Posts Tagged ‘Steve Novak’

Schedule Turns Favorable For Knicks


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Raymond Felton‘s prize for his first game action in a month was a recurring blur named Jrue Holiday.

The Philadelphia 76ers point guard and first-time All-Star ripped Felton and the New York Knicks on Saturday night for 35 points in a game that was never close and the Sixers won 97-80.

Felton’s return as the Knicks dropped to 26-15 in reaching their official 41-game halfway point, gave New York as close to a fully healthy roster as it’s had all season. Iman Shumpert played his fourth game back and Amar’e Stoudemire, in his 11th game back, posted his first 20-point game, getting 20 on 8-for-13 shooting.

Just .500 in their last 10 games, the Knicks are now sort of in re-start mode, although a jump-start was needed in Philly.

With only Rasheed Wallace still out, coach Mike Woodson is now charged with meshing Felton and Shumpert — Saturday was their season debut together — figuring out the best way to limit Jason Kidd‘s minutes and the best lineups to play him with, as well as determining if the improving Stoudemire is best suited to keep coming off the bench — although Woodson has said he likes Stoudemire off the bench with J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.

Against the Sixers, Woodson opted for a three-guard starting lineup with Felton, Kidd and Shumpert. Kidd, overplayed during Felton’s absence, was scoreless in under 15 minutes, limited by a bad back.

Felton, playing for the first time since breaking his right pinkie on Christmas Day, was rusty, missing six of his eight shots and he was a step slow against Holiday, which was true for the entire Knicks team.

And it’s not like Felton was the only offensive culprit either. Shumpert missed all six of his shots and Smith’s struggles took him to 0-for-8 overall and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. Carmelo Anthony needed 28 shots to score 25 points.

So where are the Knicks as they begin the second half tonight back at home against the Atlanta Hawks?

That’s to be seen.

The Knicks at least have their point guard back. Before Saturday’s game, they were 20-8 with Felton and 6-6 without him. They’ve got Shumpert back. They’ve got Stoudemire back.

In addition, the schedule turns favorable with the start of a five-game homestand, and only two of their next seven games are against teams with winning records.

Now it’s a matter of how long it will take for the team to mesh and to get back to the higher rate of winning Knicks fans were getting used to.

Clippers Top League’s Best Benches


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – After Thursday’s 90-77 win in Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers are now 3-0 without MVP candidate Chris Paul.

All three wins have come on the road against good teams, and in none of them have the Clippers required a huge performance from one of their other starters. In fact, Blake Griffin has averaged just 16.3 points in the three wins. Eric Bledsoe, starting in place of Paul, has done a decent job of running the team, but has totaled only 11 assists.

The Clippers won the three games — and won them all comfortably –for the same reason that Paul has been able to sit the entire fourth quarter in nine of the 37 games he’s played in: They have the best bench in basketball.

Here’s all you need to know about the Clippers’ bench and why they’re a much-improved team: Last season, the Clips were outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions when Griffin was on the bench. This year, they’re outscoring their opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions with Griffin on the bench.

That’s a 23.3-point turnaround and that’s really what it’s all about. A good bench should build on leads, not lose them. That’s why the Bulls’ bench was so good the last couple of years, even though it didn’t have anybody who could really score. When Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson were on the floor together, the Bulls shut down foes and scored enough to build on the lead the starters gave them.

With that in mind, here are the best benches in the NBA …

L.A. Clippers

The Clips have a full, five-man bench unit that’s one of the best lineups in the league. In 243 minutes with Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf on the floor, L.A. is a plus-14.5 per 100 possessions.

Though Crawford is known for his offense, this is really a defensive unit that has only scored 102.8 points per 100 possessions, just a notch above the league average. But it has allowed only 88.3, making it the second-best defensive unit of the league’s 72 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.

The question is how Grant Hill fits in. In Hill’s first game back, that unit only played six minutes together. And in the last three games, it hasn’t played together at all, though that may have more to do with Bledsoe starting.

