Knicks Bricks Writers’ Early Season Predictions

Because we’re always looking for new and improved ways to make ourselves look dumb and prove that we don’t know what we’re talking about, the Knicks Bricks team has decided to post some early season predictions for the Knicks’ 2011-2012 success (or lack thereof). We will be revisiting these at each quarter post of the season to see precisely how wrong we were.


Knicks’ Record: 34-32

Playoffs: 7th seed, 1st round exit

The Knicks will show occasional glimpses of a higher ceiling (conference finals material), but without a competent floor general to bring order to the offense they will be plagued by inconsistency all season, and limp into the playoffs at or just above the .500 mark. They lack the discipline and depth to sustain a solid four quarters of basketball, let alone string together more than a few victories in this compact season. As a result, they will depend too heavily on the team’s franchise stars to will them to victory rather than through seasoned execution. The only thing standing between Coach D’Antoni and a pink slip will be the hope of luring Steve Nash to town next season.


Knicks’ Record: 38-28

Playoffs: 4th seed, 2nd round exit

For the record, I had the Knicks at 44-22 and a 3 seed until i saw the outcome of the Warriors game. This team is still prone to quarter-long lapses that reflect poor execution, questionable rotations (substitutions), and star deference (isolation happy). I no longer believe in golden boy Landry Fields. This team sorely needs a three point threat (no, Steve Novak is not the answer), a point guard, and a reality check. Melo and Amar’e are talented scorers, but I don’t think the Knicks pose the match-up problems that they think they do.

I’m reserving judgment on Tyson Chandler. Initially I liked the signing. But that may be because in the last 10 years we have had the following players at center: Ronny Turiaf, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Nazr Mohammed, Malik Rose, Channing Frye, Maurice Taylor, Michael Sweetney (still looking for shorts that fit), Clarence Weatherspoon, post knee injuries Antonio McDyess, Othella Harrington, and Michael Doleac. For christ’s sake look at some of those names! So pardon me if I got excited for Ty Chandler and his NBA All-Defensive Team presence. Of course, 2 games in and he averages 3 rebounds a game (editor’s note: many of these predictions were submitted before the Lakers game). Same old Knicks I guess.


Knicks’ Record: 40-26

Playoffs: 4th seed, 2nd round exit

My heart wants to say a 3 seed, but odds are I’m just being overly optimistic and the Bockers will see themselves landing behind either Boston’s Last Stand, D-12 and Company in Orlando or a surprise team that makes a run. They have incredible talent on the front line, all of which compliment each other really well. However, there is utterly no depth behind them, and the backcourt is a giant question mark from top to bottom. Who is able to facilitate offense beside Melo? Who exactly are the shooters? Will Chandler and Mike Woodson really spark a complete defensive makeover? I think the Bockers take a good step in the right direction this year and get a little deeper, but a 3-6 seed means a 2nd round date with the Bulls or Heat. I’m just not sure they’ll know how to play like a team by then (rather than a collection of individual talents) and be able to make a run past either squad to the conference finals.


Knicks’ Record: 39-27

Playoffs: 3rd seed, 2nd round exit
It’s a little tough sticking with a prediction of first place in the Atlantic and the third seed. I believe that D’Antoni is one of the best coaches in the NBA and there is enough talent to beat out the aging Celtics. Chandler has been a disappointment so far and the offense has looked better, but the defensive chemistry will come and shots will begin to fall.


Knicks Record: 37-29

Playoffs: 5th seed, 1st round exit

Unlike Matt, I don’t think this frontline compliments each other at all. The Knicks have two forwards who want the ball in isolation at the elbow extended. That didn’t work so well last season (14-14 in the regular season, 0-4 in the playoffs) and the offseason brought a center who clogs up the lane and brings a second defender, making it difficult for Anthony and Stoudemire to get open looks. That same center has only ever thrived with excellent point guards in the pick and roll. Unfortunately, Toney Douglas seems chronically incapable of learning how to distribute the ball and I have very little faith that Baron Davis will return to 2002-2007 levels. I know he’s an incredible player when invested, but he hasn’t cared in 4 years and I don’t think that the switch will be as easy to flip at 32 as it was at 26; Baron is going to find that out the hard way.

