Linkin' Center: Knick Season Previews Galore & More

Golden State Warriors Anthony Randolph (4) slams in two on a break away against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second half at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on December 10, 2008. The Warriors defeated the Bucks 119-96. (UPI Photo/Terry Schmitt) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

Can the multi-talented Anthony Randolph help bring the Knicks back to the playoffs? Read Knick season previews from lots and lots and lots and lots of places. (Source: Yardbarker.com)

With training camp two weeks away and no new bball news, lots of folks have written previews/predictions for how the Knicks’ll do in the upcoming 2010-11 season.  Here are some of ‘em and a couple other things:

Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk predicts 38 wins and here’s one of the things he said:

More likely the Knicks will: Be the most fun Knicks team to watch in years, however will take some time to gel. They may well get off to slow start. They won’t play great defense. There will be flashes of what Randolph can do, Stoudemire will throw down over people, Gallinari should take a step forward. There are pieces here and they are going to be entertaining to watch.

But how to fit all the pieces together will take time. Look for some D’Antoni to throw out wild lineups for a while, trying to find what works. Can a Felton/Toney Douglas backcourt work? Traditional positions will be out the window as Stoudemire may get some run at the five and the three, all with the goal of just finding lineups that work. By the end of the season, if they are healthy, expect the Knicks to be playing better.

As I wrote yesterday when talking about D’Antoni, he hasn’t shown himself to be a tinker during the season unless things are really awful (like they were last year when after a year and a half he finally conceded that Chris Duhon shouldn’t be a starting point guard).  D’Antoni’s decent teams tend to start out pretty smooth from the get-go and continue on at that pace with very little tinkering.

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Over at the wonderful Posting & Toasting, Seth predicts 42 wins:

5. What will become of Anthony Randolph?

There are number of players- Gallinari, Felton, that Stoudemire guy- that will use more possessions and have more of an effect on the court than Anthony Randolph will this season. That said, I have this strange feeling that Randolph is the wild card that will sink the Knicks or keep them afloat. The expectations for Randolph are remarkably polar. Some see a six-eyed basketball-eating extraterrestrial flying sighthound with All-Star potential and Venus Flytraps for hands. Others see an abject bust. Randolph’s season and career will fall somewhere in between, but his spirit is so typical of these Knicks that I can’t help but think of him as the team’s totem. If Randolph can harness his seismic defensive potential and hone his offensive talent into a workable plan, then I see no reason why the rest of the team can’t follow suit. As Anthony Randolph goes, so go the Knicks. Everything I just said is patently bogus, but it is a reality in which I choose to operate.

I agree that if Randolph can take it to the next level, that the Knicks will too.  However, I don’t feel like if he sucks/remains inconsistent then the team will be lost.  Personally, I pick the Knicks to win somewhere between (and including) Kurt’s 38 and Seth’s 42.  If Randolph goes crazy, maybe we can get a bit higher, but if he’s a kinda non-factor, I believe we can still net 38 wins which could be enough to get us the last playoff spot in the East.  I believe in the comments section Seth says 42 was his “pessimistic” prediction, and clearly they’re drinking the glowing Kool-Aid over there ‘cuz some commenters are talking crazy stuff like 55 wins and coming in 4th in the East.

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Mike Kurylo’s preview over at Knickerblogger.com has an intriguing question:

5. Who is D’Antoni going to alienate this year?

In 2009, Stephon Marbury was exiled from the team. In 2010 Nate Robinson was chained to the doghouse for most of the year, and was joined by Darko Milicic and Larry Hughes. As I mentioned last year, the D’Antoni Rules aren’t kind to players who aren’t in the rotation. The combination of D’Antoni’s short rotation and his inability to communicate with his players inevitably leads to a player being irate over a lack of playing time. This year’s likely candidate is Mozgov, given his inexperience and D’Antoni’s gigantasophobia. If I had to put money on a dark horse I’d take Turiaf or Chandler. The former has a Twitter predilection that might hit a nerve with the communicationally challenged D’Antoni. The latter because after having no competition at shooting guard for two seasons, Chandler might find himself on the outside looking in. Azubuike, Fields, and even Mason could push Wilson for playing time, and those players fit D’Antoni’s offense better than Chandler.

