Kemba Walker


image

Last Thursday night in Miami the Knicks played a complete game from start to finish, without star and 27.5 PPG contributor Carmelo Anthony, and blew out defending Champion Miami Heat at United Airlines Arena 112-92, in what may have been their best regular season performance in the new millennium.  Since then, the Knickerbockers went toe to toe with the Bulls in Chicago and lost, and posted wins over Denver and NJ…um, “Brooklyn” that is, 2 games that have been labeled by some as a Carmelo revival tour of sorts.  Tuesday’s victory over New Jersey, as must a win as there can be in mid December, was made possible by Anthony’s 45 pts, and was delivered by a 3 pointer by new team leader Jason Kidd (shown above) in the final minute which was also the game’s final tally.

Prior to the South Beach business trip, the Knicks played a mostly lackluster game in Charlotte, looking ahead to the Heat, in all likelihood.  While Anthony put up 20 in the 1st half, he had zero field goals in the 2nd.  But his low output did not hinder his effort.  With only a few minutes to play, Anthony followed a loose ball into the Knicks’ bench, lacerating his finger, and causing him to miss the next two games.

Without Anthony on the floor for the final minutes in Charlotte, the Knicks capped the impressive comeback (8 down with 6 minutes to play) win with a 5 man unit consisting of Chandler, Novak, Smith, Felton, and Kidd.  Felton and Smith teamed for a huge steal in the final minute and swarming team D led to a 5 second violation for another key turnover, in part aided by a mental error by city product and NCAA champ Kemba Walker.  The pride of UConn failed to present himself on the inbounds pass, as he was the likely option on the throw in.  Felton scored with approximately a minute to go on a sweet drive, which gave the Knicks a 98-98 tie, and then JR Smith, after failing to go hard to the rim for a layup that would’ve won the ball game, instead called a TO and then promptly won it with a fall away from behind the elbow as time expired.

The Knicks performance last week, marked by strong defense and execution, have been hallmarks of the team this year–especially 2nd half defense–traits notably absent during Mike D’Antoni’s failed tenure, but traits once again associated with the Knicks under Mike Woodson, now 35-12 as HC of the NYK.  Another refreshing quality the Knicks now have in spades, which was noticeably absent during the D’Antoni era is effort, which, to a man, has improved under coach Woodson.

It couldn’t have hurt to have added so many serious veterans with winning predigees, like Rasheed Wallace and “rookie” Pablo Prigioni, who, in 13 minutes against the Heat, recorded 7 pts and 6 boards.  Prigioni has a serious nose for the ball via the steal and the long rebound, a perfect reserve on a club that shoots so many 3s (last night the Knicks made 14-28 3PFGAS).  Kidd has also shown a knack for loose balls and long rebounds, but to be honest, what hasn’t he shown a knack for since coming to NY’s real team?

Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who truly puts the color in color commentary, recently discussed Kidd’s impact on the Knicks this year.  In doing so, Clyde recalled Kidd led NJ teams that went to the finals, along with players like Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin, who ‘have been practically nothing without him.’  It’s easy to understand why Kidd’s departure so enraged Dallas owner Mark Cuban.  In fact, we were even apoplectic that Kidd was out for the 1st game the Knicks played against the Nets in Brooklyn.  Something tells us the Knicks finish that business off with Kidd on the floor to steady and martial the troops.  We’re pretty certain that Knicks point guard Ray Felton would be the first guy to cite Kidd’s impact, as Felton is enjoying a career season with Kidd as his 2.

In that game against Miami, Felton made 6 3s, led the team with 27 points, and turned it over only 3 times, and only once through 3 quarters.  Felton’s play against Miami prompted one local beat man (props to Steve Popper) to Tweet, “Feltonsanity.”  Too bad Jeremy Lin didn’t stick around, as he would have greatly benefitted from Kidd’s tutelage, as opposed to Houston, where he shares the ball handling duties with, wait for it…Toney Douglass.  Oh, the hand of fate!

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/jeremy-lin-duplicitous-twerp-scumbag-liar/

Even if Kidd is not showing up on the score sheet, his contributions are great. In Miami, Kidd was a staggering +31 in his minutes.  Kidd has taken charge of most huddles and is perfectly suited to, for what player on the Knicks or in the league anywhere, for that matter, would not defer to Kidd’s wisdom in a crunch situation?  When JR Smith failed to go in for that layup to beat the Bobcats, Kidd was visibly irate with Smith, but then appeared to instruct Smith to shake off the play.  So Smith went out and made the buzzer beater, all net, no rim, splash.

