You can’t quite call tonight’s Knicks-Nets game a marquee matchup, as the promise of high-level NYC basketball dominating the NBA has regressed to a temporary nightmare of injuries, uncertain coaching situations, stars playing below their ability, uneven rotations… It’s been real fun, basically. To preview the joy, I got Robert Silverman of Knickerblogger to answer a few questions about how and why these Knicks have been arguably a bigger bummer than the Nets.
1. Why have the Knicks regressed so strongly this season? Is it all because of Tyson Chandler?
Partly, yes. Without a doubt, the loss of Tyson Chandler has been devastating. For one he was/is the Knicks’ defensive anchor, and without his presence in the middle to cover up for the sub-par (at best) perimeter defense–especially versus quick PG’s–the Knicks are getting obliterated by pick and rolls, A fairly basic screen will inevitably lead to an easy bucket at the rim or a wide-open, uncontested trey, all of which is aided and abetted by the ‘Bockers insistence on switching on pretty much ever play. Two, on offense, without the attention he drew rolling to the hoop, Felton’s pretty much useless and the Knicks all-too-easily become brackishly stagnant, settling ISO’s from Melo or JR Smith way, way, too easily.
But it’s not like they were doing particularly well even before he was sent off to whatever horrific, medieval torture chamber that passes for medical treatment. The core of the team that won 54 games last season is intact, but watching coach Mike Woodson’s clumsy attempts at cobbling together a rotation have been the equivalent of seeing a pygmy marmot trying to solve Fermat’s Theorem. He’s abandoned both the two-PG look and Melo at the four, because he felt the need to shoehorn Andrea Bargnani into the starting lineup or give vast gobs of playing time to a wholly ineffective (and possibly still injured) JR Smith, and the truly sad blight that is Amar’e Stoudemire, while sending Prigioni to MSG’s equivalent of the Siberian gulag.
Beyond the criticisms that one might have with regards to strategy or the utilization of the available talent, there’s a real sense that this team is headed for a long, painful run of futility. They’ve got two (count ‘em) two draft picks total over the next four seasons, and that’s only thanks to one of the few owners in NBA history who might rank lower than Dolan, Ted Stepien (Thanks, Ted!). Their one movable asset, Iman Shumpert, looks demoralized and seems to be regressing. The rest of the roster is littered with overpaid ‘stars’ whose talents don’t really mesh, and no fan with an operant cerebral cortex thinks the front office has the acumen to pull off any kind of a deal without literally giving away huge tracks of arable land and possibly the very trousers that they’re wearing.
In sum, like Carmelo Anthony said after the team’s 2nd players-only meeting of the season, “We are in a dark place.”
2. The Carmelo era, at this point, is what we thought it was. Do you want the Knicks to re-sign him? Should they break the bank to do so?
And here’s the nut of the problem. Ideally, I’d like the Knicks to blow it up (and possibly salt the earth around 7th Avenue so no basketball could ever grow there again), which would mean trading Melo.
But that won’t happen.
If they do resign him, I’d like to think that he’d take enough below the max that they’d actually be able to build a team around him, but that won’t happen either.
Which leaves us with letting him walk with nothing in return It’s not a particularly fun option to consider, but for the long-term health/growth of the franchise, it might be the best option. They’d be atrocious in 2014-15, but they would own their own 1st that year (what a concept!) and would be forced to rebuild. Of course, like options one and two, unless Melo wants to leave and the extra 30 million that Dolan can offer won’t change his mind, I can’t see the Knicks holding firm on a lower dollar figure.
This is why Knickerbocker-backers seem so utterly beaten down right now. They’re absolutely convinced that regardless of the situation and/or possibilities for improvement (limited though they may be), the team will make the worst possible decision. Gah.
3. How soon is Mike Woodson getting fired? How fair is that?
If the Nets triumph over the Knicks (Perhaps that’s too strong a word. Win? No… Do less bad? Something like that) I could very easily see Dolan flying completely off the handle, his head lurching back as his eyes go milky white and a substance resembling white-hot molten lava exploded from the very core of his being, and demand that Woodson not only be fired, but every record of his existence destroyed and crammed down the memory hole. “We were never coached by Eastasia! We were always coached by Eurasia!” and whatnot.
If the above scenario were to occur, I’d probably say that it’s partially fair. Like I babbled about in response to question one, Woodson’s made a number of strategic decisions that range from ‘questionable’ to ‘gobsmackingly dumb.’ I think there are coaches that could make much better use of the assets at hand. I don’t think said stratagems would result in more than 2-3 wins at this point, but that’d be enough to be within farting distance of first place in this execrable division. That coach wouldn’t be on the proverbial hot seat.
4. Likewise, who wins the Shame of the Century?
My pessimism beats your pessimism. The Nets win at home, in an ugly, low-scoring affair. 87-84 sounds about right.