Hey, it’s always good to do some bargain shopping. According to Adrian Wojnarowski they’re taking a look at Martin and will consider signing him if Rasheed Wallace doesn’t get better soon (he’s missed 10+ games with a stress injury to his foot.)
Martin to the Knicks would be a good move. He’s a good rebounder and a strong defender. He’s tough. He’s got plenty of tats so you know he’ll fit in.
With Sheed out and Camby starting, the Knicks have been forced to use some weird second unit lineups lately. Stoudemire, Copeland and Novak on the floor together is a recipe for disaster defensively. Martin would help. I hope they do it.
There’s so much going on around the NBA right now. As you can see, Dwyane Wade added another clip to his “I’m a dirty player” highlight reel (off the top of my head there’s also breaking Kobe’s nose in the All-Star game (imagine if Kobe had done that to Wade?), dragging Rondo down and dislocating his elbow in the playoffs two years ago and punching Rip Hamilton last season for almost no reason. If this keeps up I’m going to side with his crazy ex-wife in their nasty divorce proceeding.)
There’s also the Nets, who fired coach Avery Johnson. I don’t think firing Johnson is unreasonable - he’s just not a very good coach - although the Nets are only really underachieving when you compare them to the team they looked like during their fast start (they are 14-14) Still, Johnson’s a dinosaur. All he does is bitch and overcoach (he called a timeout when it was 4-0 Celtics on Christmas) and they made the Celtics look good, no small feat. And even though I’m not a fan of Deron Williams’ attitude, it isn’t like they let Red Auerbach go because he couldn’t get along with D-Will. Speaking of Red Auerbach, I don’t think Phil Jackson is a realistic option, nor are the Van Gundys. First, it’s doubtful an elite level coach is going to want to take over a team mid-season. For Jackson, I just don’t see him risking his legacy by taking over a team with the issues the Nets have. For the Van Gundys, I still think the Nets have their eyes on Dwight Howard so I’m not sure they’d even want to bring in either guy. So that leaves a lot of retreads who aren’t dealing from a position of strength, who have no choice but to jump on an imperfect opportunity. There are a lot of names floating around out there but I think the most interesting one is Larry Brown. Brown’s coaching down at SMU, no doubt waiting for an opportunity like this. He’s got a relationship with Billy King from their time in Philly, which makes him a logical option. I’m not sure how to describe his track record - there’s been a lot of winning (Indiana, Philly, Detroit) and some terrible failure (New York, Charlotte - not insignificantly his last two stops.) He had a lot of success with Mark Jackson and Chauncey Billups, veteran PGs with whom Deron has a decent amount of similarity. He coached the Nets in the early-’80s and he’s a local guy, born in Brooklyn and raised in Long Beach, so the hire would have a nice symmetry to it as well. I think he’d be a smart hire for the Nets, even if he did a terrible job with the Knicks.
And then there are the Celtics, who lost by 29 to the Clippers last night and are 14-14 just like the Nets. Coming off a trip to last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Paul Pierce looks old, Jeff Green looks like he’s average at best and Rajon Rondo doesn’t score enough. They’re starting Jason Collins at center. Jason Terry isn’t producing enough to make up for the loss of Ray Allen. All that’s combined for the league’s 22nd best offense. When that’s the way a team scores, they need to be elite defensively. Take last year, when they were 27th offensively but sported the league’s top defense. This year, their defense is only the league’s tenth best. And there’s no fix for them. They have no attractive assets to give up to shore up their front-line issues. They’re waiting for Avery Bradley to get back but it’s unlikely that a single perimeter defender will turn things around for the entire team, and that’s assuming he’s completely healthy. Knicks fans might remember that Toney Douglas had offseason shoulder surgery last year, just like Bradley did. When Douglas returned he was no longer a high-level perimeter defender as he couldn’t get through screens. He seems recovered now, but it took a long time for him to get back to full strength. Bradley is better than Douglas, but the Celtics may be in for the same wait for Bradley to return to full strength. And a Bradley-Rondo starting backcourt will be really deficient when it comes to scoring the basketball. They’ll be forced to ask for too much from Garnett and Pierce, especially with the guy who’s supposed to be guarding Jason Collins wandering around in the paint.
It’s early in the season but with Boston and Brooklyn on the ropes and still ahead of the Sixers, the Atlantic Division is already the Knicks to lose.
This afternoon’s game between the Knicks and Lakers in LA is a much bigger game than it seems. For the Knicks, their 116-107 pasting of the Lakers on December 13 may have been the high water mark of the season thus far. For the Lakers, it may have been a low point. Since that game, however, the Knicks have hit a rough patch, partly due to Carmelo missing two games thanks to a sprained left ankle he sustained against the Lakers. Missing Melo was only a small factor in their struggles (they went 1-1 without him.) In the five games since they last played LA, the Knicks are 3-2 with narrow victories over the Cavs and Timberwolves and ugly losses to the Rockets and Bulls. Only a strong victory over the Nets stands out. All of those games were played at home. The offense looks stagnant and the defense looks unenthused. The Knicks aren’t on the ropes but they haven’t looked as good as they did to start the season. Winning this afternoon would go a long way towards getting the Knicks back on track.
The Lakers, on the other hand, haven’t lost since they left New York. Not only are they 4-0 since then, but Steve Nash came back against the Warriors two nights ago and they got a productive forty minute, twelve point, nine assist performance from him in an ovetime win. Don’t look now, but the Lakers look like they just might be turning this thing around.