Having 2 point guards on the floor, one being Kidd, has manifested itself in another winning attribute: TO ratio.  This year the Knicks have a +5.5 TO margin, which, at the moment is not only tops in the league but is also on pace for an NBA team record.

Back to the +/- stat for a moment, a stat which is also distinguishing the Knicks as an elite regular season team.  The Knicks 5 man unit of Chandler, Novak, Smith, Felton, and Kidd is the top +/- group in the NBA. The 4 man unit of Chandler, Felton, Novak, Kidd is the top foursome in the league, and the 3 man unit of Novak, Felton, and Kidd is the top 3 man unit, at a staggering +19 avg.

Novak has been worth every penny of his 20+M/4 yr deal so far.  Even last night, when he recorded zero points, he was a +12 in his minutes, which indicates that he plays sound ball regardless of his stroke and scoring numbers.

As presently constituted, the Knicks sit atop the Atlantic at 16-5.  They should be wired on Thursday when they play the Lakers, a struggling team, now coached by Knicks’ castoff Mike D’Antoni, a questionable hire, especially considering that Phil Jackson was set to return to LA when D’Antoni agreed to take his woe is me act to SoCal.  Only time will tell as to D’Antoni’s success in LA, though not only aren’t we counting on it, but we’re actively rooting against it.  The Knicks would be wise to jump all over LA at MSG, where Kobe usually puts up immense numbers.

The Knicks should be further buoyed by the imminent return of Amar’e Stoudemire, who looks to be in great shape right now, and who is expected back around Christmas.  And when Iman Shumpert returns, hopefully in January, the Knicks will have the defensive presence to throw at quick guards like Rondo and Deron Williams, which should further boost the play of Raymond Felton, an absolute bargain at 3M per, and taken with Kidd’s approximate 3M salary, the winning pair come in at the same approximate salary as former Knicks’ savior Jeremy Lin.

KNICKERBOCKERS!!!!

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Georgia Tech junior guard Iman Shumpert (above).

Basic Statistics

Year League Team GP Min Pts FG FGA FG% 2Pt 2PtA 2P% 3Pt 3PtA 3P% FTM FTA FT% Off Def TOT Asts Stls Blks TOs PFs
2008/09 NCAA Georgia Tech 31 31.6 10.6 3.4 8.7 39.1 2.4 5.5 43.8 1.0 3.3 31.4 2.8 4.2 65.6 0.7 3.2 3.9 5.0 2.1 0.2 3.7 2.9
2009/10 NCAA Georgia Tech 30 30.1 10.0 3.5 9.0 38.5 2.2 5.3 42.1 1.2 3.7 33.3 1.8 2.5 72.0 0.9 2.7 3.6 4.0 1.9 0.2 3.1 2.3
2010/11 NCAA Georgia Tech 31 32.0 17.3 5.7 14.1 40.6 4.4 9.2 47.4 1.4 4.9 27.8 4.5 5.6 80.6 1.7 4.2 5.9 3.5 2.7 0.2 2.3 2.8

 http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Iman-Shumpert-5156/stats/#ixzz1Q9VpXmx8

We do not know what to make of this.  The whispers are that the kid can’t shoot straight.  We liked the idea of Shumpert in addition to a forward, and we were hoping that the Knicks got Faried or Singleton or fell into Kemba Walker.  If this is all they do, the jury will be out on this draft for a long time, and we doubt that this kid gives the Knicks any immediate help.
 
Knicks GM Glen Grunwald was interviewed by ESPN, and said they love Shumpert’s defense.  He also said they have a lot of ideas on how to fill out the rest of the roster.  They better.  Personally, we like Marshon Brooks way better than Shumpert, if you are going guard here, and we agree with ESPN’s panel on the notion that Shumpert was a reach.
 

