Amare on facing Griffin: 'It's going to be fun'

Via ESPN New York

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It’s a good thing Amare Stoudemire has gotten two games under his belt (with two more to go), so he’s able to build some rhythm heading into the playoffs.

But there’s another reason why: to get some defensive preparation in before facing the most electric and explosive dunker in the NBA, Blake Griffin, who arrives at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Stoudemire is entering dangerous territory tonight with the potential for posterization, but he’s excited about the matchup.

“It’s going to be fun,” STAT said. “Blake is a friend of mine. He was at my basketball camp when he was in college, so it’s good to see him doing great in the NBA.”

I am hoping that STAT steps up his defense heading into the playoffs.  This matchup concerns me as Amar’e has a tendency to overplay and jump at his man as he gets caught leaning the wrong way which allows an offensive player to easily blow by him.

All Amar’e has to do is stay in front of him, and if he makes a jumper so be it.  Playing defense is about playing the percentages.

When you are going against the best athletes in the world, all that offensive player needs is the defender leaning in the wrong direction.  Amar’e needs to stay balanced and in front of his man.  It is this overplaying and getting right up on his man that leads to players blowing right by him.

If Amar’e plays right up on Griffin, that will play right into his hands as Griffin loves to spin off his defender on contact.

Amar’e’s defense is a major concern heading into the playoffs as it leaves Tyson Chandler in the position of having to come over and help (which he has done great all year) and potentially get him into early foul trouble.

It also takes the Knicks best rebounder out of position for rebounding as he has to come over and help.  This often leads to offensive rebounds which the Knicks have had issues with this season.

Something to keep an eye on.

Chandler: Let's Rest and Get Healthy

Via ESPN New York:

Friday’s game was the Knicks’ 10th in the last 18 days. Chandler, who only had four points and eight rebounds against Cleveland’s beleaguered frontcourt, said some players may be running out of gas.

“Last week, we had those four games where it was back-to-back, day off, back-to-back. It’s been a little tough that way,” Chandler said. “I think it’s more important to rest, get healthy. At this point in the season, with these games rolling over and over, it’s important that we feel right for the playoffs.”

Chandler went so far as to suggest that he may approach Woodson about getting some extra rest before the playoffs. The Knicks won’t practice on Saturday in anticipation of their 1 p.m. tip-off at Atlanta on Sunday.

I think all Knick fans are miffed at the effort the Knicks gave last night.  I think though while its unacceptable with the effort level as Coach Woodson has said, it is important to put things in perspective.

When Mike Woodson took over a team that was 18-24, things were not looking good.  Only seven games in, the Knicks lost 2 of their most important players in Amar’e and Jeremy Lin not to mention Jared Jefferies was out during that time as well.

For the past 5 weeks, for all intents and purposes the Knicks have been playing must win games every single night.  The Knicks had to go 15-5 over the last 5 weeks in order to get into the playoffs in the last week of the season.  And the Knicks have been playing great basketball just to get in.  They have had such a big hole to dig out of and they have.

I am willing to give them a pass for last night’s game as it was one game.  If they don’t show up tomorrow then that will be more alarming.

To Tyson’s point, he does need some rest as he has been carrying a huge burden with the Knicks not really having anyone to back him up.  We need Tyson as healthy as possible for the playoffs.

The Knicks need Amar’e to show he won’t be a total liability on defense in the next 3 games  as well as show he can hit the mid range shot.

The ball needs to flow through Melo and even if he isn’t getting shots he must touch the ball so that he can make plays.

While Knick players may get some rest for the next few games, one thing that must be demanded is that while they are on the court they give full effort.  If they aren’t going to give full effort, they should sit next to Mike Woodson.

 

 

Amar'e:Had Bulging Disk For a Year

Via NY Post

CLEVELAND — Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, in his most extensive interview in weeks at Friday morning’s shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena, confirmed his bulging disk has been around since he suffered a back injury in the playoff series against the Celtics last April.

Stoudemire said the bulging disk was discovered then but was not considered a big issue. Nevertheless, it became more noticeable after an MRI exam in late summer, and the setback in his rehab forced him to enter training camp not in proper condition.

“It wasn’t as herniated [last April],’’ Stoudemire said. “I don’t think they saw it until later on that summer. That’s why I came to training camp not really ready to go. It took a while to get to here I was 100 percent and in top shape and had explosiveness back.’’

Marc Berman goes on to say:

This issue won’t go away, and eventually he will need surgery. Stoudemire blames the lockout on not getting proper rehab for his disk when he was unable to use the Knicks medical staff that treated him last April. From July 1 on, he was on his own. But Stoudemire said the epidural took the pain away in two days.

Well this explains a lot.  All season everyone has been wondering what was wrong with Amar’e, and everyone suspected the back was more of an issue than he was letting on.