So it isn’t just the Christmas showcase that makes this one a big game for Carmelo and the Knicks and Kobe and the Lakers. It’s a big test for both teams. Playing a team they worked over when things were going perfectly two weeks ago, the Knicks have a chance to right the ship as they begin their first west coast trip of the year. The Lakers have a chance to get back to .500 and announce to the league that they are far from dead. Factor in Mike D’Antoni versus the Knicks and a chance to watch point guards emeritus Jason Kidd and Steve Nash square off and you’ve got the makings of a really good game.
Enjoy it! Happy holidays everyone.
You can find a quick recap of the game over at Gothamist but there are a couple of things about tonight’s game that bear mentioning here:
- That was one of JR Smith’s best games as a Knick (7-11, 19 points, +24)
- Tyson Chandler protected the basket like the defensive player of the year should
- Those four alley-oops were awesome, I don’t care that one of them was ruled a shot/offensive rebound put-back
As far as the Nets, they don’t look right. Deron had an excellent game but there wasn’t a lot of chemistry out there. Lopez just can’t get over the hump, Hump’s a chump (sorry) and Andray Blatch is probably their best big man at this point. Avery Johnson is struggling - they’ve been outscored in fourteen consecutive third quarters. If that’s not a sign of bad coaching - an inability to adjust at halftime and getting outdone by the opposition - I don’t know what is. And against Utah, why was Reggie Evans on the floor when you need to score to force a tie? Because of his supreme foul-giving ability? They’ve lost three straight and eight out of ten. The Nets need to finish the month strong or their coach - who is in the last year of his deal - might not be back next season.
I don’t remember Coach D getting pissed off like this very much during his run in New York. Things are really ugly in LA right now and it doesn’t seem like D’Antoni is sure of what to do. His style of play doesn’t seem like a good fit for their personnel, although I’m not sure whose would be. Without Gasol and Nash, they’ve basically got a two-man roster with a couple of useful role players (if that) and nothing else. Even though they lost to Cleveland last night and are now 9-13 and in twelfth place in the West, I’m not ready to count them out. I want to see them with Nash and Gasol first. Or with Nash and an athletic player they get in exchange for Gasol. They need to get more athletic, especially since to me Dwight Howard doesn’t look completely recovered from his back injury.
In any event, the reason I’m watching so closely is because the way they are playing and the way D’Antoni is acting are making me reassess my thinking on his time in New York just as the Lakers come to New York to play the Knicks tomorrow night. There was always a part of me that thought he was a good coach in a bad spot. But there was another part of me that thought he really didn’t enjoy coaching in a big market, didn’t communicate well with players and may have been a coach who was dependent on Steve Nash to make his system work. And now here we are again.
Time will tell and I don’t see how the Lakers fire another coach during the season. But for them to waste one of the few high-level seasons Kobe has left and maybe what will be their only one with Dwight Howard will just be such a waste. Of course, they come to New York tomorrow so I hope they don’t get things together just yet.
I’m not going to walk you through the box score too much tonight and I’m not going to give you a play by play. I’m just going to point out a couple of things that are worth a mention and smile to myself after the enjoyable experience that was tonight’s game.
First and foremost, any time the Knicks are able to come back from seventeen down against a rival it’s going to be exciting, even more so when it’s against the Nets. The way they won - with a three from Jason Kidd with about 24 seconds left - made it even better. Kidd was great all night, shooting 6-8 from three and grabbing six rebounds. Carmelo was just as good or better, giving the Knicks 45 points on 15-24 shooting and playing 44 minutes, including the entire second half. Once he got settled, he was a bully all night. Outside of those two, I’d have to say JR Smith was the Knick who deserves the most props, limping around in pain and carrying them during a second half stretch. Rasheed Wallace also woke them up in the second quarter with rebounding and defense.
That game was damn exciting. The only thing that put a damper on it was the Knicks terrible defense. Once they got over their initial shell-shock, to a man the Knicks worked hard on the ball but their effort away from it left a lot to be desired. They got beat back door and on the weak side quite a few times and didn’t bring help on a couple of occasions when they should have. They need to tighten that up. And what Marshon Brooks was able to do when he was in was a bit disconcerting, although as I wrote here Iman Shumpert should be able to help with that. Watching Andray Blatche run wild for 23 points was frustrating too, especially because the approach to stopping him seemed to be to just give a foul.
The talk for Nets fans will be that they would have won if Brook Lopez was in action. That’s a fair point. But more than anything you have to wonder where Joe Johnson is when Deron Williams really needed help down the stretch. Johnson’s laconic play looks great when a team is winning - “he’s so unselfish and laid back” - but when he disappears in a loss questions about his mental toughness have to be asked (he had two points in the fourth.) It stands out even more when you compare him with Gerald Wallace. Wallace was responsible for Melo all night, got banged up in a collision with JR Smith in the fourth and still had seven points in the fourth. And although I might have an objective comment or two about Wallace’s skill level on the offensive end, I have a ton of respect for the way he plays the game. Nothing comes easy when he’s on the court.
As much as anything this game was about shooting - three point shooting especially. The Nets and Knicks both shot great, 46% for the Knicks and 53% for the Nets. But the Knicks had another absurd three-point shooting night, going 14-28 to the Nets 4-18 (that’s 22%) Everywhere else the teams come up even.
I’m unabashedly a Knicks fan and I have my doubts about any adult who grew up a fan of the Knicks and jumped ship this season. But I’m just as unabashedly a fan of this new rivalry. Maybe this is like Yankees-Mets was back when inter-league play first began in baseball and with time and the normal ups and downs of each franchise the intensity will soften. But until it does, these will be the best regular season games fans of either team have to enjoy.