Elster's World

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Knicks 2007/2008 Preview

Before we get to the Knicks, a quick word about the Rangers:

- Henrik Lundqvist has been otherworldly so far this season. Third in the league in goals against, fifth in save percentage and second in shutouts, plus he's started every game of the season so far for the Rangers. If the team could score, he'd probably be 13-0.

- One "positive" of the early season scoring drought is watching how well the defense is meshing together. I particularly enjoy Dan Girardi's play. When the team finally starts scoring, at it should be just a matter of time, the defense will be an added bonus.

- Finally, it's nice to see the younger generation get important minutes on a team with real championship expectations. Nigel Dawes, Girardi, Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan (before his injury) are all playing real roles for this team, something that often didn't happen in the past when the rosters were way too veteran heavy.

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I had meant to write this preview before the season started but I got sick (still am) and was unable to even sit and write anything. So forgive me for putting this out after the season had already started.

The 2007/2008 season got off to a bad start with a tough loss to the Cleveland Cavs, who rode Lebron James' 45 points to victory. The off season was even tougher. Between the crazy ramblings of Stephon Marbury, the shoulder injury to Eddy Curry and last and most damaging, the Isiah Thomas/MSG sexual harassment debacle. All in all, a mess.

(And speaking of off season messes, why trade a pick to draft Demetrious Nichols (a very good move by the way) when you didn't have a spot for him anyway, and then simply cut him when he refused to play in the D-League? Couldn't the team have done a little more home work on him and seen if he was willing to go play for a year down there? It makes no sense. A total waste of a pick.)

The Knicks come into the season with a couple of huge questions, the answers to which will determine how this season goes:

- Can Eddy Curry and newly acquired Zach Randolph, both low post players, play together?

- Can Marbury of Nate Robinson run the offense unselfishly?

- Can anyone on the team protect the rim?

- Will the team play defense?

- Can the Knicks get consistent perimeter scoring?

- Is Marbury legitimately insane?

Isiah has a lock down defender in Fred Jones (whom Thomas loves), 2 possible lock down guys in Mardy Collins and Renaldo Balkman (who won't get much time this year barring injury - well Balkman might), a failed lock down guy in Jarrod Jeffries (don't see him getting much time) and a guy who tries hard in David Lee (but who is a poor defender). Everyone else on the team is a below average defender. No one on the squad blocks shots or even pretends to. Doesn't make for a great defensive team.

Curry and Randolph can work together if they can check egos. Randolph has range on his jumper and can float out on the perimeter or the high post, allowing Curry to get his touches in the paint. Randolph can post up too, to give defenses more looks. Neither team can pass out of a double team.

I have real reservations about either Marbury or Robinson running this team unselfishly. Robinson has been under control so far in the preseason, but I fear with him it's just a matter of time until he backslides. If he can keep himself in control, he can be a quality backup point guard.

Quentin Richardson has a balky back which limits his effectiveness. Jamaal Crawford is a hot and cold shooter who lacks consistency. Marbury's game is based on quickness and he's lost a step. In other words, the perimeter game is spotty.

However, the message is not all doom and gloom. The roster is very talented, the problem has always been getting the individuals to play within a team framework. They have 2 excellent low post scorers (Curry and Randolph), a high energy rebound and hustle guy (Lee), a very talented shooter (Crawford), and a number of players who bring things to the table. If everything breaks right, this is a playoff team.

The problem is, everything won't break right. There is a cloud hanging over the organization and the cloud's name is DolanThomas. If the Knicks start slowly (they have a huge chance to make sure that doesn't happen by putting the hurt on the Timberwolves today), the weight of the sexual harassment off court stuff will kill this team. If they can start winning, well, winning is a great cure all.

My prediction, the Knicks will lose early and often, and be unable to bail themselves out. They will win in the upper 30's (37-39) games and fail to make the playoffs in a stronger Eastern Conference. I hope I eat my words in June. In fact, I'm hoping that In May or June Joe is quoting my awful prediction when the Knicks win their 50th game.