Knicks-Spurs, Summer League: New York Flat, Renaldo Balkman Hurt

David CohenSenior Analyst IJuly 16, 2008

After an impressive and entertaining showing in their summer-league opener, the Knicks seemed to just be going through the motions against the Spurs.

The team as a whole was lackadaisical and most of the players were in a “let me get mine” mentality.

It didn’t work too well, as the Spurs steady diet of midrange shooting and power inside was too much for the Knicks to handle. The Spurs won 82-67, outscoring the Knicks by 19 in the second half.

This game marked the notable absence of top pick Danilo Gallinari. After rebounding from a rocky start, the “Rooster” sat out the game with a sore back. A precautionary MRI revealed nothing serious. He is questionable for Friday’s game against the Suns

Late in the game, incumbent forward Renaldo Balkman sprained his left ankle after trying to block the shot of former Creighton starter Anthony Tolliver. Balkman landed on Tolliver’s foot, and was in excruciating pain for quite a while before being taken into the locker room. He came back near the end of the game on crutches, with the ankle taped up with ice applied toward the Achilles.

The fact that Balkman doesn’t really fit D’Antoni’s system makes this injury significant for his future in New York.

The Knicks now have 16 players under contract after signing Anthony Roberson to a two-year contract for around $800,000 a year. The signing was fairly premature considering the Knicks had four more games, including today, left to go. They could’ve waited and evaluated him further.

Roberson hasn’t proven he can play point guard. In both games when he has tried to run the show, he’s struggled to get his teammates involved and his shot selection has been poor—especially today.

Roberson led the Knicks today with 12 points—on four of 13 shooting. He is now shooting 38 percent for the tournament.

The Knicks need sharpshooters, and Roberson hasn’t proven he is one. It’s unrealistic to label Roberson a “combo guard” (as the Knicks have) because of his size. A 6’2” player in the modern NBA will get eaten alive by taller, bigger shooting guards.

The depth chart in New York also makes this puzzling. With Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon both being small guards, there isn’t much room for Roberson to make the contribution the Knicks are expecting of him. They expect Roberson to be another Jannero Pargo.

This marks the second questionable move in as many days by Donnie Walsh. The first was denying a second-round pick from the Clippers for Zach Randolph.

Walsh specifically stated in his opening press conference that the goal of the Knicks was to get under the cap by 2010. This was the best opportunity to do that, as they were essentially offered a $48 million refund on their investment in Randolph.

If the Knicks accepted the deal, their payroll for 2009 would have been $33 million less then this upcoming season after the departures of Marbury and Z-Bo. They would be one good move away from being under the cap next year

Walsh declined the Clipper deal because he wanted value in return. The Clippers basically bought Marcus Camby, and now have two pure centers in their starting lineup.

Camby would be a nice fit in D’Antoni’s system as the athletic enforcer in the middle who can run the floor. It would also be welcomed by the fans, as they get back a familiar face. Camby is owed $15 million before bonuses over the next two years, and his contract expires before 2010

Nate Robinson also played today in his first summer league game. He looked rusty at times and was trying to make a highlight a little too much. He was two of 10 for eight points but did chip in four assists and four rebounds

Wilson Chandler also came up short after a terrific opening-game performance. He had 10 points off four of 11 shooting, after exploding for 26 points in game one.

The lone bright spot for the Knicks might be the play of center Paul Miller. He had 10 points and nine rebounds after recording a DNP in game one. He was five of seven from the field and displayed a nice mid-range game. 

Miller played for the Knicks summer league a year ago and has Brad Miller-type range. The Knicks currently don’t have a big man with consistent range from that distance. If Miller can build on his effort today and the Knicks create room on the roster by trade or by releasing Marbury and designated couch potato Jerome James, he might finally stick on an NBA roster

But Miller will have to show he can play some defense. He had seven fouls today and frequently looked slow laterally on the defensive end

Hopefully, Gallinari will be fit enough to play against the Suns. That game should be fast paced and free-flowing, and would be a good test of how Gallinari fits into the high octane offense D’Antoni is bringing to Madison Square Garden.

The young Knicks already face a little pressure after a poor showing. It’ll be interesting to see how players like Chandler and Robinson respond Friday afternoon.