Whenever asked about it before, Amar’e would respond with “I feel great” or “I feel better than ever” even though it wasn’t showing on the court.

Obviously, with 3 years and $65 million remaining on his contract this is a concern.  Back injuries have slowly ruined many NBA players careers, and with Amar’e it is that much more important as his explosiveness to the rim is what made him a superstar.

As Tommy has talked about before, Amar’e is going to have to hit that mid-range jumper to have success with Carmelo Anthony.  Melo needs to be getting into the low post while Amar’e is in the high post shooting the face up jumper.  If Amar’e can’t hit that jumper, spacing will be difficult.

The Knicks will need to address depth at the 4-5 positions this offseason as it is difficult to predict when a bad back will flare up during the season.  Also if Amar’e does indeed need offseason back surgery, there is no guarantee he would be ready to start the season.

Recap: Cavs 98 Knicks 90

BOX SCORE

What a terrible effort by the Knicks tonight. On a night where their other superstar Amar’e Stoudemire came back from injury, their simply was no effort, no sense of urgency, and no energy from the Knicks tonight.

The Knicks got manhandled on the boards 52-32 and got outhustled to loose balls. The Cavs waltzed down the lane untouched for easy baskets too many times in this game.

The Knick offense was simply out of sync all night until the fourth quarter when they scored 34 points which matched their output of the entire first half.

Mike Bibby is the only Knick I would say played above average as he scored 12 points on 4-5 from three point range to go along with 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block.

Toney Douglas did show something in the fourth quarter as they cut into the lead with 6 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists.  He is still struggling from the outside as he was 0-3 from 3.  It’s never a good sign when Toney Douglas is the leading rebounder on the team.

The New York papers are going to have a field day tomorrow talking about how Amar’e and Melo can’t coexist. Amar’e looked rusty early on, but got better as the game went on, at least offensively. Defensively, he got beat to the ball several times on the boards as he only had 3 rebounds in 27 minutes. He did have 4 blocks on the night. He finished with 15 points on the night shooting 5-11 from the field. I would say he performed as well as could be expected in his first game back.

Melo was simply not getting the ball enough on offense. He only had 13 shot attempts in 28 minutes and only had 1 free throw attempt on the night. Both Melo and Tyson Chandler sat the fourth quarter.

The Knicks were shooting jumpshot after jumpshot all night and weren’t getting anything going to the basket. The Knicks only were 8-15 from the line on the night and 8 of those attempt were Amar’e.

New York is going to have to find a way to get their offense going to the basket as they are not going to survive solely on jumpshots. Long rebounds will kill them against a team like Miami in the playoffs.

This was a total team loss. There are games like this that you just have to throw out and forget about, but I would have thought they would have been much more pumped up to have Amar’e back right before the playoffs.

With the loss, the chance of the Knicks to get the sixth seed is that much more remote as all Orlando has to do is beat Charlotte (or someone before them) and they clinch it.

The Knicks travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Sunday as they try to avoid their first back to back losses under Mike Woodson.

Let’s move on.

 

Game 63: Knicks at Cavaliers

Where: Quicken Loans Arena  Cleveland, OH

When: 7:30 PM

Starting Lineups:

Cavs (20-41)

PG – Kyrie Irving

SG- Manny Harris

SF- Anthony Parker

PF-Antawn Jamison

C- Tristan Thompson

Knicks (33-29)

PG- Baron Davis

SG- Iman Shumpert

PF- Amar’e Stoudemire

SF- Carmelo Anthony

C- Tyson Chandler

 

 

Shumpert to Start at Shooting Guard, Fields to the Bench

 

Via ESPN New York

Carmelo Anthony had been starting at power forward in place of Stoudemire and will move back to small forward. Shooting guard Landry Fields, who has been struggling of late, will come off the bench while rookie guard Iman Shumpert remains in the starting lineup.

This is right move as noted in the earlier post this morning.

Knicks Sign Dan Gadzuric, Waive Bill Walker

Via NY Post

Mike Woodson announced that the Knicks will sign 6-11 journeyman center Dan Gadzuric and waive swingman Bill Walker in a move to provide depth and insurance for the playoffs.

Gadzuric, 34, an athletic big man out of UCLA, will be added in case Amar’e Stoudemire and Jared Jeffries break down in the playoffs. Prior to signing with the Knicks, Gadzuric played for the Texas Legends in the D-League and overseas in China. Gadzuric’s last NBA action came last season when he played for the Nets, appearing in 14 games. Gadzuric had played eight seasons for the Bucks after UCLA.

“It gives us another big,” Woodson said. “Just in case Jared is not able to come back from his rest. It gives us a veteran big that’s been around that could use fouls and rebound.”

