Some notes about last night's New York Knicks win, who partied like it was (NBA Live) 1999 to a 104-84 victory over LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and the Miami Heat:
*I feel like this isn't an original theory, and through my mass-consumption of NYK news over the past 3 months, I've ripped off some honorable/intelligent sportswriter and claimed it as my own. So, to the person who came up with this, thank you for enlightening me. Basically, what happens when you leave the core of a playoff team intact, then improve the complimentary backcourt and frontcourt players, and also add 3 serviceable point guards to the mix when you previously had 0? The team improves.
It doesn't matter that of those 3 new point guards, one was out of shape last season, another old, and another an old rookie. It just matters that they aren't Toney Douglas or Baron "YMCA Swag" Davis. Figure this: the Knicks struggled out of the gate last season, then found a rhythm halfway through after discovering that they had a pretty good point guard at the end of their bench. Then, once Linsanity died down and he got injured, they couldn't find their rhythm again until D'Antoni got fired and Woodson implanted his "ace in the hole," Mike Bibby, to add some order to the line-up.
And he did. Bibby played pretty well in the first round of the playoffs, and did a decent job maintaining the pace of the offense. It's not rocket science (a phrase, I fear, is going to be overused in the coming weeks by pun-hungry journalists trying to bash Thunder GM Sam Presti for the Harden trade). If you add a point guard to a playoff team that previously didn't have one, you're going to see a better team that spreads the ball more and creates more open space for 19 3-pointers against the defending world champions.
*Ok, maybe they won't replicate the deep-threat greatness they showcased last night on a nightly basis. But as my friend texted me during the game last night, "HE HAS A PUMP FAKE!!!!" Novakane's 3-point prowess propelled the Knicks in the second half last night, and he was able to duck by defenders getting in his face and create his own three-point shots on second-attempts. Last season, Novak would get flustered by pressure, usually pump-faking and inching in below the 3-point line for his second attempt (which he usually missed). Now, he's side-stepping the defenders, staying behind the 3-point line and draining 3's. He was also left open way too much, and he made the Heat pay.
*Rasheed Wallace made his debut last night, nailing a 3 late in the game. Novak's Discount Double Check 3-point dance did not, although #16 drained 5 from deep. Brittany Griner also made her season debut, moonlighting as a player named Chris Copeland. Marcus Camby and his awesome Asian tattoos did not, but they should be on the floor soon.
*Also, we shouldn't be surprised about Lin's successes in Houston. He showed last season he is a good player, but he just wasn't worth the contract that Houston gave him. I still believe both of those points, and also believe that Felton/Kidd will be fine replacements for him during the course of this season. If anything, it's the long-term ramifications of not re-signing Lin that we should potentially worry about.
*I wrote a post earlier this year detailing how Melo should probably not see extensive duty at the 4 this year because of the likelihood he will eventually get injuried/bullied by stronger defenders. We didn't see that last night because the Heat play their own version of small-ball (LBJ usually at the 4), but I'm interested to keep an eye on this as the season progresses. Melo started off the game very hot, then predictably cooled off. But I tip my hat to Melo: he played hard on both ends of the floor, coaching players like Novak on defense, and running coast-to-coast on multiple fast breaks. His presence also allowed the Knicks to mess around with some pretty paltry line-ups (how many times did we see a line-up on the floor last night that included something like Pablo/JR/Melo/Novak/Thomas?), and they got away with it against the defending champs. Kurt Thomas spelled him at power forward and allowed him to slide over to the 3 during the game, but Melo did what he had to do last night as both a leader and an all-star. He also addressed the crowd to start the game, a nice gesture that reinforced that he is the leader of this franchise.
*I know it's early, but Amare has to come off the bench when he comes back. It just has to happen. They play more open with a smaller line-up on the floor, and he would thrive in line-ups without Melo demanding iso sets from time to time. Imagine an eventual second team of Kidd, Shumpert, JR, Amare, and Camby/Thomas/Novak? Are season tickets still available?
*Great play last night by Ray Felton, who put up 14 and 9 and definitely spread out the offense. If he can deliver that line on a nightly basis, the Knicks will go places. The ball movement also was fantastic, and J.Kidd and Ronnie Brewer also played great in their debuts.
*I didn't care for J.R. Smith, though. We already have Melo disrupting the offense with his isolation sets from time to time - however, I'm able to stomach this because he's Carmelo Anthony, and he's going to deliver more often than not. But when you have J.R. Smith also trying to go one on one on defenders and missing miserably, it's frustrating. I don't know if J.R. and Carmelo should be on the court together often this season - they both take away too much from the flow of the offense without collectively adding enough positives to justify their isolation adventures. Separate, they are fine, but not together.
*Also, I got kind of scared every time I saw J.R. defending LeBron last night - and that happened a lot more than it should have. But the defense as a whole played great, with the Knicks getting multiple hands in the lane and constantly disrupting entry-passes and in-bounds passes.
*PABLO! I'm not sure if this guy is actually good at basketball, but I have a conspiracy theory that he is just an average guy who is part of a new shitty ABC reality show trying to trick people into thinking he is a professional basketball player. Couple this with my theory that Carmelo is actually the player-coach for the Knicks and Woodson is a puppet, Mr. Potato Figure Head, and consider me definitely crazy.
*7-10 from the field. 12 rebounds. 3 assists. 22 points. Ladies and gentlement, the collective efforts of Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd, your 2011 NBA champions and the original dudes who helped make LeBron wilt!
*The officiating seemed awfully in the Knicks favor last night, but, honestly, who cares. We were due after those horrible game one calls during Miami-NYK last playoffs, featuring LeBron's infamous flop that contributed to a rule change.
*I made a note to my friend last night that I hoped this night one success wasn't reminiscent of the New York Jets, who thrashed the Buffalo Bills on opening day 48-24 before stumbling to a 3-5 record going into their bye week. He then politely reminded me that the Bills are not the NFL's version of the Heat, and that the Jets suck.
*A great, great effort after Sandy rocked the Big Apple, and that can't be overstated. This team came together and delivered the city a victory it needed in the wake of horrible tragedy.
*The Knicks play the 76ers tomorrow night at home, then travel to Philly to play them again on Monday. See you then.