On a buzzer beater by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks salvaged a win last night in Memphis after blowing another ten point lead, this time with 3:37 to play.  Melo, after popping the jumper, had some interesting interplay with the Grizzlies’ bench.  Defensive “stopper” Tony Allen, did little to contain Anthony overall, who put together another great stat line (31 pts, 5 reb., 6 assts).  Anthony, who an excited Memphis bench regaled with sentiments his game winning shot was off when it left his hands, went back at the Memphis sideline and said simply, “I do this” when the shot fell.

Exciting times for the Knicks indeed.  Don’t mistake our silence on the Carmelo saga and on the beginning of this era as a lack of excitement for what’s going on.  We stated here months ago that Gallinari, probably Chandler, and a pick swung from Minny for Anthony Randolph was going to Denver.  We wrote–months ago–that Melo was engineering a trade to NY and that privately he had shot down the Nets.  Even publicly, he couldn’t even fake being lukewarm toward the proposition of NJ.  He could’ve had a deal to the Nets at any point since June.  Instead, when Denver obviously begged their disgruntled star to thow them a bone in the form of some leverage, Anthony spoke not of New Jersey but of perhaps signing the extension with Denver.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/espn-nets-melo-drama-a-farce/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/carmelo-anthony-no-to-nets/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/carmelo-anthony-to-nets-pipedream-crushed/

We’ve had a big picture view on the Knicks dating back about 6 years now.  The Anthony acquisition is a major step, but part of a much larger long term process.  First, we rooted for Thomas to do enough damage to get himself fired, which finally happened with an assist from Stephon Marbury who testified about pressuring a young female Garden employee into giving him a blowjob.  Then, Thomas had to be replaced with a quality hire.  Sure, we’ve made fun of Donnie Wheelchair, and we hate his draft acumen, but he is a pro.  He had a plan and stuck to it, giving the Knicks the chance to slot in stars the magnitude and calibre of the ones now on board.

These exciting times and last second wins?  Great to be excited, but putting teams away when up 10 or 12 in the 4th quarter is a lot more gratifying in our minds.  Still, it’s a long view.  You know our feeling on Mike D’antoni.  We’d never hire him.  Ever.  Not for the Knicks, not for a Division III school, not for an AAU gig, not even to mop up court sweat.  We’ve never seen any facsimile of speedball win big on any level.  Showtime out in LA and all fast break basketball is predicated on stops, rebounds, and turnovers that lead to easy scores.  Remember the Riley credo: “No rebounds, no rings.”

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/before-they-can-worry-about-free-agents-knicks-need-a-coach/

The next step in the Knicks progression is probably going to be growth from within.  Fields and Douglass have upside and are improving.  We expect 7 or 8 guys from this squad to return next year and that they’ll improve as a group.  Seven foot pivot Jerome Jordan, a 2nd round pick last year, will probably be imported from Europe.  He’s a big who showed polish and promise in college, and who is currently showing a knack for scoring down low overseas.  The Knicks must draft wisely in round 1 this year (BTW, did anyone hear Kemba Walker lobbying this week to come to NY?), and may be served to buy another pick, ala the Toney D. selection, which they acquired for cash from the Lakers.

But Mike D.?  If we could only sell him off.  Short practices, disinterested walkthroughs and shoot arounds.  Mishandled player relations (Nate Robinson, Jordan Hill, etc.)  We guess Walsh can live with it so far.  But all the late blown leads and not running plays late in the games?  Our media is already tiring of this act.  The Post this week had a snappy headline in which they referred to him as “Done-toni.”

http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/knicks/after_season_mike_may_be_done_toni_EoEp0beiA3opwRMF02MkyJ

If Garden management is so slow to take care of Walsh, who always represents the team in a respectful fashion, why would they be in a rush to extend the coach?  Especially one whose rationale for not calling a timeout to set up a play at the end of games is along the lines of ‘we basically know what to do.’  Really?  Did they know what to do in Phily weeks back when they blew another double digit lead in the 4th, went down 10, and cut it to 2 in the closing seconds?  D’antoni didn’t call for a timeout, the Knicks had no play, ran something we’d describe as chaos, and watched Shawne Williams, fresh off the scrap heap, force a drive when the Stoudemires, Chandlers, Gallos, and Feltons of the world watched.

