While Joe Caporoso continues being awesome and interviewing Mike and the Mad Dog, Chris Celletti chips in this week with his second 12 Pack of the year. And it comes at a time where the Knicks are actually playing good basketball again; 2014 has seen the Knicks flip a switch and become a viable NBA team again, as they’ve posted victories over the Spurs and Heat in a week’s time. Let’s get to it:
1. Our last roundtable touched on why the Knicks have been playing better as of late, but I think last night’s win over the Heat happened because the Knicks seemingly finally, over 48 minutes, actually ran an offense. There were sets, ball movement and open shots! You know, how most teams do it. There was one play in particular the Knicks seemed to run to death that Miami for some reason kept forgetting to defend, that we saw a bunch last season as well: Carmelo Anthony and either Amare Stoudemire/Andrea Bargnani/Kenyon Martin setting a double screen for Raymond Felton at the top of the key, Felton taking the screens to the right side of the floor as Stat/Bargs/K-Mart rolled to the rim and Melo popped out to the left elbow-extended. Felton racked up 14 assists largely because of this simple set, and it resulted in many open looks for Melo on the perimeter and the big guys down low.
2. Speaking of Carmelo Anthony and the 3-ball; he’s shooting 54% from deep in the Knicks’ last five games. A look at his shot chart via NBA.com shows us how en fuego he’s been from dead on, and the left side of the court from deep:
Quite honestly, the guy has been damn good in the past calendar year or so. For all the criticisms flung his way (and some of them are indeed valid), what else more should we expect the guy to do?
3. Iman Shumpert’s resurgence is better late than never. Had he played this way all season, the Knicks would be in much better shape (he’s not the only one that rings true for, of course), but we’ll take it now. Over the past five games he’s shooting even better than Anthony from deep (a crazy 60.7%), and also good to see is him averaging nearly 7 rebounds and a total of 15 points. Is a 15 point, 7 rebound, 3 assist, 2 steal average too much to ask for the remainder of the season? Perhaps a touch, but Shumpert’s proven that he’s capable. It’s what makes his early season funk so frustrating.
4. The Knicks have 11 games remaining in the month of January, and on Friday the 17th they begin an 8-game homestand. A lot of these games the rest of the month are very winnable (Charlotte twice, Philadephia twice, Brooklyn, the Lakers, Cleveland, Boston). The opportunity has presented itself.
5. The J.R. Smith benching was a good thing. It’s nice to see the Knicks and Mike Woodson finally hold a player accountable, and you could make a case that J.R. deserved the be benched for his on-court play just as much as his off-court antics (although he started to play much more in control and in the flow of the team since the Texas road trip). If you’re Woodson, at what point do you go back to him? As much as we want to see him toil away on the end of the bench, he’s gonna be back on the floor at some point. Guys who are getting paid $6 million generally don’t not play, for better or worse. The question is whether he gets on the floor on Saturday against the 76ers automatically, or if the Knicks keep him out as long as they’re winning. I’d probably go for the latter.
6. If Creative Artists Agency truly runs the Knicks, as the narrative goes, does J.R. Smith get benched in the first place?
7. I’m not going to link to Adrian Wojnarowski’s piece on J.R. You can Google it if you haven’t read it yet. I thought it was wholly unnecessary. To me, it’s not that Woj said anything that a lot of people don’t already feel about J.R. Smith (although, did we really need to know about some room service prank in China? Yeah, because I’m sure that’s the worst thing that a current NBA player has done off the court recently). It’s that I can’t for the life of me figure out what the purpose of the article was, other than for Woj to tell us that he doesn’t like J.R. Smith. What else did it accomplish? I’m on Knicks Twitter all the time, so I already know what 95% of Knicks and NBA fans/observers think of the guy, and it’s basically in lockstep with what he said. And I thought the line about J.R. being a spoiled kid from the suburbs who’s faux street-tough was, frankly, terribly judgmental.
8. Back to hoops! Andrea Bargnani’s roller coaster season continues, and he gave us probably his best game as a Knick on Thursday against Miami. Things, I think, are starting to generally trend up for him, though. He fits a lot better when Kenyon Martin is available because Kenyon can take over the rim-protecting, weak side help role that Bargnani (and Stoudemire) struggle so much with. Overall, his on/off court defensive numbers still aren’t great (team allows 112.6 per 100 with him, 107.8 without), but they’ll improve the more he plays with Martin. According to NBA.com, the Knicks allow just 95.7 points per 100 when Bargnani and K-Mart share the floor.
9. So the Knicks are actually going to be dealing with some minutes issues when they get healthy again. What’s to come of Toure Murry when Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih return? most fans want Murry to remain in the rotation, as he brings some sorely lacking athleticism and spark to the backcourt, but we know how much Mike Woodson favors veterans. Could Woodson utilize some two point guard looks when everyone is available? It’d be nice.
10. What if Amar’e Stoudemire is actually healthy? In the past week or so he’s looked as spry and effective has he has in a long time. The defensive data still isn’t pretty (although like Bargnani, it improves when he shares the floor with Martin), but Stoudemire has been very effective at or near the rim on offense in the past few weeks.
11. At some point this season, I’m going to keep count of how many times Clyde Frazier says the word “folks” in one game. Once you look out for this, you’ll be astounded too, folks.
12. Former Knick Charles Smith (no relation to J.R. or Chris THAT WE KNOW OF) was with America’s favorite psychopath Dennis Rodman in North Korea, where a bunch of old Americans played in a basketball game against a team of North Koreans. Did anyone find out how many layups Smith missed?