Either way, it would be disappointing if coach Vinny Del Negro broke up such an effective unit. And it really could affect where the Clippers finish in the Western Conference standings.

San Antonio

Though Manu Ginobili has been neither healthy nor sharp, the Spurs’ bench continues to get the job done. It’s just tough to determine where the starters end and where the bench begins, because eight different guys have started at least nine games for San Antonio already. But coach Gregg Popovich‘s ability to mix-and-match lineups will little drop-off is part of what makes the Spurs’ bench so good.

The Spurs don’t have a full bench unit like the Clippers. Their latest starting unit is Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Their most-used lineup that includes at least three other Spurs has only played 38 minutes together, and that lineup includes Parker and Duncan.

This is why we’d rate the Spurs’ bench behind that of the Clippers. But San Antonio is still outscoring its opponents by a solid 5.7 points per 100 possessions with Duncan off the floor. That’s a very good thing. (more…)

Knicks-Bulls Seems Like Old Times


HANG TIME, Texas — The only things missing were Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing clubbing Michael Jordan like a baby seal as he drove through the lane, Charles Smith missing layups or maybe Jeff Van Gundy derisively referring to Phil Jackson as Big Chief Triangle.

It was just like old times when the Knicks and Bulls collided on Friday night at the Garden — tempers flaring, heads butting, technical fouls flying and, in the end, of course, Chicago winning.

Where else but the Big Apple would it be more appropriate to make snap judgments and leap to hasty conclusions? Especially since the New York media have spent the first third of the season once more pounding the drumbeat of hope — or fantasy — for the Knicks’ first championship since 1973.

This was the second time in two weeks that the feisty Derrick Rose-less Bulls had stuck the Knicks, who are more earthbound at 5-3 since that soaring flight over Miami on Dec. 6.

First, let’s go over the gory details of the Friday Night Fights from main man Marc Berman of the New York Post (that’s BOTP, if you’re a Twitter follower of our hilarious good buddy @FisolaNYDN):

In the worst Garden night of the season during which they fell behind by 25 points late in the third quarter, the Knicks fought the referees, fought the Bulls players, but didn’t fight hard enough to win. As the final buzzer sounded on a discouraging 110-106 loss, coach Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler — all ejected — weren’t around to hear it.

The loss dropped the Knicks (19-7), percentage points behind Miami (17-6) for best record in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks, who also lost to Chicago two weeks ago, shot 33 percent in the first three quarters and trailed 83-61 and then blew their cool.

First, Anthony got ejected with 6:45 left for a hard slap on the ball held by Joakim Noah, picking up his second technical foul. Then Woodson followed Anthony to an early shower 1:30 later, earning his second technical for profanely berating the referees. Woodson, outcoached by Tom Thibodeau, appeared to mouth “terrible bleeping call,’’ then adding “bleep you.’’ as a kicker.

Bad move as all hell broke loose after that.

Fact is, despite all the talk about the Knicks’ excellent defense and chemistry and coaching and cohesion and Anthony, so much of their sizzling start has been based on their shooting the ball at a record-setting pace from behind the 3-point line. When Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Steve Novak, Anthony and virtually anyone in a NY uniform are connecting at a 40 percent clip while Tyson Chandler takes care of business on the inside, that’s a recipe for success.

However, the question has always been whether the Knicks could keep up that pace from downtown? In their last three games, the outside temperature has cooled with the Knicks shooting 28-for-86 (32.6) from long range, which has included a pair of losses this week to the Rockets and Bulls.

Is the answer as close as the Erie Bayhawks of NBA D-League, where Amar’e Stoudemire is putting the final touches on his rehab from knee surgery?

On one hand, Woodson says: “We’re going to post Amar’e some when he comes back. We will stick him down there and try to get him the ball, and let him work a little bit and see what happens.”

