Currently browsing category

State of the Union

State of the Garden: Dolan’s Boys

I am a carbon copy of my father. It has nothing to do with the fact that my peoples all look alike (okay, maybe just a little bit). But it’s other things: we have the same mannerisms, we showcase the same stubbornness, and we make the same mistakes because we run through the same thought processes and use the same logic.

Similarly, YOUR New York Knickerbockers are a carbon copy of their illegitimate father, James Dolan. We know the story of Dolan already. The stupidity of the Isiah Thomas era, the botched handling of Linsanity, and the foolishness of JD and the Straight Shot all tell us that in spite of his obvious intelligence, the King of New York is too brash, too vindictive, and too ridiculous. We’re lucky that general manager Glen Grunwald has undoubtedly been the best executive in pro sports for the past two years (and yes, I’m including Presti in OKC, Buford in Santone, Baalke in Frisco, Friedman in Tampa, and any other executive who decided to take a job in the National Hockey League).

The Knicks are Dolan’s boys. Their attitudes and their play on the court, from superstar Carmelo Anthony to head coach Mike Woodson, give Dolan every reason to call the Bockers his team. Let’s take a look why:

The Technical Fouls

Anthony leads the league in technical fouls with 8. J.R. Smith and Rasheed Wallace each have 4. Including Woodson, the Knicks have gotten T’d up 24 times in 27 games.

NBA referees are horrendous. But they were horrendous during the days of Naismith’s peach baskets. They’ll continue to be horrendous in the future because a) the NBA doesn’t conduct a rigorous hand-eye coordination test to become employed, and b) referees are human. Even the most calm player will show a little emotion when there is a missed call or no-call, but the Knicks compound forgivable human error with unforgiveable human error. Exhibit A, Anthony against the Rockets last month (fast-forward to 1:20 if you’re so inclined):

Anthony’s blatant disregard to continue playing basketball does the obvious: the Rockets had a clear path to two points. But this and other reactions to referee mistakes has given the Knicks a terrible reputation. Many basketball heads point to the Knicks’ inability to get to the free throw line as a huge reason why the winning ways of the Bockers is unsustainable. But I counter by saying that Melo and Smith are just not getting the calls near the basket. Breen hammered on that point during yesterday’s game against Minnesota, that Carmelo is just getting beat up down low without the benefit of hearing a whistle.

The players’ reaction to non-calls, missed calls, and the technical fouls themselves portray Dolan-ing at its finest. When asked about the whistle-happy referees that ejected Tyson Chandler, Woodson, and himself against Chicago on Saturday, Anthony said:

“Sh*t happens.”

How lovely. Don’t blame it on the fact that we can’t control our emotions like rational adults. Blame it on someone else, it’s the Jimmy D way.

The Overconfidence

Dolan and Isiah, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. I’m all for standing by your boys til the bitter end, but the continued employment and affection for someone who torpedoed the franchise for years was comical. People are bad at their jobs all the time, and sure, Isiah should have been fired for that. But when Anucha Browne-Sanders filed an eight-figure sexual harassment lawsuit against Madison Square Garden based on Isiah’s transgressions (I love that word… Read more...

State of the Garden: To Brooklyn And Beyond?

Allow yourself to be a child again, and remember that one of the roughest moments of the Toy Story movies is when Buzz Lightyear finally realizes that he’s only a toy. Although, similar to other toys, he incredulously falls like dead weight whenever humans enter the room, it takes Buzz a while to realize that he can breathe without his space helmet, he cannot communicate with his home base, and he cannot fly. No matter how shiny his packaging is, he is still just like Woody and the gang. Each toy falls in line relative to the whims of Andy, and regardless of how much each toy is used, they are all part of Andy’s collection.

Buzz was pretty upset when he discovered the limitations of his powers. He almost let it get to him by becoming a depressing shell of himself, but he recovered in time to make the best of his situation. He didn’t go to the Vegas summer league and renegotiate his contract to put Andy in a worse position just because things weren’t perfect on the home front. But even if he did, the rest of the inanimate figurines would still be happy to play for the one team they’ve always known.

