Monthly Archives: February 2013

Coach Woodson drops the ball as Stephen Curry goes nuts, but it’s not what you’re thinking

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In one of the best NBA’s games of the year, the lead story is Stephen Curry. He scored 54 points on 28 shots with 11 three pointers, yet the Warriors still came up short. The Knicks held on 109-105 after getting herculean efforts from the CAA-2 (Melo and JR) who scored 61 combined points on 45 shots with 9 combined assists and 5 rebounds and Tyson Chandler setting a career high with 28 rebounds and 16 points of his own. Lucky to escape with a win, the key story was the Knicks’ inability to stop Curry, and contrary to popular belief, it didn’t matter which Knick tried to stop him.

After scouring through the play-by-play, Stephen scored at high rates no matter who he played against. At time of publication, I’m not able to determine how many points Curry scored when guarded by Iman Shumpert compared to Raymond Felton, so this is an attempt to try to the next best thing.

Felton and Shumpert sat out together for roughly 8 minutes and 30 seconds tonight. In that time, Curry scored 14 points (1.65 Points per Minute, good for 59 points per 36 minutes or an absurd 79 points over an entire 48 minute game).

However, in the 17:30 where Felton played without Shumpert, Curry also scored 14 points (.82 PPM, 29 pts per 36 min, 44 pts per 48 min).

Shockingly, with both Shumpert and Felton on the court, Curry was even better than just against Felton. He had 26 points in 22 minutes when both Felton and Shumpert were out there (1.18 PPM, 42 pts per 36, 64 pts per 48).

Coming into the game, Curry averaged 20.4 pts per 36 minutes, good for 30.6 points per 48 minutes and only 0.64 points per minute. So no matter who was on the court, Curry was playing well above his averages.

In-game twitter outrage suggested that Coach Mike Woodson’s biggest flaw was using Felton on Curry when Shumpert was also in the game. In my opinion, based off of the data above, this anger’s slightly misguide.

Really, Woodson should be chastised for poorly staggering the minutes of Shumpert with Felton. Shumpert did not play one minute tonight when Felton sat.

 Given what occurred, Curry was most damaging in the beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters when Pablo Prigioni was the point guard. In the 2nd quarter, the other guards in the game were Jason Kidd and JR smith and in the 4th quarter the other guard was just Smith.

Most likely, another outlet before Friday will analyze how Curry did when actually guarded by Shumpert compared to when guarded by Felton in order to determine if Woodson was at fault. Until then, just know that Stephen Curry did the most damage when both were on the bench.

 

Watching the Nets through Orange Colored Glasses

Through Orange Colored Glasses

Tuesday evening, I found myself tuning into the fourth quarter of the Nets and Bucks game. While this on its own is purely anecdotal, the emotion concocted by the Nets remains constant for this diehard Knicks fan: one of utter disdain.

When I watch the Nets, I want them to lose by 30 points on a nightly basis. I want them to be the laughingstock of the league, for their newfound Kings County fans to stop showing up, and for utter chaos to ensue. In thinking about why this is the case and how it compares to the other intercity sports rivalries here, the main difference just hit me. The Nets in recent years have posed much more a threat to the Knicks than either football or baseball team posed to its respective counterpart.

Back in the halcyon days of Stephon Marbury, Jaime Feick and Lucious Harris, the Nets were merely a little brother to the Knicks. A 30 win also-ran, Nets/Knicks games at the Meadowlands were a mere Garden Party for a Knicks team that was good for about 50 wins per year. Of course, everything changed in 2002 when the Nets acquired Jason Kidd and the Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.  The rest is modern New York sports history. The Nets were a formidable eastern conference title contender from 2002 through 2007 while the Knicks spent the same period as the laughingstock of the NBA.

The teams they gutted their rosters together in chase of Lebron, and then Melo. As a result of these team plans coupled with the emergence of twitter, a much purer rivalry was generated between the two fan bases. With regards to the Mets and Yankees and the Jets and Giants, you find ambivalence toward the other team among some fans. Sure, some Mets fans loathe the Yankees and there are Jets fans who’d never root for the Giants, but this blossoming Knicks/Nets rivalry feels different.

Simply put, I don’t think you’d find a single Knick who wishes success upon the Nets. Furthermore, save for the Nets fans who are former Knicks fans and can’t let go of their first true basketball love, I doubt many real diehard Nets fans want the Knicks to do anything but lose 60 games a year.

Of course, the aforementioned converted Nets fan only adds fuel to this rivalry’s fire. Yes, the Knicks have been mismanaged for years by a highly questionable owner. However, leaving a team for another one, especially one in the same city feels tawdry and wrong to me. The beauty of sports is for all the miserable lows, the highs are even THAT much better. To leave a team and never experience those highs is treacherous, in my opinion. While the Knicks may have to deal with Lebron for the rest of the decade, one time in the next 40 years they will finally win that elusive title. The owner can’t screw it up nor can he live forever.

Should that occur, it will be on par with celebrating a Cubs World Series in the Windy City. The parade will be epic and millions city wide will rejoice. The converted Nets fans will feel filthy. The only thing that could top it off in my opinion? If Brooklyn goes 8-74 in the same season setting the all time mark for futility.

