Written by Nicholas McGowan
The Knicks headed into last night’s game against the Jazz with a 2-7 record, came out of the game with a 2-8 record. While it looked as though we would have chance to win the game with Melo’s tying bank in three 3 with 3 seconds left, it was just not to be as Trey Burke sealed the deal for the Jazz on a 19 foot baseline jumper over J.R. Smith. Now of course this record is not what we as fans envisioned but there is nothing we can do about it. We started off with a blowout loss to Chicago yet were somehow able to bounce back and beat the Cavs in LeBron’s homecoming. After that, after our hopes for the season skyrocketed, some of us had this feeling that maybe this season might turn out better than we thought, that maybe we will finish with a somewhat high seed in the eastern conference. At least that’s what I though, yet I was dead wrong as the Knicks went 1-6 over our next 7 games dashing all hopes. The playoffs look ever bleaker due to the fact that we suffered back to losses to Hawks, and also had losses to Pistons, Nets, and Magic. (All of those teams besides the Pistons could be competing for a playoff spot.)
Now the triangle so far has looked as expected, there are times when the Knicks have faded back into isolation basketball yet there are times when the triangle allows for open uncontested jumpers and layups. One problem that has still plagued the Knicks is the lack of the ability to make smart basketball decisions. Such as J.R. Smith and that final shot he took against the Magic, or the fact that with 4 minutes left in the third quarter J.R. had to take a seat on the bench because he had 4 fouls last night. On a night where Amar’e is out, and where Shumpert gets injured 58 seconds into the game, J.R. has to realize that he becomes the second scoring option; he cannot be taking bad fouls. The amount of 24 second shot clock violations also appear to be very high, I do not have an exact stat but its bad when the game is on the line and you appear to commit a 24 second violation. Now we were saved by replay, but the Knicks have to understand the situation better.
Beginning with some observations from the first ten games, we are struggling on offense. The Knicks are ranking 26th in the league for points per game and only scoring 100.7 points per 100 possessions, that ranks them 20th in the league. While the Knicks do have one stat going for them, ranking 13th in the league for assists, these assists are not translating to baskets. Our assist numbers also dramatically dip when comparing our wins and losses. Averaging 26.5 assists in our wins compared to 20.4 in our losses. Heading into last nights game Melo’s career free throw attempts per game are around 8, and up until last night Melo was attempting fewer than 5 per game. It was very refreshing to see him make 13-16 last night. Melo was also able to get the Knicks back in the game by scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter, a nice change of pace seeing as how he is usually drained by the fourth quarter. The offense will surely get better once Jose Calderon is able to return but for now the Knicks have to play better on defensive in order to make up for the struggles on offense.
Lets talk about the defense. It’s been terrible, like really, really, terrible. The Knicks rank 17th in opponent’s points per game which is not a horrible stat but are giving up 109 points per 100 possessions. That ranks them tied for 4th worst in the league. The Knicks and Amar’e in particular struggling to defend the pick and roll. There are also times when the Knicks seem to be confused, its as though they do not know if they are playing a man or zone. There are gaping holes along the 3-point line and Knick-effect is still alive and well. Evan Fournier dropped 28 points on us, beating his previous career high of 27 and Gordon Hayward dropped 33 points last night, setting his season high and coming up just 4 points short of his career high. Rebounding has also been a problem for the Knicks. The Knicks rank 28th in the league for rebounds per game, and only come down with 48.8% of all rebounds. Some troubling numbers and I do not see them getting much better.
Throughout the first ten games of the season there has been much to take in regarding the players:
Shane Larkin has been pretty decent so far; I had very high hopes for him coming into the season and was disappointed when Phil Jackson decided not to pick up Larkin’s 1.5 million dollar option. Larkin’s PER is low at 9.98 (15 is average) and his assist’s number are only 2.8 per game. Averaging around 27 minutes per game you would like to see Larkin average around 5 assists per game. Larkin has been great with the ball however with only one turnover per game and forcing 1.5 steals per game. Some good and bad stats from Larkin solidify the fact that for now he is a backup up point guard
Our rookies have been underwhelming as of now, Wear barely made the team and Early is just a second round pick but I thought they could both do better. Wear has a negative PER of -1.79 and Early’s is 9.56. Wear to me though has played decent; it feels as though he has played better than the stats indicate. He is not some undrafted gem or anything but he seems to do his job when called upon. Early has been disappointing to me, I was thrilled when we drafted him, thought he would be a great addition to our team. He has not been bad but I just thought he would be more aggressive with the ball, I want him to shoot more, I think I he can become a solid rotation player but so far to my eyes he looks afraid, he is playing to uptight. He needs to relax and just play basketball. It will be interesting to see how they both progress over the season.
Some shorter observations:
Jason Smith feels like the American version of Bargnani, he takes jump shots and isn’t impressive on defense.
Hardaway and Shumpert are confusing. One year Hardaway does well while Shumpert plays poorly, the next year the roles are reversed. Can’t we just have one year where both play well so we then have a reason to rid of J.R.
I love the job Derek Fisher is doing despite the 2-8 record
One reason to be happy if the Knicks continue to lose this much; is that Jahlil Okafor, (a highly touted freshmen center and consensus top 3 pick in next year’s draft if he decides to leave Duke), just posted an incredible stat line. I know it was against Presbyterian but Okafor had 19 points, going 9-10 from the field, pulling down 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block all in 23 minutes of play. Maybe the Knicks can learn from the Spurs when they drafted Tim Duncan.