The Knicks bench could win them some games. No, I mean it.

6 Comments

Thumbnail image for D'antoni.jpgWhile you were busy talking about how the Knicks missed out on LeBron and Wade but got that Amare guy and he’s not that bad, you missed something.

Donnie Walsh put together a pretty deep team.

Not deep with name guys in the Lakers sense, but similar in one way — deep with guys who fit the system. The Lakers, Celtics (mostly, we’ll see about Shaq), Spurs, Suns have all been very good at this, getting role players who really fit in with what they want to do.

The Knicks did that this summer.

Let’s assume a starting five of the Knicks tall lineup: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph, Amar’e Stoudemire and Ronnie Turiaf. (Nobody knows who will actually start, not even Mike D’Antoni at this point, maybe Wilson Chandler starts at the two, Gallinari at the three and Randolph comes off the bench, but we’ll go with the tall lineup for now.)

Off the bench would come Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler, Kelenna Azubuike, Roger Mason Jr., Larry Fields, Eddy Curry and Timofey Mozgov.

That is not a lineup of All-Stars. But it is a lineup of guys who are athletic, who can run, who can drain the three, who can score. Guys who fit the system. It’s sort of like what the Suns had last year — a group of guys who hustled and blended with what the Suns wanted to do and could put up points. That Suns group won regular season games — it also won a Western Conference finals game. It was a big part of what the Suns did.

Douglas can run the point a little and is we learned one thing about Mozgov at the World Championships it’s that he can set a good pick, roll to the hole and finish. You can picture a drag screen with them being effective. Mason could bounce back to the form that made him a supersub in San Antonio — picture him sprinting down the court to an open spot on the arc and draining the transition three.

Once he really gets healthy and his strength back, Azubuike may be the starter. He is more dynamic than Chandler. In the short term Azubuike is going to be explosive off the bench. And Wilson Chandler showed last year he can ball in this system.

Eddy Curry… let’s not bet on it. But if he can even return to the 15 PER guy he was two seasons ago — a league average guy — at the five off the bench? Huge boost for this team.

Mike D’Antoni’s system is built in part on conditioning and wearing another team down — they are going to run and run and run and you will not be able to keep up. You will wear down. They will break you.

To do that takes more than five — it takes nine or 10 deep. The Knicks have that now.

There will be a lot o playing around with lineups and matchups. It may take a while to figure out the rotations. But the Knicks have depth now, they have athletes deep on the roster.

And that could win them some games.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
1 Comment

Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

5 Comments

The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

AP Foto/Eric Christian Smith
2 Comments

Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

image