“Here come the Knicks. I think they decided enough’s enough. And they played hard.”— Mike D’Antoni
“I think it [signing Allen Iverson] will help things. You got a guy who’s a proven scorer, probably a Hall-of-Famer. He can only do positive things, I think, to this team.” — Al Harrington
The Knicks won just their second game of the season in an usual fashion with the help of the debut of Eddie Curry. The enigmatic center’s presence helped spark a come back for a 19 point deficit as the Knicks outlasted the Pacers who were playing the second game of a back-to-back. Still, any win for the Knicks, at this point in the season where they are questioning every aspect of the team, is a good win and a sign that the players have not given up totally.
In many ways the win was quite bizarre. Despite the victory, the major talk centered around the possibility that Donnie Walsh will offer Allen Iverson a one year contract to join the Knicks. It felt like it was a done deal (the offer, not the Answer’s answer) as vets indicated it would be a good move. D’Antoni. on the other hand, has not given an enthusiastic endorsement. For D’Antoni bringing in Allen Iverson must represent a surrender to the malaise and distress gripping a team he believes he can get to play decent ball; it is an admission of failure and the invitation of a host of new issues including how to divide minutes and foster team unity.
If Allen Iverson is paying any attention to the Knicks, he must be hoping for other options (See Larry Brown), not because the Knicks are bad — chaos presents opportunities to shine — but because Iverson just left a situation where the owners, management and the coaching staff were not on the same page regarding his usage. Iverson maintains he was brought to Memphis to be a starter. Hollins maintained that he was the on-the-floor coach who had to manage his team through Allen’s hiring, presence, injury and return to play. To acquiesce to Iverson or an agreement between Iveson and management would have created difficult locker room issues for Hollins. Similarly, force feeding Iverson into D’Antoni’s starting line-up presents serious team management issues as it further erodes trust between the players and the team. Iverson must be considering that the Knicks are a mess not worth the effort.
D’Antoni’s understanding of his team still was not reflected in his rotations which ranged from awkward to very awkward as he tried to introduce Eddie Curry into the mix. Eleven of D’Antoni’s 12 available men played; All put Jordan Hill were on the court for at least 12 minutes with Darko Milicic receiving the only DNP.
At the 3:35 mark of the third quarter, the Knicks were down by 19 points (82-63). When Curry came in ten seconds later, he presented a problem for Indiana’s smallish team on their defensive end. Curry, once again on the floor with Nate Robinson, seemed to also boost the Knicks energy level. Hughes, Harrington and Jeffries rounded off that unit. Also effective was the unit of Robinson, Curry, Chandler, Jeffries and Lee. The unit that sealed the game was Duhon, Hughes, Lee, Jeffries and Harrington. Given the inconsistencies of many of these players so far, D’Antoni probably did not get the answers he wanted (but my get the Answer that others think he needs).
The key to the second half was that these units played better defense than in the first half debacle. Although they started the game with more ball pressure and communication, they still looked like they had never played defense together as Danny Grange scored 29 points in the first half. In the second half. Granger was shut down before he fouled out. Surely, the defensive intensity finally wore the Pacers down.
Troublesome, also, was hearing Danilo Gallinari complain about back stiffness after he spent some time during the game on the floor to protect his back. The stiffness may explain one of his stiffest performances. He played 17 minutes but took only 2 shots and grabbed 2 rebounds. He finished the game with a goose egg for points. When you watch Gallinari play stationary-man at the arc, you wonder when is D’Antoni going to figure out how to use this kid and get him in a position where he can take shots or drive to the basket. Gallo just sits on the arc waiting for a pass. The coach must run more plays for this guy, but if his back hurts that signals a bigger problem than Gallo’s inability to create a scoring opp.
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