7 Holiday Wishes for the New York Knicks
The Christmas Grinch arrived early this year in New York, where the city's beloved New York Knicks have had a dreadful start to the 2013-14 season. Yet, New Yorkers have plenty of reasons to embrace the Knicks with holiday cheer.
Despite the team's struggles, Knicks fans have a great deal to be thankful for: from veteran players who play the game the right way to the unexpected gift of a rookie who cracked the rotation. And New Yorkers should always be proud of the rich history of the franchise.
The holiday season also represents hope that a new year will lead to different results for Mike Woodson's squad. The return of Tyson Chandler and a weak Eastern Conference provide reasons to believe that the Knicks can climb the standings in the months to come.
Knicks fans will have long wish lists this holiday season. In the spirit of giving, they may want to extend their best wishes to those in the Knicks family who have had a difficult year.
*All statistics are as of Dec. 18, 2013.
All I Want for Christmas Is Some Ball Movement
Basketball is an art performed at its highest form when five players on a team move themselves and the ball around the court in a crisp and coordinated manner. The Knicks' first quarter of the 2013-14 season has consisted of stagnant, isolation-heavy offense, which—in addition to being unpleasant to the eye—has produced negative results.
New York set an NBA record for three-pointers attempted and made last season. Those long-distance shots were set up by passes initiated by Carmelo Anthony when he was double-teamed or off Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls.
The Knicks are ranked 18th in offensive efficiency (101.3 points) compared to third last season (108.6.) Their three-point attempts and shooting percentage have dropped from 28.9 and 37.6 percent to 25 and 34.6 percent, respectively.
The players and ball have stopped moving.
Injuries have played a part in the Knicks' stagnation. With Chandler sidelined and Felton hobbled by a series of injuries, the pick-and-roll has been absent from the offense. Coach Woodson's decision to use a bigger lineup and move away from the two-point-guard attack that was so effective last season has also hurt the team's spacing and ball movement.
The Knicks have been successful when they have moved the ball this season. Their assist ratio is two points higher (17.6 to 15.6) in wins than losses, via NBA.com (login required). The Knicks can turn their season around if they commit to moving the ball.
We Should All Be Grateful for Pablo Prigioni
Pablo Prigioni is the only Knick on a team full of shoot-first players who prefers to pass. In fact, the Argentinian is so reluctant to fire away despite his 43.1 shooting percentage from downtown, that his teammates and coaches are constantly on his case to shoot more.
Not surprisingly, the Knicks' ball movement is more fluid when Prigioni is in the game. New York's offensive rating is 6.1 points higher (105.6 to 99.5) when the unselfish point guard is on the floor than when he is on the bench, via NBA.com.
The beauty of his game extends well beyond his passing. At 36 years old, he still plays with the enthusiasm of a second-round draft pick trying to make the squad. He is a pesky defender who is adept at stealing inbounds passes, and his 4.22 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks third in the league, via ESPN.com.
Prigioni has his shortcomings. He is no longer quick enough to keep opposing point guards out of the paint or to break down a defense with dribble penetration.
However, next time that the Knicks stand around on offense and watch Carmelo Anthony operate one-on-one or J.R. Smith pound the ball into the ground 10 times before taking a step-back 20-footer, the Garden faithful should remind themselves how lucky they are to have a player like Prigioni.
Happy and Healthy New Year to Amar'e Stoudemire
Amar'e Stoudemire used to be a magnificent basketball player—an imposing power forward with a rare combination of athleticism and power. He was selected to six All-Star teams and named to the All-NBA first team in 2007 as well as the All-NBA second team four times. As recently as three years ago, he averaged 25.3 points on 50 percent shooting in his first season with the Knicks.
In the prime of his career at age 28, he began to break down. First, he suffered a back injury in the 2011 playoffs and then a bulging disc in March 2012. Earlier that year, his brother died in a car accident.
In the fall of 2012, Stoudemire underwent the first of three knee surgeries over a nine-month period. Now comes word from Mike Woodson that the forward is experiencing swelling in one of his surgically repaired knees and "will be out for a while," via Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
Stoudemire is playing under a five-year, $100 million guaranteed contract. Plenty of players who have made a lot less than him have been content to collect their paychecks while taking their time rehabbing from injury.
After every setback, he has maintained a positive attitude and worked hard to put himself in a position to help the team. Let us hope that this latest knee issue is not serious and that he has a healthy 2013-14.