If you consider yourself a basketball one-percenter, then you may oftentimes refer to your NBA team as part of your family and friends, using a collective pronoun that implies shared feeling and experience. In reality, we all have the mental capacity to understand that we won’t ever don an official NBA (and coming in a year, 2×2 endorsed) uniform, we don’t employ agents or publicists, and for the most part, we actually are compensated at the level of our worth. However, we are justified in using “we” and “us” because we invest so much of our time and money for the right to feel the glory of a win and the immense pain of a loss.

As fans, we are YOUR New York Knickerbockers. We may be the toys that stay buried in the bottom of the treasure chest that never get to see the light of day, but we’re still there. So through all of our owner’s faults, if Jeremy Lin decides that Daryl Morey will provide a better home for him, it is our directive to stay home, even if the grass appears greener on the other side.

The Brooklyn Nets provide the alternative option for which a less headstrong Knickerbocker fan has been dreaming. Armed with a free-spending owner and a brand new arena, the Nets have put together a roster that will surely contend in the competition-starved Eastern Conference. But is that grass a true, solid green? Every single starter on Brooklyn (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, and Brook Lopez) will form a tasty first 5, but all of them are overpaid, including D-Will. This has left the Nets with less money to spend on their bench. The Knicks, on the other hand, feature battle-tested veterans to provide much-needed depth; yeah they’re old and frail, but nobody will argue that Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, and Kurt Thomas can’t contribute to a professional basketball team. Brooklyn’s plastic seal hasn’t been lifted, so the new toy on the block is always intriguing. But I don’t know if that franchise provides the “greener” alternative. Green? Maybe. Greener? Questionable. It’s not puke-green, but it certainly isn’t money-green.

The most famous Mambinite of them all, Bill Simmons, gave his blessing for tortured Knicks fans to leave Manhattan this summer. As always, he put conditions on making a choice of free will, but I’ll take it a step further, and say that you can’t leave town. Not now… Read more...

State of the Mets: Unexpected Hope is Amazin’

(I’m posting for Pucklius, because Blogger sucks.)

At the beginning of the 2012 Major League Baseball I wrote on this here blog a forecast of the New York Mets with such doom and gloom it might have sent the most optimistic fans running for the hills. In short I said that the real pain of watching this team was not how good or bad they would play this year but that the bleak financial outlook left a fan without any hope at all for this season or the next. I’m not going to say I was wrong, because the financial situation of the team, cloudy as it is, still leaves a great deal of concern for the future. I should also say that while I thought this would be a year in which the team went nowhere and made few strides toward being a consistent postseason contender, I didn’t think it would really be that bad.

Of course, I didn’t think it would be good either.

I thought that like every season there would be the occasional moments of joy and excitement, the rare comeback win or the fun rookie hot streak by the latest incarnation of Timo Perez in which a callup drums up excitement until the rest of the Majors had scouted him to death and adjusted for him. But I didn’t expect or count on a few things. I didn’t count on the Mets sweeping the Braves to open the season and get off on the right foot, I didn’t count on Johan Santana smoothly coming back from major shoulder surgery, I didn’t count on David Wright coming back to life and I didn’t count on a suddenly pleasant and happy locker room that made its impact on the field because the 25 guys on the roster all genuinely like each other.

And I certainly did not count on Robert Allen Dickey suddenly becoming the most dominant pitcher on the planet. Dear God, I did not count on that.

All of this is good news for any Mets fan and shockingly it has given us all a reason to hope and a reason to believe, but before we all start high-fiving raucously and sending in our deposits for playoff tickets, I think it would be sane on everyone’s part to dial down the optimism for a bit and take a look at a few things. The Mets are six games over .500, which is good, but it’s not great either. Their run differential is an unimpressive +3 and was negative for nearly the entire season until this week. They’ve scored fewer runs than Milwaukee, Colorado and Toronto, and they’ve given up more than Pittsburgh, Oakland and Kansas City. First baseman Ike Davis, who is expected to be one of the few dependable cogs in the New York Mets machine for this season and the future is teetering uncomfortably around the Mendoza line, rarely cracking a .200 average and staying below .300 with his on-base percentage — though his power numbers are decent and he has been hitting far better of late. But perhaps most concerning is the fact that the Mets have been a maddeningly inconsistent squad all season. Before a sweep Baltimore at home this week (the franchise’s first time beating the O’s in three straight at home since the 1969 World Series), the Mets were swept by the Reds after impressively beating up the Tampa Bay Rays on the road in a sweep after being swept by the Yankees after dropping two of three to the Nationals after taking three of four from the defending-champion Cardinals… well, you get the point. The Mets have their share of impressive showings so far this season against top-tier competition, but they’ve also been swept by the Houston Astros, an outfit that would probably lose to some better AAA teams.

