Another week of the season down, another four losses for the Knicks. Unlike past weeks, however, the Knicks managed to keep this week's matchups interesting, losing the four games by a combined thirteen points. The losses brought the team's losing streak to eight games, their longest of what's now a disastrous 4-18 start to the year. And the inevitable icing on the cake: apparently, everyone hates each other behind-the-scenes.
1. Carmelo Anthony Anthony struggled with his shooting against the Nets (twenty points on 7-22 including 1-7 from three) and Cavs (nine points on 4-19 shooting) and for most of the game against Charlotte before getting hot and scoring fifteen fourth quarter points as the Knicks fought back from an eighteen-point deficit and took a one-point lead with four seconds left (more on that later). He was solid against the Blazers as well, contributing 23 points on 9-19 shooting. It was a very up and down week: the heroics against Charlotte were balanced out by a big missed three with nine seconds left that could have tied the game against Brooklyn and being late with defensive help on Charlotte's game winning basket (see below).
It was a week that summed up Melo's season as he's wavered between what can be described as oddly passive, struggling to adjust to the organization's new philosophy and a bit of the usual hero ball. Anthony's numbers are solid enough but he's the team's marquee player so a series of long losing streaks including four straight close losses, a .182 winning percentage and a season that was over before it even started weigh are starting to weigh on his reputation.
2. Amar'e Stoudemire Stoudemire continues to play as well on offense as he has in years. He shot 60% or better from the field in every game this week while averaging 14.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. For a team that's had problems scoring this season, his play has left Coach Derek Fisher with no choice but to make him a part of the starting lineup. That's all good. What isn't good is Stoudemire's role in Kemba Walker's game winning shot against the Knicks on Friday night:
The only thing more obvious than Kemba Walker slicing through the Knicks for a game winner is Amar'e Stoudemire getting lost and being late to help at the rim. That's on Stoudemire in part, but it's not just his fault.
3. Jose Calderon Calderon's starting to put it together, shaking off some of the rust caused by the calf injury that kept him out of the lineup for the first few weeks of the season. He was fantastic against the Nets, contributing nineteen points on 7-9 shooting and nine assists, and good against the Bobcats (4-6 for nine points). He struggled in the other two games this week, one of which was the second half of a back-to-back, suggesting he may not have his legs entirely under him yet. He also got absolutely torched by Kyrie Irving:
4. Pablo Prigioni Prigioni continues to bring some calm to the Knicks. He was +42 on the week, which is incredible considering as a team the Knicks were -13. He's also become the point guard they rely on to play defense when games get tight, which isn't a good role for a 37 year old (see clip above).
5. Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway, who had a terrible start to the season, heated up this week. He rebounded from a more-of-the-same 1-7 performance against the Nets by leading the Knicks in scoring with an efficient twenty points against Cleveland and an eleven-point fourth quarter in Charlotte. As this season has turned into what can be graciously called "developmental," Derek Fisher should focus on seeing what he can get out of Hardaway, one of the team's few young players with promise.
6. JR Smith JR recovered from the flu in time to score nine points against Cleveland, contribute an in-control fourteen points, five assists and four rebounds against Charlotte and score twenty on 8-12 shooting against Portland. That's a nice week. Smith is the most talented offensive player on the Knicks other than Carmelo and played like it over the weekend. It's rumored that the Knicks are interested in trading him between now and February and will have to hope he keeps the good vibes rolling or no one will be interested in a player with his history of antics.
7. Shane Larkin Larkin's settled into a role as the team's third point guard and has proved to be capable of contributing in that role. It also means his minutes are declining, all the way down to a DNP against Portland.
8. Quincy Acy Quincy Acy made a three pointer against Charlotte which, until the Knicks' big comeback was the highlight of the game. Acy was also energetic and active against Cleveland, coming up with a season high fifteen points, six rebounds and three assists.
9. Iman Shumpert Four years in, Iman Shumpert has not grown very much. He's constantly in foul trouble and his shooting has fallen off a cliff since he started the year hot (he shot 11-32 this week). For every 5-10 there was a 2-7 and for every 4-11 there was an 0-5, as it's been all season and all career. There's a team out there - maybe the Clippers or the Thunder - with a need for what Shumpert is capable of and who can help him develop. That growth will likely bring consistency to his game. He'll be asked to do less and he'll thrive and he'll might win a championship some day. New York is not a place that can help him with that right now and with Carmelo Anthony (rather than Chris Paul or Kevin Durant) running the show in the locker room, it's unlikely that it will ever be. Shumpert's headed into restricted free agency this offseason and it's time for the Knicks to plant him firmly on the trading block.
10. Derek Fisher It isn't fair to evaluate anyone's job performance two months into the start of their career but so far Coach Fish hasn't shown any indication that he's a talented in-game coach. He's done an excellent job of keeping his composure with the media and of staying above the fray, which is half the battle in New York, but in terms of coaching the game of basketball it hasn't been pretty.
His personnel decisions have been confusing to fans and players (he's used more than ten different starting lineups in 22 contests). This week he made some significant blunders at the end of games, as he first instructed Carmelo Anthony to hurry up and get a shot off with the Knicks down three and just over ten seconds left against the Nets and then tried to reverse course and call a timeout in a way that was oddly blase given the circumstances:
That's not the end of the world, especially since the referee should have granted Fisher the timeout. What happened Friday night was far worse. Fisher played seventeen NBA seasons, of which Amar'e Stoudemire was in the NBA for twelve. His teams played against Stoudemire's over fifty times during those twelve years, including thirteen times in the playoffs. Derek Fisher should know better than anyone not named D'Antoni that when you're coming out of a timeout, up one point with four seconds to go, you need to bring in a defensive replacement for Stoudemire. Fisher forgot that on Friday night, left Stoudemire in the game and watched as he bit on a screen that never even got set and was late to help as Walker got past Prigioni and scored the game winning layup. That's on Fisher, the coach, much more than it's on Stoudemire, who is what he is at this point in his career.
If Fisher learns from it, fine. But all the poise in the world won't help him if he doesn't.
Not Ranked: Andrea Bargnani (still injured), Travis Wear (lack of playing time), Cole Aldrich (lack of playing time), Jason Smith (sucks), Cleanthony Early (injured), Samuel Dalembert (would be ranked eighth but Shumpert and Fisher deserve to be assessed).
It should not surprise anyone if the Knicks don't win again during the 2014 calendar year. They'll try and keep that from becoming the narrative when they take on the Pelicans, Spurs and Celtics on the road and Raptors at home over the next week.