Posts Tagged ‘Ronnie Brewer’

One Team, One Stat: Can Bulls Get No. 1 Defense Back?

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Chicago Bulls, who are getting their star back.

The basics
CHI Rank
W-L 45-37 t-11
Pace 92.0 27
OffRtg 100.4 24
DefRtg 100.3 5
NetRtg +0.1 15

The stat

5.1 - More points per 100 possessions that the Bulls’ defense allowed last season (100.3) than they did the season before (95.3).

The context

Only two defenses — New Orleans (+5.3) and Philadelphia (+6.4) — regressed more. The Bulls also regressed more offensively (-4.1 points per 100 possessions) than every team but one (Phoenix). In total, the Bulls were 9.2 points per 100 possessions worse last season than they were in 2011-12. That was the biggest NetRtg drop-off in the league.

Bulls efficiency under Tom Thibodeau

Season OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2010-11 105.5 12 97.4 1 +8.1 2
2011-12 104.5 5 95.3 1 +9.3 1
2012-13 100.4 24 100.3 5 +0.1 15

The offensive regression is easily explained by the absence of Derrick Rose. And as long as he doesn’t take too many nights off this season, the Bulls should be back in the top 10 or 12 on that end of the floor. If Jimmy Butler shoots 3-pointers like he did in the playoffs, they’re definitely in good shape.

Being in the Top 10 on both ends of the floor qualifies you as a title contender. But if the Bulls are going to regain their standing as the best regular-season team in the Eastern Conference (as some predict they will), they will need to get a lot of that defense back. And the defense regressed more than the offense.

Better offense will certainly help the defense. More made baskets will allow the Bulls to set up their D more often. But there’s more to address. In particular, there were three areas where the Bulls regressed defensively last season.

Bulls defense under Tom Thibodeau

Season Opp2P% Rank Opp3P% Rank DREB% Rank OppTOV% Rank OppFTA/FGA Rank TransD Rank
2010-11 45.6% 1 32.6% 1 76.2% 3 15.1% 11 .291 9 1.88 15
2011-12 44.2% 1 32.5% 3 74.3% 8 14.3% 25 .236 3 1.63 12
2012-13 46.7% 5 34.6% 5 73.6% 14 14.8% 22 .278 19 1.79 23

DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
TransD = Opponent fast-break points / Opponent steals

First, their transition defense went from above average to below average, an area where better offense will definitely help. But they also went from third to 19th in opponent free throw rate, which translated into an extra three free throws per game for the opposition. Finally, the Bulls didn’t protect the rim as well, going from first in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area in ’11-12 to 10th last season.

Here are some clips from a Christmas game in which the Rockets racked up 31 fast break points, 24 trips to the line, and shot an incredible 30-for-40 in the restricted area.


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This is where the absence of Omer Asik comes in. The Bulls still defended the rim decently with Joakim Noah on the floor, allowing their opponents to shoot 58.0 percent in the restricted area. But opponents shot 62.3 percent in the restricted area with Noah off the floor. With Asik anchoring the second unit, that number was a paltry 49.8 percent in 2010-11.

The defense as a whole regressed with Noah off the floor. And that’s something that didn’t happen in the first two seasons under Tom Thibodeau. One of the biggest keys to the Bulls’ No. 1 defense in 2010-11 and 2011-12 was how good their bench was on that end of the floor. This used to be a great defensive team from 1-15. Now, not so much.

Bulls defense with Noah on and off the floor

Noah on floor Noah off floor
Season MIN DefRtg MIN DefRtg
2010-11 1,575 99.6 2,391 95.9
2011-12 1,945 98.6 1,243 90.0
2012-13 2,426 98.4 1,540 103.4

Asik, C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer are all gone. And unlike Rose, they’re not coming back. Kirk Hinrich is a solid defender on the perimeter, but the defensive depth is not there anymore. Taj Gibson is still around and is a great defensive player, but he’s not a center.

The Bulls were forced to lean on Noah much more last season. His minutes jumped from 30.4 per game in ’11-12 to 36.8 in ’12-13. And he didn’t hold up, missing 12 of the Bulls’ last 15 games of the regular season. Once again this season, his health and durability will determine how good the Bulls are defensively.

