Tagged: lakers

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.

50 Losses Might Be the Only Way to Be Truly Great

We all know that the Post is a muck-raking rag. That comes from its muck-raking management issuing edicts to its muck-raking journalists and editors. Marc Berman will stop at nothing to manufacture a story. According to Steve Adamek, Berman tried to I believe that it was Berman who tried to box Mike D’Antoni into a bad situation by asking him if he’s willing to lose 50 games for the sake of the long term plan.

I don’t recall anyone asking Isiah if he was willing to lose 50 games, though teams under his reign almost always did. My point with that is, at least there is a plan here.

D’Antoni told reporters:

“I think that’s one area, plus there’s no guarantee we wouldn’t be on the same pace if we didn’t make the trades. When made the trades, everybody knows the reasons, keeping the team competitive and we have longer-term goals and plans and objectives.
“Really, that doesn’t enter into the discussion. We’re just going to continue on with what we want to do to get the Knicks at the championship level that they deserve to be. We’re not going to waver from that. It’s not going to be like, in the short term we’ll worry about this. We’re not going to waver from what we said at the very beginning and I’m really comfortable with that.”

Basically, Mike D’Antoni took a roundabout path to yes. He said the Knicks have a long-term plan to be special. Not a short term ambition to be OK.

Let me be clearer than Mike D’Antoni: YES! IF STICKING TO THE PLAN MEANS THAT THE KNICKS WILL LOSE 50 GAMES THIS YEAR, THEN THE KNICKS SHOULD BE WILLING TO LOSE 50 GAMES.

Of course, I hope the Knicks don’t lose 50 games, but look at any contender and how they got to be that way. The Celtics for example won 24 games the year before they picked up KG and Ray Allen. The 24 win season followed several other mediocre years, during which they stocked up on guys like Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Delonte West, and Sebastian Telfair.

The Spurs had to be bad before they got Duncan in 96-97, winning just 20 games before winning the lottery.

The Cavs history is just one big losing season with dashes of mediocrity and first round exits.

Somebody tell me what the Knicks were up to prior to Walt Frazier and also prior to Patrick Ewing…

The list goes on. Almost every good team went through a rebuilding phase to become a contender. The Lakers are the only exception, remarkably having missed the playoffs just five times in their history.

In the NBA you are rewarded for being good with championships and you are rewarded for being bad with draft picks. Still, you can mess it all up with bad management. For instance, you could already be bad or mediocre, then add salary to the point of being capped out, and give away draft picks in exchange for limited, losing players.

The only way to come back from a scenario like that is to completely reset. The Knicks embarked on the above described scenario for 8 years. They are fortunate that it will probably only take them 2 years (one and two-thirds now) to reset.

Update: Jon informed, me, and he’s right, that Steve Adamek never said that it was Berman that asked the question. I just assumed that, figuring, who else could it have been. So I can’t tell you whether it was Berman or not, and if it wasn’t, I apologize.