Tag: Bill Walker

Knicks' Anthony celebrates after a three point shot late in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' win in Game 4 of their NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoff series against the Heat in New York

NBA Season Preview: New York Knicks


This week begins PBT’s team-by-team season preview, going through all 30 squads. We are starting in the deep Atlantic Division that could well send four teams to the playoffs, and we will move West from there. Next up, your New York Knicks.

Last season: Good God, where to begin. Uh, they beat Boston in their first game and looked like they would be a legit Eastern power. Then the wheels fell off and fell off some more, and then Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire both got injured and the team was screwed and everything was darkness. But wait! There came a voice of redemption in the night, and his name was Linsanity. OK, not literally, literally it was Jeremy Lin, and all of a sudden the undrafted sophomore who was less than a few days away from being cut exploded onto the scene. He dropped 38 on Kobe and the Gang, toppled the defending champs, and basically set the sports world on fire.

(Gasp for air.)

Then Amar’e came back and things were still great and they had an offense and then Melo came back and well, not so much anymore. The Heat and Knicks figured out Lin and they were struggling a little bit and OH WAIT, MIKE D’ANTONI RESIGNED. So then Mike Woodson takes over and Jeremy Lin gets hurt and Amar’e Stoudemire gets hurt (again), and then Melo goes on a tear and the Knicks look good because Anthony’s destroying everything and then the playoffs came and it turns out that isolation-centric basketball versus a team that likes to isolate and swarm the ball-handler and plays the best position defense in the league isn’t a good idea and the Knicks got their tails kicked and lost in the first round, the end.

Key Departures: They could have matched the offer for Jeremy Lin and kept him, adding a huge amount of salary to a team that has never acted as if it cared a lick about the luxury tax or salary concerns… but then they got high? No. They elected to pass on Lin and the poison pill in his third year. It was an… unpopular move with Knicks fans, let’s just leave it at that.

Josh Harrellson is also gone, along with Baron Davis and Mike Bibby. Jared Jeffries, Renaldo Balkman, Bill Walker, every Williams they had on roster, and Landry Fields. Oh, and Toney Douglas.

Key Additions: J.R. Smith comes back at a discount price, as does Steve Novak. Raymond Felton is the new starting point guard, and Jason Kidd comes to the City as a reserve. Ronnie Brewer helps their wing depth, especially defensively with Iman Shumpert out until after the start of the year. Marcus Camby becomes the first legit reserve big man for the Knicks since God knows when, and Kurt Thomas is still plugging along behind him. Pablo Prigioni joins the club at a ripe age to provide an emergency reserve point guard.

Three keys to Knicks season:

1) ISOMelo works. You can’t misread the Knicks’ intention. They can talk about teamwork and chemistry, about using all their weapons, about getting everyone involved. That’s great. But the decision to jettison Lin, the decision to retain Mike Woodson at head coach, bringing in players who played with Carmelo Anthony before in Denver, everything speaks to a clear statement of purpose: Get Melo his. Amar’e Stoudemire can work on his post moves all he wants, and Tyson Chandler can remain the most efficient big man in the game. That ball is going through Melo first and last and a lot in-between.

This is who the Knicks are. There’s a high feeling of resentment from certain sections of Knicks fans about this, that it’s getting overblown. But consider how Woodson ran his teams in Atlanta, with so many isolation plays for different players, but especially Joe Johnson. Consider the removal of a point guard who might challenge for control of the offense. And consider everything we’ve seen for the year and a half since Anthony was traded to New York. He’s the ticket-seller, the marquee name, the big star. They’re going to make sure he feels comfortable. And whether it’s what’s best for him or not, he feels most comfortable in the high or wing post, typically facing up to jab-step his way into a jumper. That’s who he is, and when he’s on, he’s one of the most deadly offensive players in the league.