I’m with him in terms of Mozgov and I also doubt Patrick Ewing, Jr. and Andy Rautins will see a lick of playing time.  D’Antoni gave Chandler a ton of playing time the last two seasons, so it seems he likes Will The Thrill, making it unlikely Chandler’d fall into the doghouse.   I do think Turiaf has a decent shot at falling out of the rotation, and I’d also nominate Fields and Mason.  Oh, and of course Eddie Curry.  Ooh, and maybe, just maybe Bill Walker, although he played quite well after he came over mid-season and Mikey seemed to like him.

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Okay, let’s take a little break from the previews and look at some, gasp!, Knon-Knick Knews:

Unable to pull off a trade, the Bobcats have waived center Erick Dampier, which voids his $13 million contract and gets Charlotte under the luxury tax.

Tuesday’s move comes a day after the Bobcats could have packaged Dampier’s contract in a multiplayer deal. But the Bobcats found no takers in a deal that would have also given Charlotte its needed financial relief.

Well, at least Charlotte gave themselves a full day to look for trades before giving up on a valuable asset.  Okay, yes, I’m sure they’d been looking for trades for a while, but this has to be disappointing to Bobcat fans.  How do you sell a move like this?  “We basically traded away our initial franchise player Emeka Okafor for nothing.  We let our starting point guard go too, so after making the playoffs for the first time last year we likely won’t repeat it, but hey, at least new owner Michael Jordan won’t have to pay luxury taxes on the team.”

Before I let this slide, let’s go back to a previous post on Buckets here.  Our Off-Season Grades for the Southeast Division had this to say about the Bobcats summer (with brand new italics!):

Charlotte Bobcats – Losing Ray Felton was a big loss as DJ Augustin had yet to prove himself under Larry Brown.  Trading Tyson Chandler for Eric Dampier’s unguaranteed contract will be disappointing unless they use it to get something in return.  That’s two starters gone.  Small side signings of Shaun Livingston and Dominic McGuire could be okay, but it won’t make up for those loses.  Plus it seems like they overpaid to retain Tyrus Thomas.  Yes, like with the Amir Johnson deal, it’s quite possible that it ends up being a bargain, but that doesn’t change the fact that they probably could’ve gotten him even cheaper.  At least with Damp and Nazr Mohammed’s expiring contracts they’ll have some cap space next summer, so it’s not like they’ve completely destroyed their long-term future like Atlanta.  They only destroyed this upcoming season.  If Larry Brown can get this crew back to the playoffs, he clearly must be a practitioner of the dark arts.

Grade: -2 (it’s possible they should be even lower.  Although if they get something decent for Damp’s contract then this’ll go up)

Yeah, I’m moving it down to -3.  Jordan may’ve been the most phenomenal player ever, but so far in his stops at DC and Charlotte he seems to be at best mediocre in the world of management.

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Hoopsworld has brief summaries from a few guys before launching into a bigger preview.  One summary I felt was a bit misguided:

The offseason was a disappointment for the Knicks but certainly wasn’t a total loss. New York reeled in perennial All-Star forward/center Amar’e Stoudemire as well as point guard Raymond Felton and forward Anthony Randolph. This is sure to be a better and more exciting Knicks team than the group that won just 29 games a year ago, with more depth and experience. Danilo Gallinari is one of the league’s best shooters and an emerging star at the small forward position and should spread the floor for Stoudemire and company to allow room to operate inside. There is no doubt the Knicks will be able to score the basketball, but how far this squad goes will depend heavily on its ability to defend. How will this team get stops?

It seems pretty narrow to describe the off-season as a disappointment.  Yes, not getting LeBron or Wade was a disappointment, but that’s a far cry from saying the whole off-season was a disappointment.  Only one team ended up with those two guys (leaving 29 other teams as “losers”), so I’d say if we weren’t gonna end up with them, we had the best possible summer within our powers (obviously if Denver decides to trade us Carmelo Anthony the summer would be better, but it’s not within our abilities to force them to get rid of Melo).  It also seems odd to say that how well this squad does will depend heavily on its defense?  Has this guy never seen a Mike D’Antoni coached team?  When they made it to the Western Conference Finals, it was most certainly not dependent on their D.  One can safely bet good money that this won’t be a particularly good defensive squad.  How far they go will depend on how well they mesh offensively.

