Game 46 Preview: Knicks vs. Blazers

A (Reluctant) Look at the Knicks

I've got to confess something. I usually find doing the preparation work for previews somewhat exciting, or at least interesting.  I try to watch a few games over the course of the season.  I read around a little.  I look at the stats pretty hard.  It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  But I got absolutely zero enjoyment preparing for the Knicks.  This isn't a puzzle, this is a mess.  You're probably familiar with the Ted Stepien rule governing the NBA draft...the one that says a team cannot go without consecutive first round picks two drafts in a row.  It was instituted because then-Cleveland-owner Ted Stepien traded away his picks in such a grotesquely incompetent manner that he drove the franchise into the ground singlehandedly.  The NBA needs to formulate an Isiah Thomas rule to keep executives from doing whatever the heck he did to form this monstrosity.  

As everybody knows the Knicks have talent.  That's what makes them so frustrating.  Their level of play is near-delinquent.  They don't help each other much on offense and even less so on defense.  They allow a 47.5% opposing field goal percentage.  And they're not playing a running game.  They are dead last in the league in assists and 23rd in overall field goal percentage and three-point percentage.  They seldom force turnovers, they never-ever-EVER block a shot, they shoot very poorly from the free throw line...they're just congenitally incapable of generating any aesthetically pleasing (or effective) opportunities.  What do you see instead?  Power forward one-on-many in the post, center is pouting.  Center one-on-many in the post, power forward is pouting.  Guard dribbles all day, hoists a lame shot, or drives into the congregation of defenders surrounding the aforementioned post men--possible because they pass about as often as a Yugo in a Grand Prix--and now both big men are pouting.  Nobody gets back.  Nobody hustles.  It's about as pretty as that thing your cat leaves on the sofa after "acking" for five minutes.

I usually try to check the overall schedule and scores to determine if a team has a preference for higher scores, lower scores, close games, blowouts, etc.  The only preference the Knicks have is for losing.  They can lose in the 80's, the 100's, anywhere in between, or to either extreme.  They've lost scoring 110 and 118.  They've lost scoring 59.

Every year New York fans get excited about the latest draft pick and every year the story seems to repeat itself.  The kid does well at first but slowly fades into oblivion.  Channing Frye, Renaldo Balkman, now even David Lee a little bit.  And forget about free agents and trade acquisitons.  The best teams make everyone who joins them better.  The Knicks sap you like a vampiric Kobayashi.  They might as well make the unis out of Kryptonite.

What's more, Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson both left Wednesday's game with "flu-like symptoms".  No report on how they're doing (or what kind of flu).

So what do the Knicks do well?  They can score individually if they get a head of steam and enough touches.  They're good offensive rebounders.  They draw quite a few fouls.  Ummm...  Ummm...  They make other team's offensive schemes look effective?

On the rare nights they do play together New York can still be formidable.  Jamaal Crawford, Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, David Lee, Nate Robinson, Quentin Richardson...these guys can all ball.  

The Knicks are capable of beating the Blazers tonight.  We're hardly bullet-proof ourselves and their big post men and slashing guards could present problems.  This is not the worst team in the league.  They just have the biggest gap between what they look like on paper and what they look like on hardwood.

What I'd Like to See Tonight

  1.  The Knicks don't block shots and they don't get back.  Push the tempo, drive often, get fouled or convert free throws.  Hoisting jumpers is just asking them to rebound.
  2.  Your defense should focus on whoever has the ball.  Their post guys are a load but as we said they never pass.  Therefore when one of them gets the ball you're 85% sure who will shoot it.  If Lamarcus or Channing or whoever is having trouble, just double.  If they pass out for the open perimeter shot the Knicks will probably clang it anyway.
  3.  If you don't let them score off of offensive rebounds their already-crippled offense will be on full-out life support.
  4.  Get a little nasty.  Fouls rather than dunks are the order of the day.
  5.  I'm hoping that the return of Zach puts a little chip on this team's shoulder.  They've already proven 26 times over that they can win without him but a little desire to prove it to his face should help.  If you display ANY energy you will be far ahead of the Knicks in that department.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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