Posts Tagged ‘Amare Stoudemire’

It’s Time For New Year’s Resolutions

VIDEO: The Starters review the year so far

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ring out the old. Ring in the new. As the calendar turns, it’s time for resolutions throughout the NBA:

Atlanta Hawks — Look Back to the Future: This was supposed to be the start of a brand new era for one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises, and things were actually looking good until Al Horford tore a pectoral muscle. With their undersized big man done for the season, the Hawks will only stay afloat because they’re in the horrid Eastern Conference. But they’re going in the right direction under GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer, and will get the lottery pick of the sinking Nets, so there’s reason for hope out of a draft class teeming with talent.

Boston Celtics — Move Fast on Rondo: According to the old saying, you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. When Rajon Rondo is finally able to get back onto the court and prove that he’s close to his old self, rookie coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge have to find out right away if he’s mentally ready to anchor the rebuilding project. If not, the Celtics could reap a windfall in new pieces ahead of the trade deadline.

Brooklyn Nets — Fuhgetaboutit: OK, it was a nice little pipe dream to think that a couple of old codgers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce could shuffle up and down the court in slippers and robes to tangle with the Heat and Pacers. Fortunately, team owner Mikhail Prokorov can afford their salaries with the kind of change he finds in his sofa cushions. Pay them off, send them away and get back to building around Brook Lopez and Deron Williams with players who aren’t signing up for Medicare.

Charlotte Bobcats — Keep Him: For the first time in who can remember how long, Michael Jordan won’t have to spend next summer looking for a coach. The merry-go-round can stop. Steve Clifford has given Charlotte a sense of purpose, respectability and a solid identity on the defensive end. Now they’ve got to work on boosting production out of that woeful offense. One thing at a time.

Chicago Bulls — Play Derrick and the Dominoes: Even Layla couldn’t have knocked the Bulls off their feet like the second straight significant injury to their All-Star, MVP guard Derrick Rose. It might be time to reshuffle the bones on a club that hasn’t even won a conference title and already has significant money locked up in Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson before re-signing Luol Deng to a big contract.

Cleveland Cavaliers — Stop Winning the Draft Lottery: Of course, that would require the Cavs to actually make the playoffs and not qualify for the lottery. This is a team that was supposed to be on the rise with enough young talent to make LeBron James think about returning, but instead has Kyrie Irving trying to do everything, Dion Waiters angry and Andrew Bynum maybe ready to give up the game. Time for an adult to take control here, coach Mike Brown.

Dallas Mavericks — Embrace Reality: It’s a bit ironic that a guy like Mark Cuban that has made a name for himself in the world of reality TV shows rarely faces up to it with the Mavs. He’s fun. He’s entertaining. He’ll say anything, such as there’s no telling whether Houston getting Dwight Howard or Dallas getting Monta Ellis was a better free agent signing last summer. Now go get yourself some defense, Mark, before Dirk Nowitzki winds up running on his tongue trying to outscore everybody.

Denver Nuggets — Respect Yourself: There shouldn’t be a decent team that breaks camp without a solid sense of its identity. A year ago with George Karl pulling the strings from the sidelines and Andre Iguodala setting the pace on the court, the Nuggets had that. Now they are often just a bunch that is stuck in the middle of the pack on offense (18th) and defense (16th) and too often can’t defend its home court.

Detroit Pistons — Say It Ain’t So, Joe: A few years ago, it was signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva as big-money free agents. This time GM Joe Dumars figured it would be a good idea to upgrade the Pistons by tossing the combustible Josh Smith onto the fire to light up the frontcourt. So, Smith is already calling out coach Mo Cheeks and the Pistons are backsliding from the .500 mark. Things are getting ugly early again in the Motor City. And, oh yeah, nobody is coming to watch the Pistons, who are last in the league in attendance.

Golden State Warriors — Do the American Hustle: Like the hit movie, was last year’s magical little run through the playoffs by Mark Jackson’s team just one glorious con job? Yes, they’ve played a tough schedule, but something is missing. Lack of last year’s bench? A failure to take care of the ball? You get the sense that the Warriors were just trying to pick up this season right where they left off without putting in all of the gritty groundwork.

Houston Rockets — Rebound, Then Run: Everybody loves watching the Rockets run like methamphetamine-fueled hamsters on a wheel. But for a team that has Dwight Howard in the middle, they are horrible at giving up second-chance points to opponents and it has often proved costly. It’s nice to run, but better not to turn your back and head down the court while the other guy is dropping another put-back into the net.

Indiana Pacers — Don’t Stop Believing: The Pacers came into the season convinced that they could live up to the old axiom of playing them one game at a time and that grind-it-out method would eventually deliver the best record in the league and home-court all the way through The Finals. With Paul George tossing his hat into the MVP ring and Roy Hibbert making opponents ears ring with his physical style, it’s working quite well for coach Frank Vogel’s team.

