Knicks fans are already panicking, and we’ve barely started the 2011-2012 season. The New York Knicks have problems, and high expectations and low performances are a rough combination in the world of professional sports. Plus, expectations are a particularly tricky thing in New York City – just ask Rex Ryan and the Jets.
As I write this post, the Knicks haven begun the season by greatly underachieving. I live in central New Jersey, so the fan base is split here. And by split, I mean 51% are New York Knicks fans, 49% don’t care about basketball, and I’m one of eleven New Jersey Nets fans. While a Nets fan is in no position to talk, at least we knew what we had this year – which is to say, nothing. But we’ll cover that next week. The Knicks on the other hand were expected to compete for the Eastern Conference title, and if you ask many Knicks fans, possibly win it. They just forgot about one thing: defense.
The Knicks lack of defense comes as no surprise, but it isn’t just the fact that they’re giving up almost 100 PPG and rank nearly last in rebounding – they have no guards either. Mike D’Antoni teams have never really played much D, but in Phoenix, Steve Nash was able to control the tempo of the game. Nash was not only a great assist guy, but he also became a fantastic open floor shooter, an all-time great free throw shooter, and made a lot of money for a lot of average basketball players (just ask Boris Diaw). The Knicks don’t have that floor general– they have a washed-up Baron Davis, an even more washed-up Mike Bibby, and a couple of young guys in Toney Douglas (who can’t even spell our name right) and someone named Iman Shumpert (no clue). These guys are averaging 13.7 and 14.5 PPG respectively. Pretty good right? Not if you look at their FG%’s of .359 and .391 of the same order. That’s pretty bad actually.
But it’s certainly not all shooting woes either. Douglas, the starting PG averages just 4.7 assists per game – which is good for 29th in the league. That puts him just ahead of Mo Williams, who sits BEHIND Chris Paul on the Clippers. As a result, the Knicks as a team rank 25th. That doesn’t work when your only way to win is to blow the other guy out. A total lack of ball movement is a serious problem when the entire offensive philosophy is based on it. So to recap: The Knicks will not defend you, they will not rebound if you miss, and they don’t pass it well enough anyway when you do.
If and when Baron Davis returns from his being-fat hiatus, things could potentially get a little better – but there is absolutely no reason to count on that guy anymore. The best thing he’s contributed lately is the hilarious typo that led to his herniated “disc” being reported as a herniated…well you get it. Ironically, what Knicks fans were counting on, getting the aforementioned Chris Paul, would have been exactly what they needed. Se la vie.
It’s not all bad for the Knickerbockers though. They’ve still got a few things going for them:
1.) They’ve got a lot of talent – Carmelo Anthony may challenge for the scoring title (though he better not beat out Kevin Durant per my column last week!), Amare Stoudemire is very good, and their young players have potential. Their big offseason move, adding Tyson Chandler, has yet to help — especially when sharing the floor with Stoudemire. That one is still to early to call and may be figured out with time.
2.) The Knicks play in a pretty weak and winnable Atlantic Division. Philadelphia looks good in the early going, but I expect that will level out a bit due to a combination of my basketball analysis and because I hate Philly sports. You can always overlook Toronto and New Jersey (sigh), and Boston is getting old and fighting each other. I still think Boston wins this division, but the Knicks should be closer to taking over at this point. I expect New York to make the ridiculous NBA playoff format, but won’t win a series.
3.) Finally, Knicks fans still have Walt “Clyde” Frazier doing their broadcasts on MSG. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing (actually, I’m saying it’s a bad thing), that’s up for interpretation. The acting in his Just-For-Men commercials make Keith Hernandez look like Daniel Day-Lewis. Just unbearable. We get it – you were good at basketball and you like words to rhyme.
So that’s where you stand Knicks fans. Oh and at least you don’t have Isiah Thomas messing stuff up anymore (presumably), so there’s that.