Harris DeckerLast night, Knicks fans around the world threw their hands up in the air in unison with Tyson Chandler. With about 20 seconds left in the game, after Chandler secured a key rebound and J.R. Smith proceeded to hoist up a 3-point attempt, in a situation where you’d like to do 1 of 2 things. Either get a better look, or more ideally, get a better look AND take time off the clock. Smith did neither. The Knicks eventually lost.
To their credit, the Knicks are staying in games for the most part. 8 of the Knicks 22 losses have ended with less than a 5 point gap. It’s not like they’re getting blown out every single night. This was yet another example of that. They did 99% of what they had to do to win, failing to convert on that final 1% in the 4th.
Smith’s play felt like deja vu. Back on December 18th, Andrea Bargnani made an eerily similar mistake against the Milwaukee Bucks. After the game, Bargnani said “It was aggressive and it definitely was a mistake … It’s a good thing we won the game and stayed together.’’ Unfortunately for Smith, the Knicks wound up losing to the Rockets after Beno Udrih’s last second floater went in-and-out.
Being January, writers have discussed every possible angle for the failures of the ’13-’14 season. After all, last year, the Knicks didn’t lose their 22nd game until game 59. Last nights loss, the 22nd of the season, came in the teams 32nd game. So what’s left? It’s something that can’t be measured and can’t always be detected. It’s basketball I.Q.
It’s knowing the score at all times. It’s making split second decisions about passing vs. shooting. It’s knowing that with the shot clock turned off, holding the ball instead of shooting the ball is always the right decision. In the off-season, I was one of many that believed that this team got better from a player perspective. After all, the only real subtractions were Jason Kidd and Steve Novak while Glen Grunwald added Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Tim Hardaway Jr.
The intangible is the unmeasured basketball I.Q., a stat in which this team has dropped off this year. Kidd could be the main reason for this. Last year in that situation, you’d like to believe that Mike Woodson told the team to check the clock if they secure the rebound. Now we might be finding out the truth. Maybe, just maybe, it was Jason Kidd telling the team those things in key spots. Maybe Woodson relied too much on Kidd’s leadership and now, spends more time chewing out the young guys in timeouts and not enough time actually talking basketball.
Basketball I.Q. isn’t only apparent in late game situations. There’s a general level of intelligence needed in a basketball game and without Kidd, we’ve seen it suffer in other areas this year. Early in the season, there were games in which Smith was taking wild shots over and over, from well beyond the 3-point arc. Now, if you’re the point guard, responsible for moving the ball to the right guy, aren’t you going to make sure Smith doesn’t get the ball in those situations? It’s the little things. You can’t imagine Smith being so wild with his shots if Kidd is handling the distributing. Rest assure after a few misses, Kidd would look elsewhere. The Knicks point guards kept feeding him and Smith repaid them in kind.
We’ll never know if Smith would have hoisted up that shot if he had Kidd on the court. We’ll never know if Bargnani would or wouldn’t have done the same. What I know is that after 32 games, the ’13-’14 Knicks have a very low basketball I.Q. and it cost them last night.