Say what you want about the New York Knicks, they never lose the same way twice.
Whether they lose by 40 points or by four, the Knicks are in shambles. For every one thing that goes right, two more things go wrong. And when one struggling Knick gets on track, another Knick loses his game completely.
In a kind of Knicks Freaky Friday scenario, two of their highly paid forwards have seemingly switched bodies over the past few games, culminating in Friday night's 90-86 loss to the Boston Celtics. Amar'e Stoudemire, who looked ready for the scrap heap at the start of the reason, has looked increasingly frisky of late, capped off by his 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting on Friday against Boston.
But since these are the Knicks—and the Knicks can never have nice things—Stoudemire's emergence has been offset by the increasingly poor play of Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani hurt the Knicks' effort on Friday by shooting 9-of-22 for an extremely inefficient 22 points. Worse, he simply could not stay in front of Boston forward Jared Sullinger on defense, and his horrendous help defense butchered several defensive possessions down the stretch as Boston mounted its comeback.
This has become a habit for Bargnani and bad news for the Knicks, who had been relying on him as one of the very few bright spots of what has been a miserable season.
Gone Since November
For the Knicks, November was the month of Bargs. The controversial forward, brought to New York in an even-more-controversial trade, worked his way into the heart of the MSG faithful with some inspired play after a shaky first few games.
Not only was Bargnani giving the Knicks scoring, he was actually playing decent man defense on some of the league's better bigs. His block of Dwight Howard was one of the highlights of a season not exactly bursting with positivity. Moreover, his awkward, herky-jerky game was simply made for the modern, Twitter-loving NBA fan. Of all the .gifs and vines the Knicks have inspired this year, at least half have come from Bargnani.
But the big Italian has crashed down to Earth in a big way in December. Check out his month-by-month shooting stats.
Quite simply, if Bargnani isn't hitting shots, he is borderline useless, even to the depleted Knicks. And given his track record, there's little to reassure fans that he will get back to his November form. In his last three seasons in Toronto, Bargnani's average shooting numbers were .434 percent overall and .323 percent from three-point range. He hasn't been an above-average NBA shooter in four years, so perhaps this poor shooting is not the exception but the norm.
The Bargnani Trade Revisited
Bargnani has been on the minds of Knicks fans for more than just missing shots and defensive rotations since Thursday's proposed trade for the Raptors' Kyle Lowry. Toronto is looking for a first-round pick for Lowry, who would fill a definite hole, but the Knicks have already given them a first-rounder for Bargnani. The question becomes: Would the Knicks have been better off never trading for Bargnani in the first place and keeping that pick handy for a better player?
During the game, Marc Berman of the New York Post caught a lot of flack for defending the Bargnani deal on Twitter.
Take that Masai Ujiri. Bargnani's two straight jumpers give #Knicks a 69-62 lead. Why are fans thinking Ujiri won that trade? TBD.— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) December 14, 2013
No offense to Mr. Berman, but two jumpers do not a good trade make. Berman went on to elaborate on his support for the Bargnani trade.
Regarding Bargs trade, Novak has fallen off map, 2nd-rounders meaningless & 2016 first-rounder is too far in future. Dolan wants to win now.— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) December 14, 2013
Lets break that Tweet down:
- "Dolan wants to win now" is the source of 95 percent of the Knicks' current troubles.
- Second-round picks are meaningless. Here is a list of all the active players selected in the second round, per Basketball Reference. There are 124 players on that list, included some you may have heard of—Manu Ginobili, Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, etc.
- First-round pick is too far off. The last time the Knicks threw in a first-rounder because it was so far off was the 2014 first-rounder they included in the 2011 Carmelo Anthony trade. Now that picks looks likely to be a lottery pick in one of the most loaded drafts in years. New York gave away two picks for the immortal Eddy Curry, and those picks turned into Joakim Noah and current MVP candidate LaMarcus Aldridge.
It is possible to separate Bargnani the player from Bargnani the trade. You can root for a player while still believing that the team gave up too much to get him. But with the Knicks in need of assets to trade for help this season, and those assets further depleted by the Bargnani trade, it would be nice for Bargnani to play well to take Knicks fans' minds off the haul their team paid to bring him to New York.
Right now, Bargnani is not doing it.
Just When Things Couldn't Get Any Worse
The Knicks will complete their back-to-back on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks, and they will likely be held together by duct tape and prayers.
Per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
Kenyon Martin, with an abdominal strain, is not moving well. May not be available vs Hawks on Saturday— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) December 14, 2013
Amare thinks he'll likely be held out vs Atlanta by the medical staff.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) December 14, 2013
The only true big backing him up will be Cole Aldrich, who has played only garbage-time minutes this season. Perhaps Bargnani should focus more on his defensive assignments and not his shooting slump. The Knicks will need his best defensive performance, and counting on Bargnani for defense has never been a winning proposition.