So in the end, all of this adds up to, well, no one really knows. T… Read more...

State of the Garden: Woody’s First Blunder

When an old problem is solved, a new one usually springs up. Fix the leaking pipe, and the water will just be forced down another avenue.

The unceremonious resignation of embattled head coach Mike D’Antoni moved the Knicks forward, regardless of how much blame rested at the mustachioed man’s feet. MDA refused to look his name-brand players in the eye and tell them exactly what they were doing wrong. This problem allowed Carmelo Anthony to stew and sulk, but it also lost the respect of the players who did get an earful. The Josh Harrellsons and Toney Douglases of the roster were the ones to suffer from the team’s poor play; it showed in the numerous DNP-CDs next to their name in the box scores.

When Mike Woodson spoke to the media for his first press conference as head coach, he declared that the offense would run through his superstars. But what spoke volumes to the whole team was not this change in offensive philosophy. It was the change in the coaching philosophy.

When things went wrong on the floor in the MDA era, the coach would make a face, bark at the officials, and storm the sidelines as if tragedy had struck. Since then, Woody has done some of these things, just like every coach would. But to his players’ surprise, the new man in charge directs most of his attention to them.

Accountability.

When the players were asked about the difference between coaches, former and present, that word rang true. Anthony wanted the bright lights of Broadway, but instead of leaving him to his own troubles, Woodson has made Anthony earn it. Faced with this responsibility, Carmelo has played like the superstar we all thought he could be. His frown turned upside down, Melo displayed energy on defense that we haven’t seen since Syracuse, a menacing tenacity on the glass that we haven’t seen since Denver, and leadership that we haven’t seen since…ever.

I have been one of Anthony’s biggest supporters, even when Linsanity reduced him to a sideshow. Sure, when his shots consistently hit iron and not net, when weaker players blew by him, and when he acted like a general jerk, I got mad just like the rest of us. But my compatriots will tell you that I was steadfast in the notion that his talent could not have gone south in a matter of one year. Carmelo’s resurgence should be credited 1% to the man himself, but 99% to his new head coach. Woodson possesses almost none of the new-school, run-and-gun personality that his predecessor forced the Knicks to adopt. And while the team may sometimes be less exciting and attractive to the casual observer, the team, led by Anthony, responded with a 9-2 record heading into last night’s game against Indiana.

YOUR New York Knickerbockers blew a 17-point lead to those Pacers. And while I wanted to curse Danny Granger for not playing like this for my fantasy team all year, the loss was really due to the fact that Indiana exploited a mistake by formerly blemish-free Mike Woodson.

For the vast majority of the game, Carmelo Anthony was destroying the opposition. His jump shots were devastatingly on point. When he attacked the rack, he displayed his elite body control after contact to get the two points, even sans whistle. He was scoring at will, and this was the game where fans would forget about Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.

Or at least it was supposed to be. Because Indiana had no answers for Carmelo, “Melo-ball” was the offense’s only option. The other 4 Knicks on the floor never made cuts, never set off-ball screens, never moved. Indiana did what … Read more...

State of the Garden: NOW HIRING!

How lucky are you guys! Two State of the Garden posts in a week!

As you may know, Mike D’Antoni has resigned from his job as head coach of YOUR New York Knickerbockers. He departs approximately half a year short of fulfilling his contract, signed in the summer of 2008.

It would be redundant for me to go over the myriad failures over the last 3 and a half seasons. But although that alone would not stop me from repeating said failures, it’s far better to look to the future. After all, we Knicks fans are accustomed to shielding our eyes from the present in hopes of tomorrow’s greener pastures.

This is a great moment for the franchise.

Let that sink in.

However, this obviously does not mean that all is well at Two Penn Plaza. The Bockers just barely fit the definition of a team, and the resignation of the brains behind the operation doesn’t change that. The Knicks don’t defend. They don’t rebound. And sometimes, they complete the trifecta by not being able to score, an inexplicable event for a squad “coached” by D’Antoni.

