Weekend (Weakened?) Update: Why Knicks Are Sucking

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love backs into New York Knicks forward Ronny Turiaf during their NBA preseason game in Paris on October 6, 2010. The Timberwolves won the contest, part of the annual NBA Europe Live tour, by the score of 106-100. UPI/David Silpa Photo via Newscom

Learn the Facts and Fiction behind the Knicks' failure, including the true key factor that took Kevin Love's game to the next level (nope, it wasn't his scoring or his rebounding). (Source: Yardbarker.com)

The Knicks’ slow start to the season seemed ripe for a turnaround over the weekend since they’d be playing against two teams (the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets) that had only won two games each and had both looked pretty dang crappy so far.  The Twolves had lost their two starting point guards (Luke Ridnour and Jonny Flynn) to injury, plus for some reason coach Kurt Rambis had been refusing to play his best player (Kevin Love) for more than 24 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Rockets were struggling to form an identity with franchise player Yao Ming not playing in back-to-back games and only appearing in limited minutes.  Were they a group that played through the post in a slow-it-down half court approach, or a jump shooting squad?  With them also losing their starting point guard (Aaron Brooks) and their backup point (Kyle Lowry) having only played one game since returning from back injury, we couldn’t have wished for better set-ups.  On Friday night, the Knicks were up 21 points on the Twolves and it looked like everything would work out.  Less than 48 hours later it had become clear we are in serious crisis mode.

This being New York, of course, utter despair has kicked in, boos have been bombarded, and every little thing has been declared as “the problem.”  No doubt we have many issues, but let’s separate the Fact from the Fiction:

1.  Poor DefenseFiction

As stressed before, don’t confuse the high point totals we give up with poor defense.  Huh?  Um, if the other team scores a bunch, doesn’t that mean we’re playing awful D?  No, because we play at the second fastest pace in the league.  As a result, both us and our opponents get more shot attempts.  Even with these two loses, our defensive rating has actually improved, moving us to 11th best.

2. Amar’e Stoudemire’s claim that his teammates lack heart and urgencyFiction

In two of the key stats (steals and blocks) that can be used to somewhat measure heart/urgency/hustle, we have outshone our opponents (2nd in the league in blocks, 7th in steals).  And while much has been made of our rebounding issues, over the course of 10 games we’ve only been outboarded by 2.2 rebounds/game.  Sure, it’d be better to come out ahead on that stat, but since both of our main centers (Timofey Mozgov and Ronny Turiaf) aren’t great rebounders, it’s good enough to be almost keeping pace with our competitors.  And of course no one can say Turiaf doesn’t play with heart and urgency, so his lack of rebounding prowess is unconnected to those attributes.  Heart and urgency are also more key for defense than offense.  But the truth is offense has been where we’ve been sucking donkey poo.  And one could easily make the statement that is more Stat’s fault than his teammates.

3. Poor OffenseFact

Our offensive rating places us 25th in the league.  Yikes.  I have no idea how to find out this info, but my guess is that we’re actually even significantly worse in the fourth quarter.  For the season, we’re shooting a pitiful 43.5% from the field.  Only the Twolves and Milwaukee Bucks are shooting worse.  We also are 9th in the league in turnovers, which is actually far worse than it seems because we’re only 21st in total assists.  Usually turns are connected to assists.  If you look at the players with the top 20 most turns, they’re mostly assist men (either point guards or players like LeBron James, Stephen Jackson or Monta Ellis who average 4-6 assists).  Only three of ‘em aren’t, and one of those is Amar’e, who’s averaging the fourth most turnovers in the league.  It’s unacceptable.

4. Bad Point Guard PlayFiction

The New York Times had an article yesterday saying how what the Knicks need is not a scorer like Carmelo Anthony but rather a better point guard.  The truth is though that new point guard Raymond Felton has been the sole consistent player since the season began.  The Times’ justification for why we need a better point is because Felton doesn’t get Stat as many easy buckets as Steve Nash.  Um, Nash is a two-time MVP, of course he’s better at it.  That’d be like saying the reason the Celtics lost last year is because they need an improvement at small forward since Paul Pierce isn’t as good as LeBron James.  Felton certainly isn’t Nash, or as good as the two other options the Times  mention (Chris Paul and Deron Williams — both of who are currently in the top 5 of ESPN’s MVP contenders’ list).  The issue the Knicks have is that our outside shooters/perimeter players have been inconsistent, not as aggressive as they should be, and incapable of scoring down the stretch.  So if we’re looking for an aggressive scorer who won’t fade in the fourth, doesn’t that sound like Melo?  The key takeaway from that isn’t that we should be waiting/hoping for Melo, but rather that an improvement in the outside shooting/shot selection/aggression by perimeter peeps Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas might be a bigger boon than Felton getting better.  Or maybe Kelenna Azubuike will return to health and fill that perimeter player role.  That said, ironically I have ton of faith that Felton will only get better at Coach Mike D’Antoni’s system and working with Amar’e, while I would be leery about betting money on Gallo or Toney becoming consistent nightly outside/scoring threats.

5. The Real Reason We Lost To The Twolves Was Not Because Of Kevin Love’s Points Or Rebounds, But Rather His Increased Focus On Completing HandshakesFact

Check out this video to see the real key bit of execution that helped them turn around their season and brought about the win.

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Tags: Amare Stoudemire Carmelo Anthony Chris Paul Danilo Gallinari Houston Rockets Kelenna Azubuike Kevin Love Mike D'Antoni Minnesota Timberwolves New York Knicks Raymond Felton Ronny Turiaf Toney Douglas

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