 

Random Knicks Musings

 

This afternoon I found myself on a mini MSG binge watching some Knicks games of past years. Starting with Game 7 of 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and then briefly watching the countdown of 2011-12’s best dunks, I came up with a series of random musing about the Knicks and NBA in general, found below:

 

  • It is astounding to me how different the game was in 1994 and really up until the 2005 rule changes.  The days of illegal defense and perimeter hand-checking (although I believe that rule was changed prior to 2005), it was like watching a different sport. Aesthetically, it was brutal. Yes, there is beauty and appreciation in the post up games of Ewing and Smits, but the more open style of essentially the last decade is in my opinion preferable.
  • With that in mind, I wonder how some of today’s players would have fared during the hand checking illegal defense era. Perhaps some wouldn’t be in the league, or some even all stars, it’s really fascinating to think about.
  • Another thing I noticed was the schematic differences in plays. One set I noticed featured a Ewing post up on the left block, and BOTH Oakley and Charles Smith were hanging around on the right block, providing limited space for The Big Fella to operate vs. Smits in the post.  I wondered why this was.  Perhaps because of the limited range of Oakley or perhaps because Riles valued his two forwards crashing the offensive boards instead of spacing.  However, think about how much that contradicts to today’s game. When a team features a player in a post up, most of the time we see players on the opposite side of the court stretched all the way out to the 3 point line (think Knicks with Melo posting or how Stan Van Gundy operated with Howard & the Magic). Is this because of the changes in basketball analytics and how much more valuable the 3 point shot is considered nearly 20 years later? Or is it because of the new rules regarding illegal defense? The answer is probably some amalgam of all of these things.
  • Unless I’m too young (only 26) to remember this, but did Pat Riley ever an endorsement deal with a hair gel company? Riles and Vitalis were made for one another as he sported that semi-greasy flow.
  • As for the 2011-2012 Knicks, I was amazed how many members of last year’s team are now out of the NBA. Not including the injured Baron Davis, six members of last year’s team are currently out of the league: Renaldo Balkman, Mike Bibby, Dan Gadzuric, Josh Harrelson, Jerome Jordan and Bill Walker. Obviously, last year’s Knicks weren’t the only team where this happened (last year’s Nets had quite a few guys who are not currently employed by NBA teams).  However, given the lofty expectations that fans and the media had for last year’s team after the Chandler signing, it’s actually remarkable that they were so high. In fact, given the number of non-NBA players that were even on the roster, perhaps going 36-30 overall last season shouldn’t be deemed the disappointment that it was considered by most, including myself.

The Rangers Powerless Play

At 7-5-1, the 2013 New York Rangers are a slight disappointment 25% into this lockout shortened NHL season. Coming off an impressive overachieving season where the Rangers finished first in the east and reached the conference finals, expectations were raised over the summer when the Rick Nash trade was consummated. Nash, plus a full year of Chris Kreider, led the blueshirt faithful to believe that this would be the year where Guitar Jimmy Dolan would be able to celebrate like the previous owners did in 1994.

However, early indications would suggest those beliefs were more based in optimism than reality. If the playoffs began this weekend, the Rangers would be the 8th seed. While the Kings took last year’s cup as an 8th seed, one of their strength’s is the Rangers glaring weakness, the power play.

So far this year, the Rangers power play is ranked 28th in the league, at 10.4% (they’ve scored 5 power-play goals on 48 opportunities). The league average to date this season is nearly 19%, meaning the Rangers have taken 4 goals off of the board by having a substandard power-play that is 45% worse than the league average.

Looking back at the past five teams to hoist the cup, the average power play rate was 17.75% when the league average the past five years was 18.05%, so the past five champions had a power-play that was on average only 2% worse than league average.

Additionally, the 2012 Rangers produced a power-play percentage of 15.71% when the league average was 17.31%. While still 9% worse than league average, it’s a rate significantly better than what the Rangers are serving up so far in 2013.

Being a very limited and fringe hockey fan, I can’t make any reasonable suggestions for fixing this glaring weakness. However, from when I’ve watched the blueshirts, it appears they don’t shoot enough when on the power-play. Unfortunately, and to my complete shock, no website tracks team shot attempts while on the power-play (but all track shots attempted overall). 

Regardless, whether it’s better puck movement, scheming or more opportunities, for the Rangers to move up in the standings and once again be a legitimate cup contender, the power-play cannot continue to be powerless.

 

Opinion – Knicks Should Go After Louis Admundson

James White has impressed for the Knicks in spot minutes this year, but not enough to hold down a spot in the rotation. A legendary dunker, White should win this year’s contest, elevating his status and that of the Knicks to even greater heights. Unfortunately for White, that’s where his Knick career should end.

Simply put, this team has too many swingmen on it.  With Kidd no longer really a point guard, the Knicks have a plethora of healthy bodies who can play the “2” or the “3.”

Currently, they are totally devoid of a healthy body who can function as a center, which is why they should cut James White and offer Louis Admundson the prorated veterans minimum.