The heart of the matter lies behind closed doors, where, according to recent reports, there is a cancer spreading through the locker room like wildfire. Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony may not like each other. Anthony may prefer to be traded. I may want to kill myself. One could argue that with D’Antoni gone, these problems may only intensify, due to the fact that there is now one less scapegoat for the product displayed on the court.

So why is this a great moment for Knicks basketball?

Mike D’Antoni was signed to a fairly lucrative contract in ’08, lured by Dolan to bring the fast-paced offense from Phoenix to the Apple. D’Antoni’s tag-team partner was former general manager Donnie Walsh, known for assembling a would-be title contender in Indiana, were it not for that one night in Auburn Hills. In Walsh’s introductory press conference, Dolan gazed over at his new employees and said, “whatever it takes.”

Curry stole our happiness, in addition to the $50MM.

What happened after that was a slow-moving process to building a winner. D’Antoni did one hell of a job in Years 1 and 2, getting quality minutes from players who are currently clutching onto their NBA lives with a vice grip (see Duhon, Chris). He gave us an entertaining brand of basketball while Walsh cut the fat literally (Eddy Curry) and figuratively (Eddy Curry). All holdovers from the Isiah Thomas era, including Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, and Jamal Crawford, were shipped out to prepare for signing LeBron James. While the organization remained irrelevant in the eyes of its own city, die-hards like you and me patiently waited for July 1, 2010, the first day when the heralded free agent class could sign with new teams.

Bron Bron didn’t come, but Amar’e Stoudemire did. And while many people point to STAT’s history with D’Antoni in Phoenix, it was MDA’s ability to do more with less in Years 1 and 2 that cemented Stoudemire’s signature on a maximum contract to play in New York. After Stoudemire came Raymond Felton, the emergence of homegrown talent with Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and finally Tyson Chandler. While Stoudemire deserves the lion’s share of the credit for making the Knicks a marquee attraction once again, D’Antoni’s contribution is not lost, even on a hater like me.

He still had to go, for all the reasons in my previous posts, like his unwil… Read more...

State of the Garden: Chicago Just Got Another Rebound

If I’m ever late for anything, there are plenty of things to which I can point the blame. Maybe it’s the extra 5 minutes in the shower. Maybe the traffic lights didn’t work in my favor or the subway decided it was convenient to run on the local tracks. But more likely, it’s probably that I didn’t care about being punctual.

Last night, YOUR New York Knickerbockers were outrebounded by the Chicago Bulls. That sentence isn’t that dramatic, until I tell you that the margin of glasswork was +18. That sentence has a touch of flavor, but I’ll take it a step further by telling you that the Bulls had 22 offensive boards compared to the Knicks’ 29 on the defensive end. So when Chicago was on offense, shooting an I-would-sign-up-for-this-everyday 43% from the field, they battled to a -7 deficit on the 57% of attempts that did not go through the net. On defense, a team has an easier time establishing the positioning required to grab more rebounds than the opposition. The vast majority of possessions will have most, if not all, defenders playing between their man and the basket, especially without the use of a zone defense.

Now let’s see: if the defender is between their man and the basket, the defender is closer to the hoop, and thus has the advantage of advancing the ancient basketball tradition of boxing out. In this scenario, it is embarrassing for a defense to yield a +7 advantage on the boards when they are protecting their own rim. So what happened?
There are plenty of reasons why the Knicks didn’t rebound the ball well last night:

1. They are not a good rebounding team

When the team signed Tyson Chandler, head coach Mike D’Antoni declared that the best frontcourt in the world played their home games at Madison Square Garden. Normally, when you think of an imposing front line, you think of big dudes who will take advantage of you whenever their size gives them such an opportunity.

Carmelo Anthony is 6’8″, 230 pounds.
Amar’e Stoudemire is 6’11” and weighs about 2.5 bills (although he’s listed at 260, he’s been doing extra work to get down to 245, in response to criticism that he has lost explosiveness).
Tyson Chandler is 7’1″, 240.

Big dudes. The three of them average a little less than 24 rebounds per game, and those numbers don’t exactly paint a picture of doom and gloom. But any seasoned fan will tell you that it’s just not enough, even before we witnessed Chicago’s dominance last night.