Maybe the Bulls don’t need to be the No. 1 defensive team in the league anymore. Maybe Rose’s return, the development of Butler and the addition of Mike Dunleavy will improve them enough offensively that they can make up for the defensive drop-off.

But as we wonder how good Rose is going to be this season, the Bulls’ defense is as much a question as the offense is.

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

Deadline Deals Don’t Equal A Fresh Start

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Not everyone can be J.J. Redick and get traded at the deadline to a playoff team that has 28 minutes of playing time carved out and instantly make a positive impact.

Just ask Anthony Morrow, who was virtually nonexistent in Atlanta only to become invisible in Dallas; or Ed Davis, who is only now, thanks to injuries to Zach Randolph, beginning to break into Memphis coach Lionel Hollins‘ rotation. Ronnie Brewer lost his rotation spot in New York and has yet to find one in Oklahoma City and Jordan Crawford, whose low minutes in Boston are at least better than no minutes in Washington.

“I landed in a place that is pretty much a great fit for me,” Morrow said a few days after being freed from the Hawks. “Coming out of my last situation I just wanted to get somewhere or anywhere where I could have an opportunity in terms of working hard and letting that pay off.”

Judging by comments from the Mavs’ brass, Morrow, a free-agent-to-be, figured to have gotten exactly what he wanted. President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson went so far as to call Morrow “one of the top stretch shooters maybe in the history of the league.” That might have been stretching things a bit, but owner Mark Cuban seemed happy to get the 3-point specialist for a playoff push in a straight-up deal for defensive-minded shooting guard Dahntay Jones.

“He’s one of those guys you just can’t leave,”  Cuban said. “If you do he’s going to make you pay for it and that’s going to be really valuable for us.”

It might be if Morrow ever gets on the court. Coach Rick Carlisle has played Morrow a whopping six minutes. Six total minutes. He finally got up his first 3-pointer as a Mav on Sunday against Minnesota — he missed it — when he played 2:28, a shade under his Mavs high of 3:40 to go with stints of 16 seconds and four seconds.

The Thunder acquired the 6-foot-7 Brewer after trading backup guard Eric Maynor to Portland, a move that has worked well for Maynor on the Blazers’ thin bench. Brewer has played limited minutes, but his true value should come in the playoffs as a sturdy wing defender that coach Scott Brooks can utilize in specific situations. Brewer got a brief, late fourth-quarter assignment against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers last week.

“Those are minutes I have to somehow work in, but it’s hard to play 10, 11 guys,” Brooks said. “But Ronnie knows what he has to do and what he will do, he’s a professional, he understands what we do. He knows how to play, he’s a hard-nosed defender, he’s a team guy, so he just has to keep working until he gets his number called.”

Which is what the 6-foot-10 Davis is doing in Memphis. The three-team deal that sent Detroit big man Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince to Memphis and Rudy Gay to Toronto (Raptors point guard Jose Calderon now starts for Detroit) happened about three weeks before the deadline.

Daye surprisingly was getting the bulk of the bench minutes while Davis sat. But in the last four games, Davis is starting to emerge as a key player for the hot Grizzlies, if only because of injuries to the starter, Randolph, and top reserve forward, Darrell Arthur. In his last four games, Davis is averaging 27.0 mpg, 9.2 ppg and 8.5 rpg. In the prior three games, he played a total of 21 minutes and had averaged less than 10 minutes since joining the Grizzlies.

Hollins offered up a pretty good indication of what he expects from Davis following Saturday’s win at New Orleans where Davis produced 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.

“When he is focused, he’s good. It’s a different focus; a different concentration level when you are on a good team,” Hollins said. “You can’t float, you can’t be in and out. You have to be focused for the whole time you’re on the court. Last [Friday] night, I thought he was great in the second half. He was not very good in the first half. [Saturday night], it was just the opposite. There were shots that he should have blocked. There were rebounds he should have had. It’s just something he has to grow into.”

