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If you have Time Warner Cable, like I do, you may not have realized that the 2011-12 New York Knicks suck.
They do. They suck big time, and there is not much help on the horizon.
I was lucky enough to attend two Knicks games last week – lucky, because they were the first two Knicks games I was able to watch from start to finish this season (thanks James Dolan). The ‘New’ Madison Square Garden is actually kind of nice, and the concession options are cool, and the bathrooms are clean. That’s basically the only good thing going on in the Garden right now, besides the Rangers. Because the Knicks are terrible.
On Monday afternoon, I saw Tyson Chandler negate Dwight Howard, only to watch Ryan Anderson, JJ Redick and Hedo Turkoglu torch the Knicks for 66 points. The three shot a combined 14-26 from beyond the arc. Three white guys annihilated them in a game that was still up for grabs in the fourth quarter. That’s when the defense melted down and the crowd got mad and I left to catch the 2 train.
Carmelo Anthony, supposed savior of the franchise, needed 27 shots to score 33 points. Amar’e Stoudemire played just 22 minutes after finding himself in early foul trouble and pretty much sat out the entire middle of the game. Iman Shumpert, rookie “sensation” who is so bad at “shooting” that it is “out of control” submitted a lovely 3-9 performance, and is shooting a blistering 38% from the field. Toney Douglas, the presumptive starting point guard coming into the season (HAHA OH WOW) got jealous of Shump and decided to make just four of his twelve shots, missing all of his three attempts. He was outplayed by fan favorite Josh Harrellson, aka Jorts, aka an integral rotation player on an alleged playoff team.
A guy named Jorts might be the difference between the playoffs and the lottery. Let that one sink in nice and deep.
Oh but Saturday, that was the crowning achievement on the Knicks current 6-game losing skid/spirit journey. A double overtime thriller versus the Nuggets where the road team, plucked from the mountains, on an East Coast road trip playing their fourth game in five nights, had more energy at the end of the game than the team that has been sitting at home all week losing.
Former Knicks galore torched their old team – Danilo Gallinari, the pride of every Italian from Bensonhurst to the Bronx, poured in 37 effortless points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He needed just 19 shots to get there, by the way. And he attempted 20 free throws, because he drove to the basket on almost every possession. Former Knick and New York native Al Harrington scored 24 points, including a killer three to put the game out of reach and send Knicks fans streaming toward the exits.
Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony, Celebrity Husband and Basketball Enthusiast, had 8 points halfway through the fourth. Read that again. He finished with 25 points, on 30 shots. He hit some clutch baskets to send the game to overtime, but someone should probably tell Melo that points count for as much in the first quarter as they do in the fourth. So going one-on-three in the paint, spinning and throwing up an off balance prayer with time in the game winding down is actually the same as, say, two foul shots before halftime.
Stoudemire attempted six shots from beyond 15 feet, which is six shots too many. Amar’e, you are not Dirk Nowitzki. You are not Kevin Durant. You’re about as Jewish as Tim Tebow, and you take less contact in the paint than the Macabees took defending the temple.
I am genuinely worried about Stoudemire. He has always been… eccentric, let’s say. I think he is mentally shattered right now, and he is playing the most passive, Antoine-Walker-esque basketball I have ever seen. Saturday was an abomination – he was outplayed by TIMOFEY MOZGOV. Oh that’s right, the Russian dude who was a throw-in in the Melo trade threw down dunks with authority, finished alley-oops, and ended up with 16 points. By the way, the Knicks best player by far against the Nuggets was Landry Fields, who is having a significant down year compared to last season’s breakout, but was the only guy playing with any effort or driving at all to the hoop at crunch time.
And don’t get me started about defense. Actually, get me started because that is the number one problem the Knicks have right now. The guard play is atrocious, yes, and the superstars besides Tyson Chandler seem to seriously not give a crap. But the perimeter defense is possibly the worst it has been in a decade. Melo and STAT are not defenders, obviously. Chandler tries his hardest to erase points in the paint, and Shumpert is lovely at grabbing steals. But Shump, Douglas, Harrellson, Bill Walker and even Fields are not defenders. They get torched by tall three point shooters, they have their collective ankles broken by fast small guards, and can be posted up by anyone with a back and a dream.
This all adds up to the fundamental problem with this team: it is poorly constructed. Too top-heavy, too many journeymen playing significant minutes, too much lack of effort, too much Jarred Jeffries. This is a team that, with the right point guard, could be unstoppable. This is also a team that may not understand what a “pick-and-roll” is, or that being a “point-forward” constitutes more than dribbling the ball across mid-court.
The Knicks will probably improve at some point. They have too much talent to miss the playoffs, and with some notable teams in the East dropping off, the spots will be open. But for Knicks fans hoping Baron Davis is the answer, keep asking the question: who the hell put this team together? And more to the point, who should be coaching it? Because this is a mess, and I don’t think Phil Jackson is walking through the door so fast.