Interesting move this late in the season.  The Knicks could have used some depth at the center position a couple weeks ago as was noted on this blog by Tommy Dee.

I guess this means Mike Woodson had enough of Steve Novak at the center position.  That statement alone shows the lack of depth behind Tyson Chandler as well as the lack of confidence in Josh Harrelson and Jerome Jordan, who has never really gotten any meaningful minutes this season.

This brings into question Jared Jefferies return from the knee injury as he was back for a couple games and now back out again.  There has been some talk of him needing surgery in the offseason.

Walker fell out of the rotation after the JR Smith signing and injuring his elbow.  After acquiring him from Boston in the Nate Robinson trade, he showed some promise shooting well from three and showing some very good athletic ability.  The problem was his ball handling and decision making.  He couldn’t dribble drive to the basket to really take advantage of that athletic ability.

 

Gadzuric’s Stats via Basketball-Reference.com

 

Can Amar'e and Melo Fit Together?

Via Newsday

The Knicks have been playing small with Anthony at power forward, and with a quicker lineup that includes Iman Shumpert, they have been playing strong defense. But Woodson said Stoudemire will start when he returns. If Woodson goes with his regular lineup, Shumpert will come off the bench, making the Knicks weaker defensively.

Woodson also brought up the elephant in the room when he said he’s got to find out if Anthony and Stoudemire can work together. Both need the ball to be effective and like to operate in similar places on the court.

The Knicks’ record with both of them in the lineup — 28-36, including the playoffs — says no. But with both playing, the Knicks are 6-1 under Woodson, who said he’s not concerned about Stoudemire disrupting what the Knicks have done. “I’m not looking at it in that light,” he said. “A lot of you guys look at it that way, but as a coach, he’s a pro player, man, that’s been a dominant player in this league for a long time. With the help of myself helping him, we’ll figure it out. I promise you that.”

 

With regard to the starting shooting guard spot, Iman Shumpert should be given the nod.  Shumpert has earned the spot and deserves to start.  I don’t agree with the notion that it’s better to start Fields as Shumpert gives you more energy off the bench.  The Knicks need energy out of the gate.  They also need his ball handling as Baron Davis and Mike Bibby can’t really push the ball when given the opportunity.

Fields’ shooting from the outside has been abysmal, and for all the talk of spacing with Amare back, it would be even worse having Fields in the starting lineup as he is no threat from the outside.  Playing off the bench with Steve Novak and JR Smith can cover that up somewhat, and with those two stretching the floor give Fields more room to drive and cut to the basket.

In my view, Shumpert should be rewarded for his performance.  That is, as Mike Woodson would call it, called accountability.

With regard to the overall record with Amar’e and Carmelo, I think it can be very misleading.  The Knicks simply were not committed on the defensive end.  Scoring really wasn’t an issue.  Carmelo averaged over 26 points a game last year after coming over.  The issue could be more with Tyson and Amar’e in the middle, but it’s not just Amar’e and Carmelo not playing well together.

Woodson may end up playing Amar’e more with the second unit as well as having him move over to center to give Chandler some much needed rest as Jarod Jefferies is still dealing with knee issues.

The other thing I would note while Woodson was coach with Amar’e and Carmelo the Knicks were 6-1.  Pundits like to talk about how much better Carmelo played after Amar’e went down and how much more room he had to work in which there is some truth to.

But let’s not forget that Melo was clearly hurting, he was missing a lot of jumpshots, good open looks I might add.  He was getting his shot blocked consistently and was not finishing at the rim.  Now Melo is making those same shots and everything looks like it is going in.  He has not been getting rejected hardly at all here lately.

So is that chemistry with Amar’e or is it health?

Like so many things, people want to make a simple answer when in fact there are usually multiple factors at play.

I am confident that Mike Woodson will help them figure it out as he has been consistently putting the players in the right positions to succeed.

 

It's Official. NY Knicks are in the Playoffs

 

With the Bucks’ loss to the Pacers tonight, the Knicks officially clinched a playoff spot.  While some fans think this should have been a given all this season, to say it has been a bumpy road would be a huge understatement.

With the Knicks at 18-24, it was looking very bleak for the them.  Mike Woodson takes over, the Knicks go 6-1 and then both Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire go down with injuries and things weren’t looking good again.

Even in the Milwaukee game, the Knicks were down 8 late in the game and found a way to pull it out. 

Melo has carried the team on his back and played his best basketball since coming to the Knicks.  Amar’e is hopefully back tomorrow.

The Knicks still have a shot at the 6th seed although we need a lot of help.  Orlando needs to go 1-3.

If I told you after D’Antoni quit, that we would be in playoffs with a shot at the 6th seed you would say sign me up.

What a roller coaster season.  Who knows? Something tells me there are going to be a few surprises in the playoffs this season. It’s been that kind of year.