Good Point with a Knicks Fan

“Let me know when you want to talk Knicks. I have a lot to say…” – Sean, my buddy and Knicks fan

Each week, 9450 will pose a simple question as a jumping off point for discussion or debate with a fan of a certain team. I can give you the stats and the analysis, but truth be told, I can’t give you the loyalty or passion that these guys have. I’m just an unbiased bystander. The guys I’ll be emailing back and forth are friends of mine who know from the opening tip what kind of night it’s going to be for their squad. They see certain idiosyncrasies that I would normally miss.

Good Point will give a Bulls fan a chance to delve into the mind of a Knicks fan. Imagine the pleasures a Lakers fan will have reading the panicked and over the top ramblings of a Celtics fan.

This week, I’m talking with Knicks diehard, Sean Cuerou. I’ve known Sean since fourth grade. He, like my family, has deep family roots planted in Long Island, NY. Although he’s thrilled that the Giants are in the NFC Championship Game, he still has a lot on his mind regarding his lowly Knicks.

Question: What’s wrong with the Knicks?

SEAN:
1. Mike D’Antoni- this guy was the perfect coach for this team during the cap clearing era. He made the team exciting even when they were bad. After the circus that was Isiah, bringing in Donnie and having him hire D’Antoni added some excitement to the Garden when there was an obvious lack of talent. The hope was maybe D’Antoni’s style would help recruit some of the big fish like LeBron in FA. It didn’t work out, but he still had the team playing an exciting brand of basketball…especially last year pre-Melo. It seemed he finally had his kind of team last year. Felton & Amar’e were mastering the pick & roll, Danilo Gallinarii was hitting 3’s and running the floor. Landry Fields was being talked about as a rookie of the year candidate. More importantly, the team had some depth and you can’t undervalue losing guys like Wilson Chandler & Shawne Williams (departed to Nets via FA). Now with the team as is, his style does not fit what the team has right now. There is no stability at PG, Melo does not fit into D’Antoni’s run & gun offense & there is no emphasis on defense. He has had his moments here, but has to go.

2. Point Guard- I give you credit…you questioned the Chandler move from day one because it took the team out of the CP3 mix. More importantly, the team released Chauncey Billups to pick up Chandler. Toney Douglas is a nice player, but not a starting PG. If Baron Davis is the savior here…yikes. Baron doesn’t play much defense himself and who knows about his health, if he’s in shape, or has the proper motivation. This offense has absolutely no flow to it and Amar’e looks completely lost. A lot of people speculated that Jim Dolan pushed the Melo trade before Donnie Walsh was ready to pull the trigger and people still say that is why Donnie is no longer the GM. Regardless of whether that is true…the fact is Donnie was willing to play hardball right up until the last minutes of the trade deadline. Instead, the deal got done a few days earlier and the Knicks included PG, Raymond Felton in the deal and took back Billups. Could Donnie have held onto Felton if he had waited a little longer? I don’t know, but Felton was the perfect PG for the team and had great chemistry with Amar’e.

3. Philosophy – As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t an urgency for defense on this team. I don’t care how much defense Chandler plays, the rest of the team isn’t buying in. In Dallas, there was TEAM defense, and Chandler was the QB if you will, of the defense on that Mavs team. Chandler’s defensive intensity hasn’t spread to his teammates and he often is in foul trouble early compensating for the mistakes of others on defense. Add to that is the fact this team shoots a ton of 3’s, which leads to a ton of fast break points the other way. Iman Shumpert is a bright spot, but now he is getting too trigger happy with that jump shot.

4. Amar’e- is this guy really a superstar? I’ll always admire him for coming to NY and kind of changing the temperature of the franchise…he gave them credibility and helped contribute to bringing Melo aboard. But a year and a quarter into his contract, things aren’t as great anymore. His health is now an issue already, let’s not forget he was mostly a non factor in their playoff series last year after tweaking his back in warm-ups. His contract is uninsured and I wonder if he can handle the grind of a lock-out shortened jammed pack season.

To me, those are the main points. Hopefully we can have some nice dialogue here.