As for Crawford, what seemed like a savvy deadline move for the Celtics to add some scoring pop off the bench with Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa out for the season, hasn’t panned out. Crawford remains an inefficient scorer and a poor decision-maker and, not coincidentally, he has provided little impact.

In a trade season where Redick — whose Bucks are 6-2 since his arrival (he missed Sunday’s win at Sacramento with a sprained ankle) — was the biggest name moved, role players in new homes are finding that it can be difficult to fit in.

Winners, Losers In Deadline’s Big Chill

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DALLAS –
The Big Chill.

If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was a movie, the audience would have walked out in the middle from boredom. This freeze came straight from the script that is the league’s new collective bargaining agreement — with its harsher luxury tax penalties and diminished roster flexibility for tax offenders — it put the clamps on a stunningly uneventful deadline day.

The big names were on the opening credits: Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.

Yet, when the curtain closed at 3 p.m. ET, Orlando Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick stole the show as the lone player of significance to switch teams. The Milwaukee Bucks acquired the career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter in a six-player deal that involved five other relatively anonymous NBA names.

Only one potential blockbuster deal percolated, but ultimately died on the vine with the Atlanta Hawks going the distance in an attempt to strike a deal with the Bucks for Smith before pulling back. One reason so few big deals were discussed was simply because there wasn’t much talent realistically in play, a point that goes beyond any ramifications of the CBA.

The CBA that took effect in December 2011, and begins to smack tax-paying teams with stiffer fines next season, has clearly put franchises on the defensive. Teams that were once willing to add salary to consummate a deal no longer are. Teams that once didn’t think twice about sweetening a deal with a first-round pick, suddenly guard them with their lives.

“Cap room and draft picks, which are usually the currency of how these [big] deals get done, were at a huge premium and are something that everyone wants to have,” said Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who steered the most active club at the deadline with a couple of lower-tier deals.

There’s really no greater example of the effect of these changes than the Dallas Mavericks and their braintrust, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Chronic and strategic over-spenders and tax payers under the old CBA, Cuban, who took on salary in deadline deals for Jason Kidd in 2008 and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in 2010, analyzed the new rules and reversed field last year.

He dismantled the 2011 championship team, choosing to covet cap space and the roster flexibility granted to teams that remain under the tax threshold, as well as newfound valuing of first-round draft picks as low-priced labor and trade assets.

It’s a strategy that no longer has the Mavs on speed dial of teams looking to make a deal and dump salary.

“It’s definitely a factor,” Nelson said of the CBA’s chilling effect Thursday after the deadline expired. “There’s no question that folks have their eye on the inevitable, and there’s no question that people are getting their collective houses in order.

“There’s some teams that see that on the horizon and act early, and other teams that will procrastinate and pay a dear price. But I think we’re right in the middle of that. It’s not brand-new news and so, yeah, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams try to correct themselves financially.”

The so-called “repeater” tax really has teams scared. Several clubs tried to deal away lost-cost players to avoid the repeater tax, which will whack franchises with an additional fine if they go over the tax line in three of four seasons. Golden State was successful in this venture. Chicago was not and will pay a luxury tax for the first time since its implementation.

This “repeater” penalty deterred teams from making deals that would have pushed payroll even slightly over the tax line, deals they might have normally green-lighted in the old days. So, is this the way of the future under the current rules?

“I can’t predict the future,” Morey said, “but I think the trend is more this way.”

WINNERS

Rockets: Morey’s stockpiling of assets the last couple years has been questioned, but he’s turned it into quite a haul starting with James Harden prior to the start of the season. The day before the deadline, Morey acquired the No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, from Sacramento. Morey’s dealing didn’t damage an abundance of cap space next summer that will be used to pursue a top free agent such as Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.

Bucks: GM John Hammond didn’t get his big fish in Smith, but he pulled off the deal for Redick, who should really help a club that’s been skidding down the East standings and needs a boost. Hammond held onto Jennings and Ellis and will have room to maneuver in the summer to add more pieces.

Thunder: GM Sam Presti continues to make shrewd moves. The acquisition of Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a second-round pick gives OKC another strong perimeter defender to help Thabo Sefolosha.