We will suggest right here that D’antoni is also mishandling Chauncey Billups and his injury situation.  Billups hurt his quad 6 games ago.  D’antoni has termed him day to day the whole while.  How is a guy not named John Abraham day to day for 2 full weeks?  Not only do we not think D’antoni is being honest, we also don’t feel he and Billups are on the same page.  Billups said of a Sunday return, “not looking good.”  D’antoni said Billups is “coming back Sunday.”  We think D’antoni is afraid to tell the media the truth about Billups, in part.  The guy is a self preservationist, and he must know that a 3rd free pass in a row, at $6M per, is unlikely, even from the imminently wasteful Madison Square Garden Co. 

And here’s what a good coach says: ‘So and so’s not playing.  Injuries are part of the game.  Out of sight, out of mind.  We’re gonna play without him and we’ll be ready.’  A good coach doesn’t clutch at excuses.  A good coach wouldn’t be afraid to go up to the 5 seed and face Orlando.  He wouldn’t be making excuses about how hard it is to lose Billups, or how unrealistic it is to think the Knicks are more on a level with Atlanta than Charlotte.  The Knicks took it to the Magic for a chunk of their last meeting in Orlando, in what was another second half debacle.  A very quick Jameer Nelson killed them off the dribble and with the shot.  How about at least pretending you have a shred of confidence in Toney Douglass as another option against Nelson? 

Another local beat guy, Alan Hahn of Newsday, has been maligning the Knicks execution, an obvious shot at D’antoni.  Hahn’s a guy you should pay particular attention to.  Why?  Because the Garden owns Newsday, and MSG Network has been giving Hahn lots of air time of late, featuring him on Knicks broadcasts in a prominent role.   

BTW, be sure to tune in tonight when the Knicks face the Mavs wearing their “Nueva York” jerseys for some NBA Spanish night nonsense.  The Knicks have the worst winning percentage of any club over the last 9 seasons.  But something about these Nueva York jerseys might bother us even more than that.

Are we critical much?  Crack do this!

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

 

On a few occasions this season (prior to games vs. Northwestern, Georgetown, ASU, and Duke) we’ve had a warm feeling–positive expectations–about a given game.  Damn us for announcing in the past that we had no idea why.  Frankly, there’s only one real player on the team, one super athletic but raw freshman, lost in the half court for more than a month, and a collection of short role players.  No size at all.  Very under talented.  You know how much we love Steve Lavin and how thoroughly we have professed our love for him since second one of his tenure.  In fact, we had been torching AD Chris Monasch for his sluggish, trumped up pursuit (if you could call it that) of Billy Donovan and Paul Hewitt, but once we caught the slightest whiff of the Lavin to SJU rumors, we promptly cut it out.  It may have taken us 23 games to fully comprehend that Lavin has cooked up the good feeling surrounding the program with tireless recruiting efforts–for both players and coaches–courting and re-establishing the connections to St. John’s royalty like Chris Mullin and Ron Artest, and making a team out of the talent and size poor bunch he inherited from the inept Norm Roberts.

As former Knick big and esteemed commentator Len Elmore pointed out during the broadcast, Lavin might not have gotten all the ingredients in for this Johnnies squad, but he did “bake the cake.”  L-ELM???  We’d see Lavin as more like the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.  Despite watching UConn recently light up Marquette on the road in the 2nd half, we felt the Lavin positive vibe last night.  Until Lavin chatted with former ESPN colleague Elmore in the tunnel prior to the game, and told the camera that Elmore would probably have a much better time watching that game than Lavin would.

Luckily, such talk was more low key Lavin and false modesty.  From about the 9 minute mark of the first half on, St. John’s destroyed a very good Husky team.  So St. John’s only has 1 offensive player?  If that guy is getting to the rim and looking for his shot, that guy, Dwight Hardy (above), showed Thursday that he’s all you really need.  5-8 from 3 pt. range, and 33 pts total, including 12 in a row on a Hardy to UConn 12-0 run, mixing long range bombing with a nasty ability to get in the paint and convert several conventional 3 point plays.  St. John’s weathered a late first half Husky run, took a small lead into the half, and then went on a 19-3 run spirited by Hardy, who took to heart his marquee matchup with Bronx rival and Big East scoring ace Kemba Walker.