L.A. Clippers — Say Goodbye to Hollywood: The sooner the Clippers can get rid of all the extraneous things in their game — yes, you, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — and get down to the serious business of playing some real defense around the basket, the sooner we’ll take them seriously as real contenders in the Western Conference. At this point, despite all the good work by Chris Paul, the Clips are still one of those acts that gets eliminated early on “American Idol.”

L.A. Lakers — Lock Up Kobe: Yes, we know he’s the Black Mamba. We know that he’d be the guy standing out in the rain with a fork and still believe he’d quench his thirst. But the Lakers aren’t going anywhere this season and it doesn’t help their cause for next year if Kobe Bryant returns and pushes himself to the limit again in a debilitating run that winds up far short of the playoffs. It’s time to think about the limited — and high-paying — future he has left. Oh yeah, and trade Pau Gasol.

(more…)

The Knicks And Their Roster Madness …




VIDEO: Mike Fratello breaks down the hole in the middle of the Knicks’ defense

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A quick review of the injuries and roster make-up of the New York Knicks reveals exactly what ails this team this season. Not only are they missing their defensive heart and soul in Tyson Chandler, but even when he’s in the lineup, the pieces don’t exactly fit.

Their latest disastrous outing, Sunday’s 114-73 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, only served to accentuate the faulty chemistry of the group Knicks coach Mike Woodson is trying to poke and push into playing the “right way.” Even Woodson’s best-laid plans haven’t produced the desired results.

And at 5-14 heading into tonight’s game (7 p.m. ET, League Pass) against an equally disheveled Cleveland team, Woodson’s search for the right roster mix continues. How much longer he’ll have to continue that search is anyone’s guess. Woodson is up for the task, he said as much to reporters, including Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com, Monday:

“Every day that I come to work, I work,” said Woodson, who repeatedly said how privileged he is to be Knicks coach. “I don’t take days off. I put my time in, I think my preparation is great with my staff. And we try to get our guys to play at a high level.”

“Unfortunately, we haven’t had a lot of the pieces,” Woodson continued of injuries to his squad. “I thought I got to a rotation in those two games with Brooklyn and Orlando which I felt was good, but got to the arena and Kenyon [Martin] couldn’t go … For me, it has kind of been a work in progress. I think I am up for the task.”

And I can vouch for him on that one. He’s endured nightmare stretches before in his coaching career. His first season as an NBA oach in Atlanta, his team was a league-worst 13-69. It was a miserable season on paper and in reality, one that left everyone — the players, coaches, fans and the entire city — with a bad taste in their mouths.

But Woodson fought off the drama and endless twists and turns of his brutal start to help the Hawks become the playoff regular they are today. It took a series of roster tweaks, however, to aid that cause. And it took time for the Hawks to assemble the right crew to help dig out of that initial sinkhole.

Despite the through-the-roof price tag, I’m not convinced he has the pieces in place to work similar magic this season in New York. Sure, it looks workable on paper. Shouldn’t any coach be able to win with Carmelo Anthony, Chandler (when he returns) J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Andrea Bargnani, Metta World PeaceAmar’e Stoudemire, Martin, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Pablo Prigioni as the core group?

Not when your only true two-way players are Chandler and Shumpert. And certainly not when two of your key components — Anthony and Bargnani, who has served admirably as the fill-in for Chandler — are absolutely brutal defensively when they’re on the floor together.

Anthony and Bargnani are the Knicks’ most-used two-man combination and they’ve allowed 109.8 points per 100 possessions with them on the floor together. That’s worse than Utah’s 30th-ranked defense. And their offense is bad, too, so they’re a -10.4 points per 100 possessions with those two on the floor. That’s just plain putrid.

In 205 minutes with Anthony on the floor without Bargnani, they’ve allowed 91.7 points per 100 possessions (better than the Pacers’ No. 1 defense) and are a +14.9, which is great.

Knicks pace and efficiency

On floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Anthony + Bargnani 535 91.9 99.4 109.8 -10.4 -94
Only Anthony 205 96.8 106.6 91.7 +14.9 +49
Only Bargnani 47 92.0 91.4 85.6 +5.7 +2
One of the two 252 95.9 103.9 90.6 +13.3 +51
Neither 130 91.0 102.4 115.8 -13.4 -30

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Not many coaches could whiteboard their way out of those dire numbers, not even one with Woodson’s years of experience and track record of turning a foul situation around.

Still, Woodson remains steadfast in his belief that he can grind away and eventually figure a way out of this mess:

“At the end of the day, the players are playing, but I’m still coaching the team,” Woodson said. “I’ve always had the responsibility as the coach to make sure guys are playing at a high level. We’ve done that for the most part since I’ve been here. We’ve had our lapses since I’ve been here.

“I’m still the head coach,” Woodson continued. “And I’m still going to push guys to play at a high level. Players have got to do their part as well. We can’t have games like that. That’s no fun for anybody.”

Woodson is right about at least one thing: the players indeed have to do their part. And so far, they have fallen down on the job in spectacular fashion.


VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson addresses the team’s injuries

Nets Take Laughingstock Title Away From Knicks


VIDEO: The Knicks thump the Nets in a 30-point win

BROOKLYN – As the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks accumulated a surprisingly sad 8-26 cumulative record, it became abundantly clear that neither team could defend to save its season. Entering Thursday’s matchup of the busted boroughs, the Knicks ranked 28th defensively and the Nets ranked 30th.

Only one of the two teams took advantage of this fact, and the Knicks ran away with a 113-83 victory at Barclays Center, ending their nine-game losing streak.

On Wednesday, Carmelo Anthony said his team was “the laughingstock of the league.” But 24 hours later, they’ve been stripped of that title.

The Nets have the worst 3-point defense in the NBA, allowing their opponents to shoot 40.3 percent from beyond the arc entering Thursday’s game. They’re slow and deliberate on both ends of the floor, but really lack the foot speed to help in the paint and then recover to the 3-point line. So it only takes a dribble drive or a ball reversal for their opponent to get an open look from the outside.

The Knicks knew this, moved the ball and fired away on Thursday, hitting a season-high 16 threes on 27 attempts. Anthony (six assists and only 12 shots) shared the ball, Iman Shumpert (5-for-7 from 3-point range) shot with confidence, and the Knicks looked like the team they were last season, when they set an NBA record for 3-point makes and attempts, ranked third in offensive efficiency, and racked up 54 wins.

Against the league’s third-worst defense, the Nets should have been similarly efficient. With Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire as two of their three rotation bigs, the Knicks have consistently been torched on pick-and-rolls this season, often escorting opposing ball-handlers to the basket.

Yet the Nets went a good 10 minutes of the first quarter without running a pick-and-roll once. They too often tried to run their offense through the post, which allowed Bargnani and Stoudemire to stay stationary. The few times they did make those guys move, they got good shots.

Part of that is coaching. Though Brook Lopez led all scorers with 24 points, the Nets’ offense could have been a lot more effective as a whole if he was catching the ball on the move more than in the post. Jason Kidd has to find a way to get the ball and his players moving offensively. It’s far too early to say that hiring him was a mistake, but we’ve seen enough to say that he’s not a very good coach right now.

Injuries are obviously an issue. The Nets are still without Deron Williams, by far their biggest threat off the dribble. With Williams sitting out for the 10th time in the last 11 games, point guard duties were again left to Shaun Livingston and Tyshawn Taylor. Livingston is athletic, but not all that quick. Taylor is quick, but shaky and inexperienced.

Still, Brooklyn could have run more pick-and-rolls with both, or with Joe Johnson, and just tried to make the New York defense move. They didn’t and they lost by 30.

Both Kidd and Kevin Garnett cited the injuries when discussing their struggles after the game. Garnett added that the Nets are making changes in the wake of Lawrence Frank‘s sudden departure from the bench.

“Those things play a big part into this,” Garnett said. “I’m a firm believer when we’re whole and we have our team full throttle, then that’s what I believe in. Obviously, I believe in the guys that’s put on the floor and we’re going to give it an effort, but when you’re playing teams, you want to play at your whole. That’s what I believe in. And I’m not going to believe anything else until we are whole.”

Before the game, Kidd said that “we all feel confident we have enough to win.” After the game, he asked not to be judged until his team is healthy.

“I think you get evaluated by being whole,” he said. “It starts there. And then once that occurs, then you’re evaluated. That’s as simple as it gets.”

Yes, the Nets are missing four of their top eight guys. And Williams’ importance became even more clear on Thursday. But the Nets still lost at home … by 30 points … to a team that hadn’t won in three weeks and is missing its most important player. The injury excuse only goes so far. And while Williams will help the Brooklyn offense, the defense isn’t going to start looking like that of the Heat upon his return.

Tyson Chandler’s eventual return isn’t going to solve all New York’s problems either. The Knicks are still a long way from digging out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves, especially because they don’t get to play the Nets again until Jan. 20. But they do have a relatively soft schedule over the next two weeks and certainly found some confidence Thursday.

Will that translate into a run up the standings? Even if it doesn’t, at least they’re not the laughingstock of the league anymore.

Air Check: Did He Just Say That?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

aircheck-250Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

Air Check is where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

Did he just say that? Part I

The New York Knicks were having a rough afternoon a couple of Sundays ago, getting outscored 35-17 in the first quarter on their way to a 31-point loss at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.

Without Tyson Chandler, New York is obviously having a hard time defending. So late in the second quarter of that game against the Spurs, Mike Woodson made an offense-for-defense substitution … well, according to Clyde Frazier.


VIDEO: Amar’e Stoudemire’s defense doesn’t pay dividends for New York

Mike Breen, speaking of Andrea Bargnani, says “He’s starting to come out of it offensively, although defensively is where all the problems were today, so far.”

Never fear. Here comes Amar’e Stoudemire.

“That’s why STAT checks in,” Frazier says, “because you want some defense out there.”