Celtics: Jordan Crawford might not be Jamal Crawford, but he can score in bunches and Boston was desperate to bolster its injury-ravaged guard backcourt. Boston fans are the winners here, too, with the team’s heart and soul, Garnett and Pierce, staying put.

Mavericks: Sure, on the surface, picking up 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow for defensive-minded guard Dahntay Jones doesn’t sound like much. But then SheridanHoops.com reminded us of this Dwight Howard interview in Russia when he named Morrow as one of a handful of players he’d like to have as a teammate.

Blazers: The team with the leanest bench in the NBA finally got some help in a minor deal that netted OKC guard Eric Maynor, who lost his job early on to Reggie Jackson. Maynor will help Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard reduce his 38.5 mpg workload.

LOSERS

Hawks: They didn’t get the deal done to ship out Smith and now it seems they will lose him for nothing in free agency. On one level, however, it’s hard to say that this is a definitive loss. They’ll keep Smith (who might or might not come away from this experience deflated) for the rest of the season, and, with any luck, try to keep him while recruiting friend and fellow Atlantan Howard next summer. If GM Danny Ferry wasn’t pleased with the deals presented, it doesn’t always pay to take something, anything just because in the end you could be left with nothing. If Smith leaves, the Hawks will take the cap space and look to spin it in their favor.

Magic: They deal away a useful player and one they drafted in Redick and hand over his Bird Rights to the Bucks. There was no guarantee that Redick would re-sign with Orlando, but he at least had said the door was open to a return.  The Magic’s Josh McRoberts to Charlotte deal for Hakim Warrick is a head-scratcher.

Knicks: They didn’t upgrade at any position and gave away a solid defender in Brewer, who was starting for the club during their hot start out of the gates, but had slipped out of the rotation. New York did use the roster vacancy to sign veteran power forward Kenyon Martin.

Nets: They failed to land another high-priced player in Smith and failed to unload one of their own, Kris Humphries.

Landscape Unchanged As Deadline Passes

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The 2013 trade deadline will be remembered more for the lack of movement than for any deal that was made. We had a handful of transactions in the final hours before the deadline, but the best player dealt this week was a guy who has started a grand total of 52 games over seven seasons.

That would be J.J. Redick, who is heading to Milwaukee in a six-player trade. The Bucks are also getting Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando. The Magic will receive Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb and Tobias Harris in return.

Redick is a role player, but one who should help the Bucks, who have struggled on both ends of the floor as they’ve lost eight of their last 10 games, dropping below .500 for the first time since early December. Now in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, they’re just three games in the loss column ahead of ninth-place Philadelphia.

The Bucks were reportedly the leaders in the race for Josh Smith, who is surprisingly staying in Atlanta … for the next few months or so. The Hawks apparently did not have a deal they liked, and will have to hope for a sign-and-trade deal in July if they want something in return for Smith. Our own Sekou Smith says that the Hawks will have “no chance” to re-sign Smith.

Atlanta did make a minor move, sending Anthony Morrow to Dallas for Dahntay Jones.

As much as the lack of a Josh Smith move was a surprise, so was the fact that the Utah Jazz stood pat. With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings, the Jazz have both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on expiring deals. We don’t know if the Jazz had an opportunity to upgrade their backcourt this week, but maybe, like the Hawks, they’d prefer to let one (or both) of those guys walk in the summer.

The Boston Celtics made a minor deal, but held on to both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for the stretch run. They’ll be adding Jordan Crawford to their backcourt, sending Jason Collins and the contract of Leandro Barbosa to Washington in exchange for the volume scorer who has been out of the Wizards’ rotation for the last couple of weeks.

Other moves:

  • The Heat sent Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick to Memphis.
  • The Bobcats traded Hakim Warrick to the Magic for Josh McRoberts.
  • In order to get under the luxury tax line, the Warriors are sending Jeremy Tyler to Atlanta and Charles Jenkins to Philadelphia.
  • The Raptors traded Hamed Haddadi and a second-round pick to the Suns for Sebastian Telfair.
  • The Thunder sent Eric Maynor to Portland.
  • The Knicks sent Ronnie Brewer to OKC for a pick.

