Wednesday, November 03, 2004

These (don't) go to 11

Meet the 2004-05 New York Knicks, a talented but flawed bunch.

Although New York has assembled what many consider to be the favorite to win the reconfigured Atlantic division, the Knicks proved Wednesday night why they're still a step or two short of making a serious title run.

The Knicks had the guts and the wherewithal. What they didn't have, to borrow from Spinal Tap, was "the extra push over the cliff." When the T-Wolves kicked the energy up to 11, the Knicks were stuck on 10. New York couldn't find its fifth gear -- or simply hasn't formed one yet. Until that happens, it will be tough to compete with the best teams in the NBA.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a player-by-player recap of the team's performance in the loss to Minnesota:

Stephon Marbury: Stephon was his usual self, dishing off several nice passes and finishing the game with 10 assists and 27 points. But the former Lincoln High star never got into a serious groove offensively and couldn't make tought shots down the stretch. He also missed two free throws late in the third quarter that would have given New York the lead.

Jamal Crawford: Came out firing early and showed his explosive offensive potential. Crawford made some nice plays defensively, but his shot selection was erratic and he occasionally took the Knicks out of their offense with wild lay-ups and quick jump shots. If he settles down he should be an excellent pick-up for GM Isiah Thomas.

Tim Thomas: Awful start for the Knicks' starting swingman. Thomas played just 23 minutes and went 3-13 from the field. He looked out of control and out of sync on offense and lost a lot of playing time to rookie Trevor Ariza in the second half.

Kurt Thomas: Kurt had his hands full guarding league MVP Kevin Garnett and did about as well as one could expect. His defense was solid -- although at times irrelevant when KG got hot -- and he made a couple of his long-range jump shots. Came up with 15 rebounds to help limit Minnesota's second opportunities. But was invisible offensively for most of the game and couldn't contribute down the stretch.

Nazr Mohammed: Nazr had a quiet game, playing 29 minutes and notching 5 points and 7 boards. He did not have a blocked shot and did not run the floor especially well. Did nothing to dispel the notion that the Knicks might have trouble at center this year.

Trevor Ariza: Isiah hit the jackpot with Marbury, the daily double with Crawford and may have landed a trifecta with Trevor Ariza. This raw, talented second-round draft pick saw plenty of crunch-time minutes in the second half and played reasonably well. He created problems defensively for Minnesota and gave the Knicks some needed energy. However, he needs to learn to harness his energy, or he'll end up drawing a lot of offensive fouls and taking a lot of wild shots. Overall, the future is bright for the rookie.

Michael Sweetney: Last year's first round pick contributed as well, playing 18 minutes and scoring 10 points off the bench. He also grabbed 6 hard-earned rebounds and showed a physical and atheltic maturity that should make him a fixture in New York's rotation throughout the year. Looked comfortable playing big minutes late in the fourth quarter, although he still has some learning to do.

Penny Hardaway: Penny struggled to make an impact, going 1-5 and scoring just 3 points. His calm on the court may be his best asset to the Knicks, but he's also going to have to make some clutch shots and play tough defense, too.

Jerome Williams: The Junkyard Dog looked good defensively and under the boards but couldn't help much on the offensive end. If teammates can remeber to keep the ball out of his hands, the Knicks should get their money's worth with this guy.

Vin Baker: Baker was combative in his six minutes and looked for his shots on offense. If he gets hot during games throughout the season, look for coach Lenny Wilkens to favor him over the offensively-challenged Williams. His lack of mobility appears to be his biggest liability for the run 'n' gun Knicks.

Moochie Norris: Still not sure why Moochie is a Knick. When you have to get rid of Frank Williams, I guess Norris is the next best option. Williams may be the most sorely-missed player this year, as Moochie just doesn't have the talent to keep Stephon Marbury on the bench for the rest he needs.

Shandon Anderson: Well... uh.... he gave some good high fives. I'm still not sure why the Knicks stopped using him. He would have been useful on defense over a cold Penny Hardaway tonight. But I guess if Isiah doesn't mind letting him sit on the bench collecting his pay checks, I don't mind either.