New York Knicks Sign Ron Artest & JR Smith Is Hurt – Convo Time!

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The New York Knicks officially signed Metta World Peace AKA Ron Artest to a 2 year deal yesterday. Beyond that, it was revealed JR Smith is getting surgery on his patella tendon and is out 3-4 months. Naturally, Joe Caporoso and Chris Celletti had to break into one of their famed, rant-based discussions on it. So what of PEACE and #Pipe? 

Joe Caporoso - JR Smith and Metta World Peace in the same locker room! Should I say Ron Artest? I think I’m enacting official TOK policy to just call him Ron Artest. More seriously, this is a smart signing, right? There is no way you can say the Knicks aren’t better than they were a year ago with Artest, Bargnani and Tim Hardway Jr all in the fold and Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Chris Copeland out the door?

Chris Celletti – They are definitely deeper than they were last season, no question. Artest (I’m with you, here in New York we call him “Ron”, ok) gives them a much-needed wing defender, despite him being at an advanced age. He also fills the void in this team’s lack of two-way players; while Artest isn’t a feared offensive player, he’s not a liability on that end of the floor. He’s coming off his best offensive season in five years.

The Knicks can throw out some pretty tough defensive lineups. I’d be interested to see what the defensive rating for a Prigioni-Shumpert-Artest-Whoever-Chandler lineup might be. Get on that a bit later this year, Zach Lowe, thanks. The Knicks still need to add another point guard, but even as currently constructed, they’re a pretty deep squad, almost two-deep at every position.

Whether or not they’re better, I think, falls very much Mike Woodson. While there are some intriguing lineup combinations, there are also some pretty ugly ones. To counter the defensive potential of the one I threw out before, imagine a five of Felton-Smith-Anthony-Bargnani-Stoudemire, which is a defensive atrocity that I would not put past Woodson to concoct. I know Woodson is good for the personalities of J.R. (and presumably Artest), but don’t you think this team’s potential would be a bit higher if there was a truly great coach on the sideline? The salary cap doesn’t apply to coaches, so it’s the one area that the Knicks’ financial situation doesn’t hamper them. Am I unreasonable in wishing they had a better coach? (P.S., Phil Jackson is unemployed).

Joe Caporoso - Unfortunately, after we began this conversation word dropped that JR Smith is getting surgery on his patella tendon and is out 3-4 months. NOT GOOD. Considering the Knicks history with injuries, it seems foolish to expect him back for the opener. Even more disconcerting is the worry that this will be a continual issue for him, after the Knicks just signed him to a brand new 4 year contract. Let’s say Smith misses the first month or so of the season and doesn’t get back to really being himself until the second half. Can the Knicks stay afloat without his scoring and athleticism off the bench?

As for the coaching situation, I worry if James Dolan fires Mike Woodson he’d just go right back to Isaiah Thomas…that is probably an irrational fear but this is James ‘freakin Dolan we are talking about. Woodson is a valid concern this year. There is no reason to do anything but keep Anthony at the 4 for the majority of the time, along with Artest at 3. That is a nice combination on both ends of the court and a strong defensive front line with Tyson Chandler at center. Yet, you always get the feeling Woodson is just itching to move away from small ball and drive us all insane. The Knicks bench is weirdly constructed right now as they lack a true backup big man and a backup point guard and are instead saddled with two offensive minded power forwards with major health concerns that have no interest in playing defense. I’m starting to get a little sad now when factoring this in with JR’s injury. Should I go all Frank Isola and write off the 2013 Knicks? And I’m aware I threw like eleven different thoughts at you there but I need consoling.

Chris Celletti – It’s ok. You’re preparing yourself to cover the 2013 Jets like a blanket, and that can throw people into all sorts of insanities. Firstly, I’m not TOO worried about Smith’s injury in a long-term sense. He doesn’t have a serious injury history to fall back on and worry about. But yes, it’s a concern that he’s out for a long while to kick off a new 4-year contract. Something about that just seems so “Knicks”, you know? The Smith injury might open the door for Tim Hardaway, Jr. to get some minutes (who is officially a Knick now that he injured himself in Summer League play), which I’d personally like to see. If Hardaway struggles and earns a place on the bench, you have J.R. coming back soon to take back the Sixth Man role. I think the Knicks have the offense and depth and should be able to beat enough bad teams early to stay in the mix when they get Smith back.