That has to work. Despite schemes in the NBA built to victimize isolation, despite the plethora of talent surrounding him, and despite the low probability that it will be successful, this is what the Knicks have decided on, and that’s what they have to make work. Maybe it can, and I’m just missing the brilliance of this approach. But either way, if they’re going to succeed, that has to go over big.

2) Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have to learn to co-exist, basketball-wise. Anthony’s not going to have a 99% usage factor, so yeah, there will be other people involved, and one of those needs to be Stoudemire. He dealt with a huge number of injury issues and many are moving towards just dropping him in the pile of overpaid sub-stars (oh, hey Carlos Boozer, didn’t see you there). But Stoudemire has legitimate reasons to suggest that he can bounce back this season with time to heal from last year’s injuries, and could regain some of his offensive explosiveness, even if the ship on his defense has long ago sailed.

But the problem has been that Anthony and Stoudemire have been absolutely wretched on the floor together. Stoudemire and Anthony played 976 minutes together last year and the Knicks were -2.4 in plus-minus during those minutes. They were outscored by their opponent with their two best offensive players on the floor. Now, there are some things the Knicks can do to get the involved separately, such as Raymond Felton rekindling the pick and roll with Stoudemire he had developed before the Anthony trade sent him to Denver. And Stoudemire has worked on his post game, which is, in and of itself, a move to appease the ISOMelo offense (Stoudemire getting out of the way from his preferred work at the elbow.

But they’re going to have to figure out how to play on the floor at the same time. Mike Woodson hasn’t even been willing to discuss the idea of bringing Stoudemire off the bench or keeping them in different rotations. Again, this is just how it is, and it’s something they have to figure out.

3) The defense better maintain. Drove me nuts last year trying to get people to understand that the Knicks were a great defensive team. People were used to Mike D’Antoni’s reputation, and they wouldn’t listen to anything otherwise. Woodson’s involvement as an assistant certainly was the difference and their defense maintained after D’Antoni’s departure. They were an elite defense, and in reality, they were well-built for the postseason. They were a defensive team that slowed the game down and ground it out, with a great rim protector down low. That’s a good formula for playoff success.

The offense this season won’t be improved enough to allow for defensive slippage, though. The Knicks have to keep their defensive principles and activity up, with an older roster. They’ll still be in need of Stoudemire to at least not be a weakness, and in truth, they need Anthony to be the kind of defender he’s capable of being at his best as opposed to the one he so often is. They can’t afford to tumble down defensively at any significant level.

What one thing should scare Knicks fans? Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler both have injury histories which are a concern. Carmelo Anthony missed time last season. If Anthony goes out for any time, after they’ve built their entire solar system around the Melo Sun, what happens? If Stoudemire goes down again, that means it’s time to re-evaluate his long-term viability and that’s a big contract under the new CBA to deal with as a liability. And if Chandler were to miss time, that’s the core of their defense. He is to their defense what Anthony is to their offense, only, you know, he’s actually better at it.

Beyond on-the-court stuff, though, the biggest thing that should scare Knicks fans is how the organization is run. Willing to overpay for any player but Jeremy Lin? CAA having ties in not just the players but in executives and even the coaching staff? Isiah Thomas sniffing around again? This is not exactly the painting of a picture you want for your front office. What else is new?

How it likely works out: Here’s the thing. The Knicks are a really good team. They honestly are. They’re going to be a very good team this year. They have an elite player in Carmelo Anthony. They have an elite player defensively who can also contribute in huge ways offensively in Tyson Chandler. Amar’e Stoudemire is not so far removed from the MVP-candidate he was three years ago. They have depth, Mike Woodson is a really good coach overall and in his preparation. He has a history of success.

