With the Timberwolves set to square off against the visiting New York Knickerbockers tonight, I exchanged email questions with Knickerblogger‘s Robert Silverman so we could each learn a little more about one another. My responses to his questions are up on Knickerblogger right here, and his to mine are below.
For as long as I’ve been following them (which dates back to the late ’90s), the Knicks have always seemed to have a “we don’t rebuild, we reload” attitude that has resulted in a lot of hand-waving but not a lot beyond first round playoff exits. Is there some sense that with Phil Jackson the team is actually building something now instead of just paying it lip service, even if the early returns are not great?
So far, without a doubt. For the most part, fans are aware that this is going to be a transitional year, filled with nights where the team looks downright terrible. In a related story, as I’m writing this, the Milwaukee Bucks closed the second quarter on a 22-6 run, and the Knicks couldn’t stop anyone from getting to the rim, were absolutely walloped on the glass and got shredded from downtown by some dude from Jonathan Fire*Eater. Wait, that was Ilyasova? Lawdy. Anyhoo, yes, the pains from growing will be legion, but having faith that there’s an actual plan in place as is infinitely preferable to the world’s saddest free agency carousel, with the likes of Allan Houston, McDyess, Starbury, Steve Francis, Eddy Curry and STAT posited as franchise “saviors,” but instead just clogging the cap, glumly slumped on too-small plastic horses.
Personally, I’ve found it pretty durned liberating. I used to rage n’ rage against the dying of the light after a terrible Knicks drubbing. Rooting for a team that’s pretty much free of expectations means you can enjoy, say, Iman Shumpert’s emergence in and of itself. They could very easily lose to the Wolves (SEGABABA on the road, dontcha know) and if I really need a balm, why here’s a nice mock draft. Lookit all the bigs!
The Knicks are last in free throw attempts, while the Wolves are fifth. In some ways, the Wolves’ reliance on free throws for offense was a problem last season, but is the complete lack of them its own kind of problem?
Very much so. There’s been a slew of debate ’round these parts (and other parts) over whether the triangle is an offensive system that can still thrive in the modern game. In the first 12 tilts, the Knicks have had a serious uptick in the number of midrange heaves, and aren’t shooting threes nearly as often as they did under Woodson/D’Antoni. Shocker, I know, but that’s not an efficient offense. If they were getting to the line at a Harden-ian rate, you wouldn’t fret as much, but 15 foot jumpers, open or not, just don’t lead to FT’s. Of course, it’s partly about the roster as well–Melo’s freebies have dropped as he’s aged, J.R. Smith can penetrate, but seems far more content with that off-the-bounce, fadeaway heave of his, and… that’s it.
Now that [Carmelo]’s back, I think there is a third way—to appreciate him as a player in and of himself. Knicker-backers like me can like watching Iman Shumpert try to regain his mojo. They can root for Cole Aldrich and his goofy Greg Ostertag 2.0 game to make it’s way into the rotation. I can revel in Phil Jackson and Clyde Frazier swimming in the deep end of nostalgia for of the great Knicks teams of the 70s, and an Antetokoumpo of our own, and even J.R. Smith’s red clown’s nose and so on and so on.
Cheer for the now, for a Knicks that are the Knicks without or outside of New York and all the dumb choices and hatefully binary options of total success or abject failure that it inevitably forces its inhabitants to make as a kind of twisted survival mechanism.
And gain pleasure in Melo, and all the beauty and brutish and brutal poetry of his game, operating out of the pinch post, facing down a defender, with (hopefully) triangle-patterned cutters whirling around him, making the net dance.