The worst part is that I think the Tyson Chandler signing has set the Knicks’ ceiling at 4-5 seeds and 1st or 2nd round exits for the next 4 years. In other words, we’re the North Atlanta Hawks. And there was much rejoicing.


Preview Game 4: Knicks (1-2) at Sacramento Kings (1-2)

The Knicks finish up their lone West Coast road trip of the season at Sacramento tonight. The team hopes to end the calendar year on a positive note after two subpar performances earlier this week. If the Knicks are to salvage a win tonight it will be without power forward Amar’e Stoudemire who will reportedly not suit up due to the sprained ankle he suffered in Los Angeles. Like the Knicks, the Kings are coming off of back to back losses in which they allowed an average of 104.5 points per game. Sacramento has won 4 of their last 5 games against New York and have no noteworthy injuries heading into tonight’s matchup.

Key Matchups: With Amar’e out, look for Melo to shoot early and often against John Salmons.
Ominous note: The third string point guard for the Kings is named Isaiah Thomas.

Defending D’Antoni

I grew up pushin snowflake to [cats] who were pro-base. The stress’ll take a young [cat] and give him an old face.
-Shawn Carter

The current consensus is that Mike D’Antoni’s days as a coach of the Knickerbockers are numbered. From the beginning, D’Antoni has been facing an uphill battle because he was pushing offense in a city that appreciates defense and toughness. If the Knicks lose to the Kings on Saturday night, the cries for D’Antoni’s head will be the loudest they have ever been, and rightfully so, because for the first time in four years the Knicks are actually expected to be good.

Last year the Knicks finished over .500 for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. Let that sink in. A decade of losing records, a ten year span in which every team in the NBA except the Knicks finished with a winning record at least once. Look it up. The Clippers had 47 wins in 2005-2006. The Bobcats, believe it or not, had 44 wins two years ago. That Game 5 loss against the Raptors was a long time ago. Back then Shaggy was cranking out number one hits, William Peterson wasn’t really famous yet for CSI (well, he still isn’t famous because I had to look up his name on IMDB), and we still had a year before knowing that you could get red tops from an industrious youth named Bodie. So what does Mike D’Antoni get for ending a decade of futility? It certainly didn’t get him a contract extension. Instead it gives him the wonderful opportunity to read about how he doesn’t know how to coach defense, or that he is just keeping the seat warm for Phil Jackson.
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Down on the Farm: D-Fenders 117 Bayhawks 112

The Bayhawks lost to the D-Fenders (why would they get rid of the extra “e”? I can’t stress enough how silly D-League names are) 117-112 last night. I actually watched a tiny bit of the game, and it’s safe to say that the level of play in the D-League leaves something to be desired. I watched my new mainest man, Chris Daniels, and he looked like a bit of a stiff. He missed a bunny to tie the game with about 15 seconds left, but still had a monster game. I still think he might be worth a look on a 10 day contract at some point this year. For what it’s worth, all D-League games can be streamed for free by clicking the “Futurecast” link on the right side of the D-League’s website. Here are the lines of note:

Chris Daniels: (Texas A&M – Corpus Christi – 27 years old – 7’0″ C): 32 points (11-14 FG, 1-1 3PT), 9 reb., 3 assists, 8 turnovers —- I get the sneaking suspicion that D-League play involves a lot of guys jacking up shots, gunning for a shot to break into the league. That might explain the 8 turnovers. Even then, you can’t argue with the numbers this guy is putting up; 18.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 59% FG, 39% 3PT. The most important statistic might be his height.

Devin Green: (Hampton – 29 years old – 6’7″ SG): 10 points (4-11 FG, 0-3 3PT), 3 reb., 4 assists —- shockingly similar line to the previous game. Not sure what this guy was doing on the roster so late in the preseason. He seems to be struggling to get his in the D-League.

