About an hour before tip-off against the Charlotte Bobcats last night, Knick coach Mike D’Antoni was asked whether he thought that the team was close to solving its early-season offensive woes. Never one to shy away from levity, D’Antoni replied, “I’m just glad you guys are asking me about the offense for a change. It’s better than always hearing about our defense.”
Careful what you wish for, Mike.
Reverting to the putrid defensive-form that has been an unfortunate Knick-hallmark thus far under D’Antoni, New York was absolutely destroyed by the woeful Bobcats on Wednesday. Making matters worse, despite the returns of Amar’e Stoudemire (25 points, 12 rebounds) and Iman Shumpert (18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 three-pointers), the ‘Bockers dropped their second-straight game at home against an allegedly-inferior opponent.
New York allowed Charlotte to shoot 55% from the floor, and somehow managed to make Boris Diaw (27 points on a ridiculous 12-of-15) and Gerald Henderson (24 points on an equally absurd 10-of-13) look like Hall of Famers.
In fairness to Diaw, perhaps his performance was not so unexpected, given his apparent lockout-attendance at Shawn Kemp’s “Husky Kidz Boot Camp.” Seriously, when Twitter is ablaze about a male player’s breast size, you cannot let that player shoot 80% in your building, you just can’t.
Signs of frustration were evident in the Knick locker room after the game, but D’Antoni, certainly not unaware of the fans’ impatience and a simmering groundswell for his heart on a plate, tried to keep things in perspective. “We’re frustrated, but there are 60 games left. We’ll solve the problem and get it done.”
And oft-maligned Knick “PG,” Toney Douglas, doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the Knicks’ early-season funk, either. “The good thing is that we have a game on Friday and we can redeem ourselves,” said Douglas.
For D’Antoni’s sake, the redemption-train better depart Penn Station for the Knicks’ next game against the 0-6 Washington Wizards, or his coaching tenure may be boarding an Acela to nowhere.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- If there was any doubt entering the season whose team this was, Carmelo Anthony (the quietest 32 points you will ever see) continues to stake his claim. Averaging 27.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists thus far this season, ‘Melo is the primary reason why the Knicks are not 0-6 right now. He’s still taking too many 3-pointers (6 last night, and 5.5 per game), but his effort on the defensive end has more than made up for a few ill-advised heave-hos. Anthony’s passing has also been beyond reproach, but unfortunately, his teammates’ more-than-occasional lack of basketball-IQ has resulted in fewer dimes for the Knick-SF.
- Iman Shumpert is a gifted basketball player. I asked him before the game how his knee was feeling, and his one-word response, “Good,” was apparently apropos. It’s obvious that the Knicks are an entirely different team when Shumpert is on the floor. His defensive-intensity is contagious, and his natural-ability to get to the hole and break down opposing-defenses is sorely needed right now. Maligned as a poor shooter before and after the draft, Iman worked very hard during the lockout to improve his form, and it shows (57% from long-range, albeit the sample-size is small). Realistically, the only thing that can prevent Shumpert from becoming a star in this league is Shumpert.
- For the first time this season, the Knicks out-rebounded an opposing team (40-37), yet somehow, we are all still here. I was raised to believe that the Earth would explode upon such an occurrence, but maybe my Dad wasn’t an expert on the subject. After all, he did sell all his possessions last year on account of the Rapture.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Everyone loves Amar’e Stoudemire. Until they don’t. “The Man Who Saved Gotham” played his “best” game of the season last night, but instead of extolling the virtues of his double-double effort, I am forced to focus on his “matador-D.” STAT has never been known as a defensive-minded basketball player, but his effort against the Bobcats was borderline-comical. The Knick-PF failed to even marginally-contest opponents’ jumpers, he was way out of position on defensive rotations, and he was absolutely destroyed by the aforementioned-Diaw in numerous one-on-one situations. On the bright side, Stoudemire was seen boxing-out (on the offensive glass, no less!), which led to a rebound and easy bucket.
- “D-FENCE!” There was none.
- Toney Douglas took 17 shots (he made just six of them). “That’s seventeeeeeen shots” (New York State Lottery-Guy voice)! He was also resoundingly-booed by the Garden-faithful in the second half, just seconds before a thunderous “WE WANT SHUMPERT” chant rained down on him. It’s been said repeatedly here and elsewhere, Douglas is not a point guard. He wasn’t during his stellar NCAA-career at Florida State, he hasn’t become one since, and he likely won’t ever be one. That said, Douglas is a hard-working player who brings excellent on-ball defense and can score in bunches when hot (and playing within himself). After the game he said “I don’t worry [about the boos]. I just have to do my job, and go out there and continue to play hard.” That sounds great, in theory, but the fans need to realize that booing your own player (mostly because he’s playing out of position and being asked to do things he isn’t capable of) will only be detrimental in the long run to his production and confidence. Also, it’s just bad form.
- Poor Landry Fields. The second-year SG from Stanford managed just 5 points and 3 turnovers against the Bobcats, and put together a dreadful -21. It won’t be long before the calls for Shumpert to replace Fields in the starting lineup grow louder, and at this point, it would be very hard to argue against making the switch.
EmperorCommissioner David Stern was in the house last night. I kept waiting for him to start tossing seats en-masse onto the court like he did in the Galactic Senate Chamber that one time.
- Bobcat-rookie Kemba Walker returned to MSG for the first time since UConn’s historic five-wins-in-five-days performance in the 2010 Big East Tournament. I spoke with Charlotte coach Paul Silas before the game, and he had nothing but praise for Walker. “He’s working very hard for us, but he’s going to need to be a consistent shooter to do well on account of his size,” said Silas.
- Not wanting to be upstaged by Victor Cruz, Justin Tuck of the NFC East Champion New York Giants also graced MSG with his presence. New York will find a way to beat Atlanta this Sunday, if only due to the fact that no NFL offensive line is equipped to deal with a healthy Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul on the field at the same time.
- Up next for the Knicks: sophmore-phenom John Wall hosts the Knicks in Washington as New York takes on the Wizards (Friday at 7:00 pm).
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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images