Friday, November 1, 2013

How Are the Knicks Doing through Two Games?

Here are ten thoughts about this young Knicks season after the team beat the Bucks 90-83 on Wednesday night then lost a heartbreaker, 82-81, in Chicago last night.

1. Let's accentuate the positive first. Tyson Chandler, who snatched 19 rebounds against Chicago, is again playing like the beast we watched for most of last season. Chandler was embarrassed by the Pacers' frontline in last year's conference semis, and he put on 10 pounds of muscle over the summer. One of his patented back-tap rebounds kept the Knicks alive in the last minute against the Bulls, and I loved the emotion as he slapped the floor after drawing a foul with less than 10 seconds to play. He missed the first of two free throws to leave the door open for Derrick Rose, but he's still the heart and soul of this team. The Knicks will go as far as the defense can take them, and Chandler is the anchor of that D.

2. Speaking of D-Rose, who shot just 7-of-23 before nailing a beautiful floater with 5.7 seconds left...
The Knicks missed a really good opportunity to take advantage of the Bulls and their point guard, who is still a bit rusty and was dealing with a sore neck last night. (He was wearing some baller-looking neck tape.) The 'Bockers missed a chance to notch a confidence-building win against an elite opponent before the Bulls really hit their stride.

3. Last year I wrote about the Knicks' two-faced tendencies, and it seems like they haven't really changed on that front. On MSG, Mike Breen actually used the phrase "Jekyll-and-Hyde performance" at least twice during the Opening Night broadcast. The Knicks jumped out to a 56-31 halftime lead over the Bucks, only to blow it before finally eking out the win.

Here's what Grantland's Zach Lowe tweeted during the fourth quarter:
The opener against the Bucks -- who Kavanaugh ranked No. 26 in the NBA -- was a great chance for Mike Woodson to rest his starters on the first night of a back-to-back set. Just like many times last season, though, the Knicks were unable to close out a crappy opponent early.

4. Andrea Bargnani was booed by what Walt Frazier called a "very vociferous crowd" in his first home game in Madison Square Garden. The former Raptor totaled just 15 points and three rebounds in the first two games. It's a tiny sample size, but Bargnani didn't shoot well in the preseason either. If he doesn't start playing better, the Italian is going to get made fun of more than The Garden's new Chase Bridge.

5. I'm not going to pin the Bulls loss on Carmelo Anthony, but it's so frustrating to watch the Knicks rely on Meloball during crunchtime. For those who don't know, Meloball is when the other four players stand around like lost puppies and watch Melo dribble for 20 seconds. The end of a Meloball possession invariably ends with a step-back jumper just inside the 3-point line*. Melo finished strong against Milwaukee, but he was outclassed by Rose when it counted in Chicago.

*The step-back jumper just inside the 3-point line is also sometimes referred to as "the least efficient shot in basketball." 

6. Damn, the defense looks good. Mike Woodson might not know how to coach an offense, but he must be pleased with his team's play on the other end so far. Again, it's a small sample size. Just like we don't expect Michael Carter-Williams (Is it too early to refer to him as "MCW"? Is anyone already calling him that?) to average anywhere close to his Opening Night 22-12-7-9 line, we don't think the Knicks will hold most opponents in the low 80s. Still, it would be great if they could crack the Top 10 in some defensive efficiency stats. Last year, ESPN's John Hollinger had them tied for No. 16 in total defensive efficiency.

7. Here's RotoWorld's most recent take on Amare Stoudemire:
"He didn't look very healthy [last night] and he was a a thorn in the side of the Knicks' interior defense. Stoudemire won't be seeing consistent minutes all year and he'll likely sit out in some back-to-back sets, so it's difficult to grow too fondly of him as an asset in fantasy leagues."
Poor Amare.

8. Raymond Felton has been a pleasure to watch so far, scoring and distibuting consistently despite the Knicks' other offensive troubles. A couple times, Felton has run my favorite play in the entire NBA -- the pick-and-roll with Chandler that leads to a screaming alley-oop dunk from the big man. Oh, and on MSG Frazier gave Felton his blessing, saying the point guard is showing "fee-line quickness." I really missed Walt Clyde, didn't you?

9. Metta World Peace has yet to do anything especially Metta World Peace-ish. In the pregame ceremony at the Garden before the Bucks game, someone even gave Metta a microphone. My first thought: Who the hell gave Metta World Peace a mike? My second thought: This is gonna be awesome. Alas, a subdued Metta simply told the crowd, "We wanna give y'all a great season."

10. Provided he can stay clean for another week, J.R. Smith will return in four games to allegedly fight for a starting spot. Fans have been speculating whether Woodson wants to again use Smith off the bench. Some think the coach is leveraging the sixth man's desire to start in order light a fire under Iman Shumpert. Time will tell.

No matter what J.R. brings to the table this year, I'm sure that the Knicks will give their fans plenty of reasons to cheer vociferously, as well as reasons to pull their hair out. The team already gave us a little of both in the 1-1 start.  

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