Kyle Spain: (San Diego State – 24 years old – 6’5″ SG): 18 points (7-10 FG, 2-4 3PT), 3 reb., 1 assist — seems like this guy might be something of a gunner, as he’s taken 63 shots from behind the arc in 14 games this season. Unfortunately, he only knocks them down at about a 35% clip, and this is his second year in the D-League.

Offensively Offensive

Let me preface this entire post by saying it is extremely early and I am not typically an alarmist. We are a baby step into the marathon of the season, but what I have seen so far is so disturbing I can’t help but voice my concerns. Still, plenty of time to right the ship.

I am sure in the coming days/weeks, we’ll have a piece on our individual feelings on Mike D’Antoni and the current state of his tenure and future here as the Knicks coach. Personally, I don’t fall into the devout followers of either camp; I don’t think he has earned an extension thus far, but I also don’t want to see him axed tomorrow. He finally has a full complement of players that he believes can contend at a championship level, so I think we should give him the opportunity to excel with this cast.

However, I do have some very strong opinions on what I see as major systemic issues with our identity right now and, even crazier for a commentary on the man commonly referred to as Mike _’Antoni, I am not nearly as (relatively) concerned about the defense as I am the offense.
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Lakers 99 Knicks 82: To Live and Die in LA (mostly die)

Coming into the game, there was reason for optimism that this would be an opportunity for the Knicks to get themselves a big early season road win. Andrew Bynum was still serving his suspension for clubbing JJ Barea in the playoffs, and the Lakers starting lineup featured Josh McRoberts and Devin Ebanks at forward opposite the Knicks’ stars. The hope was that the previous night against Golden State was simply a trap game, with the Knicks looking past a Warriors team without Steph Curry to their higher profile match up with the Lakers. Unfortunately, those hopes were quickly and repeatedly dashed throughout the evening, as the Knicks turned in a subpar performance, losing to the Lakers 99-82, in a game that never really seemed in doubt from the opening minutes.

What went wrong? More like what didn’t? The Knicks allowed the Lakers to score 31 points in the 1st on 63% from the floor, including 16 points in the paint on the Knicks’ refurbished frontline to take a 7 point lead into the 2nd. I would love to tell you the Knicks defense improved from their 1st quarter struggles, but the Knicks barely forced a miss in the 2nd quarter, with the Lakers extending their halftime lead to 12, 63-51. The Lakers shot a robust 72% for the half, their most prolific shooting half since they shot 77.1% against Orlando in 1999. While the Knicks made a run to open the 3rd, with their improved defense holding the Lakers to 17 points in the quarter, they were never able to really swing momentum. 13 of those 17 came from an impressive scoring binge from Kobe Bryant, including a 4 point play when he was fouled by Renaldo Balkman in the act… 30 feet from the hoop… with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. It was that kind of evening.

The Knicks trimmed the deficit to 8 to start the 4th, but a 17-3 Lakers run to start the quarter put the game out of reach, with the Knicks’ first hoop from the floor finally coming half way through the period on a Carmelo Anthony drive. The Knicks have now lost to Kobe and the Lakers 9 times in row, dating back to February 2007 and, according to Shaq, this was the worst Knicks shooting performance in 4 years, at 31.3% from the floor. Not a lot of positives to take away, other than the game is over.

In terms of individual performances, I want to focus on the Knicks, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning the efficient performances by the two Lakers stars. Kobe went for 28 points on just 17 shots, and Pau Gasol added 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks in similarly efficient fashion on just 12 shots. Additionally, the Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest, Metta World Peace, gave the Knicks no peace, as he harassed half the Knicks team at one point or another, leading to an impressive +20 +/- for the game in just 25 minutes. The Lakers scored 44 points in the paint, shot 52.1% when it was all said and done, including 9 of 16 from deep.

For the Knicks, a bright spot was Carmelo Anthony, who put up 27 points on just 14 shots, and added 7 rebounds, 5 assists and was generally the only functional part of the offense (more on that in another post). He was aggressive all night long, getting to the line repeatedly, although his 5 turnovers were the portrait of a man trying to force the action towards the end of the evening when his teammates had really seemed to abandon him.

