Moke Hamilton, NBA Analyst
Intense defense, accurate shooting and high-energy… those were the ever-present hallmarks in the first half of Wednesday night’s 83-78 victory over the Chicago Bulls. But as the game wore on, the ball movement ceased, the offense sputtered and the Knicks saw the Chicago Bulls erase a 23-point deficit before Amar’e Stoudemire saved the day with just over two minutes remaining in a tied-game.
With Raymond Felton nursing a hamstring injury and Iman Shumpert exiting the game with what the Knicks are calling a “bruised knee,” Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih may be counted on to play heavy minutes.
That may not be a good thing.
All too often and particularly down the stretch of tight games, the Knicks offense sputters to a screeching halt. Ball movement and player movement slows significantly and Carmelo Anthony gets much of the blame. But down the stretch against the Bulls, as Tom Thibodeau’s team zealously erased a seemingly insurmountable lead, Prigioni—certainly exhausted en route to playing 21 of the game’s 24 second-half minutes—had noticeable trouble getting the ball across the half-line against the Bulls’ younger defenders.
As a result, many of the Knicks’ final possessions resulted in Prigioni not getting rid of the ball until there were sometimes as little as seven seconds remaining on the shot clock. When a play-initiating pass occurs after 14-16 seconds have elapsed off of the shot clock, a play is likely to fail, especially if Anthony is being guarded by plus-defenders.
He often gets criticized for not passing enough, and sometimes, he does play selfishly. But down the stretch against the Bulls, Anthony did not make many passes because he simply did not have time.
In point guard fashion, with that problem, Tour’e Murry can assist.
It is no coincidence that Anthony shot just 1-for-7 in the game’s final quarter. And you know what else? It absolutely was not his fault. As solid as Prigioni is for the Knicks, he will continue to struggle against opposing point guards who are plus-defenders and are quick enough and disciplined enough to keep him in front. If pressed the length of the floor, the Knicks offense will struggle and that is something that any NBA coach will recognize and exploit.
The proceeding question becomes simple: Why hasn’t Murry been given a reasonable shot?
At 6-15, what is there to lose?
As the only spry point guard on the roster—one who has an ability to break down defenders and horizontally penetrate the paint—he has two skills that have been quite lacking in the Knicks’ offensive repertoire.
The following question becomes as simple: Does Murry have what it takes to be a meaningful member of coach Mike Woodson’s rotation?
The answer to that one depends on who you ask, but Mike James of the Chicago Bulls—an NBA champion and veteran point guard who has seen his fair share of successes—believes that Murry not only deserves a shot, but may be what the Knicks have been missing.
And James should know, since Murry is, as James called him, his protege.
Before the Bulls took on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, James told SNY.tv that one of the answers to turning the season around is sitting right on the bench. He is 6’5″ and weighs in at a solid 195.
He wears number 23 but has struggled to find consistent minutes, even as the 6-15 Knicks have begun the season with disastrous results
“How do you know what you have if you don’t use it?” James asked rhetorically before Wednesday night’s tip-off.
“Tour’e is a young talent and he’s probably going to be a really good player in this league someday. If New York was to give him the opportunity, I believe that he would earn more minutes but it’s hard to earn more minutes when you don’t really get a chance,” James said.
“With how the game has changed, with speed and quickness and being an uptempo game, he should be a rotation guard,” James said. “He can play as well as any point guard in the NBA and he can probably defend any point as good in the NBA.”
James, a 13-year NBA veteran, knows a thing or two about what it takes to not only make it into the NBA, but to excel.
Ever the hard worker, James epitomizes the hard-working spirit that New York basketball is all about, and it is fitting considering his local roots. Hailing from Amityville, New York, James, along with Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs, is one of the New York area’s more successful contemporary basketball talents.
Even at 38 years old, James is in the best shape of his career and can easily provide an interested NBA team with rotation minutes at this very moment. Last season, as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, James proved that he still had the drive, work ethic and talent to excel in today’s NBA and since speaking with him last season, he has only gotten more focused.
Recovering from a minor knee tweak, James has not played since Dec. 2, but is working his way back into Thibodeau’s rotation.
Since his NBA career began back in 2001, James has made 13 different stops, but players like him can play for as long as they want. Why? Because they know the game and they know what it takes to make it in this league. So if James sees something in Murry, that may mean something.
Back in 2005, James was traded to the Houston Rockets and fell in love with the city. He makes his home there and eventually met an impressive prospect named Tour’e some years ago.
“He’s from Houston and I really took an interest and a liking to him,” James told SNY.tv. “I just really saw something in the future for him and just really wanted to help him, so I just made sure that I tried to mentally prepare him for this season, and also physically. In the process, I beat on him everyday,” he said with a laugh.
“I really think he has a bright future ahead of him but I think that he would really be a great energy for New York right now,” he said. “Not just in garbage minutes, but when it counts. Things aren’t working for the Knicks right now, so maybe if there’s a change, you never know what could happen. You never know, maybe that change can come from him.”
James, a member of the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons, knows a thing or two about impressive point guards. Though his best days are behind him, James became a household name across the NBA during the 2005-06 season when he averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds for the rebuilding Toronto Raptors.
Since then, his career has made multiple stops, but he is known across front offices as the quintessential professional and solid guard. He has seen his fair share of opposing guards over the years and sees distinct similarities between Murry and one in particular.
“He reminds me a little of George Hill,” James said. “He’s composed, he has athleticism, but he can also defend. I think that’s one of his great attributes, his length, especially at the point guard position, being 6’5″ and being so athletic. He can play off the ball, also. I think, of course, there’s always growing pains and point guard is the hardest position in the game, but the more reps. he gets, the more time he gets, the more comfortable he’ll get with the ball in his hands.”
With Raymond Felton injuring his hamstring in the Knicks’ Dec. 10 loss at the Cleveland Cavaliers, the point guard position—one which has been marred by inconsistency thus far this season—will be a big question, especially if Felton’s absence is extended.
It is a question, but according to James, the Knicks may have the answer sitting right on the bench.
Moke Hamilton is the NBA Analyst for SNY.tv and, along with Lead Writer Harris Decker, hosts the Knicks Blog Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton