Tagged: Blazers

New York 93, Portland 84

The Garden felt different tonight as I settled into my seat. The arena was nearly full, and with the swelling mass came a familiar but long forgotten warmth, nay, heat, of a buzzing Garden crowd. It was the stifling air that I so have so rarely experienced in this lost decade. And when I realized that the buzz comes not from the crowd, but from the energy exerted on the hardwood, the remembrance of how this place could truly impact my spirit shattered through the melancholy cynicism that had glazed over me during those hard years.

The Knicks’ effort was there, and the atmosphere was electric. The players fed it, and it fed the players, and it reminded me of why I love basketball, and the Knicks, and why I never stopped coming to games, and why I’ve never given up hope, and why I won’t.

***

Yes, the shots were falling tonight, but to me it was the defense that won the game against the Trailblazers. Hell, David Lee blocked a shot in the fourth quarter to help stifle a Portland run. But the shining example of sacrifice on the D manifested itself by way Jared Jeffries, who drew several charges, blocked two shots, had two steals. Of late, Jeffries has been playing all league defense.

He also hit a key outside jumper to keep the Knicks’ impressive third quarter run alive, and had 4 rebounds, all offensive. That kind of hustle is something that hearkens back to the hard-knock 90s when the team was more about effort than talent and every possession counted.

I understand if this effusive praise of Jared sounds a bit odd coming from me, as I have been as hard on him as anyone. But unlike so many bloggers, beat guys, and many commenters (not our regulars), I, like Tommy Dee, want to hold myself accountable when I’m wrong.

Is it possible that Jeffries is next to worthless on a bad team that can’t capitalize on his abilities, while on a good team, his strengths are magnified? I think we’re seeing that scenario play itself out in what will hopefully continue to be a tale of two seasons.

***

I continue to like what I see out of Harrington, Hughes, Lee, Gallinari, and yes, even Duhon in this recent stretch. Harrington and Hughes were both off from the field, but it didn’t effect their focus on the floor. Harrington had seven rebounds and played strong D, with several deflections and a nice block. Hughes was a steady hand and was aggressive when it counted at the end of the game. Lee continues his excellent efficiency on offense with 17 points on nine shots, while also contributing 10 boards and the aforementioned surprising block.

Speaking of blocks, the Knicks have a guy who regularly blocks shots, and it’s Gallinari. He’s averaging 1.3 blocks in 5 games this month. I don’t expect him to ever be an intimidator but don’t say he isn’t capable of playing, or doesn’t want to play on-ball D. Obviously we know his other skills. He had a sweet assist to David Lee during the big third quarter run off an aggressive drive. He also hit a ice-cold three from straight-away after Portland turned a 23 point lead into an 9 point one, and on the next play hit a cutting Larry Hughes for a layup. He was +14. When can we stop pointing out that he was worth his draft selection?

Duhon, while still not an all world point guard, is definitely not the player he was through the first few weeks of the season. He’s much better. He’s not pressing as much, he’s actually hitting some of his lay-ups, he’s taking less out of rhythm deep threes, and he’s a steadying influence on the offense. He still misses open guys, he’s still shooting poorly, but he’s playing better, and it’s amazing how much of a difference that can make.

***

The game got a little too tight for my liking in the fourth quarter. The Knicks aren’t going to be spotted that cushion every game, but basketball is a game of runs and I guess I would have been surprised if one of the better teams in the Western Conference didn’t have a run in them.

***

It has been roughly 3 weeks since the demoralizing loss to the Golden State Warriors and since then the Knicks have had six losses, but only one real stinker (to the Kings). There was one loss by two to the Celtics. There was one by three to Denver. The Knicks played great ball in both. There was a loss to the Lakers which was a game in which the Knicks did not look all that impressive for most of the game but kept it interesting. And there were two losses to the Magic, the other Conference Champion, who the Knicks scrappily tried to fight but who just outmatch the Knicks.

There were also six wins, including against teams they are supposed to beat, like the Nets and Pacers, but also against some of the league’s elite, like the Blazers, Hawks, and Suns. The Knicks have won four out of their last five, and find themselves with a 7-15 record, which while not great, looks a lot better than 1-9 or 3-14. If anyone is paying attention to this kind of thing just yet, the Knicks are 2 games out of the 8th seed.

Let’s hope the team can continue to play with the sort of effort we’ve seen since Golden State, because if they do, things can start to get interesting.

Millsap gets $32 million offer from Blazers

ESPN.com is reporting that the Blazers have extended a 4-year $32 million offer to Paul Millsap.

The market for David Lee is now set. The $12 million number he asked for seems a bit high (not that we didn’t know that before) now that its clear that Millsap, who many consider superior to Lee, most likely will not break $10 million/per.

If the Jazz match, the Blazers may target David Lee, but don’t expect them to offer much more (if at all) than they did to Millsap. In fact, it’s going to be hard for Mark Bartelstein to get a team to agree to pay Lee much more than Millsap, whether via straight-up signing or in a sign-and-trade.

From the Knicks’ perspective, do they match a $10 million offer?

2010 Cap Competition

By now everyone knows the Knicks are trying their hardest to get under the cap for 2010. The free agent class is terrific, so why wouldn’t they. Trouble is, everyone knows the free agent class is terrific, and lots of teams are employing the same strategy. Here are the teams that represent the Knicks main competition (in alphabetical order):

Atlanta:  The Hawks have Josh Smith signed to a big contract that extends past 2010, Al Horford, Mo Evans, and Acie Law also extend past 2010, but their contracts are not cap destroyers. The Hawks should be able to make a run at 2010 free agents.

Cleveland: The Cavs have Mo Williams, Delonte West, Boobie Gibson, JJ Hickson and Darnell Jackson under contract in 2010. They should be able to make a run at a top free agent.

Houston: The Rockets have Shane Battier, Joey Dorsey, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes and Aaron Brooks signed through 2010. Not a lot of cap space eaten up by those guys.

Miami: The Heat have James Jones, Michael Beasley, Mario “super nintendo” Chalmers, and Daequan Cook signed through 2010. Watch out for the Heat.

Minnesota: The T-Wolves should have some cap room, with Al Jefferson and several guys with smaller contracts extending through 2010 (Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, Ronnie Brewer, Sebastian Telfair).

Oklahoma City: The Thunder have Nick Collison, Nenad Kristic, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green under contract through 2010. Most of these are rookie contracts. They should have space.

Portland: The Blazers only have a few guys under contract through 2010, but they probably wont have cap space, since they have to make decisions on Aldridge and Brandon Roy.

Spurs: The Spurs have basically only a couple marginal contracts on the books past 2010. Except of course for Duncan and Parker, who are already their two max guys. They might have some room, but I don’t see them as major competition for the top prizes.

Utah: If the Jazz can move Kirilenko for an expiring deal, they’d be in real good shape, with just Deron Williams taking up significant cap space in 2010.

Of course, some teams are still jockeying for position in the 2010 race and can get themselves in good position through trades (Toronto – if they trade Kapono for an expiring – and Chicago – if they can move Hinrich – for example). Some, like the Clippers, Warriors and Pacers, have not shot.

Lee Rumors Rampant

The David Lee trade rumors that have been swirling around turned into a veritable avalanche of speculation today coming from all corners of the mainstream media and blogosphere. The most important thing to bear in mind right now as we sift through all the bits and pieces of leaked information is that the sources very often have their own agendas. That means that sometimes when we read an article or see a quote about a trade rumor, it’s on us to put it in proper context and decide whether it’s good information or misinformation. Because sometimes reporters end up serving as dupes for teams that strategically leak information in their efforts to make the best possible deal. Basically, if something sounds really stupid, it probably isn’t true.

In my estimation, the best information passed on by anyone today came from Tommy Dee over at KnicksBlog. Tommy’s sources with the Blazers tell him that the team wants David Lee but won’t make a deal for him that includes Travis Outlaw. That’s because the Blazers are saving Outlaw for a trade that gets them an upgrade over Steve Blake at point guard. As KnicksBlog explains, this is why any trade with Portland will probably have to be a 3-way deal.

I’ve scoured the league looking for teams with point guard depth that might be interested in getting involved in a 3-way trade. Far and away the best fit looks to be the Charlotte Bobcats and Ray Felton. Felton appears to be readily available, is an upgrade over Blake and his deal expires at the end of the year. A three way deal built around Lee, Outlaw, Felton and Bayless is very doable under the cap.

But that’s not all. For better or worse, there was loads of speculation last month following the Jason Richardson for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw trade that one or both of Bell and Diaw might ultimately be rerouted to the Knicks before the deadline. So, if these teams were so inclined, things could come together from a couple of different angles.

Now, take this with a grain of salt because I’m just spitballin’ here (I should note that Dee thinks any trade Portland makes will be on the smaller side) but this is just one example of what a trade that incorporates all these pieces could look like:

Bobcats get Travis Outlaw, Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries; Blazers get Raymond Felton and David Lee; Knicks get Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Jerryd Bayless.

From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t look altogether ridiculous.