Monday, January 28, 2008

Lupicas, Thomsens and Bermans: Oh My!

What the Pros are writing about the Knicks,

Beating me to the punch, Frank Isola (at the News) wrote in his official "blog" that Charles Oakley should have his number retired too if the Garden is extending that honor to Adam Graves, probably the fourth-best player on the Rangers championship squad in 1994. Obviously, I couldn't agree more about putting aside "34" and had the same thought when I heard Brian Leetch make the announcement the other night about Graves upcoming honor.

If you missed the Leetch ceremony then you should see if you can catch it re-aired on MSG. You had Brian Leetch out on the ice, be-suited and blushing his way through his own speech and, then, he tells the crowd that he has a very special announcement to make. The excitement was palpable and Leetch had the pleasure to let his teammate, who was in the house, know that he too would get his number up in the rafters.

I know that Graves was part of a championship team but Oakley was the soul (Ewing was the heart) and the conscience of a decade's worth of great Knicks basketball. And, seeing his number besmirched by Curry on a nightly basis makes me feel even more certain that it should be retired from circulation. He is as singular a Knick as there ever will be and his example (on the court) is something that players should measure themselves against every time they put on the team colors.

I'm putting together some numbers and we'll get back to this later in the week.

**

And, that's really all I've got on the newspaper front. I don't know if it's the rise to .500 ball or if it's because Dolan and his goons have literally scared them away but the beat reporters covering the team have been very quiet the past week or so.

Monday's Starting Five

(An all NBA Edition following a banner day/night in the Association. With no football on television the NBA picked up the slack. There was a slate of 10 games, two-buzzer beating winners, an average margin of victory of 4.4 points and seven contests decided by 3 points or less)

1. Lebron James. The King (and the Cavs) reigns in Los Angeles. And so does actual rain, which leaked through the roof and paused the game during the first quarter. LBJ scored 41 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter and put the clamps down on Kobe in the late going as well.
2. Hedo Turkoglu. The Istanbul native hit a deep, deep off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer to knock off the Celtics. And, yes, the C’s were without KG.
3. Andris Biedrins. The lanky Latvian cleaned 26 rebounds off the glass in Oakland last night, many of them over and around the much more substantial Eddy Curry. This was a season-high for the NBA and the latest indignity suffered by Curry on the court.
4. Kevin Martin. Not to be outdone by Hedo, the new K-Mart went almost the length of the floor before dropping in a winning midrange jumper at the buzzer. Of course, beating the woeful Sonics at the alarm isn’t a good as beating Boston.
5. Al Jefferson. Looking to become a regular in this space, the Rain Check scored 40 and grabbed 19 as the T-Wolves overtook the Nets last night.

Benched: The Nets. By snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Minny on the same weekend that Kidd's trade demands go public, Ratner's bunch are currently (meaning at this very moment) the most dysfunctional team in the NY metro area. Ouch.

They Believe, We Hope

106-104, Warriors defeat Knicks

I'm not sure how to feel about last night's loss to the Golden State Warriors. Am I just glad that the Knicks are watchable again? After all, the game was compelling to the final ticks of the clock. Or am I disappointed that they lost?

Well, I guess I'm both. I walked away from the television (and went downstairs to watch The Simpsons episode that I'd skipped to watch pre-game coverage) feeling slightly frustrated but definitely upbeat and in a good mood.

I was in a good mood because the Knicks are officially playing better. And, they have been for the last ten+ games. My dad says they've improved from awful to bad while I'd like to think that they've gone from awful to mediocre. Either way, things are getting better. And, even more confounding is that depending on the personnel on the floor this can actually be a likeable team nowadays. Nevertheless, last night's loss was painful because the game was there to be won. The Knicks had a ten point lead in the third quarter and a narrow margin in the black heading into the fourth. And, they squandered it. Stephen Jackson had a huge fourth quarter, Biedrins kept the Knicks off the offensive glass and Davis and Ellis hit the back-breaking shots that Crawford and Nate have been hitting in recent wins.

Taking the longview, this was not a bad loss, in any sense. It was a closely contested road game against a top-flight opponent on track for the playoffs. And the Knicks just came up a couple of plays short. What they needed in the final minute was one defensive stop and then one basket. That's it. They were a two possession swing from winning. They didn't get it, though.

However, right now it is more important for this team to develop some consistency when it comes to the Philadelphias and the Miamis of the world. We need to learn to beat the teams that are eminently beatable and then hope to steal a few games from the playoff caliber teams, like Golden State. We almost got one of those last night. Almost.

The Take-Away

1. Eddy Curry's deficiencies as a rebounder can cumulatively cost the Knicks over the course of a game. After two and a half seasons of watching Curry play for the Knicks this is probably isn't news to anyone. Usually he's contributed to losses by allowing an easy bucket or an offensive rebound in the waning moments rather than allowing someone to alter the game itself. Biedrins thoroughly dominated the glass, at one point grabbing consecutive offensive rebounds by reaching directly OVER a stationary Curry, and finished with an NBA season high 26 boards. His effect on the game cannot be understated. On the other hand, Curry's seventeen points overstate his effect on the game.

2. The Knicks offense should be able to run with the Warriors. With Robinson, Lee and Balkman on the floor the Knicks get up and down. Nate showed last night that he could outrun the Golden State Gazelles at will. He's fast.

3. Mardy Collins isn't done just yet. Starting because Fred Jones is sick, Collins handled himself well while on the floor, especially in the first quarter. He played hard and was rallying to the ball on defense and on the boards. When he came back into the game in the second-half he did get abused by Davis immediately. The same thing happened when these two matched up in the Garden. Nevertheless, it was good to see him get some PT and not waste it. His stat-line isn't very pretty but the Knicks were +13 while he was on the floor. Ideally, I'd like him to keep developing and take away Fred Jones' gig as the guy who plays the first few minutes before Nate takes over.