Thoughts on the Game and My Time With Donnie Walsh

Well, in case you missed it, the Knicks defeated the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics on their home floor tonight by the score of 104-97.  For complete game stats, here is the box score.

The highlight of the game for me was one that happened off the court.  I went to the game with one of my roommates, Conor.  After the Knicks returned to the court during half time, Conor spotted Donnie Walsh walking out of the tunnel and returning to their seats.  Eying Donnie Walsh all the way back to his seat, I decided that I had to go talk to him.  After dodging TD Banknorth Garden security guards, I reached Donnie Walsh and had a nice 3 minute chat with him.  There just so happened to be an empty seat next to him, so I guess I got lucky.  During our conversation, I told Walsh that I was impressed with his patience this off-season and I applauded him for not making any rash moves (such as trading Zach Randolph for a 2nd round pick).  After I told him that I liked the team but thought we were a bit small, Walsh went on to talk about how he is waiting for Gallo and Jeffries to get back to action.  He noted their length and their athleticism as their key assets.  Here at TKB, we have been talking about the Knicks’ need for a backup big man, and Walsh seemed to recognize that.  Putting basketball talk aside, I talked with him about where he grew up, as he grew up in my dad’s neighborhood and was good friends with my uncle during their old Riverdale days.  The conversation was cut short when my seat’s rightful owner came back.  You all might know him.  His name is James Dolan.

That conversation pretty much made my night.  After all, Walsh is the man in charge of the team that we all talk about on a daily basis.  He makes the moves and he will be the one to steer this team in the right direction.

As for the game, there were plenty of positives for the Knicks.  If anyone doubted that this team would play differently under Coach D’Antoni, I can tell you to officially put those doubts to rest.  This team looks completely different on the floor.  Offensively, the Knicks no longer run what I liked to call a “black hole offense.”  In recent years, the Knicks’ offense has been based on feeding Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph (last year at least) on the blocks.  Once the ball went in, it never came out.  This year, things will be different.  The Knicks will score the majority of their points on jumpers, driving and dishing, finding cutters for lay-ups, put backs, and on fast breaks.  The ball gets moved around well in this new offense.  Zach Randolph no longer gets the ball and hoists up terrible shots.  He looks to dish the ball around if he doesn’t have a shot.  When Curry was in tonight, the Knicks rarely looked to get him the ball.  This is a perimeter based offense meant for good shooters, passers, and cutters; not for cloggers on the blocks. 

Q-Rich has to find his 3 point shot to be effective for this team this year.  I personally think that Chandler might take his spot as the year progresses, especially if Walsh finds a backup big man.  The problem is that Chandler is the first big man off the bench for the Knicks.  For most of the time he spent on the floor, his defensive assignment was Kevin Garnett, who he did a good job keeping in check. 

Mardy Collins is moving closer and closer towards locking up a rotation spot for D’Antoni.  The bottom line is that he does not need to shoot to be effective and he can control the tempo of a game.  Also, he has good size for a point guard and appears able to defend bigger guards and perhaps some small forwards.  Nate Robinson is instant offense off the bench and is one of the only players on this team that can consistently hit open 3 pointers.  Look for him to have some big numbers this season. 

The Knicks looked very good tonight.  It was only one pre-season game, but you can still sense the change on this team.  It is not every man for himself anymore.  Coach D’Antoni clearly has this team playing with a common goal and common purpose.  If the players continue to buy into this, the Knicks will be an interesting team to watch this year.  The Knicks can use another shooter and can use a backup big man, but this team appears to heading in the right direction.