The best rebounder of the trio is undoubtedly Carmelo Anthony. I thought Anthony had a decent game last night. KOBEsh even texted me to say that sometimes, the man puts on a display that will convince you that he’s one of the best we have in this league (Hubie Brown voice). Melo’s aggressiveness on the offensive end leads to several opportunities for offensive putbacks, and his second jump differentiates his game from most of today’s player. I’m not going to complain about his rebounding.

STAT and Tyson just don’t box out. Ever. If you watched the scrums last night, you’d think that Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Carlos Boozer had cooties or something. It is beyond frustrating to witness. I can’t really explain Amar’e’s inability to get tough rebounds consistently, nor can I explain Tyson’s stubbornness to try and outjump his opponents without first trying to seal them off. The basics of boardwork are lost with these two guys, and while I love them for oth… Read more...

State of the Lakers: The Best Two Awful Losses Ever

The only good part of the Lakers’ week

Statistically, Derek Jeter had a great 2010 season for a shortstop. 111 runs scored, 67 RBI, 10 homers, 18 stolen bases and a low, but respectable .270 batting average. But the reality was that anyone that watched Derek Jeter in 2010 would tell you that it was the Captain’s worst year of his career. He hit a career-low .270 to go along with a .710 OPS (barely league average), and lacked the dynamic flare on the field that was always buoyed by his world-famous competitiveness.  Whether it was age catching up with him, or it was just a player, even one of Jeter’s immense stature and reputation, having a down year, DJ knew that he had to change in order to stay relevant in a league that he had for so long lorded over. 

When the 2011 season started, much talk was made of how Jeter had tinkered with his swing in the offseason. Rather than the inside-out swing that helped the Yanks get to number 27, his motion became longer, the circumference of his bat movement wider and his stride almost non-existent. Both the coaching staff and Jeter thought that this would the Captain improve with age, relying on mechanics and his hitter’s guile rather than the quickness and explosion that had helped him become one of the greatest ever to play the game. While a simple swing of the bat doesn’t seem like a major change, even minor adjustments in a hitter’s mechanics can be just as drastic as say, changing a team’s coach or making a huge in-season trade. It’s monumental. Could be, anyway.
Well, it didn’t work. DJ ended up on the 15-day disabled list in June, only after hitting a meager .260 with a .649 OPS. He came back in July, dropping a winter’s worth of hard work and adjustment, and went back to the swing that made him the Yankees all-time hit leader. And, impressively, it worked. Though certainly not the player he was for the majority of his career, Jeter bounced back to a massive second half, raising his batting average to .297 and his OPS to .743.
Sometimes adjustments back to form work, like Derek Jeter. He realized a weakness, tried to change it and realized that perhaps that wasn’t the answer to begin with. Perhaps a refocused, back-to-basics approach would be the only solution to his declining production. He was right, but this methodology isn’t always the correct solution.
After Finals collapse to the underdog Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 decided that the Phil Jackson era was over, that the triangle offense was a antiquated method to construct and operate a basketball team. New coach Rudy Tomjanovich was brought in to lead Kobe Bryant’s team, sans Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Fox and Derek Fisher, and forge a new direction for the Lakers.
It didn’t work. Halfway through the season, Tomjanovich quit, citing that the stress of the job had brought on health issues, and Jackson assistant coach Frank Hamblen was brought back to implement the triangle offense, to little success. The Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade and it was the only time in the past 12 seasons Kobe didn’t get a single MVP vote. Hamblen’s interim coaching stint turned out to be a prelude to Phil Jackson’s return, which was hugely successful, but only if you consider three more NBA Finals and win two more titles success.
That was the smarmiest thing I might have ever said about the Lakers, but I’m coping with a rough sports week. Let me be.
So here we are with these Los Angeles Lakers. Last year’s teaRead more...

State of the Garden: Half Full or Half Empty?

After watching yesterday’s painful loss to the Boston Celtics, I realized that there are two different, but possible, reactions from the point of the view of a Bocker lifer. You’re either a glass half full optimist, or a glass half empty loser. And unless you jumped on the bandwagon when Jeremy Lin took the basketball world by storm, there are only these two possibilities. The die-hard Knicks fan has been through more than a decade of ineptitude, apathy, and lack of effort from top to bottom. This has emboldened him or her to exude more passion towards orange-and-blue than ever before. Again, unless you like your weather “fair,” there is no neutrality when it comes to backing the NBA team that plays at Madison Square Garden.

