There is so much to like about the Knicks’ season so far. After a long offseason and miserable NY baseball season just seeing the Knicks take the floor is reason enough for celebration. As most Knick fans know, it wouldn’t be an authentic season with out it being a roller coaster ride so I’m documenting the ups and downs of the year in a reoccurring “Likes and Dislikes” column. Here is where we are at after 4 games.
1. The Vets
The Knicks’ offseason acquisition of NBA artifacts became a bit of a meme after names like Kidd, Camby, and Thomas were added to the roster. When Rasheed Wallace was brought in it got to the point where it just seemed like trolling. After four games I must admit that I’ve really enjoyed the collective contributions of each of them. Years ago signing big names years past their expiration date was from chapter one of the Knicks offseason playbook. It’s a big part of what kept the Knicks stagnant for years when guys like Buck Williams, Glen Rice, Vin Baker, Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady were brought in over youthful names Knick fans weren’t familiar with. However, after seeing how in control of the game Jason Kidd still remains at 39 years old, its something that is nothing short of astounding. The little things that takes years to master such as turning pump fakes into three free throws and turning mediocre entry passes into automatic Knick fastbreaks has been a real key into the Knicks 4 game winning streak. More importantly, hearing about how Knick practices have turned into a bit of a basketball camp where NBA veterans are coaching the younger guys is an intangible that seems like a team practice hasn’t happened around here since Red Holzman was around. Even Pablo Prigioni’s Kidd-like control of the basketball is something Knick fans can’t help but love after remembering how much of a ride it was just to watch Lin struggle bringing the ball up the floor or Douglas spend an entire possession dribbling in circles. Plus, you have to admit, its always fun to watch rustic oldschool dudes whip young guys on the court. And speaking of old guys…
2. Rasheed Wallace
Wallace is the indisputable Garden favorite this year. At first I think we all thought it was pretty fun to have the leagues most interesting player as our mascot, but it turns out that Rasheed isn’t just here for the Knicks to “cut-the-check” as he once famously described his motivation. Ever since the moment he has stepped onto the Garden floor he has greatly contributed to every game he has played in whether by small things like help defense or simply by proving he’s still worthy of defense when outside the arch. There’s something about that wildly filthy beard and off the cuff quotes (My favorite so far: “I accept my Brian Scalabrine role. I’m cool with it.“) that resonate with Knick fans. Yes his minutes will probably not get much bigger than they have with Camby and Amare obviously on schedule to cut into them, but every second he’s been on the court has been overwhelmingly positive. And this isn’t like when Vin Baker’s corpse was trotted out here. When Wallace isn’t on the floor he’s screaming from the bench, running drills during practice, and leading the huddles in the middle of the court after the game. For me part of the reason I love Rasheed so much is that he’s a reminder of what the Knicks stood for during our golden years in the 90s. He’s a throwback player that reminds us of Oakley and Mason. He’s someone that should have always been a Knick in the first place and having him on the team now is a bit of vindication for fans never got over how certain they were that his next stop after a short stay in Atlanta and Detroit, would be the Knicks. There are certain archetypes Knick fans envision when thinking about the kind of players that should be wearing Knick jerseys and Rasheed has always and always will fit every one of them.
Full disclosure I hate math & numbers so naturally I’m not a big stats guy. I also think that it’s a bit too early to put much stock into some of the league stats that have been tabulated over the first four games of the season. Still, the team defensive stats that the Knicks have put together deserve recognition. Did you know that Knick opponents are scoring the least amount per game at just 87.5? This isn’t the only category the Knicks are leading in. When it comes to offense the Knicks are actually ranked at third highest in the league at a Mike Dantoni-like 104.5. This is a 17 point differential which ranks as the largest disparity among all NBA teams. This shows us that being a defensive minded team does not mean that offense suffers at all. Here is some more stats to make Knick fans salivate: The Knicks rank #1 in forced turnovers per game (18), #1 in lowest amount of opponent assists per game (17), and #1 in lowest opponent field goal percentage per game at .407%. Can we attribute this all to Coach Woodson or is this something that comes from having a roster full of experienced players that know a thing or two about winning games? Either way the Garden has always loved defensive Knick teams and if the first few games of the season serve as any indication its that we are going to love watching this team.
1. Knicks Ad Campaign
The Knicks marketing department has always been one of my favorite punching bags and one that I’ve written about before after I couldn’t take anymore of those horrible commercials during the 2010 season. You probably heard about the Knicks decision to pull its ads after some comlplaints about the bad taste they were in. New Yorkers are familiar with rampant injuries of Broadway’s Spider Man show. The irony of making fun of injuries while using $65M man Amare on that particular poster is actually comedy gold if you ask me. I have an unhealthy obsession with bad advertising campaigns and it always kills me to see the Knicks constantly fumble when it comes to promoting the team. I actually don’t mind this campaign since it’s a bit out the box. The Jason Kidd one, “You can either go out and attempt to pick up sixes and sevens or stay home and watch Kidd dish out dimes here,” actually is a good one. Look the Knicks have are a marquee brand so regardless of how bad there ads are it won’t make much of a difference but can we get one campaign that doesn’t embarrass the team?
2. Shumpert Injury News
Earlier this week the NYPOST reported that Shumpert’s injury recovery is taking longer than expected. A December return is now being projected to happen in February, perhaps even after the All-Star Break. There isn’t anyone that wants him to rush back to recovery, but with the Knicks playing so well defensivly now, just imagine how much more of a lock down team the Knicks can be with Shumpert back in the lineup. Ronnie Brewer is certainly doing a great job taking his place in the starting five but part of relying on elders like Kidd and Pablo leave the Knicks open to a huge injury risk. If one them goes down, things could get messy. An NBA player’s second year in the league is also a very important one so every game Shumpert doesn’t play is a one less game of valuable NBA experience that can help him grow into one a premier player.
3. Kurt Thomas
I single out Thomas more out of a desire to have a third ‘dislike’ on record than any real frustrations I’ve gotten from Ol’ Crazy Eyes. The fact of the matter is that Kurt Thomas was actually one of my favorite Knicks of the early 2000s. He was always one of my Fantasy sleepers with a consistent rebounding, FG%, and scoring numbers to rely on actually. I must admit that I’ve only seen glimpses of him since he left the Knicks and they were always serviceable minutes. I actually thought that he’d be more of a factor than what he has been so far. While he hasn’t shot much, he’s missed a few open looks that always used to be automatic. Seeing him lumber up and down the court also makes me realize I’ve might have overestimated how great it was to have him return to the Knicks. Maybe its more of a reflection on how well Sheed has played so far but after the Mavs game Thomas seems to have already fallen out of the lineup. Not what I had in mind.