On the other are reports that the Knicks have tried to peddle the contract of the 30-year-old Stoudemire to every other team in the league unsuccessfully. The dilemma was spelled out wonderfully on Friday by Howard Beck of the New York Times:

In his prime, Stoudemire was the N.B.A.’s most lethal finisher in the pick-and-roll. But that role has been usurped, too, by Chandler, who is taller and longer, with a bigger bounce and healthier knees.

The obvious solution is to have Stoudemire anchor the second unit, running the pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni, while Novak, Smith and Rasheed Wallace spread the floor with their 3-point shooting.

But playing as a reserve means fewer minutes and a diminished profile. For all his public diplomacy, it seems doubtful Stoudemire would be content. On Thursday, he told reporters he was ready to “return back to dominance,” which hardly sounds like the words of a player ready to cede the spotlight.

Ask those who have worked with Stoudemire, and they eventually invoke the same word: prideful. Not selfish or egocentric, but simply prideful — a man who views himself in grand terms and spends every minute trying to live up to the image. At age 30, even after multiple knee operations and back problems, Stoudemire still views himself as an elite player.
Reintegrating Stoudemire — whether as a starter or a reserve — might be the greatest challenge the Knicks face this season. (His famously poor defense is also problematic.)

It is a cruel crossroads for Stoudemire, one he never could have foreseen. He surely deserves a better fate.

But considering the way the Knicks opened the season with a bang, stirred the passions in New York and raised the possibility of challenging Miami’s supremacy in the East, they do too. Old times against the Bulls weren’t such fond memories.


Knicks Did The Right Thing!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When presented with the promise and global recognition of what might be and the sobering reality of what is, the New York Knicks made a choice. In fact, they made the right choice where last season’s point guard sensation, Jeremy Lin, was concerned by not keeping him in the fold.

Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton make it much easier to see that now, what with the quality work they have put in this season for the 18-5 Knicks, who welcome the star of the off-Broadway smash, Linsanity, back to Madison Square Garden tonight (7 ET, NBA TV) for the first time since Lin signed with the Houston Rockets as a free agent.

The Knicks chose veteran leadership and production over the charade that was the overnight sensation that Lin became during his breakout stretch of play. Don’t misunderstand us, though: Lin is a solid player, but not the folk hero he was played up to be during Linsanity. And as our man John Schuhmann points out, Houston’s offensive and defensive rating with Lin on the court is worse than it is without him on the court.

Kidd is a winner and arguably the most underrated athlete (in any sport) of his generation. Felton played some of the best basketball of his career in his first stint with the Knicks in their pre-Lin era. He’s picked up right where he left off this season by combining with Kidd to form one of the most potent backcourt duos in the league.

Lin, as expected, is going through some of the growing pains you might expect for a player whose starting experience as a point guard includes all of 48 games, a little more than half of an NBA season. There have even been rumblings about him being a backup in Houston in order to help ease his transition. Can you imagine the outrage if he was still in New York and someone was contemplating a move like that?

In fairness, Lin’s had his moments this season. He looked like the Lin of … well, Linsanity, when he exploded for 38 points and seven assists in a Dec. 10 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. But he did that while the Rockets’ best player, James Harden, was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Lin has a habit of playing his best when his team’s best player is wearing street clothes. Most of his best work with the Knicks came when Carmelo Anthony (as well as Amar’e Stoudemire) were not in the lineup.

On the flip side, Kidd and Felton play the same with or without the big dogs in the lineup. It’s the difference between having proven talent at the controls and a developmental prospect who might not be best suited as a full-time starter running your show.

That doesn’t mean that Lin deserves anything other than a rousing round of applause from the Knicks faithful tonight. He did provide weeks of cosmic pleasure for those fans and fans of an underdog story everywhere. His rise with the Knicks was easily the best story of the season and one of the best in recent pro sports history in this country.

As fleeting as it was, Linsanity was every bit as fun for the rest of us as it was surreal for Lin, who said he’s expecting things to be “wild” tonight.

And I agree with his former Knicks teammates, who believe Lin’s contributions to the resurgence of the franchise deserve to be appreciated on their own merit.

