How is it that a team like the Houston Rockets that boasts a rotation of role players and nobodies, is 4-2, and has competed in every game this season? These are the players in Rick Adelman’s rotation:
- Trevor Ariza
- Carl Landry
- Shane Battier
- Aaron Brooks
- Luis Scola
- Chuck Hayes
- Chase Budinger
- Kyle Lowery
Is that a rotation that so clearly outshines what the Knicks put out on the floor, so much so that they can take teams to overtime (LA Lakers) that would surely build a 20-30 point lead on the Knicks in the first quarter?
What is the difference between these two squads? Why can’t the Knicks play like the 1999-2000 Orlando Magic, which had no bonafide stars, and players who knew they wouldn’t stick around after that season, yet still managed to win 41 games?
My theory is that the Houston Rockets realize that they suck. They realize that they are outmatched on the talent flank in most games and they know that they have to make up for it with heart and effort. The current Knicks, by contrast, are a collection of players with an overinflated sense of their value.
Larry Hughes makes $14 million this year. It is possible that he thinks he’s already proven himself a successful player in this league, otherwise, he couldn’t have earned that contract. He earned that money taking any old shot he liked.
Al Harrington makes $10 million and he did it playing his game. Why should he buy-in to the system whole-heartedly when he’s already proven his value and worth around the league, doing what he has always done (being a complete ball stopper)?
Wilson Chandler is the future, right? The next Matrix. Why shouldn’t he run up and down the court firing indiscriminately.
Jarred Jeffries? Man did he put in work over the summer. Now he’s a marksman. He doesn’t have the same limitations he previously had, and he’s going to pull the trigger more than he used to. Nevermind that everyone but him seems to notice that these shots aren’t falling.
David Lee? Same story. He put in work on that jumper, and yes it has improved, but I am pretty confident that any team will feel comfortable letting David Lee try to trade baskets with a legitimate scorer on the other side. It is pretty infuriating watching the team concede that the best look they are going to get on a possession is a David Lee 18 footer.
Nate Robinson? Nobody can stop him. His shot is deadly. Any shot he takes is a good shot, even if there are 22 seconds left on the shot clock and the D is back, and there’s nobody to corral the board, because it’s going to go in.
None of these guys realize their limitations. They play with an inflated sense of their skills. They don’t make the effort on the defense because they are convinced that they outscore the other team. Nevermind that none of them move without the ball. Nevermind that in reality, they have the 4th worst FG% in the league and have already lost to the teams that are last (Bobcats) and third to last (Bucks) in FG%.
The Rockets’ players on the other hand are a hodge-podge group of blue collar workers, none of whom (yet) have settled into the complacency afforded many of the Knicks by virtue of a monstrous contract. They know that they are basically scrubs, and if they want to win they have to work, get dirty, mix it up, move without the ball, fight. They aren’t so heartless that they give up offensive rebounds off of missed free-throws multiple times a game.
If the Knicks are going to lose, why do it on the backs of heartless veterans that don’t realize their limitations. Instead, Coach D’Antoni should start to play guys who want to do what it takes to win, even if they can’t make it happen because they aren’t good enough, yet. At least they’ll try. So I think Coach D’Antoni should play Toney Douglas and bench Chris Duhon. I think he should play Jordan Hill and bench Jarred Jeffries and take minutes away from Al Harrington. Hell, play Marcus Landry and tell Wilson Chandler to take a seat. If he’s anything like his brother, he’ll earn more minutes if given the chance.
If it isn’t clear to the Knicks, it is clear to everyone else. They are scrubs, and they better start playing like it.