to watch even in losses. They aren’t on Boston’s level, nor Miami’s, but they’ve managed to beat the San Antonio Spurs, who had a 25-4 record coming into their game on January 4, 2011. When you score 110 points per game and lead the NBA, you can be exciting regardless of whether you win or lose. They’ve even shown that they can get defensive stops at times (leading the NBA in BLOCKED SHOTS?) and shoot a high percentage in every facet of the game.

GRADING

Head Coach
Mike D’Antoni: B+
He doesn’t get an “A” because he hasn’t figured out (or refuses to do so) how to implement PF Anthony Randolph into the system. He would be dynamic and there had to be a reason they traded David Lee (in part) to get him in return. He hasn’t been on the court in weeks.

Overall, D’Antoni’s system favors quick, efficient shots and tons of scoring. However, he only fancies defense in passing and that has cost the Knicks almost every one of the 14 games they’ve lost to this point: the inability to consistently get stops defensively, as well as being outrebounded in crucial points of the game.

But overall, given the players that D’Antoni has, he does a very good job. Not GREAT, but good.

POINT GUARD
Raymond Felton: A
Runs the system as well as Steve Nash ever did, and is bigger and stronger as well. Scores efficiently, distributes electrically, and plays defense — something Nash doesn’t do. I’ve seen numerous 28 point, 17 assist games from “Felt” this year. I’LL TAKE IT ALL SEASON. He’s more than capable and these are not fluky numbers.

Toney Douglas: B-
Shot selection plagues him. He’s already a “combo” guard; not a true PG and too small (along with aforementioned shot selection) to be a consistent SG, but he can score with the best of them when (again, Marv Albert Voice, complete with intonations, stuttering and dramatic pauses) “he has.. has FOUND THE TOUCH from down-townnnnn…”

Doesn’t play adequate enough defense to be a starter nor the leader of the second unit when Felton gets breathers, so this will be a position that the Knicks will potentially address either by the February trade deadline or in the upcoming offseason. But he’s a good player overall.

SHOOTING GUARD
We don’t really feature one, and that’s been a need… well, since Allan Houston retired.

Roger Mason, Jr. and Bill Walker almost never play and would warrant “Incompletes” as a result.

Landry Fields: A
More than what anyone could have expected from the young rookie. Stanford kids are usually soft and slow. He’s neither. Then again, the last couple of years have featured the Lopez Twins as well, and they’re as tough as nails.

Young Landry leads all rookies in rebounding and all GUARDS — rookie or otherwise — in the same category. Brings a level of energy unseen since John Starks’ and Latrell Sprewell’s days roaming the Garden. Shoots it well, plays good defense. You’d think he was 29 and had been in the league 8 years already, with the way he plays.

SMALL FORWARD
We’re stacked here, obviously.

Kelenna Azubuike: Incomplete
He was part of the David Lee/Anthony Randolph trade, and has either logged a ton of DNP-CDs or has been banged up all season. He’s a stud though. The Knicks would be wise to keep him and implement him in the system. He comes from a run-and-gun system in Golden State and can score quickly and efficiently like almost everyone on the roster. Not a volume shooter, which also helps.

Wilson Chandler: A-
WILL THE THRILL. My man. He’s a gamer. Does everything for the Knicks, among the league leaders in BLOCKED SHOTS at 6’8″, can put up 30 points in a blink, plays the opposing teams’ big name Small Forward night in and night out, hits the boards, strokes the 3 and can pass it as well. Loves to get out on the break.

Can be a gunner at times and when his shot is not falling, his shot selection often gets worse, but that’s been rarer this year than in the previous two.

Danilo Gallinari: B+
GALLO. He doesn’t get enough minutes. For D’Antoni to be so fond of him, you’d think he’d play him more. Gallo loves to attack the rim now, he’s more aggressive on both ends, never met a shot he doesn’t like, has the prettiest “J” outside of Ray Allen in the NBA, and like Allen, Reggie Miller and other All-Time Greats, you always feel like his shot is going in.

He has improved a great deal defensively, and he’s still young, which bodes well for the Knicks. JUST DO NOT TRADE HIM. Carmelo Anthony can be had for literally nothing but a signing if the Knicks can just be patient with this season, playoff run or not.

Shawne Williams: B
One of GM Donnie Walsh’s old guys from Indiana. He has all the potential in the world, but he is a Grade A knucklehead. Well, used to be. Let’s hope his past stays in the past. At 6’9″, he can stroke it from deep and runs the floor well. Just not consistent effort when he’s out there.

POWER FORWARD
Anthony Randolph: Incomplete
D’Antoni either has a grudge against him or he’s just out of it, but he never plays and no one knows why. We loved watching him operate out in Golden State and even our hometown announcers Mike Breen and Walt “Clyde” Frazier were showering him with glowing adulation during Knicks/Warriors games (those vaunted 10:30 EST/EDT starts on MSG ha). He has all the ability to be an excellent Power Forward, but apparently D’Antoni disagrees.

Amaré Stoudemire: A
After a slow start (and still with a ton of turnovers, which kill the Knicks at times when they are on runs), he’s “COME ON”. He had a series of 30 point games that coincided with Knicks wins, tying an NBA record. He’s playing defense more feverishly now (Blocked Shots galore) and snatches more rebounds per 48 minutes than he has in years. Suns fans are cursing his name because they wonder where that was the past four seasons. Too bad. A true leader, is “Bam Bam”.

CENTRE
Eddy Curry: F—
What a colossal waste of human flesh.

Timofey Mozgov: C+
Foul prone, slow but tries hard. He has potential, but everyone knew he was a huge “project” going into the season. People laughed at the idea in training camp that the Knicks would trot him out as the starting Center, but lo and behold they did, early on. He can get better, but then again, ANYTHING is better than Eddy Curry.

Ronny Turiaf: A-
He knows his limitations, doesn’t do anything that he is not capable, big time team guy, huge on defense, big “glue guy” and supports his teammates 100%. He goes all out and takes more charges than most guards. He has been part of the reason the Knicks are halfway respectable on defense for the first time since Marcus Camby roamed around the paint. Please keep him.
——————

At 20-14, the Knicks currently sit 7 games behind the Boston Celtics in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. I’ll take it. They’re a nice 6.5 games ahead of Philadelphia, the 3rd place team at the moment. Overall, the Knicks are in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, and a good matchup for every potential playoff team. It looks good for them, with or without Anthony.

The Knicks “own” the Chicago Bulls, and if the season ended today, that is who they would play in the first round of the playoffs. I LIKE IT.

The Knicks need to get better defensively and show that they can run halfcourt sets efficiently when their run-and-gun offense and fast breaks are not clicking. No coincidence that the two top teams in the Eastern Conference play stellar defense and take teams out of what they like to do in the halfcourt. They also execute efficiently in the halfcourt themselves, along with having two of the top three players in the NBA (Miami, with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade).

The Knicks don’t have a Top 5 player, they have a fringe 10th-best player and bunch of young guys with B+/A- potential offensively and defensively, but they are not there yet. That makes for a decent 48-34 record to finish the season, which would land them in the 5th or 6th spot in the Eastern Conference — and potentially playing the Orlando Magic or Chicago Bulls, both teams they match up favorably with.

These final 48 regular season games are going to be fun to watch. I plan to watch a handful in person at Madison Square Garden, the rest on MSG Network, ESPN, TNT or what have you. If you haven’t seen my guys on TV or in person, GET ON THE WAVE!

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