In addition to Smith, Richard Hamilton (Bulls), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors), Kris Humphries (Nets), Ben Gordon (Bobcats), DeJuan Blair (Spurs) and Evan Turner (Sixers) aren’t going anywhere. The Denver Nuggets didn’t get a shooter, the Brooklyn Nets didn’t get any of their targets (Smith, Millsap, etc.), and the Los Angeles Clippers will try to get past the Spurs and Thunder with what they have.

The new collective bargaining agreement certainly had a role in the inactivity. The new, steeper luxury takes goes into effect next season, so contracts that don’t expire this season are a heavy burden to bear. Two years from now, the repeater tax goes into effect, so there’s plenty of incentive for teams to get under the tax line this year as well.

And now that the deadline has passed, we can get on with the remainder of the season, knowing that the landscape hasn’t changed one bit.

Bulls’ Butler More Than Mere Hired Help

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CHICAGO — It’s not clear if any one factor on Jimmy Butler‘s resume loomed larger than the others when the Chicago Bulls used the last draft pick of the first round in the 2011 Draft on the 6-foot-7 forward from Marquette.

But it couldn’t have hurt that Butler, a native of Houston, had grown up and played high school ball in a town on that city’s outskirts named Tomball.

“Tomball” as in the way Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau likes it. One man goes down, another steps in. Starter or reserve, from short minutes to long and back again, nothing changes — more than enough to win.

What Butler has been doing for the Bulls for the past week and a half – more than plugging a hole in the starting lineup while Luol Deng was out with a strained hamstring, then scoring a career-high 19 points off the bench in Chicago’s victory over Charlotte at United Center – has been Tomball, indeed.

“I think it held the most when Lu [Deng] came up to me and said, ‘You can do this. … Step in and keep playing the way you’ve been playing,” Butler said after resetting or tying his NBA scoring high for the third time in six games. “When you hear that from an All-Star — from him, from Derrick [Rose], from Jo [Noah] — man, that’s real.”

That, even more than the positive feedback Butler has gotten on the court in this stretch, has boosted his confidence beyond what he brought as a little-used rookie and, earlier this season, spot reserve.

“That’s what I needed to hear,” Butler said. “They was all, ‘Lu’s hamstring is hurt. You’ve got to come in and …’ Not really saying, ‘Be Lu.’ They were just saying, ‘Be you. Be that energy guy that guards, and locks down and he hustles.’ That’s what I brought to the table as a starter, that’s what I bring off the bench. That’s who I am.”

Last season, with Ronnie Brewer still around, Butler logged a total of 359 minutes in 42 games, averaging 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds. In Chicago’s first 38 games, Butler averaged 17.2 minutes, 5.4 points and 2.6 boards.

But as a starter, he found himself thrust into a Deng-like 45.2 minutes per game. He responded with 14.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. He pestered Kobe Bryant masterfully last week, then notched his first double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) Friday vs. Golden State.

Butler’s shot can sometimes be flat enough to slip through a transom, but he was more efficient against the Bobcats, getting his 19 points and six rebounds on 7-for-10 shooting in 31:14. In the past six games, he has played nearly 246 minutes.

Thibodeau said Butler got big minutes off the bench Monday – he played more than starters Richard Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer or Deng – because of Charlotte’s smallish matchups. But it’s clear that Thibodeau likes his effort, his demeanor, his ability to rev high as soon as he hits the court and a sheer athletic ability that’s rare on Chicago’s roster.

If there’s a minutes adjustment required when Rose eventually returns – with Hinrich shifting to the bench, Marco Belinelli’s recent rise put at risk or even Deng given a few more breathers – odds are good Thibodeau will see it as a puzzle rather than a problem and invent ways to get Butler on the floor.

Soft-spoken but fun-loving in the Bulls’ locker room, Butler said his newfound notoriety hasn’t shown up much away from the gym. No flood of new Twitter followers, no rush of shout-outs on the town.

“Nah,” he said. “Everybody treats me the same. I don’t want anything to change. I still want to be the small-town kid from Tomball that floats under the radar. [Because] if you sleep on anybody on this team, we can come back and get you.”

