The New York Knicks have a dream.
A dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of an NBA Championship shall be revealed, and all New Yorkers shall see it together.
Ok, so perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t have basketball in mind almost 49 years ago when he delivered the iconic speech that changed everything, but for three quarters yesterday at the Garden, the ‘Bockers and their fans were able to celebrate the birth of of a transformative American and imagine a future where all is right in the hoops-world.
And then everything unraveled, and just as the road to peace and understanding remains littered with significant hurdles, so does the Knicks’ path to championship-ascension.
New York (6-7) lost its third-straight game Monday, falling to the Orlando Magic (9-3) under a barrage of three-pointers, once again reinforcing the notion that despite those lofty preseason expectations, this Knick team is simply not yet ready for prime time. As has been their wont thus far during the 2011-12 season, the ‘Bockers played very well for stretches of the game, but they were unable to deliver consistent effort and cohesion for a full 48 minutes.
At some point – and for coach Mike D’Antoni’s sake, that point better come soon – the Knicks are going to wake up. This is simply too talent-laden a roster for an awakening not to occur. Eventually.
Anyone fairly judging this team knows full well how significant their of lack of a point guard is, especially in this complicated offensive system, but despite the flaws – and no training camp, and a compressed schedule, and no Baron Davis – the Knicks have two players on their roster that should be able to score at will. Except that those two players have shown absolutely zero ability and/or interest in playing off of one another, and neither can do it alone.
Dr. King said that “[A]gain and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Sooner or later, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire need to unite forces, too, or those dreams of a long-awaited championship for Gotham will remain unfulfilled.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- “D-Fence!” Normally, when you hold Dwight Howard to just 8 points on 3-of-6 shooting, you expect to win the game. Tyson Chandler was an absolute beast for the Knicks against Howard, playing top-notch man-defense that would have made Patrick Ewing proud. In fact, Chandler held Howard to just 2 points for the entire first half, and it wasn’t until late in the second quarter that he picked up his first two personal fouls. Iman Shumpert (3 steals) was also active, as usual, and it will be interesting to see if D’Antoni goes with Chandler, Shumpert and a surprisingly effective Jared Jefferies more often going forward. If the Knicks can’t score, they sure as heck better stop the other team from scoring, too.
- New York made a concerted effort to get to the basket yesterday, as evidenced by their 33 free throw attempts. It was nice to see the Knicks eschew their tendency to settle for long-range and/or contested jumpers, for a change. Perhaps this is a trend that will continue, especially since New York is the fourth-best free throw shooting team in the NBA (79.9%).
“WHAT WENT WRONG:
- “D-Fence!” The Knicks allowed the Magic to shoot 49% (17-for-35) from 3-point range yesterday, and that was essentially why they lost the game. Ryan Anderson (30 points, 7 rebounds) drained 7 treys by himself, but it isn’t like the Knicks didn’t know about his lethal long-range prowess. I mean, he only leads the league in 3-point attempts and makes this season. Quite simply, when an opponent has certain things they like to do, taking one or more of those things away is absolutely critical. The Magic are second in the Association in 3-pointers attempted and second in 3-point shooting percentage. They shoot early and often from beyond the arc, so even though Chandler took Howard out of the game, that doesn’t mean the Knicks should have completely forgotten about the other prominent facet of Orlando’s gameplan. For the season, the Knicks are allowing their opponents to shoot 40.7% from 3-point range (only the Nets are worse). Also, New York tallied zero blocks against the Magic. How is that even possible?
- Stoudemire picked up two fouls in the first 0.1 seconds of the game, and was mostly invisible during his 22 minutes of play, save for a brief flurry early in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, and mostly to protect Howard, who was playing with 5 personal fouls, the Magic then switched to a zone-defense, and New York was thereafter unable to keep getting Amar’e the ball. STAT looked and sounded positively dejected after the game, and his mental well-being is something to keep an eye on. We all know that an unhappy Stoudmire is not the Stoudemire you want to see around here. See, e.g., his Phoenix days.
- The continuing lack of chemistry between Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire is now approaching ludicrous-speed. Anthony had a dominant first-half, and finished with 33 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, but once again, he took way too many 3-pointers (1-of-8). ‘Melo’s long-range shooting is a recipe for crowd-pleasing when they go in, but it’s also a recipe for disaster over the long haul.
- Toney Douglas was brutal once again, taking a step back from his pseudo-encouraging game in Oklahoma City. He finished just 4-of-12 (0-for-3 from long-range) and put up a -15 plus/minus in 22 minutes. I still believe Douglas will find his confidence and be an intregal piece to the Knick-puzzle, but right now, he’s major liability.
- Landry Fields (6 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) was fine, but then again, starting-caliber NBA two-guards generally tend to be a wee-bit better than just fine. As far as I’m concerned, Fields’ time may be running out. If the Knicks had any better options on the roster, it’s doubtful he’d be playing more than 15-20 minutes a night. But, oh, that hair. Has anyone ever rocked a tapered-fade with more authority?
- There were lots of rumors flying around the press room about Dwight Howard’s future yesterday, and I had the chance to talk to him after the game. On his trade demand, he said “I’m just trying to do what’s best for me. Everyone else has the ability to make decisions that put themselves in the best position, why shouldn’t that apply to me?” I also asked him about legendary Knick, Patrick Ewing, who was wildly cheered by the Garden-faithful upon introduction by the P.A. announcer. “Pat has been huge for me,” said Howard. “Not only with his knowledge and advice about the on-the-court stuff, but also the off-court things I am dealing with right now. He tells me all the time, I just need to go out there and dominate on both ends of the floor, impose my will, and everything else will take care of itself.” There is no denying that Howard has a magnetic personality, and though our discussion was brief, I found myself instantly lamenting that fact that the Knicks have no conceivable way to bring the Big Fella 2.0 to New York. Despite rumors of Howard’s aversion to cold weather, I have no doubt that he would have thrived in the Big Apple. I guess Brooklyn may just have to do.
- New York Yankee C.C. Sabbathia attended the game yesterday and chatted with MSG’s Jill Martin at halftime. In case you missed it, Yankee GM Brian Cashman pulled off yet another stealth-mode trade last Friday, and Sabathia was clearly pleased by recent developments.
- The carcass of former-Knick Quentin Richardson made a holiday-appearance for the Magic, draining two first-half 3-pointers before disappearing for the remainder of the game. I wonder if he sprung a formaldehyde-leak during during halftime.
- Up next for the Knicks: the Phoenix Suns come to town, Wedneday at 7:30 pm (MSG Network)
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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images