Their model, like I said above, is sound. This is a team that has the model you want for a championship contender. They rely on their defense to get stops and put the ball in the hands of their elite offensive player. This is a formula that has worked in the NBA in the past. The Knicks will be a competitive team that is great on defense, and at times will be great offensively. They will look like world-beaters at times and like dregs some of the time. They’ll make the playoffs and depending on the seeding, might be able to muscle out a first-round win. But that’s pretty much their ceiling. They’re a very good team, which is nothing to sneeze at. But they’re paying for and selling to the fans the idea of a great team, and they’re just not that. Unless Carmelo Anthony puts together one of the all-time seasons in NBA history, not this year, but all-time, then the Knicks won’t wind up in a dramatically different spot than where they finished last year. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, that’s quite an accomplishment for a team that has such trouble being respectable last decade. It’s just not where the Knicks act like they are.

Prediction: 47-35, which is just what Kurt put the Sixers at on Monday. The Knicks, the Nets, and the Sixers all should wind up in about the same spot, battling for a fourth-to-sixth seed in the East. The only question will be if it’s a season that feels like they maximized their potential and it wasn’t good enough, or one where they fell short, but that just leaves more reason to believe next year they’ll put it together.

I can see no reasonable scenario in which the Knicks win the 2013 NBA Championship.

Friday And-1 links: Kevin Love’s new look is… interesting

Kevin Love

Here is our daily look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points.

• Kevin Love has a porn-stache now. Apparently the effects of that concussion were more serious than we all realized.

• Love and Luke Ridnour both could be back for Minnesota for the last couple games of the season. Why push them? I don’t know but coach Rick Adelman said so.

• Tyson Chandler would like to win Defensive Player of the Year. He should, by the way.

• While we’re talking about the Knicks center, with Dwight Howard out for the Olympics, Chandler almost certainly gets that roster spot. There has some people talking about an Andrew Bynum call up, but with international ball need bigs who can shoot the midrange or longer. Look for a lot of Chandler then Bosh/Love at the five and LeBron/’Melo at the four.

• The Knicks are about to sign Dan Gadzuric and waive Bill Walker. Yup, that should solve all their problems. Gadzuric spent the season in the D-League not blowing anyone’s doors off.

• Here is the official guide to criticizing LeBron James in any situation.

George Maloof needs to shut the hell up.

• Chris Paul is playing through a sore thumb he got in the game against Denver Wednesday.

• If you’re wondering why Grant Hill was out for the Suns Thursday, he had fluid drained from his knee earlier in the week.

• Al Horford is frustrated he is not healing more quickly. I imagine Larry Drew is as well.

• Don’t be shocked if the Hornets use their amnesty clause on Emeka Okafor.

Knicks’ Bill Walker out 4-6 weeks following elbow surgery

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks

Through the first half of the season Bill Walker was getting a fair amount of run with the Knicks, but that had started to change in the last few weeks. First Carmelo Anthony returned and soaked up most of the minutes at the small forward spot. Then Steve Novak developed a real chemistry with Jeremy Lin — knocking down threes and spacing the floor for the slashing guard — and suddenly Walker was largely out of the rotation.

Now Walker is having elbow surgery that will keep him out of the lineup 4-6 weeks, the New York Post reports.

Walker sat out the past six games. He injured himself vs. New Orleans on Feb. 17th, though the Knicks aren’t sure why his elbow blew up. Coach Mike D’Antoni said he hopes he’ll be back for the playoffs.

“We’ll see where the team is then,’’ D’Antoni said. “Too bad. It’s weird the way it happened. I thought it would get better. He needs to get it well.’’

While he wasn’t playing much he would have been a potential trade chip for the Knicks at the deadline. Not any more. Walker is averaging 6.1 points per game this season.

Heat show Knicks how to run up-tempo offense and win

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade was back and so were the Heat.

After a few games of the LeBron James show with the pace slowed (while Wade recovered from a sprained ankle), the Miami Heat with Wade returned to their high-pressure, up-tempo style of play — you know, kind of like Mike D’Antoni was brought in to run in New York but never given the parts to execute. It wasn’t a perfect game from Miami, but when everything was on the line in the fourth the Heat overwhelmed the Knicks and ran away to a 99-89 win.

Wade looked rested and about as healthy as can be, with 28 points on 19 shots. The Heat were back to being a highlight reel for a night, with just a bunch of ridiculous dunks.