“He’s one of those guys people will remember for his time here,” Steve Novak told the New York Daily News. “It wasn’t a very long, long time, but it was special. There’ll be a movie about it one day.”

(There’s a certain famous filmmaker/Knicks superfan who could do the Linsanity story proper justice … paging Spike Lee!)

At this stage of his career, would you be more comfortable with Lin running your team or doing so with a promising young rookie like Portland’s Damian Lillard?

If you have to think about that for more than three seconds, it should be clear by now that the Knicks did the right thing!

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.

Knicks Hit Heat With ‘Sandy’ Aftershock


Dwyane Wade, among NBA players, might be in charge of fashion and fatherhood, but fortunately for the New York Knicks, their fans and the five boroughs, he isn’t in charge of NBA scheduling.

In the game that Wade thought shouldn’t even be played – a reasonable and sober position, given the crush of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath on so many New Yorkers’ lives – things hardly could have turned out better for the home team.

The lights were on at Madison Square Garden and they were hot. Led by their media-conscious star forward Carmelo Anthony (30 points, 10 rebounds), the Knicks beat the NBA’s defending champions by 20, giving beleaguered citizens a welcome diversion at the end of a grueling week.

Anthony – who also served notice through the MSG P.A. announcer that he’s known these days as “Melo Anthony” (can the “Car-”) – addressed the fans before tipoff, then postmarked the Heat. As reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post, the devastation outside the arena had something to do with the dynamics inside it:

“We were kind of up and down the last couple of days,” Anthony said. “Then we heard they had canceled the marathon. We were like, we had to go out there and play and give New Yorkers a couple of hours of peace for coming to the game to support us.”

A warm shower would have been peace. A bowl of soup, a sandwich and some Internet access would have been peace. What the Knicks gave their fans was more than that, a little something to get excited about. They hit 19 of their 36 attempts from 3-point range (5-of-8 from Steve Novak). Raymond Felton, stepping into the Linsanity void, triggered it with 14 points and nine assists. New York grabbed a 17-6 lead and never faltered. (more…)

Linsanity … One And Done In New York?

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — No one said Linsanity would last forever.

But one-and-done in New York for Jeremy Lin?

Apparently there are no guarantees that Knicks fans will get an encore performance from the mercurial point guard who took the NBA, and the global basketball world, by storm this season when he burst onto the scene.

Lin will be a restricted free agent this summer and according to his agent, Roger Montgomery, is not necessarily destined to sign with the Knicks, courtesy of the New York Post:

“I don’t expect that. We’re not anticipating that’s going to happen. We don’t have assurances of anything. I know history shows most restricted free agents go back to their team, but I’m not going to assume anything. We’re waiting to see what happens.”

Surely, those aren’t the words Knicks fans want to hear. Not after Knicks coach Mike Woodson declared at season’s end that Lin would be back. And certainly not after seeing the impact Lin had on their team when he was healthy, after helping them revive their season only to miss the playoffs with an injury.


Stoudemire’s Status Still Unknown

GREENBURGH, NY – Amar’e Stoudemire practiced on Saturday, but it’s unknown whether he’ll play in Game 4 against the Heat on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Stoudemire sliced his hand open after Game 2 in Miami on Monday. And if you saw the image he tweeted on Friday, you might wonder how in the world he could catch a ball or battle for position in the paint without being in a world of pain.

Stoudemire didn’t speak to the media on Saturday, but Knicks coach Mike Woodson said that Stoudemire “looked pretty good” as the Knicks went through their offense in what might have been their final practice of the season.

“It’s going to probably be a game-time decision on Amar’e if he’s going to play or not,” Woodson said. “But he did go through some scripted offense up and down the floor before he shot. We just have to wait until tomorrow and see what happens.”

Tyson Chandler was a little cautious with his prognosis.

“He looked OK, but I don’t know, honestly,” Chandler said. “I don’t know what his hand feels like. I didn’t see him grimace or anything catching passes, but at the end of the day, I don’t know how it’s going to react.”