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Speaking of LeBron, let’s take another break from the Knick previews.  We all know his rep took a big hit after “The Decision,” but now we’ve got specific data as proof:

The Q Scores Company, which conducts popularity polls, has James rated as the sixth-most-disliked figure in American pro sports. The results, known as “Q Scores,” were reported Tuesday by CNBC.

According to the report, James is viewed in what the company considers a negative light by 39 percent of the general population. In January, while still a Cleveland Cavalier, he was viewed positively by 24 percent of the population, negatively by 22 percent, according to the figures from the Q Scores Company.

“LeBron’s positive score at that time [January] was the highest we had ever seen it,” Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Q Scores, told CNBC.

The company’s current tally puts James’ drop in positive rating in the last seven months at 41.5 percent.

The good news for LeBron?  At least Kobe Bryant is one of those five athletes who’s hated more than him.  Imagine if the Heat and the Lakers do indeed end up in the NBA Finals?  It’d be hatefest galore, rather than people rooting for teams they love.  You’d go to a bar showing the games, turn to the person next to you and say, “So which team you rooting against?”

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Back to the previews.  Whew, still two left.  An excerpt from Bandwagon Knicks:

What are the team’s biggest strengths?

[...] The strength of this year’s Knicks is its depth and the increased number of players who better fit D’Antoni’s system; in particular, a surplus of versatile wings and inside players who have experience playing the pick and roll on offense, who have played for running teams, and who can better protect the rim and guard more positions on defense. For the last two years, David Lee was the hub of the system, setting screens,  diving to the basket, popping out for a jumper, or managing the offense from the top of the key and finding shooters. Lee had too many ball-dominant teammates, however, and those teammates were terrible defenders, with every defensive switch producing a freeway to the rim or a wide open jumper for the opposing team.

I agree we’ve definitely got an increased number of D’Antoni-type players, but not that depth will be one of our strengths.  It’s not that I feel we don’t have depth, it’s that D’Antoni has shown a serious preference for keeping a tight rotation, using only 7-8 players every game.  Sometimes when he’s feeling really wacky he may, just may, use 9 players, but word is that only happens every other leap year, so I believe we still have 5 more years until we witness it again.  He’s gonna pick his guys, give that posse a ton o’ minutes, and have the remaining guys get very familiar with the bench.

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Before we get to the final preview, one quick snippet that I was surprised to learn from a SportingNews article on Anthony Randolph:

“I am still only 21, I just turned 21. I only started playing basketball in 10th grade, so there has been a lot I have had to learn in a short time. In the end, I think I am going to be the player people think I can be.”

He only started playing in 10th grade???  Good God.  And he was drafted after playing just a single year in college?  Literally, most junior high school players have played as many years, if not more, than him.  It’s even more intriguing ‘cuz while he is known for being an athletic freak, he’s also known for being a highly skilled big man who can also dribble really well and be a point-forward type.  Lastly, the dude’s like 6’11” so I assume even in 10th grade he had to at least be 6 feet tall.  How do you get to be an amazingly athletic six foot tall black kid in America who has not played basketball?  What was he doing, focusing on playing his true love, water polo?

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Lastly, and honestly I’m having trouble getting my mind to move on from that last bit, Knicks Vision picks 43 wins and predicts this:

Conference Finish: 8th

I’ve said this before, but I think the ceiling for this team in the Eastern Conference is a seven seed. Yeah, I realize some of you have very high hopes for this squad (thinking that the Knicks can pull off a four seed or a five) but I just don’t think this is the year for that. In no order, the Heat, Celtics, Bulls, Bucks, Hawks, and Magic are better than New York this season — on paper. That’s definite. That leaves the Bobcats and a much improved Indiana.

I’m so with him on 7th being the highest we can go.  At Posting & Toasting people were saying we could be a fourth seed and that Chicago might not be as good as us, but that’s just crrrrap.  I don’t agree that the Bobcats and Indiana are our main competitors for those last two spots (to see who I think we’ll be going up against, check out Bucket’s Eastern Conference Playoff Preview).

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Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire Anthony Randolph Charlotte Bobcats Danilo Gallinari Eric Dampier LeBron James Mike D'Antoni Raymond Felton Timofey Mozgov

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