The December 2009 Knicks are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get? 1
The Knicks could not have given fans two more drastically different performances in consecutive nights than the beating they gave the Suns (14-5 after losing to Cavs) on Wednesday and the whupping they received from the Magic (15-4) last night. It makes a Fanatic wonder what kind of team the Knicks really are. Are they really twenty-six points better than the Suns or fourteen points worse than the Magic? Who are these guys really? Is the wildly fluctuating gauge of performance really broken?
Knicks fans are a hopeful lot, so for us the easy answer when the guage fluctuates like this is to tell ourselves that the Knicks are not really that good or that bad — they are somewhere in the middle. Fans in general need hope to stay interested when their team sucks, but sometimes hope is not only audacious, it makes the hopeful delusional. The fact is that the Knicks are closer to their 4-15 record than they are to the score of the Suns game. In other words, the Suns game represents their potential against a small team that plays no defense, like Nellie’s Warriors didn’t play when Duhon broke Richie Guerin’s assist record in the Garden last year. The Magic game reflects their record on December 3, 2009. The Knicks are their record.
It is very hard to believe that the best team in the league came into the Garden and were proven to be that bad by a team that bad. The Suns mysteriously performed far worse (17 turnovers and scoring less than 100 pts after averaging well over 100) than usual. From the very beginning Steve Nash (4 Turnovers, 20 points, 8 assists) was uncharacteristically throwing the ball away and Alvin Gentry relied on pretending Amare Soudemire (14 points on 4 for 7 shooting and 5 turnovers) was the vanquished Shaquille O’Neal by asking him to consistently beat two to three defenders off the dribble as he faced up David Lee outside and in the post. That was so bizarre it certainly makes one wonder whether the Suns were being merciful to their beloved former coach or whether Grant Hill ( 8 points on 3 for 7 shooting) was just going through the motions to make up for going through the motions with the Knicks this past summer or whether Nash was apologizing for destroying the myth that D’Antoni automatically attracts the best players when he re-upped with the Suns without openly considering the Knicks.2
Still, the Knicks (12 steals and 7 blocks) clearly out-hustled the Suns (4 steals and 4 blocks) . The Knicks were bigger and better rebounders (50 rebounds to the Suns 40). Harrington (22 points on 8 for 14 shooting) has become unstoppable on the drive. Danilo Gallinari (27 points; 6-12 from arc) showed that promise that makes fans go “ahhhhh” at every shot as though it is certain to crease the net. Duhon (5 assists, 5 points, 1 turnover) was serviceable instead of out-of-service. The pick and roll was clicking as the Suns were watching. Regardless of what the Suns did, the Knicks did play well.
Against the Magic, the Knicks were exposed for what they are. A small poorly coached band of expiring contracts and young bench warmers. To be fair, back-to-back games are a difficult part of NBA life, especially when travel is involved.3 Once again, D’Antoni wishfully played David Lee on Dwight Howard (19 points and 10 rebounds), hoping that a mix of coverages would confuse Howard and that the perimeter shooters, like Michael Pietrus (17 points) would miss. Coaching with hope. Hope that Gallinari would not consistently blow defensive assignments while shooting 5-14, though scoring 20 points. Hope that Nate Robinson, who scored 22 points in the 4th quarter against the Magic a few days ago, would learn a lesson by watching the entire game from the bench his team lost. Assuming the punishment fit the crime, winning the Magic game was clearly not a priority over discipline.
“We want to win. And if he’s [Nate Robinson] conducive to winning then he’ll obviously be back in the lineup. If not he’s not.”– Mike D’Antoni
All this tells us is that the Knicks are skilled professionals capable of beating teams that don’t try hard, but they are not good enough to win against competitive contenders without some consistently solid coaching based on sound rotation selections, defensive principles and offensive strategy. When the coaching is consistently good, the Knicks will have a better chance of being statistically good and consistent.
1After the Magic drubbing, I could telepathically hear a Fanatic say “the Knicks are like a box of prunes, all you get are the pits.”
2Thank goodness the Suns and Knicks aren’t the Williams sisters or they would have been accused of all sorts of unsavory, unethical and dishonest behavior. NBA — nothing but actors?
3What is that trip from New York to Orlando, 2 hours and 44 minutes? The equivalent of four games of Uno or a quick nap and a drink on the team plane; yeah, that’s rough!
Junk In The Trunk. . . .It is funking amazing how disrespectful and condescending a so-called journalist like Frank Isola is allowed to be to any athlete in a “news” article. His coverage of the Knicks debacle focuses on D’Antoni’s benching of Nate who he refers to as “Lil Him.” Of the benching he says that “[t]he high-flying, hyperactive guard was finally muted by Mike D’Antoni.” And these so called reporters whine when they are publicly called out for their lack of professionalism and common decency. Absolutely incompetent and the giggling pool reporters that encourage or allow it are just as guilty; but here’s the good thing — social media makes them public figures too and you reap what you sow. . . .Toney Douglas (17 points and 1 assist) performed well (+10) but he still needs to exhibit the instincts of a distributing point guard. . . .The NBA fined Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire and Charlotte Bobcats forward Tyson Chandler $7,500 each Sunday for posting to their Twitter accounts during games in violation of league rules.