Butler said he didn’t draw any motivation from being the last pick in the first round two years ago. Nor, he said, did he think about the contractual advantage he might have had if he’d slipped one measly spot lower. As a second-rounder, Butler might have been eligible for one of those poison-pill contract offer sheets that made former Bulls center Omer Asik and former Knicks guard Jeremy Lin so wealthy as restricted free agents last summer.

“It was a blessing to be drafted, to have a chance to play in this league,” Butler said. “Picked 1, picked 30 — I feel like this is what you dreamed of when you were little. It was a blessing that I ended up here, with this team, because I feel this team fits me the best.”

Lately, there’s no mystery about his impact on the Bulls, no past tense about it. In classic whodunit fashion, this Butler is doing it.

Knicks Grind Their Way To 4-0





NEW YORK – The New York Knicks are now 4-0 after Friday’s 104-94 win over the Dallas Mavericks. They’re the only undefeated team left in the league and should remain so for a while, with only a game against the Orlando Magic between now and next Thursday’s visit to San Antonio.

Friday’s victory wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the previous three, which came by an average of 19.3 points. And it was against a Mavs team missing two of their best players, a far cry from the full-strength Miami Heat, who the Knicks crushed a week earlier.

But this one was arguably the Knicks’ most impressive win of the four, because they didn’t shoot well.

In their first three games, the Knicks’ offense lived on jumpers. Only 32 percent (79/245) of their shots had come from the paint, easily the lowest rate in the league and well below the league average of 47 percent. As a result of their excessive jump-shooting, they weren’t getting to the free throw line or getting many offensive rebounds.

The Knicks were shooting a red-hot 45.3 percent from 3-point range though. Their 43 3-pointers were the most any team in NBA history had made in its first three games. It made for some entertaining basketball, but it was a style that was obviously unsustainable.

Still, Knicks coach Mike Woodson seemed unconcerned before Friday’s game.

“All our longs shots have really been good shots,” he said. “Nobody’s really forced anything. So I’m pleased with the way the offense has been flowing.”

But the shots stopped falling on Friday. The Knicks shot just 15-for-43 (35 percent) from outside the paint, including 8-for-22 from beyond the arc, against the Mavs. Their *effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint was 44.2 percent, right around the league average and well below their 55.1 percent mark from their first three games.

*Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA

It wasn’t a very pretty shot chart.

Knicks shot chart vs. Dallas

The Knicks still scored an efficient 104 points on 95 possessions on Friday, because they took care of the ball, got to the basket and to the line. Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler had the pick-and-roll working. Ronnie Brewer was making great off-ball cuts to the basket. Carmelo Anthony attacked off the dribble. Heck, even Steve Novak even ran a back-door cut on Friday.

Of the Knicks’ 84 shots, 41 came from the paint. And their free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 38/84 (0.45) was more than twice their rate in their first three games (0.21).

Though it wasn’t nearly as explosive as what we’d seen previously from the Knicks, it was an offense that’s much more sustainable over the long haul. It’s one thing to drain jumpers all night, and it’s another to grind out a win when those jumpers aren’t going through. As important as the Knicks’ shots in the paint was how well they defended in the fourth quarter, allowing just 16 points on 23 possessions.

The question now is whether the Knicks can keep taking care of the ball as well as they have. They had just nine turnovers on Friday (another huge reason for the win) and have turned the ball over on just 12 percent of their possessions, a ridiculously low rate, through four games.

Turnovers were the real problem last season, when the Knicks regressed offensively more than any team but the Charlotte Bobcats. So if they can continue to rank near the top of the league in turnover rate, the Knicks can get back to being a top-10 offensive team.

It’s still very early, but the Knicks have now shown that they can win in more ways than one. And that puts some more substance behind that 4-0 record.

It’s Never Too Soon For Snap Judgment

 

Never mind that the playoffs won’t begin for nearly six months. It’s never too soon to leap to conclusions about what we know — or think we know — one week into the 2012-13 regular season.