Tyson Chandler had the best game of his young Knicks career, as he played aggressively and with purpose, turning in a 13 point/11 rebound double-double, adding 3 steals, 2 blocks and getting himself to the line 14 times. An encouraging performance by Chandler. The Knicks ability to get to the stripe was really the only team positive to take away from the performance, as they shot 41 free throws and knocked down 34 of them, a 20 point advantage at the line over the Lakers. I shudder to think how badly this outcome would have looked if that advantage didn’t exist.

Amar’e Stoudemire turned in a performance that was unblemished by success, save for the nice corner 3 he swished for the 3rd time this season. STAT went 4-17 from the floor for 15 points, turned the ball over 4 times, didn’t manage a single assist (typical) and only registered 2 boards (sadly, even more typical). To make matters worse, he turned his ankle in the 4th quarter, headed to the locker room, and appears to be questionable for the NYE game against the Kings. That’ll put a bow on that performance.

The starting backcourt of Fields and Douglas combined for 8 assists, which itself is not an impressive number from a starting backcourt, but combined with Melo’s 5, the starting 1 through 3 men accounted for 13 of the Knicks’ 15 assists. Although they both struggled to score, they played well at times and the team seemed much more effective on both ends when they were out there together, much like last year, as Toney posted a -6 +/- (impressive for a 19 point loss) and Fields played the Lakers to a draw at a 0 +/-.

For the bench, I was always told if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. In trying to find any rays of hope on the pine, here’s all I’ve got: Novak showed the stroke the Knicks are hoping he provides from deep, knocking down 2 of his 3 3pt attempts. Balkman played hard and was active in his brief 10 minute stint, although a little too active on the 4 point play he handed Kobe at a key point for momentum in the 3rd. Finally, Billy Walker showed a lot of hustle in diving for loose balls, coming up with 3 impressive steals, but outside of that effort, he managed to only contribute a stat of line 1 point, 1 assist and no rebounds in 17 minutes on the floor. Save for his 5 personal foul, it would have been easy to forget he was out there.

All in all, it was a tale of two halves; unfortunately, there was nothing positive about either. The first half featured an epically bad defensive performance, and while the defense tightened noticeably in the 2nd half, the offense completely disappeared at its expense. There was little to no ball movement after the crisp first few minutes of the game, no transition game to speak of, and although the help defense was impressive at times, the help to the help was nonexistent, leading to easy after easy hoop off the pick and roll. The defense was so bad that D’Antoni said he thought about rolling out a zone defense in the 2nd half, despite the fact that he had not had an opportunity to install the scheme in practice. I’ll just let that statement sink in for its alarming indictment on the Knicks’ man to man defense, as well as their lack of preparation as a team.

It’s difficult to not be alarmed by this second straight subpar performance, but it is important to keep in perspective that it often takes a team a while to gel with new pieces to start the season. Still, with potentially the softest part of the Knicks schedule coming in the next 10 days, the Bockers really need to right some of their wrongs sooner rather than later and get on the same page against a slew of lottery bound teams that can’t match their talent level. Hopefully the turnaround starts Saturday against the Kings.

Stoudemire Sprains Ankle

Newsday is reporting that Amar’e Stoudemire sprained his ankle in last night’s loss to the Lakers. It is unclear how much, if any, time he’ll miss.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the Knicks on offense. Frankly, Amar’e has looked lost on offense this year, too often settling for a jumper that is not falling like it normally does (unless he’s behind the arc — 3 for 3!). New York was only a .500 team following the Anthony trade last year and at times it appeared that Anthony and Stoudemire were redundant players who didn’t know how to compliment each other’s skills. With the addition of Tyson Chandler clogging up the lane, the problem seems to be exaggerated for Stoudemire this year who has shot a combined 9 for 31 (29%) from the field in the Knicks’ two losses.

I’m not saying that the Knicks will be better on offense without Amar’e, but it will be interesting to see if this opens up space for Anthony to operate and for Chandler to start diving to the basket for some easy lobs (although a competent point guard would probably help more than having Stoudemire out). Either way, this is more bad news for a Knicks team that has looked totally out of sorts the last two nights.