Wait a minute … Did he just say that? About Amar’e Stoudemire?

To illustrate Clyde’s point, Stoudemire proceeds to shove Tim Duncan in an attempt to defend the Spurs’ pick-and-roll.

Did he just say that? Part II

Klay Thompson was off to a rough start in Monday’s game in Utah, missing seven of his eight shots in the first quarter. At a dead ball, Warriors analyst Jim Barnett has some advice for Thompson and actually looks pretty brilliant as Thompson commits an offensive foul for not following that advice.

But then Barnett says something not so brilliant …


VIDEO: Jim Barnett’s value of Klay Thompson is a little off

“I can tell you,” Barnett says, “off the top of my head, Klay Thompson … Only two players I’d ever think about trading right now, LeBron and Kevin Durant. Those are the only two.”

Wait a minute … Did he just say that?

“That’s what I think of Klay Thompson,” Barnett continues, “and how good he’s going to be.”

Vintage Tommy

This is our third week of Air Check this season and we haven’t had any Tommy Heinsohn yet. So here you go …


VIDEO: It just isn’t a Celtics game with Tommy Heinsohn’s frustration …

C’mahn!

Minute By Minute, Stoudemire’s Frustration Grows


VIDEO: Amar’e Stoudemire throws down a jam vs. Hawks

Break it all down – the emotions, the analytics, the money, everything – and the building blocks of the NBA are minutes. Games, seasons, careers are constructed Doobie Brothers-style, minute by minute by minute by minute.

Add one more minute to that and you’d have what now is a typical shift for the New York Knicks by Amar’e Stoudemire, whose frustration with his mandated limit of playing time is growing. Hoping to preserve and protect the veteran forward’s notoriously balky knees, the Knicks have limited Stoudemire to 10 minutes nightly, broken into two turns on the floor. Five minutes here, five minutes there and, oop, time’s up. Sit down again.

This is no chicken-or-egg thing where Stoudemire’s meager production so far this season – 3.2 points per game, 1.8 rebounds and 38.1 percent shooting in six games, while sitting out back-to-back situations – is dictating his modest level of involvement. It’s strictly in the other direction. And it stinks for him, based on Stoudemire’s comments to ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley before New York’s game Saturday:

“It’s making me look like my game is gone or that I don’t have game anymore because when you play five minutes, it’s just tough to really get in a rhythm,” Stoudemire said before Saturday night’s 110-90 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

And:

“It’s tough to play five minutes and expect to be great in five minutes. It’s almost impossible,” he said. “By the time you get up and down and get adjusted to the speed of the game, it’s already three minutes, and then in two minutes you’re out of there. And if you miss a shot, it feels [like] the world is collapsing on you because you’re expected to do so much and somewhat win the game in five minutes and it’s tough. It’s hard to deal with.”

Playing time for the freshly recovered,  the oft-injured or even the gradually worn down of the NBA is a tricky thing. If Stoudemire can play two shifts of five minutes each,  at what point does that bump up to six, then seven? Maybe he’d be more comfortable logging his 10 minutes in one fell swoop and calling it a night – at least that way, there wouldn’t be two warm-and-loosen-up periods of adjustment.

It’s an age-old debate in this league. Does a player get appreciably more worn down if he’s on the floor for 40 minutes rather than 35? Does sitting out a game help a weary or gimpy veteran more than shaving back his court time or – while using him each game – even cutting it in half for a week?

Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett worked out what both considered the best possible compromise between usage and rest-age during their final couple seasons in Boston. Former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro and his boss John Paxson got into a heated exchange back in 2009-10 when Del Negro kept a rehabbing Joakim Noah on the court too long.

Some players are resilient in how they spring up off the bench. Others need to be in the starting lineup as a way of staying lathered up from warm-ups, and stiffen up unduly once they cool down. Stoudemire, it sounds like, needs to be part of the action from the get-go, rather than trying to hop aboard a train that’s already moving.

It’s an individual call, or rather, a call hashed out between management, head coach and player. Stoudemire and Knicks coach Mike Woodson met on Saturday morning, Begley reported, to discuss the matter.

“I know it’s tough on him in terms of playing just 10 minutes because he’s just, hell, he’s barely breaking a sweat,” Woodson said.

“So I think we’ve got to get him more reps on the [practice] floor, just see how he feels.”

Here’s another factor possibly exacerbating the situation for Stoudemire: Everyone knows about the proverbial “New York minute” and how rapidly it flies by. Stack up five of those puppies and that still might be no longer than a blink in Milwaukee or Salt Lake City.

Blogtable: Fixing The Knicks

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


What to do with Kobe? | Can the Knicks be fixed? | Disappointing should-be contender?