So St. John’s, capping an NCAA record 7th straight game against top 25 teams, railed Connecticut in front of a decent Garden crowd, and are now 7-1 at MSG and 4-3 against teams in the top 25.  Their recent win against Duke was Duke’s worst out of conference loss in 20 years, and though they followed it with a stumble at UCLA in Lavin’s return to Pauley Pavilion, Hardy poured in 32 and the Johnnies had a chance late on the road in a very tough non-conference tilt.  Lavin had to have wanted that one badly, and the team had to have known it.  They brought incredible to focus into the UConn game, and for the 3 game set, couldn’t have gone a better 2 and 1.  St. John’s had an insane 22 rating in the RPI going into last week, and today, they notched a very impressive road win over Big East foe Cincinnati on the road.

They got the win today despite blowing a 52-40 lead late, and they couldn’t buy a field goal in the closing minutes of the game.  They did it with excellent position play and hustle, poise at the line, and confidence.  Hardy had another 18 today and nailed another 4 3 point field goals, but it came down to defense for the Johnnies, who were exploited a bit on both ends on the glass by the Bearcats.  UConn was unable to pull that off the other night when St. John’s, despite the lack of size, killed the Huskies on the glass 43-33.

Defense and hustle were also on display against the Huskies, who St. John’s seemed to run cirlces around.  St. John’s scored the first 27 fast break points of the game, and in the end, notched a 27-2 win in fast break points.  So much so in fact, that many Husky fans have been questioning HOF coach Jim Calhoun’s preparedness with regard to the St. John’s game. 

We were very interested to see how this team would respond today on the road after such an impressive win.  Especially when we heard Lavin’s post game remarks about the St. John’s mindset right now.  When the Johnnies beat Duke, Lavin gave the team 2 hours to celebrate.  No such break was issued Thursday night.  “That was the biggest game of the year.” he would say.  “Now, the next one is.”

This team has grown, and they are a very tough out despite the shortcomings.  All credit to Lavin, b.t.w., for taking a look at these kids and seeing that Dwight Hardy, who Norm Roberts didn’t rate as a starter, as the premiere player on the team.  And again, for hiring the staff that he did.  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it more.  Getting Keady was a master stroke, and what kind of guy would get a guy like Keady to come here at 70 something and do this while living out of a hotel?  Do not under estimate Keady’s influence on this squad.  They play extremely smart ball, and in the Keady fashion, they squeeze every drop out of their talent.  And how about the hiring of Mo Hicks?  Hicks, an NYC amateur basketball power broker, is no doubt part of the reason why high school sophomore phenom Isaiah Lewis (above) of Christ the King, is looking hard at the Johnnies, and who could be the top player in the nation in the class of 2013.  But then again, Lavin didn’t have Hicks yet when he landed Mo Harkless, who many have touted as the best player in NY in the 2011 class.  It helps with these kids that Lavin is always saying the right things.  About opponents, about recruiting, about the mindset of the team, his message to the team, or to legends he wooed and added to this dream staff.  Lavin is always making things happen, whether it’s a big win, celebrity pull, or another recruiting gem, like Chicago standout Phil Greene (below), who committed to St. John’s earlier this month.  Greene is a 6’2/6’3 combo guard who is expected to compete for a starting spot in next year’s backcourt , and who should receive quality minutes at any rate.

As we’ve mentioned, seeing Chris Mullin around the team, whether at Carneseca, MSG, or on the road (St. Mary’s) is also a big boost.  Or established NBA players like Dejuan Blair or Knick great Allan Houston.  And did you hear what Ron Artest said?

“They whupped on UConn.  They whupped on their butts.  And Duke too.”

On Lavin, Artest would say:

“Doing great.  I’m really happy about that.”

You and me both, RA.  And wait ’til next year, when they have a collection of A grade talent, which includes a scoring machine in Nurideen Lindsey at the lead, a top big in Norvel Pelle, and Harkless leading a cast of 8 other prized recruits.  The schedule isn’t falling off any time soon, but we’re looking for our boys to record a few other popping wins–regular season and tournament.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/after-bad-loss-to-syracuse-st-johns-clamps-down-avenges-loss-to-notre-dame/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/st-johns-stuns-13-georgetown-61-58-madison-square-garden/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/lavin-lands-norvel-pelle-norm-roberts-takes-gig-sny/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/lavin-in-cali-hot-for-top-recruit/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/memo-to-fordham-curb-your-enthusiasm/

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)