Also, the Smith injury could have another unintended positive consequence. With Smith out, the Knicks need some scoring off the bench. With Amare Stoudemire such a question mark, that could force Woodson to rightly bring Bargnani off the bench to provide some punch from the second unit. Then, we probably have a starting lineup of Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Anthony-Chandler, which I think is the starting five every knowledgeable Knick fan wants to see. Although, I could see Woodson replacing Prigioni with Artest and moving Shumpert to the 2. Either way, as was the case last season, Woodson could be forced into small ball which the Knicks excel at.

As for “writing the Knicks off”? They’re not really title contenders at the moment, but they’re probably the 4th or 5th best team in the East. They’re clearly behind Miami, Indiana and Chicago and are right there with Brooklyn. Do you agree? Or are you handing Brooklyn the Atlantic Division right now?

Joe Caporoso - On paper the Nets are a better team, however I have major concerns about their ability to build chemistry and oh yeah their coach was the Knicks point guard 3 months ago. It is a difficult situation for Jason Kidd to walk into as the Nets have to figure out a proper rotation, massage egos and properly rest the ancient Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce so they have gas in the tank for the post-season. Who of their 5 starters is ready to embrace becoming a role player? Who takes the shots down the stretch? I actually like how the Knicks match up with them, particularly with Iman Shumpert and Ron-Ron to throw at Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce. I think the Atlantic Division comes down to the final week or so and I wouldn’t be shocked if we ended up with a 4/5 Knicks/Nets first round series. Now, wouldn’t that be fun? The New York teams are still a cut below the Miami-Indiana-Chicago tier in my mind but definitely still clear level above the next tier of Eastern Conference teams like Atlanta, Cleveland (?!) and who else, Detroit?

Let’s assume JR misses the first month of the season. What additions are you still making to this roster, what is your starting line-up and how are you handling your rotation off the bench? Considering the backup PG situation as of now, I might be inclined to run Pablo with the second line-up, start Shumpert at the 2 and Artest at the 3. I hate moving too far away from the 2 point guard line-up but who is handling the ball off the bench as of now?

Chris Celletti – You’ve pointed out the main roster issue as of right now, which is that the Knicks haven’t replaced that guy who’s now coaching the Nets. The Knicks have to add another guard to the roster, and particularly someone who can run the point. Aaron Brooks wouldn’t be a bad addition. For the frontcourt, I’m looking to bring back Kenyon Martin for a year and hoping he holds up. But if the Knicks can’t get an NBA-ready guard and have to go with what they currently have, then I agree with you. I’m starting Felton-Shumpert-Artest-Anthony-Chandler. My Sixth Man is probably..err…Bargnani? If Amare is healthy, he’ll play in that second unit too, and hopefully Woodson finds a way to juggle Bargnani and Stoudemire so that they don’t share the floor TOO often together. With Smith hurt, I’m giving Hardaway, Jr. a real chance to impress at the backup shooting guard role, even if it’s only for about 12-15 minutes a night. Obviously Prigioni is running the point for the second unit, when of course he’s not playing alongside Felton in the two-PG lineup.

Bringing in Elton Brand would have been nice, because even if the Knicks bring back Kenyon Martin, they’re still thin, defensively, in the front court beyond Chandler. Are we ready for a Jerome Jordan return? Does Jeremy Tyler get a camp invite based on Summer League and make the team? I know asking for a good defensive backup center is a bit gluttonous in today’s NBA, but the thought of a Stoudemire-Bargnani frontcourt tandem seeing a lot of minutes together is frightening.

Joe Caporoso - Very frightening. The pickings are slim at this point and I’ll think we’ll have to settle for hoping on a Kenyon Martin return and maybe signing a guy like Beno Udrih. Inevitably the Knicks are going to be a little thin upfront and in the backcourt if JR isn’t fully healthy but hopefully Tim Hardaway Jr is ready to be a competent rotation guy from the get-go, helping soften the blow.

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