Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Opposing View: 12/12 at New York

All season long, Sonics Beat will be consulting an expert on the opposing team as part our gameday preview. Today, we get another NBA blog veteran in Mike Kurylo of And while we're talking KnickerBlogger, don't forget to check out their stats page daily for the latest advanced metrics.

Has the off-court drama surrounding the Knicks affected the team on the court?
No. A lot of teams/players have gone through trials as bad or worse (Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis) with little to no effect.

The main thing to take from the "drama" is that it's a window into the franchise. Often the inner workings of a team are hidden from public view, and revealed only to the workers and a few privileged reporters. With this airing of dirty laundry we get to see a bit of what goes on behind the curtains at MSG, and it's not pretty. Organizations are run from the top down, and an owner doesn't need to be a basketball guru to be successful. You only need to look at how Mark Cuban turned around a bad Dallas franchise to witness how true this is.

What has Seattle native Nate Robinson done this season?
Not much, and it's a shame. For some reason Robinson has earned his way in the coach's doghouse. It's unofficial of course, as just about everything that surrounds MSG these days. Thomas seemed high on Robinson prior to the start of the season. Nate won MVP of the summer league, and Isiah said he was the hardest working player in practice. So it was reasonable to believe that Nate would exceed the 21 mpg he received his first two seasons.

However, once the season started, Nate's court time was inconsistent. He had a three-minute game, surrounded by two 20+-minute ones. After the humiliating loss in Boston, Robinson inexplicably racked up two DNPs. Since then he's only surpassed double digit minutes once. It seems that Robinson has joined the rest of the Knicks youth wasting on the end bench.

Can Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph thrive together, or are their skillsets too similar?
I can't imagine how because they are both horrible defenders. Although they don't exactly complement each other, they can coexist on offense. Randolph can extend his game outward, and it's hard for teams to lock down just one with their best defender. It's not an ideal situation since neither is a good passer, but it's workable. But on the other end of the court it's a disaster. Curry can't defend any center that can hit a jump shot from more than 15 feet, while Randolph has blocked two shots in 17 games. A team could live with one bad defender in the frontcourt, but not with two.

The pair have so many weaknesses that it's easy for other teams to score. This weekend Reggie Evans and Samuel Dalembert schooled the pair. Ideally you would want to limit how many minutes they are on the court at the same time, and flank them with good defenders at other positions. Maybe if you zone it up you can mask their defensive deficiencies. But thrive is not a term to describe the two.

You argued recently against the notion that the Knicks are inconsistent, but looking at some solid wins and being blown out by 45 one night before winning the next, is it fair to say you don't know what to expect from them on a given night?
That's true of any bad team. Minnesota beat Phoenix last week, so you could say the same about them. The Knicks are no different - they're a bad team and they're more likely to start the fourth quarter down by 15 than be competitive most nights. But a blind squirrel. ...

What don't we know but should about the Knicks?
I bet there is a decent team on that roster, but it's unlikely that we'll see it without a coaching change. The Knicks have a lot of young talent wasting away at the end of the bench: Robinson, Wilson Chandler, Randolph Morris and Mardy Collins. And that's not including the under utilization of David Lee and Renaldo Balkman. But don't worry - you probably won't see those guys. Be ready for a lot of Curry, Randolph, Quentin Richardson, Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford.

For the keen observer of the game watch for:
* How often Eddy Curry is double teamed on the blocks and shoots instead of looking for the open man.
* How often Zach Randolph gets beaten in transition.
* How good David Lee is at the small things.
* How Renaldo Balkman is all over the court (especially grabbing a rebound and starting the break).
* How much Nate Robinson has matured since his college days (if he plays...)