ME:
You nailed it completely. I have yet to see the Knicks play a complete four quarters of basketball. All of those factors that you listed are interrelated. D’Antoni’s philosophy doesn’t work because the construction of the team won’t allow it. D’Antoni needs a pg. Amar’e needs a pg.

Maybe management thought D’Antoni could work his magic on Toney Douglas, but it hasn’t happened and they pretty much declared it wouldn’t happen once they picked up B. Diddy.

I was shocked when NY went after Tyson. The Knicks just couldn’t wait one more year. They rebuilt the team brick by brick and instead of using Billups’ expiring contract to create more space after this season, they suddenly fell in love with the Big 3 brand as if that was the cure-all. They got near the finish line and completely changed course. In that time, they lost focus chasing CP3 and Tyson, and consequently lost key bench guys as you mentioned.

I thought Tyson was a great defensive center for that specific Dallas team. I didn’t think his talent simply translated to any team, anywhere. He’s been in situations where it hasn’t worked out (Chicago, New Orleans, Charlotte). This team had too many holes defensively for one player to fill. You are right, he has been in foul trouble. That’s due to the poorly constructed backcourt’s matador defense.

What are your thoughts on Melo? He’s gotten everything he’s wanted and I think he feels as though he has to take it upon himself to carry the Knicks every night. I just don’t think he has the game that makes his teammates better.

If you watch, he’s in isolation at the wing…dribble, dribble, dribble get to the spot, mid range jumper. And I get it, he has the talent to take the defender on every possession. But I think this goes back to the lack of point guard, he’s dominating the basketball to the hindrance of the team.

I actually think the NBA is trending back to team play. Look at the Sixers, Pacers, Blazers, Jazz and even the Thunder play great team ball.

The Knicks sold their soul for the Big 3. I just don’t think it’s going to work.

SEAN:
You could make the argument that Melo is the best pure scorer in the NBA. He does an excellent job of creating his own shot and can score at will when he’s in a groove. But what does that get you? He doesn’t have the intensity on the other side of the ball like a LBJ or Kobe has, and you’re right…he doesn’t make his teammates better. I just think something is missing with him…I don’t know if he has the drive as the other big time stars. When he is on, he is amazing…remember game 2 in Boston last year? But, I don’t know…something is off. He’ll have lapses in games where he pulls up for an awful 3 and bricks it and doesn’t allow an offensive flow. It’s amazing because Melo & Amare’s games really contrast. Like you said, Melo loves to isolate and dribble the ball, while Amar’e likes the pick and roll with the run and gun PG. Amar’e is actually settling for a ton of jump shots now too…even shooting some 3’s.

I think the 2008 Celtics really set the tone for this super team trend which is losing luster, I agree. I will be fascinated to see how teams like the Sixers and Pacers continue to hold up, but I’m inclined to think they will.

And the Knicks did throw their chips out the window..people forget Deron Williams is a FA too at the end of the year. We would have had 2 shots to land a PG with the cap room. From what I’m seeing now…I’m changing my mind and wishing they would have stuck with Billups. This next coach will have his hands full, this is their team and right now it is a 6-7 team with home losses to the Raptors & Bobcats.

Last thing on Melo…I always feel like he is never in great shape. He always seems a little flabby to me, he isn’t as cut as guys like LeBron, Wade, & Kobe. I wonder if he has enough drive to win a championship in NY. And Amar’e talked all off-season about defense, yet he let an overweight Boris Diaw abuse him.

The Knicks are very lucky the Giants are still playing, because when the attention shifts fully to them in NY…it’ll be ugly.

ME:
Man, we’re both painting a pretty ugly picture… it’s not all bad for the Knicks, right? This point guard situation could all blow over if Iman Shumpert develops. But he seems like a shoot first point guard. Knicks are a paper team: great starting five with little to no direction.

Phil Jackson you have a call on line one! Yes? No?

SEAN:
Shumpert plays defense and can do some things, but he does like to shoot too much.

I’d love Phil Jackson, but he is only coming if he think this group can contend for a title…doesn’t seem like he is going to waste time here otherwise. D’Antoni’s last saving grace is Baron Davis, although I’m not expecting much there.

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