VIDEO: The Starters discuss the Knicks early-season woes

Fix the Knicks. Can it be done with this roster? If not, do you have a midseason trade in mind for them?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The Knicks are not the stuff of honey-do lists and home weekend projects. They are a contractor’s annuity, a sort of endless renovation. I haven’t bought into New York as a legit contender since Patrick Ewing perspired in the world’s most overrated sports arena. I’d suggest a Carmelo Anthony trade because of the gap between his real value and his assessment of his value, but I know that’s not happening. So I’d suggest a backcourt fix — too much of the frontcourt already is fossilized — to upgrade from Raymond Felton (they’re stuck with J.R. Smith). Contrary to what many New York media folks think, however, the other 29 teams don’t exist as incubators for personnel to help the Knicks. Shaky management has consequences

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Fix the Knicks? Not without pixie dust. It’s pure fairytale fantasy.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Fix the Knicks? Hmm, I don’t think so. Trades? Sounds great, but New York’s stuck with Amar’e Stoudemire and who else on that roster is going to fetch anything that can put this ship on a championship course? IMO, The Knicks are tied to their contracts until the summer of 2015 when they can reset. I’m sure Kevin Love waits with bated breath.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Better yet, fix the people who keep thinking the Knicks are a serious threat out of the East. Hey, you trade for Andrea Bargnani, you’re on your own. Losing Tyson Chandler is obviously a big hit, and it would be nice if Carmelo Anthony could hit a shot, but guess which team took players other clubs did not want and spun it as getting better. Bargnani, Metta World Peace — this is a roster with few trade chips.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No and no. Assuming that the “it” in the “getting it done” means reaching the conference finals, the Knicks won’t come close. They’re a dreadful defensive team without Tyson Chandler, and even if he comes back at 100 percent, they don’t have enough guys who can make positive impacts on both ends of the floor or the floor spacing that they had last season. Iman Shumpert is the one guy other teams would covet, but trading him for a band-aid would be shortsighted, because this team isn’t getting past the Heat or Pacers with its current, flawed core.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It cannot be done with this roster. And no mid-season trade will fix what ails these Knicks. The fix for the Knicks is a much more long-term operation. The salary-cap disaster they are dealing with right now (the expiring $49.7 million in salary owed to Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani doesn’t allow for any seismic moves before the summer of 2014) isn’t as easy to fix as it once was. The new collective bargaining agreement doesn’t have the loopholes it once did. That means the Knicks are basically stuck with trying to make this current roster work. That means Carmelo Antony has to play above and beyond the pale and Mike Woodson and Co. have to locate something that works and allows this team to climb out of their funk and make the playoffs. Ride this season out, get to the summer and then the heavy lifting begins.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The best way to fix the Knicks is to wait until 2015, when Stoudemire and Chandler and Bargnani all come off the books and you’ve got salary room. And if you really want to be bold, Carmelo’s a free agent then as well. With this current team, I’m not sure what there is you can do to improve the team other than maybe sending some guys to Germany for medical treatment.

Karan Madhok, NBA.com India: This Knicks’ roster was always weird, and with the injury to Tyson Chandler, it seems to have gotten even weirder. The Knicks need an inside presence, and Bargnani, despite his height, isn’t an inside player. The combined efforts of an injured Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin, Cole Aldrich, and maybe one free-agent big man signing can be the temporary answer. Being far above the salary cap make them really unflexible when it comes to midseason trades. The Knicks need defensive help and they need it desperately. The in-house solution is to bench Bargnani and move Metta World Peace to the starting five. On offense, New York were at their best last season when they played Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position and surrounded him with shooters. Mike Woodson needs to go back to that system. If it wasn’t broke, why fix it?

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com Brasil: I don’t think so. They need to either speed up the pace to make up for that “matador” defense, or switch things up. They definitely need a backup big with a defensive mindset. I can’t think of trades for them, but I could see them shopping Stoudemire and even Bargnani around.

 

No Time For Knicks’ Finger-Pointing




VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson says his team “did not compete” against the Spurs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The view from below is hazy these days for the New York Knicks. It always is at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, where the Knicks find themselves this morning after taking an epic beating from the San Antonio Spurs.

The inevitable next step for those observing the Knicks’ rocky 2-4 start to this season is, of course, the finger-pointing. Whether it’s fans pointing the finger at coach Mike Woodson or superstar Carmelo Anthony or media types pointing to Ray Felton or J.R. Smith (who made his debut against the Spurs), the finger-pointing phase of the game is upon the Knicks.

But now is not the time for this sort of tomfoolery, even in the aftermath of the worst loss of the Woodson era and a complete meltdown by that sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd that saw the beating. There are too many veterans on this Knicks team to just abandon ship after six games.

So there is a little adversity (Tyson Chandler‘s broken fibula, Smith’s delayed start, etc.) to deal with this season. The weight of the expectations that were sure to come after last season’s 54-win campaign should have been expected. The response needed for those challenges, however, is something that has been sorely lacking.

“It’s just unacceptable,” Woodson said of his team’s reaction to that 37-point hole they were in during the second half against the Spurs. “It’s my job to push them through it and try to get them over the hump. I know we’re a better team than what we’ve shown.”