So which Knicks fan are you? And more importantly, do you know me well enough to place me in one of the categories?

GLASS HALF FULL
Just a few short years ago, the economy crippled a large population of Americans. People lost their jobs or were forced to take positions beneath their worth. Mortgage payments went unpaid, and foreclosure quickly reared its ugly head to those most vulnerable. Recent graduates of numerous universities displayed a diploma that became borderline valueless.
All of these things still hold true to this very day. But since the calendar turned more than two months ago, things have undoubtedly improved, regardless of where you stand ideologically. Though a gallon of gas deprives us of our soul, many of the statistics will tell you that we may be finally climbing out of the hole. So instead of focusing on how things went wrong, or why we’re not completely out of the woods yet, it’s more fruitful to celebrate that we’re doing better than we have in a long time.
It’s tough to complain about the 2012 version of the New York Knicks when every other version for the past 10 years taught the rest of the league, specifically from A-Z, how to NOT run a sports franchise. Yesterday, the road squad forced a good team into overtime. That good team features 3 guaranteed Hall of Famers and needed its All-Star point guard to produce a stat line that has been seen only TWICE in the history of the sport. Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the two superstars that have been catching verbal heat all season, played some of the most inspired ball we’ve seen in a long time. And not only that, the two did it without disrupting the flow of the spacing-fueled offense. The bench continued to shine, with Depth City’s reserves displaying toughness that is virtually unmatched by any second unit outside of Chicago or Miami.
And goodness, we can always remember the greatness that is Iman Shumpert:

Of course, Shumpty was rewarded for his posterization of Kevin Garnett with a technical foul, in one of the most ludicrous calls I’ve seen in years. If that is the basis for a tech, then Garnett himself, among many others, should receive one on just about every trip down the floor. Every single point counts in a close game that is decided in overtime. The fallacy of the pre-determined outcome prevents me from saying that this would have been the difference, but that call wasn’t the only example of the horrendous officiating yesterday afternoon:

The way that Garnett was allowed to unleash an assault and battery, and label it as a legal pick, makes you think that the referees were watching a different game. And if that’s going to happen, it’s tough to win, especially in a hostile, playoff-like environment.

Depth will win out in a condensed season. In

Read more...

State of Laker Nation: Why the Rush to Trade Pau?

There’s a lot of elements to the wave of Pau Gasol trade rumors, and it’s taken me a long time to sift through what’s sensible versus illogical. I understand that the press perhaps over-reports it because it’s a very sexy story. You have one of the best 5 big men in the game potentially going to another team and changing the face of the league. In fact, the December near-trade involving Pau and others for Chris Paul verifies that such a story has legs (This alone, is enough to justify the plethora of trade rumors).

I understand the fan’s perspective too, and how they can get swept up in the hysteria of the Lakers being less than title contenders for even a 8 week stretch. A spoiled Laker Nation sorely misses a highlight-reel offense which is so far from the anemic post-up game that this Lakers team employs.

I even understand the logic of it; we have two gigantic trade pieces in Pau and Andrew, and Pau is the more expendable of the two. It’s really quite simple. I’m able to wrap my otherwise cluttered and over-priced mind around all these wrinkles in the complicated business of basketball.

What I don’t understand is how everyone seems to think that jettisoning a 4-time All-Star and completely remaking the face of a team that’s won at least 57 games in every season he’s been in LA is the only solution to the Lakers’ problems.

I’ve taken a lot of time to describe in detail the biggest weaknesses of the Lakers right here on MAMBINO, but let’s hit the main one real quick. This is an older, slow team that puts a premium on defense and doesn’t score points easily. They need to win 84-82 slugfests and forcing the opposing squad to play at their speed. The primary culprits behind the slow motion Lakers are new coach Mike Brown and his system, but more obviously by the lack of points, the well-documented lack of a true, pace-pushing point guard on the roster.

Just to better illustrate how not having a true point guard on the squad affects its play, just watch the Phoenix Suns for one game. Steve Nash, still an All-League point guard at age 38, controls their offense completely, including where every single man receives the ball. Watch Marcin Gortat. Gortat scores plenty (nearly 15 a game), but the key is where he gets the ball. If you’ll look closely, Gortat gets the ball after he’s already rolling to the rim, or so far under it that even Kwame Brown holding a cake in one hand couldn’t mess up a lay-in. My point is, that by the time that Gortat scores, half the work is already done for him. The party’s set-up, and all Marcin has to do is the keg-stand.

