Dec 21, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (50) defends against New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Memphis Grizzlies won 95-87. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Player Report Cards: New York Knicks 87, Memphis Grizzlies 95

We’re now 26 episodes into Season 68 of MSG’s live-action series The New York Knicks. The show really fell off after a strong run in the 1990s, and although Season 67 from last year was surprisingly great, the show has really let viewers down this season. Through these 26 episodes this season, only about eight of them have been good, and even some of those were pretty iffy. Once again, opting for a matinee start for Episode 26 – “vs. Memphis Grizzlies”, New York Knicks really let its audience down in the most predictable ways.

“vs. Memphis Grizzlies” began with some competence as the episode began with the New York Knicks defending the short-handed Grizzlies with some pride. On the other end of the court, the Knicks were a little flat as the show’s star, Carmelo Anthony, couldn’t quite get in rhythm while some of the supporting cast like new-comer Andrea Bargnani and third-year actor Iman Shumpert struggled to find their shots. However, the bench cast really took the lead in this one. J.R. Smith, who’s been a big letdown after a solid performance in Season 67, has started to show signs of his old self. He displayed great poise, acting within his role and taking and making (mostly) good, clean looks. Fellow new-comer Tim Hardaway Jr. was the episode’s highlight in the first half, electrifying the crowd with two rim-rocking dunks in the open court.

Dec 21, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) shoots during the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden. Memphis Grizzlies won 95-87. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

However, the writing was so typical of New York Knicks in this one. The Knicks showed their demise too early, falling behind by 10 points in the final minute of the first half. In the third quarter, with the potential to perhaps turn things around early, the Knicks couldn’t get stops as their rotations time and time again broke down, often leaving Grizzlies wide open under the basket. Memphis Grizzlies now long-running star, Zach Randolph, torched the Knicks inside, regardless of the defense/defender. As the second half wore on, the Knicks found themselves behind by as many as 19 points, seemingly creating another listless episode.

Then, as New York Knicks is wont to do, things got interesting. Playing a cast without a true point guard, a Knicks crew, run by Smith, Shumpert, Anthony, Bargnani, and Tyson Chandler, found itself back in the game, teasing its audience with a late climax and the potential for a happy resolution. They defended with vigor and forced turnovers, they moved the ball and began hitting three-pointers (this episode had very few of them, which makes it pretty hard to watch this show), and suddenly, the Knicks were in the game. But the ending was all too predictable. Chandler went 1-2 on two late, critical free throws, and the Grizzlies hit their free throws, and the episode ended like we all thought it would.

Let’s take a look at the individual performances:

Carmelo Anthony – 42 minutes, 30 points, 11-22 FG, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks, -2

Anthony plays one of the most predictable roles on the show, but there’s no denying that when he’s great, the show is, too. In this one, he played a quieter, more conservative role, but he busted out late for 12 points in the fourth quarter. As is typical for Season 68, Anthony didn’t get enough help from the supporting cast to really give this episode a chance.

Final Grade: B+

Andrea Bargnani – 22 minutes, 3 points, 1-5 FG, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, +4

Bargnani had a pretty strong start to the season, but as of late, he’s really lost his way. When he doesn’t act with confidence, he rarely has a positive effect on the show. In fact, it could be debated if his character is really worth keeping around….

Final Grade: D+

Tyson Chandler – 33 minutes, 8 points, 2-7 FG, 4-8 FT, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, -11

It’s great to have Chandler’s presence back on the show as the season hit a real low point while he was out, but he still doesn’t solve all of the show’s problems. He’s slowly getting back in the groove, but as evidenced by Randolph torching him on offense, Chandler isn’t all the way back yet. Throw in all of his missed free throws, and this is a somewhat forgettable performance for him.

Final Grade: C+

Tim Hardaway Jr. – 30 minutes, 16 points, 7-13 FG, 2-7 3FG, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, +1

Hardaway Jr. is an actor worth keeping around. He often provides the most exciting moments within the episodes, and the floor spacing he provides is crucial to the Knicks. As a young guy, he tends to get caught up in the excitement and perhaps over-extend himself, but given his young age, he can really blossom into a fine young man.

Final Grade: B

Toure’ Murry – 9 minutes, 2 points, 1-3 FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, -1

Murry is a nice stand-in for guys like Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. The potential is there, but he’s still finding his feet, acting on such a big stage. For limited screen-time, he’s not bad, especially when he electrifies the crowd with razzle-dazzle behind-the-back passes — but he’s not the answer to Season 68’s woes.

Final Grade: C+

Iman Shumpert – 18 minutes, 2 points, 1-7 FG, 0-3 3FG, 4 rebounds, -12

Shumpert has so much promise as an actor, but he’s really stuck in a rut right now; one of the show’s biggest problems. He’s trying to stay within his role, but nothing seems to go his way. He’s taking pretty good shots, making good passes, playing hard, etc. but he can’t seem to break out of this slump. He could find himself off of New York Knicks if he doesn’t turn it around.

Final Grade: D-

J.R. Smith – 38 minutes, 16 points, 6-12 FG, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 2 TOs, +1

As mentioned, Smith had a really strong performance in today’s episode, which was perhaps his best of the season. He played within himself, taking and making good shots, and he got others involved, especially during his run while manning the helm on offense. More of this, please.

Final Grade: A-

Amar’e Stoudemire – 17 minutes, 6 points, 2-4 FG, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, -4

Stoudemire missed the last episode and figures to be a spotty character for the remainder of the season. He looked OK in this one, but if he can’t contribute to the offense on a large scale, and he certainly doesn’t defend… what’s the point, really?

Final Grade: C+

Beno Udrih – 31 minutes, 4 points, 2-6 FG, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block 2 TOs, -16

Udrih, also a new-comer, is a nice stand-in for Felton and Prigioni, but I think — like most viewers — he’s best used a smaller, secondary character. He hits shots at an inconsistent rate, he doesn’t facilitate ball movement all that much, and his defense is laughable. When isolated on any Grizzlies player, said player almost always got to the basket in this one. Then again, if New York Knicks is relying on Udrih to save this season, then the show is in trouble.

All in all, it was another disappointing episode. The writing is predictable, familiar, and all in all, boring. Furthermore, most of the actors aren’t even performing up to their true potential. New York Knicks still has the ability to turn it around, but it truly needs some changes. The biggest overall hurdle comes from producer James Dolan, but he’s unlikely to leave the show, so that leaves director Mike Woodson — who has wholly disappointed this season and may be on the hot seat — or a change to the cast. Both of those things could happen by year’s end.

Tune in Monday for the next episode, “at Orlando Magic.”

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Tags: Carmelo Anthony J.R. Smith New York Knicks Player Report Cards Zach Randolph

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