Woodson added that Stoudemire’s status will be up to the medical staff, not the coach. And if Stoudemire can’t play, Woodson might start J.R. Smith instead of Steve Novak, who has scored just nine points in 67 minutes through the first three games.

“We got off to such a bad start [in Game 3],” Woodson said. “There’s a chance that J.R. can possibly start, so that we can have some kind of offensive firepower, but I have to make that decision based on Amar’e.”

Facing elimination, the Knicks would like to end the franchise’s 13-game postseason losing streak and avoid the embarrassment of a sweep.

“It won’t sit well,” Chandler said of the prospect of his season ending Sunday. “Whenever you get swept, it’s embarrassing.

“I definitely don’t want to go out like that.”

Knicks Left With Few Lineup Options

NEW YORK – Chris Bosh is expected to be back in New York for Game 3 of the Miami Heat’s first round series with the New York Knicks (7 p.m. ET, TNT) at Madison Square Garden.

That doesn’t help the Knicks, who are down three starters.

Jeremy Lin is recovering from knee surgery and might be able to play in Game 4 on Sunday at the earliest. Iman Shumpert tore his ACL in Game 1 and is likely out through the start of next season. And Amar’e Stoudemire cut his hand on a fire extinguisher door after Game 2, taking himself out of Game 3 and maybe longer.

The Knicks still have 12 healthy bodies, but only seven that have played more than 20 minutes in the series thus far. So a player or two is going to have a bigger role tonight and coach Mike Woodson is going to have to go with a brand new starting lineup.

The Knicks have used 430 different lineups this season, but 344 of the 430 have included Lin, Shumpert, Stoudemire or Renaldo Balkman (who was waived in February). And the most-used lineup made up of five healthy Knicks — Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Josh Harrelson and Tyson Chandler — has played just 34 minutes together.

Of course, Douglas (zero) and Harrelson (nine) have combined to play just nine minutes in the first two games against the Heat. So don’t expect to see any of the above lineup on Thursday.

Woodson said Wednesday that he will start Anthony at power forward, with Chandler at center, and Baron Davis and Fields in the backcourt. Thursday, at shootaround, Woodson said he’s still deciding between starting Steve Novak or J.R. Smith at small forward. (more…)

Knicks-Heat Game 2 Instant Analysis

MIAMI – Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra knows how dangerous the Knicks’ Steve Novak is.

“The 3-point shooting that they have can turn on immediately,” Spoelstra said before Monday’s Game 2. “And it can be five or six right in a row that can change the complexion of the game. So that will always keep us on edge.”

Against the Heat’s defense, which loads up on the strong side of the floor, Novak’s 3-point shooting can be a very useful weapon. He was the leading 3-point shooter in the league this season, connecting 47 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Novak is actually shooting 60 percent from 3-point range in this first round series, but that’s only three makes on five attempts. And that’s one reason the Heat have a 2-0 series lead after Monday’s 104-94 victory in Game 2.

Novak has been unable to free himself from the Heat’s perimeter defenders thus far. The Knicks need Novak to relieve the pressure on Carmelo Anthony, but thus far, the Heat have been able to help and recover to the weak side. And when they close out on Novak, he doesn’t have the quickness to make them pay with the dribble.

The Knicks were much improved offensively in Game 2. They made some adjustments against the Heat’s denial of Anthony in the post. They used cross-screens to get him open on the block or had the ball-handler dribble around the post, using Anthony’s defender to screen his own teammate. In general, they moved Anthony around the floor more.

As a result, Anthony led all scorers with 30 points on 12-for-26 shooting. And as a team, the Knicks shot 49 percent and cut their turnovers in half. But they couldn’t stop the Heat offense in the paint.

And they didn’t get enough from the guy that has been one of their more dangerous weapons this season. Novak is out there for offense, but when he’s only attempting three shots in 21 minutes, he’s not doing much good.

Now that they’ve freed Anthony, maybe the next adjustment the Knicks need to make is doing the same for Novak.