The Lakers don’t have anyone on the roster that can replicate Steve Nash’s Stockon-esque playmaking skills, nor do they have a poor man’s version of him. Or even, a destitute man’s version. They do have a desecrated corpse’s version of him in Steve Blakers, but as you can tell, this is having no positive effect on the Lakers’ offense.

The trade chatter, for the most part, is moving Pau Gasol for a point guard, with names such as Kyle Lowry, Deron Williams and even hated Celtic Rajon Rondo. All these trades make sense, in theory. The Lakers’ other sizeable weakness is the lack of talent depth. After the triumvirate of Bynum, Kobe and Pau, the names drop off considerably. In the conversation for fourth best Laker is Matt Barnes, Metta World Peace, Troy Murphy and rookie Andrew Goudelock. Writing that sentence just made me want to drink my own pee out of spite. Wow.

With t… Read more...

State of the Garden: Linsanity

Karate punch!

A big reason why there are a few Mike D’Antoni supporters to this day was that the Knicks didn’t have an attacking point guard since Raymond Felton left town in the Carmelo Anthony trade. And after the past two games, MDA has a smile so big on his face, you’d think that Steve Nash had demanded a trade to the Apple. For the last half-week, all is good in Bocker Nation. Jeremy Lin has risen from 12th man to New York’s best quarterback.

(Kidding.)

(Kidding again.)

If you’ve read my stuff before, this is the part where I transition to telling you that things aren’t as happy-go-lucky as they appear. But let’s face the facts: I’m as Linsane as anybody else in these parts, if not moreso. (Can’t you see the resemblance?) Against the cross-town rival Nets, Lin came off the bench and legitimately outplayed superstar point guard Deron Williams, netting 25 points on 10-19 shooting, with 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals in 36 minutes. The minutes, points, assists, and rebounds were all career highs. Last night, the former Harvard standout eclipsed that performance in his first NBA start. When the Knicks won the jumpball, the crowd was silent…until Lin received the ball from Anthony. Standing O. As Mike Breen so eloquently put it, his spirit has lifted the team, the crowd, and the city (well, the non-Giants fans, who NEED uplifting.) 28 more points at a 10-17 clip, and 8 more assists, in 44 minutes = 3 new career highs.

The final number is the most important: 44 minutes. As I’ve mentioned before, these aren’t your average 44 minutes, where you can take a breather by hiding on defense or throwing some stand-still passes on offense. These are 44 minutes in a D’Antoni offense, as an attacking point guard, while guarding the opposing PG in this relatively new, no-hand-check era of NBA basketball. Anyone who watched the game on TV last night could see that, save for the momentary adrenaline rushes, Lin was dead tired by the 3rd quarter. And what happens when you get tired? You make mental errors. Lin eclipsed a 4th career statistic last night with 8 turnovers. While beating a decent Utah Jazz team with Amar’e grieving in Florida, Melo hurting his groin, and Tyson in foul trouble all night is nothing short of remarkable, it’s important to take a step back and see what the future holds for the New York Jeremy Lins.

The most wonderful part of this kid’s game is his astoundingly high basketball IQ. He doesn’t possess the athleticism of Iman Shumpert or Toney Douglas, nor does he possess the long-range capabilities of Anthony or Steve Novak (whose brilliant performance last night was overshadowed by the man of the hour). But he’s just so darn smart. He runs the pick and roll to near perfection, attacking the big man on a switch, throwing picture perfect lobs to the screener when the opposing guard gets lazy, and occasionally shows some flash by splitting traps and double teams. He keeps his head up, rarely picks up his dribble, and maintains his peripheral vision, 3 absolute musts for a point guard at any level. The common go-to is that he’s naturally smart because he attended Harvard. But as anyone from the great suburban town of Millburn knows, paying your way to Cambridge, Massachusetts because they want you to play sports for them is not the same as being as intellectually gifted as the rest of the student body (still love you DB). Lin is smart on the basketball court for reasons nobody can truly explain, because basketball IQ is part… Read more...