Elster's World

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Knicks Fix

With the defeat of the Orlando Magic 100-94 last night at the Garden, a few interesting things happened to the Knicks last night. They eclipsed last season’s win total by one (24 to 23) and they are now over .500 at home for the first time all season (which started with an absolutely ludicrous 1-7 home record). Overall, they are 24-30, still on the outside looking in for the playoffs.

And hey, this is the Knicks we are talking about. Surely they will follow up this big win by putting up a stinker against Milwaukee or Philly in the next couple of games. That’s been their problem all season; the inability to go on winning streaks. They will show up after a huge win against one of the league’s better teams by throwing up a stink bomb against the Celtics the following night.

In a pre-game radio interview on ESPN last night, coach Isaiah Thomas told Brandon Tierney that the Knicks needed to get some “breaks” in order to propel them to the playoffs. He then said that finishing that gut crunching game to Utah (last week) with a victory would have been the “break” that propelled them to the playoffs.

But that sounded like silly Thomas-speak to me. The Knicks don’t need breaks. They need to learn how to finish close games and they need to stop coming out at the starting gun so lackluster that they are down 14-6 before the first quarter is even halfway done.

And it may be too late to make a serious run for the playoffs. The beginning of the season was so abysmally bad, the team seems to have too much ground to make up. However, there is still the future to consider. So with that in mind, here’s Elster’s points to Quick Fix the Knicks:

- Admit your mistakes and pare down the rotation:

Yes Isaiah, you will never live down giving Jerome James and Jared Jeffries over thirty million dollars each with your mid-level exceptions, so stop trying. And stop trying to jam them into the lineup to justify the fact that you signed them in the first place. Why on earth is Jerome James in the starting lineup? He’s a huge, skill-less fat ass with no discernable talents on the basketball court. Sure, he’s known as a great locker room guy – we can add him to the Knicks all locker room, no talent All Stars along with the aforementioned Jeffries and All Star team mainstay Malik Rose. It is unclear as to whether the immortal Kelvin Cato is a charter member as well.

But I digress. Wouldn’t those 5 minutes a game wasted on Jmaes better be served by giving them to Channing Frye – a power forward who can play away from the basket (perfect for Eddy Curry), who can rebound a little bit (5.5 a game in under 26 minutes) and who needs as much time on the floor as possible to correct the minor steps back he has taken this season? And while on the subject, sit Jeffries down and stop stealng minutes from 6th man of the year David Lee.

At this point, the rotation should be as follows – Marbury at point, the sublime Jamaal Crawford at the 2, Q-Rich at three, Frye at PF and Eddy Curry and his cornrows in the middle. David Lee is the first guy off the bench, Steve Francis backs up Marbury and Q (having a VERY underrated season this year) slides to the two to back up Crawford when Lee comes in. Jeffries (he may be grossly overpaid but he’s still the best you have here) comes in to give the big guys a blow (you know what I mean) and on rare occasions, when you need a quick energy boost, you can bring in Ronaldo Balkman and Nate Robinson for an injection. That’s it. No more James, no more Rose and certainly no Kelvin Cato in any circumstances other than the other 13 players on the team stuck on a team bus somewhere.

- Take a lead pipe to Marbury’s knees every 2-3 days:

Stephon Marbury’s tendonitis is a gift from the basketball gods. He hasn’t been able to take too many of his patented wild forays in the paint (due to his limited quickness) and has been forced to, gasp, actually act like a point guard. So instead of wild, out of control me first Marbury, the hurt Marbury has been distributing the ball and making some clutch shots instead. His scoring and assists are down this year, but he just kind of looks better out there.

- Get Patrick Ewing in as your thirty-ninth assistant coach and have him teach Frye and Curry how to block shots:

The Knicks are simply an awful shot blocking team. As a team they average 3.3 blocks a game and no one on the team blocks even a shot a game (Frye leads the team at .75 a game). It’s very difficult to take a defense seriously when you don’t have any shot blockers clogging the lane and altering opponent’s shots. It allows for guys like Jameer Nelson to shoot to the hoop unchallenged and quite frankly that just shouldn’t be happening.

- Get David Lee more minutes:

I don’t care how Thomas makes this happen, but he needs to make it happen. Lee is an absolute force out there. Last night, I had to turn the game off late in the third with the Knicks up 4. Lee, at that point had 7 point and 7 rebounds. He finished the game with 14 points and an astounding 16 rebounds. The guy simply has a nose for the ball. That’s not a skill that can be learned. He’s averaging 11 points and almost 11 rebounds (including 3.5 offensive rebounds) a game in just 31 minutes. And, sadly, his MVP win at the rookie/sophomore game All Star weekend has been the highlight of the season so far.

Which isn’t to say he’s perfect. His defense, especially against quicker guys, is sub-par and he really needs to improve the jumper. But he’s a hard worker, the fan favorite and the face of the harder working, more fan friendly KNicks.

- It’s never too early to look to the future:

Thomas says there will not be any trade deadline deals tomorrow and I believe him. I think he’s been mandated to stay with the team he has (probably a good idea by the Dolans’ considering some of the insane moves at the deadline Thomas has made in the off season. But here’s where the Knicks need to improve to take it to the next level (i.e., finish in the top 8 in a putrid Eastern Conference.

For starters they need to get rid of Marbury and Francis and get a real point guard in to run this team. Maybe an Andre Miller type (can he be had this summer from Philly?) or maybe in the draft. Then Thomas needs to get a shot blocker in there (or Curry and Frye need to really step up that part of their games). Oh, and another perimeter shooter wouldn’t hurt either.

So there you have it. If Thomas and the Knicks follow these easy steps, the playoffs, and a better future, will be in reach soon.

Now I’m off to hide under the bed while the Knicks lose to Milwaukee tonight.

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