But that’s not won them the game. It was their defense.

The Heat were a pressure defense again and forced 19 Knicks turnovers — that was nearly one in five trips down the court for New York. And a lot of those turnovers became runouts for the Heat and big dunks. Miami is too good to give them a bunch of easy baskets and expect to win.

The other thing the Heat defense did was take away good looks going toward the basket for the Knicks — without Carmelo Anthony or a point guard who can create for others, the Knicks were relegated to launching threes.

Which they did with reckless abandon taking 43, but making 18 (41.9 percent). That is what kept them in the game.

But you live by the three, you die by it. In fourth, Heat focused on chasing everyone off the arc and make them put it on the floor or contesting the shot. The Knicks still hit 3 of the 8 they took that quarter, but they also turned the ball over and that led to runouts and… well, we’ve already covered that.

Give the Knicks credit, they gave a spirited effort. They hustled, they defended moderately well, they tried hard at what they thought would work. D’Antoni said he would stretch the floor with Carmelo out, and while this may have been the extreme of what he meant it kept New York in the game. Bill Walker was 7-10 from three for 21 points, Toney Douglas added 16.

But the Knicks don’t have the players to run D’Antoni’s system the way it was designed (that problem only gets worse with ‘Melo in the lineup). The Heat do. When the tempo gets up the more athletic team wins, and that was the Heat in this one. Handily.

And they put on a show in the process.

Knicks put it together against Nuggets… and then go back to Melo-ball

Denver Nuggets v New York Knicks

It makes sense, on one level.

You play good team ball for 45 minutes. You create open looks, you drive to the rim, you produce opportunities to get you into a tight game. And then, when it comes down to clutch time, you let your star scorer score. That makes a lot of sense and was the approach the Knicks went with in their loss to the Nuggets. For the first half, the Knicks were winning. There were two players with a negative plus/minus. Jared Jeffries, who actually played well, and Carmelo Anthony, who did not. In the second half, the Knicks constantly fell behind and battled back. When the game got close, they went to Caremlo Anthony, ISO. None of the ball movement that got them there. Just trust. And it worked.

Until it didn’t.

And in the end, the Knicks fell to a Denver team featuring several of their former members sent for Anthony, and without Arron Afflalo and Rudy Fernandez, 119-114 in double overtime.

It has to especially sting Knicks fans that the wing they traded as a centerpiece in the trade, Danilo Gallinari, went for 37 points on 19 shots, while Anthony had 25 points on 30 shots.

That pretty much sums it up.

Not surprisingly, when Anthony was out of the game, the Knicks were energized. Bill Walker was hitting from deep, Amar’ Stoudemire was active on defense and the glass, Iman Shumpert was producing, along with Landry Fields for the first time really this season. There was this thing called ball movement, a long lost relic of offense that has fallen to the wayside with Anthony’s emergence in New York.

It’s not Anthony’s fault this is how it ended up. He had 10 rebounds and five assists. It’s that the Knicks don’t have any way with their current roster to work effectively and efficiently with Anthony in. Anthony doesn’t steal the ball from his teammates, he’s given it and they defer. They stop working for movement. They defer. And in that situation, Anthony goes to pull-up jumper after pull-up jumper.

The Knicks needed only look across at their opponents to see the opposite. The Nuggets share the ball, create off the cut, and even on a night when a deep team was short-handed, and when Ty Lawson was off and Al Harrington playing below his level this season… they still pulled out the win. Don’t be mistaken, the Nuggets were a desperation 9-1-1 heave from Andre Miller from losing. But they pulled it out and as the game wore on, they shared the ball and created. The Knicks? Anthony does what he does. He can hit contested shots. He does hit contested shots. But you can’t rely on contested shots consistently. Eventually, you’ll miss, and that’s when a more balanced team wins out. That’s what happened Saturday night.

And the Melo era in New York continues its rocky road.