Tim Hardaway Jr. Was a Draft-Day Gift
Tim Hardaway Jr. was not expected to make a significant impact in his rookie season. He was not exceptional at any one area of the game coming out of the University of Michigan, and New York was deep at shooting guard with J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and at times Raymond Felton or Pablo Prigioni.
However, injuries to several key players presented an opportunity for the rookie, who has made the most of it. Hardaway has tremendous confidence in his shot, which he has been knocking down with increasing frequency. He is scoring 8.1 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 42.5 percent from behind the arc.
He has found success despite playing in an offense that does not highlight his greatest strength: his ability to run the floor. New York is operating at the second-slowest pace in the league (92.3 possessions used per game), via ESPN.com.
The former Wolverine has made his share of rookie mistakes and has plenty of room to improve. His shot selection is questionable at times, and he is still learning defensive rotations. Those issue will get ironed out in time.
Hardaway is a hard-working kid and a better shooter and athlete than most scouts realized. He should be a solid rotation player for the next decade, which is great value for the 24th pick.
Please Do Not Trade Away Any More Draft Picks
For the past dozen years, the Knicks have been doling out draft picks like they are business cards in return for over-hyped or breaking down "stars." Count them off: the Antonio McDyess draft-day deal, the Stephon Marbury trade, selling the farm for Carmelo Anthony and the Eddie Curry debacle.
Most recently, New York sent its first-round pick in 2016 and two second-round picks to the Toronto Raptors as part of the Andrea Bargnani trade. (For an excellent recap of the Knicks' draft pick trades, see this recent article by Tom Ziller of SBNation.)
New York's traded picks have been used to draft Joakim Noah, LaMarcus Aldridge, Gordon Hayward and Nene. The Knicks do not have a first-round pick in the loaded 2014 draft (because they sent their pick to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade) or in 2016.
In order to end the cycle of underachieving with big-name, overpriced players, the Knicks need to develop some young talent. That requires holding onto draft picks. So please, please, pretty please, Mr. Dolan, stop trading away all of the team's picks.
Let Us Give Thanks for Walt Frazier and Mike Breen
The MSG broadcast team of Mike Breen and Walt "Clyde" Frazier have managed to keep Knicks games interesting and informative despite the pathetic product on the floor. Breen and Frazier have their fingers on the pulse of the team and understand the frustrations of the fanbase. And unlike many local broadcasters, they are not afraid to criticize the hometown squad.
Breen, who also serves as the voice of the NBA for ESPN and ABC, is the ultimate professional. He possesses an expansive knowledge of the league, is able to adjust to the personality of whomever he works with and is excellent at describing the action as it unfolds without bombarding you with opinions or prefabricated catchphrases.
Clyde puts the color in color man. The Knicks legend reminds long-suffering fans of the franchise’s glory days while entertaining them with his unique sense of style, patented rhymes and timely analysis.
Whether it is a funny anecdote about his playing days or ongoing inability to pronounce Andrea Bargnani's name correctly (he occasionally throws an extra "R" in Bargnani's last name), you can count on Clyde for at least one good laugh per telecast.
Thoughts Go out to the Families of Dean Meminger and Walt Bellamy
Two prominent members of the New York Knicks family passed away in 2013: Walt Bellamy and Dean "The Dream" Meminger. Keep them and their families in your thoughts during this holiday season.
Bellamy won a gold medal in Rome as a member of the legendary 1960 Olympic team before being selected first overall in the 1961 draft by the Chicago Packers. He averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds per game and was selected to four All-Star teams over a 14-year career.
He played for the Knicks from 1965-1968. On December 19, 1968, he was traded along with Howard Komives to the Detroit Pistons for Dave DeBusschere. The 6'11'' Bellamy was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993. He died on Nov. 2, at the age of 74.
Meminger first made a name for himself at Rice High School in New York City. In 1970, he led Al McGuire's Marquette team to an NIT championship.
The Knicks selected "The Dream" with the 16th pick in the 1971 draft, and the 6'0'' guard spent his first four seasons in New York. He was the consummate teammate and an integral part of the Knicks' 1973 championship team. He returned to the Knicks for the 1976-77 season, which was his last, after two years with the Atlanta Hawks.
Meminger had brief coaching stints in the CBA, USBL and at Manhattanville College. He died on August 23, at the age of 65.