There’s no doubt about it. The Knicks have the personnel to be among the top four or five teams in the East this season. But they’re not playing like a team that understands its limits, that realizes its potential.

And they can talk all about how embarrassed they are and how they have to compete to erase this ugly start. The fact is the Knicks are six games into an 82-game marathon (they were 6-0 at the same stage last season) and every player must do his own soul-searching to solve whatever issues New York collectively has.

This isn’t on just Woodson or Anthony, despite the boos and their status as the easiest possible targets. This is about a veteran cast of characters needing to remember what it was that made them a threat in the East last season and recapturing that vibe this season … before it’s too late.

Last season’s cosmic ride is over. This Knicks team won’t be able to (3-point) shoot its way out of trouble the way they did last season. They’ll have to dig in defensively, the way they did at times last season, and scratch, scrape and claw their way out of the basement (where they are currently being kept company by their neighbors in Brooklyn, another outfit struggling under great expectations).

Yes, Woodson has to play with his rotations and tweak a few things here and there. And Anthony absolutely has to crank up his energy and production to levels commensurate with a player who spent last season in the MVP conversation. By no means does that excuse everyone else from doing what they have to do to aid the cause.

Even a guy like Amar’e Stoudemire, who is clearly a shell of the All-Star he once was, needs to muster whatever he can to contribute to the greater good. When you’re in desperation mode, which is exactly where the Knicks must feel like they are now, a collective effort is what’s needed to mend things.

The finger-pointing, be it public or private, will only serve to hasten the Knicks’ demise as it tears away at the whatever is left of the fabric of a team that expected so much more of itself.

Melo, Knicks Must Evaluate Partnership




HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – There’s a lot of angst surrounding the New York Knicks and the possibility that Carmelo Anthony will leave as a free agent next summer.

In an interview with the New York Observer, Anthony said that he’s looking forward to being a free agent.

“I want to be a free agent,” Anthony tells me, as our cigars burn close to the nub. “I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It’s like you have an evaluation period, you know. It’s like if I’m in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience.”

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Though he’s now in his 11th season, Anthony has never been a free agent. He signed a five-year extension with the Denver Nuggets before his rookie contract expired, and then signed another extension upon being traded to the Knicks.

Anthony didn’t say to the Observer that he plans on opting out of the final year (2014-15) of that contract, but he made it clear in a Thursday morning meeting with reporters. Though he’s set to make more than $23 million next season, he can turn that one guaranteed year into four (if he signs with a new team) or five (if he re-signs with the Knicks).

The Knicks gave up a lot to bring Anthony to New York. Rather than wait to sign him as a free agent in the summer of 2011, they gave up three starters and three draft picks to get him at the trade deadline. So to have him walk away three years later would be a tough blow.

Anthony made it clear Thursday that he’s not exactly looking to bail on the Knicks, as Marc Berman of the New York Post writes

“This is something when that time comes, I’ll definitely explore,” Anthony said. “Does that mean I’m not coming back to New York? Not at all. But it’s definitely an opportunity I’m willing to explore and experience. That not whatsoever means I’m not coming back to New York or I don’t want to be in New York. I don’t want anyone to get that impression of what that story was. That question came different than what everyone is reading.”

Indeed, it seems Anthony is heavily leaning toward staying with the Knicks, but if they take a severe step back this season, all bets are off.

Anthony isn’t the only one who needs to think about this relationship between team and player. The Knicks need to figure out if they can really contend for a championship while paying Anthony $129 million over five years.

Teams can get good role players on cheap contracts these days and the Knicks found an offensive formula (pick-and-roll + Anthony + shooters = efficiency) that worked really well last season. But if any team is going to pay someone more than $25 million a year, that team needs him to help on both ends of the floor. Anthony has never shown an ability to do that consistently. And as good as the Knicks were offensively last season, they had a below-average defense. (They were above average both offensively and defensively with Anthony on the bench, by the way.)

The salary sheet will look a lot better when Amar’e Stoudemire‘s contract finally expires in 2015. (That guy isn’t opting out next summer.) But Anthony will be 30 years old when he signs his next contract and 34 in the final season of a five-year deal.

So the Knicks might want to think twice about committing to another five years of paying max money to a one-way star whose production is guaranteed to decline as his salary climbs. There may be better ways to construct a championship-contending roster.

No Love For The Knicks?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The ending was a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the New York Knicks last season. Falling to the Indiana Pacers the way they did in the Eastern Conference semifinals, getting pushed around and basically overwhelmed by a healthier and more defensively sound team, exposed the weaknesses that were there all along.

That crash landing in the playoffs might explain the lack of buzz surrounding these Knicks as the start of 2013-14 season nears. As we get closer to tip-off of the regular season, you hear about the Pacers, Chicago Bulls and even the Brooklyn Nets as teams the Heat need to worry about before anyone mentions the Knicks.

There’s no love for the Knicks these days and you have wonder: Why?