At 6’9, Amdundson has played both PF & C in the NBA, most notably for the Suns, Warriors and Pacers.

Admundson would be insurance should neither Wallace nor Camby get healthy. He has per 36 career averages of 10&10 and his career rebounding rate of 16.4% is very much in line with what Charles Oakley’s was over his last four seasons as a Knick.

Admundson has some playoff experience too. He’s appeared in 29 postseason contests, averaging 10 minutes per game.

Simply put, he’s more useful to the Knicks moving forward than James White is, and therefore should be pursued by the front office.

 

Also Found @ TheKnicksWall.com: So Where Are We Now?

The Knicks have put together their most legitimate team this millennium, something I did not believe during the emotional tumult that was this summer’s free agency period. In the aftermath of what transpired, I believed we were doomed for another inconsistent 46 win team, refusing to believe in the predictions that this team could win 50 games or more. At the All-Star break, it appears that I was wrong.

Despite last night’s abysmal showing in a winnable division game against Toronto, the Knicks find themselves in a pretty good spot at the all-star break. With a .640% winning percentage through 50 games, the team is in a spot that I surely would have signed up for on Labor Day.

Could this team have done better? Probably, but there were also some games they had no business winning against very good teams that they could have lost. Conversely, there were some losses against poor competition.

There’s also the question of should this team attempt to upgrade its roster. This has been written about by numerous talented writers elsewhere, but not to be repetitive, yes I feel the Knicks should be seeking out deals if it means improving the team for this year and next.  A “final four” or Eastern Conference Finals berth is the goal here. If a deal can be made without further mortgaging the future (as in do not trade away draft picks) that improves the team, it should be made.

All in all, as we look to the home stretch of 32 games, it is the recent 6-4 stretch since Raymond Felton’s return from injury that has me worried and skeptical that the Knicks will continue to win at this rate, or reach 50 win. As a result, let’s take an in-depth look at the schedule and what it would take for the Knicks to finish 18-14, producing the first 50 win season since 2000 and most likely the first Atlantic Division Title since 1994.

Given that there are professionals with algorithms who project future sports results for a living, it’s important to note that Accuscore.com currently has the Knicks at 52-53 wins for the season while John Hollinger’s ESPN predictions show a final record of 51-31.

To wrap up February after the all-star break, the Knicks travel to Indiana, then to Toronto before hosting Philadelphia and the Warriors in the garden. Given the recent play of the Knicks and these opponents, I unfortunately think 2-2 is most likely here.

March comes in for a lion for the Knicks (schedule here: http://www.nba.com/knicks/schedule#3) and hopefully they don’t come out of it looking like a lamb. With 10 games against current playoff teams (and half of them on the road), the team could very well go 3-7 in that stretch. This coupled with a difficult west coast trip, as a fan right now I’m not confident that the Knicks will take care of business in all their winnable March games. Simply put going 9-9 in March would be an impressive feat. 

Luckily, New York can catch its collective breath in the season’s final ten contests. With six road games (two of which I’d call wins right now) and four MSG games that shouldn’t be lost, the Knicks can finish the year 6-4.

Unfortunately, looking at all 32 games together, that would make the team 49-33 for the year. That record combined with how there are six division contests left implies that winning the Atlantic is far from the lock it seemed two weeks ago. Time to settle in, it’s going to a bumpy ride and no coast to the finish line.

 

For the Knicks, Sharing is Caring

The Knicks recent (or more like 1/2 the season to date really) struggles have been well documented elsewhere by a whole slew of very talented writers. The common theme’s been a lack of perimeter defense and a tendency to revert to a more iso-centric offense. Based upon some assist numbers, it’s certainly a problem.

In the 28 games where the Knicks have recorded at least 19 assists, their record is 23-5. Now, only 10 of those games were against teams that would currently be in the playoffs, but the Knicks are 8-2 in said games. Whether it was the first 10 games of the year or the most recent 10, when the ball moves and assists are recorded, the team wins. Only between games 30 and 40, when they played 5 games with 19+ assists, the team was just slightly above average (3-2 in that stretch).

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When recording less than 19 assists, the Knicks record is just 9-12. In those 21 games, 13 were played against teams who’d be in the playoffs if they started tomorrow (a record of only 4-9 in those games). Since January 1st, the Knicks have had 10 games where they recorded less than 19 assists. In those games, they are 3-7 (2-4 against playoff teams). It should be noted though that in the team’s first 7 games of the season when they went 6-1, 4 of those 6 wins occurred when the team recorded no more than 18 assists. As many remember, that stretch was won with great fourth quarter defense and unselfish play, yet the numbers aren’t supporting the latter memory.

All in all, these numbers beg the following question: Are the better teams stopping the Knick ball movement, or is this a self inflicted wound? It is probably a combination of both. The CAA-3 (Melo, JR Smith and Woodson) quite possibly revert to their old ingrained iso-centric tendencies against better opponents as a result of other action not working.

Nevertheless, if the Knicks don’t start caring about sharing once again, playing games and not golf in June will be a pipe dream.