Knicks: Just when it became fashionable to trade in those blue and orange jerseys for the black and white of Brooklyn, the Knicks roll out their best start in team history, not only going 3-0, but also winning every game by at least 16 points. Nobody’s breaking out the countdown charts until Carmelo Anthony and his buddies run down the historic 72-10 record of the Bulls. But as long as the Knicks keep sharing the ball and the likes of Ronnie Brewer, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni give big man Tyson Chandler help with their defense on the perimeter, they’re for real. At least until Amar’e Stoudemire comes back to mess with the chemistry. Suddenly the Eastern Conference is about more than sniping between the Heat and Celtics. We all know the real bad blood is N.Y. vs. Miami with Jeff Van Gundy hanging onto Alonzo Mourning’s ankle.

Lakers: The NBA’s combination of longest-running soap opera/situation comedy of the past two decades has always been the ride on the day-to-day roller coaster of the Lakers. It’s part of the DNA of Angelenos to panic anytime their team loses two in a row and this season an 0-3 start hit the hysterical jackpot. Yes, Mike Brown will be under more microscopes than a newly discovered germ at the CDC and, yes, it will matter that soon-to-be-39-year-old Steve Nash is ambulatory for the postseason and it would help if their bench wasn’t paper thin. Still every team in the West outside of the Thunder and Spurs would trade its roster for a confused Dwight Howard and an aging Kobe Bryant. They’re not dead yet, but their breathing is labored.

James Harden: Look, LeBron James already has a shelf full of MVP trophies and is concentrating on chasing down Michael Jordan for his six championships. So wouldn’t it be simpler to just acknowledge right now that The Beard is unstoppable. It was never a secret that Harden was talented and explosive. But popping in 37 and 45 in his first two games with the Rockets and leading the league in scoring at 35.3 has been like scrapping the velvet off a painting of dogs playing poker and to find a Rembrandt hiding underneath. (more…)

Woodson Ready For Challenges In NYC

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This is just about the time Knicks fans will recognize the true benefits of having a no-nonsense coach like Mike Woodson running the show as opposed to someone who is, shall we say more concerned with the politics of coaching.

After six often tumultuous seasons leading the Atlanta Hawks, Woodson earned an advanced degree in drama (owner, front office and player related). And it’s one of the reasons why J.R. Smith being upset about not being named a starter won’t so much as register a blip on Woodson’s radar, not when he knows there are so many other obstacles standing in the way of the Knicks and their goal of being a contender in the Eastern Conference.

Woodson’s response, courtesy of Al Iannazzone of Newsday, to the stir Smith’s reaction caused was classic “Woody,” especially to those who know how he operates:

“Two things this team has got to think about: team and win,” Woodson said before the Knicks ‘ 108-101 win in their preseason opener against the Wizards. “Other than that, I’ll manage everything else. You just have to think about team and winning games. No matter who plays — team and winning games.”
(more…)

Rose Or Not, Bulls In The Spotlight

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Chicago Bulls are going to be a very interesting team to watch next season. They’ve had the league’s best record each of the last two seasons, but will be missing Derrick Rose for most of this season. (K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune recently wrote that the 2010-11 MVP is “out until likely March.”)

The good news is that Luol Deng may not need surgery on his wrist and that the Bulls went 18-9 last season without Rose. So Joakim Noah has every right to believe in his team, as he made clear to ESPN Radio on Thursday.

“Right now, people are sleeping on us, and we’re all right with that. We know at the end of the day, come playoff time, we’ll be ready to go.”

“We’ve gone through a little bit of adversity, but I think we’re a team full of fighters. That’s what I love about Chicago, about the Bulls.” (more…)

Brewer, Knicks Agree To Deal

The New York Knicks agreed to terms Tuesday morning with free agent guard Ronnie Brewer on a one-year deal, according to a league source.

Brewer became available when his former team, the Chicago Bulls, opted to not pick up his $4.3 million option for the 2012-13 season.

The 27-year-old Brewer appeared in all 66 games last season for Chicago, averaging 6.9 points per game. He’ll join a Knicks guard corps that will include Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Argentinian guard Pablo Prigioni and J.R. Smith. Brewer will likely compete with Smith for the starting two guard spot.

The Knicks declined to match the $25.1 million offer sheet for guard Jeremy Lin last week, allowing him to go to the Rockets.