The reasons for the lukewarm interest in the Knicks are varied. There was no free agent splash over the summer (sorry Metta World Peace). There was no miraculous recovery for Amar’e Stoudemire. Carmelo Anthony needed time to heal his battered body in an attempt to recover from the pounding he took last season. J.R. Smith didn’t exactly distinguish himself in the offseason either with a five-game suspension looming at the start of the regular season.

It’s a lesson plenty of would-be contenders learn when their results don’t match the expectations. And for a time last season, the Knicks, not the Pacers, looked like the team that would challenge the Miami Heat for that trip to The Finals.

Everyone seems to have forgotten all of the positive work the Knicks did last year, finishing with a 54-28 record, winning their first playoff series in over a decade and coach Mike Woodson finishing third in Coach of the Year voting.

Woodson’s teams in Atlanta got progressively better in each of his six seasons without the Hawks ever making the sort of free agent splash that usually spurs a dramatic rise in a team’s fortunes. Woodson, despite a legion of vocal critics, is one of a handful of coaches in the league with a proven track record of taking a disjointed group and making sure they compete at a high level.

And disjointed might be a kind word for the group the Knicks will suit up this season. The Raymond Felton-Pablo Prigioni backcourt tandem is interesting, to say the least, and the Iman Shumpert-Smith battle at shooting guard promises to deliver plenty of drama (and potentially headaches for Woodson) throughout the season.

(Shumpert insists he’s playing with a “chip on his shoulder” that could help fuel the Knicks early on, and that’s a good thing.)

Call me crazy, but I think World Peace is going to be a fit and rookie swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. is certainly going to be a factor. The only glaring question for me is if Andrea Bargnani can revive his career as the floor-spacing stretch-4 the Knicks need to free everyone else up to play to their specific strengths?

You never know what you’re going to get with Amar’e because of his injury issues and even with an offseason worth of work on his jump shot it’s hard to lean too hard on Tyson Chandler for the offensive help Bargnani should be able to provide immediately.

Ultimately, the pieces are in place for the Knicks to battle for a top four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. That’s just a fact, even if no one outside of the Knicks’ locker room believes it.


Morning Shootaround — Oct. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony feels ‘sad’ for Stoudemire | Rockets bond in Manilla | Report: Magic eye own D-League club in Jacksonville | Thibodeau’s advanced-stats take

No. 1: ‘Melo feels bad for Amar’eWhen Carmelo Anthony forced his way out of Denver and to New York during the 2011 season, the thinking was ‘Melo wanted to play in a major media market with perhaps more opportunities to advance in the playoffs as well. But aside from those factors, playing alongside Amar’e Stoudemire was a big draw for Anthony when the deal to the Knicks went down. Since coming to the Knicks, Stoudemire and Anthony have played just 99 games together (going 45-44) due to Stoudemire’s injuries preventing the big man from staying on the court for seemingly any prolonged period of time. Anthony told ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley that he feels awful for Stoudemire and his constant injury issues:

“As a friend, it’s hard for me to sit back and act like it doesn’t bother me because I know how hard of a worker he is [and] I know the time that he puts in the gym to train and rehab,” Anthony said Tuesday. “To see him go forward and then take some steps back every time, it’s just sad.”

Stoudemire will miss at least the Knicks’ first three preseason games as he works his way through another knee ailment. The 11-year veteran is working his way back from a knee procedure over the summer — his third in the past 12 months.

“I’m still getting stronger, still getting the legs strong enough to withstand the pressure of playing, but progress has been great so far,” Stoudemire said.

The six-time All-Star was limited to just 29 regular-season games in 2012-13 thanks to two separate knee procedures. He also had microfracture surgery in 2005.

Anthony sometimes wonders whether he’ll ever get to play with Stoudemire when he’s 100 percent healthy.

“Yeah, I think about it. I think about [it] sometimes,” he said Tuesday. “He was one of the reasons why I wanted to come to New York. So for me not to have that chance, the opportunity to get a full season in and get a rhythm going with him — it’s not something I thought would happen.”

The Knicks are 2-11 in the postseason when Stoudemire and Anthony are on the floor together, although the Knicks’ 1-2 mark last season is a bit misleading because Stoudemire was playing limited minutes.

Recent statistics aside, Stoudemire still believes he and Anthony can play well alongside one another.

He’s also proud of the improvements the Knicks have made during his tenure.

“Since I’ve been in New York, we’ve made great progress for the organization. We are a team to watch. We have more TV games now than we had before. But on top of that, we’ve been to the postseason every single year,” Stoudemire said. “And that was a part of my goal of coming here: to build something that will allow us to improve. Unfortunately injuries played a factor after I was here that first year. But I do envision myself getting healthy and being able to dominate as I once did before.”

***

No. 2: Dwight, Rockets strengthen bonds with each other — After losing their preseason opener at home against the Pelicans, the Rockets quickly set off for the Philippines as part of the NBA’s Global Games. Since landing overseas, Houston has spent more time with each other than they normally would have state-side, which has fostered some chemistry on the team. And, of course, having Dwight Howard belt out an R&B classic and show off his dance moves hasn’t hurt things either, writes our own Fran Blinebury:

In the daylight hours halfway around the globe, Dwight Howard is playing the role of a wrecking ball as he keeps sending his fellow Rockets big men away limping and bruised from practice. So far, Greg Smith, Donatas Motiejunas, Omer Asik and Terrence Jones have all workouts wearing ice packs, bandages and grimaces.

But away from the court, the All-Star center showed his mellow, playful side for guests of the Rockets as a singer and dancer at a reception in the team hotel.

Howard recruited rookies Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington as his backup crew — Dwight & the Pips? — while he crooned his version of R Kelly’sI Believe I Can Fly and then showed off his footwork outside the low post as they did the Cha Cha Slide.

“I think traveling overseas on a trip like this is good for us at a time in our development,” said Rockets guard James Harden. “Here, 20 hours away, from home there’s a lot more bonding. It’s great for us. We’re so new to each other, so it’s the most important thing right now.

“Our chemistry has risen to another level as far as us hanging out outside of basketball. Whether it’s dinner, whether it’s us just going to the mall, doing small things like that, those are stepping stones to playing better on the court.”

***

No. 3: Report: Magic want to move D-League team to Jacksonville — As it stands today, the Orlando Magic’s NBA Development League affiliate is the Fort Wayne Mad Ants — a team it shares with the Bobcats, Pistons, Pacers, Grizzlies and Bucks. But the Magic, according to Don Cobble of the Florida Times-Union, have eyes on setting up their own D-League team in the much closer Jacksonville in the near future. The city of Jacksonville currently boasts the two-time ABA champion Jacksonville Giants and their owner, Ron Sholes, has hopes of making the switch from an ABA team to a D-League team soon. The holdups in the Magic getting a D-League team in Jacksonville, though, hinges on other there being three other future D-League teams in the Southeast U.S.:

The Magic, who will play the New Orleans Pelicans at 7, have an interest in moving its NBA Development League team to Jacksonville, team CEO Alex Martins said Tuesday.

“We’ve made it clear to the [NBA] league we’d like to make this happen,” Martins said.

Joel Lamp, of Jacksonville University’s business development and communications department, confirmed the city wants a D-League franchise and is working to make that happen.

… Executives with the Magic, Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Giants hope they can continue to work together to give the team a permanent place for players to rehabilitate from injuries and for younger players to get playing time.

“When I started the Jacksonville Giants, the five-year goal was to make the Giants a premier ABA team and to become a D-League single-team affiliate,” Giants owner Ron Sholes said. “We’ve talked with the city; they’re behind it. But it’s a process. It’s just a matter of getting the talks going.”

Martins said Orlando wants its own “hybrid” franchise so it won’t have to share players, coaches or administration personnel. He also wants his team’s D-League franchise to be closer to home.

“Right now we’re in [Fort Wayne, Ind.] and it’s so far away,” Martins said. “If we send someone there for rehab it’s hard to monitor them. Distance is an issue. It’s too far away.”

***

No. 4: Thibodeau always careful with statistics — The advanced statistics trend has ramped up in NBA discussions over the last few seasons and is at a fever pitch today as most teams have devoted numerous resources to mining data and finding an edge. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t knocking the trend of late, but as he tells the Chicago Sun-TimesJoe Cowley, he’s always been cautious about how much to invest into the stats movement, whatever it may be:

Tom Thibodeau quoted Winston Churchill.

It was just further evidence that when NBA coaches are cornered into discussing basketball analytics, anything can come out of their mouths.

“Churchill has a great quote that went something along the lines of he didn’t believe in any statistics that he didn’t doctor himself,’’ Thibodeau said. “I think there is a place [for analytics] in our league, and I think it’s good. It may be getting overplayed somewhat right now. I think the trained eye is very important, but numbers are a part of the equation.’’

While stats and numbers still play second fiddle to 23 years of coaching and watching for Thibodeau, he said he has been a student of analyzing numbers since he worked under former coach Bill Musselman his first few years in the NBA.

The dangers, however, are becoming obsessed with the numbers and basing full evaluations on them, or not understanding how to work the numbers so they give a coach or executive a true measurement.

“The biggest thing when you’re looking at statistics is comparing apples to apples,’’ Thibodeau said. “Often times that gets overlooked. So there is a biased confirmation. You can go into it and say, ‘OK, this is what I think,’ and you can get the numbers to confess to anything.’’

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Hawks lose reserve big man Gustavo Ayon for 4-8 weeksAndris Biedrins is enjoying a fresh start with the Jazz … Rookie Archie Goodwin providing the Suns with some dreams of the futureGregg Popovich wasn’t the toughest coach Manu Ginobili has played for

ICYMI of the night: Good ol’ Jarrett “Crusty” Jack comes up with a fantastic behind-the-back fastbreak dime to rookie Anthony Bennett