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Found 36 results

  1. Not even YOU... Mark Jackson! ~lw3
  2. Womp Womp Womp Womp Wooooooooooommmp... ~lw3
  3. ~lw3
  4. ~lw3
  5. “Coach tells us they’re sending you to Cleveland!... Not to play, though, just for a weekend vacation. All expenses paid!” Afternoon Delight! At least, that’s what the New York Knicks are hoping for with the Atlanta Hawks in town for an early Super Bowl Sunday tipoff (12:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, MSG Network in NYC) at the so-called Mecca. I’ve long been a bit presumptuous about Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, stemming from his years quietly toiling away in Phoenix and Philly, and then his latter years in Utah, rubbing his face before free throws to say hello to his kids watching from home. He seems like a swell guy! At worst, he looks like an actuarial scientist! I, for one, cannot imagine what magic words Coach Horny could ever utter that would prompt me to loft a towel over his face. Nevermind saying whatever unkind words the banished Joakim Noah laid in his direction. The Oscars are getting dished out about a month from now, and Noah has been wasting his time not earning any statuettes. C’mon, Lenny Cooke was a classic! Even Spike’s Da Sweet Blood of Jesus was underrated! Like latter-day Lenny, I would love for Oscar-winning producer Noah to come in from the future, letting Joakim know his true full-time, Hall-of-Fame professional career is right around the corner. Go ahead and retire, then make your tens of millions per year doing something way more productive than standing around and cussing out Hornacek for “only” getting five minutes against the Warriors. Fans of the Knicks would greatly appreciate Noah exiting stage left soon, so they can more fully turn their attention to another uncomfortable contract. A back-to-back pair of power outages from the perimeter (combined 0-for-12 3FGs) has ex-Hawk Tim Hardaway, Jr. entering today with the worst three-point shooting percentage (32.6 3FG%) of his five-year career. At least he’s young, though. Junior has ample time to turn it around, and try as he might today against his former team, it will take more than one afternoon to do so. With $70.95 million coming his way over this and the next three seasons, it’s not like he’ll be singing “Goodbye, Manhattan”, anytime soon. Some sports fans from his prior NBA home will be cheering, in hopes that Hardaway is the most successful product of the Michigan Wolverines’ athletic department today. Hardaway’s three-point attempt as time expired went long on Friday night, leaving him unable to salvage a 92-90 loss at Milwaukee, sealed when Enes Kanter was left Holding That L after the Greek Freak’s game-winning layup sailed over his head. While Kanter has been an offensive rebounding revelation for New York (15.7 O-Reb%, 3rd in NBA) in a featured role, his contract represents the most realistic means by which the Knicks can create some cap flexibility, if they’re not stuck picking up the tab on his $18.6 million player option this summer. As for franchise-face Kristaps Porzingis (career-high 23.0 PPG, NBA-high 2.3 BPG, 58 points in two games vs. the Hawks), his veteran extension is right around the corner. So, with the Knicks already saddled with Timmy’s deal, it’s essential for them find a way to move on from Kanter and Noah, soon. One challenge lottery-dwelling seller-teams have as the trade deadline approaches: their players know this may be their final time playing together. They want to look good in case they are on their way out the door, if in part hoping that Golden State or some top-flight title contender is somewhere marinating over acquiring them. This applies to Knicks like Courtney Lee, the Knicks’ minutes-leader whose 42.6 3FG% and former defensive reputation may seem appetizing to opposing GMs, and Willy Hernangomez, the once-exiled All-Rookie 1st Teamer who is suddenly getting playing time. The conundrum also applies to most members of the Hawks, particularly age-28-plus veterans like Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Babbitt, Miles Plumlee, Dewayne Dedmon and Kent Bazemore, as management expressed their objective to get younger in preparation for the future. All except the then-injured Dedmon appeared in the Hawks 111-107 loss at MSG on December 10. Plumlee’s point-blank bucket giving Atlanta a brief lead late in the third quarter before Doug McDermott surged the Knicks ahead for good. Dennis Schröder was benched for the final eight minutes of that game, in favor of Isaiah Taylor. But with Belinelli, Ilyasova, and Bazemore combining for the Hawks’ final 13 points in the last two-and-a-half minutes, Atlanta closed the gap to two with seconds to go before Porzingis’ free throws iced the game. It was good to see Schröder playing well in the opening half of the Hawks’ 119-110 loss in Boston on Friday (25 points for the game, 8-for-8 FTs), along with Taurean Prince at least momentarily shaking off his cobwebs (31 points and 8 rebounds). It took a Kyrie-less Celtics team to break through with 41 third-quarter points to turn the tide, and a fuller defensive effort today could once again make this game a close-to-the-vest affair. If Noah wants to troll hard, he’d be smart to spend Super Bowl Sunday with Jimmy Dolan’s pal Charles Oakley. Closer to home, perhaps we’ll see Matt Ryan and Julio Jones prepping for a party together. Hey, Julio, catch this jumbo bag of Tostito’s… oops! Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  6. “Say, let’s run an iso for Melo… just kidding!” My evil plans were dashed last night by Courtney Lee! While the Atlanta Hawks were BazeGazing and getting ready to head for the airport, their hosts tonight, the New York Knicks (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, MSG Network in NYC), were in Chicago and just seconds away from having to play overtime with the Bulls. Lee would have none of it, fouling and sending Kris Dunn to the free throw line for what would become the Bulls’ tank-busting baskets. The loss in regulation got the Knicks (12-13, 9th in the East, but NBA-worst 1-8 on the road) back in Manhattan earlier than I’d hoped, but they’ll arrive tonight at The World’s Most (In)Famous Arena a little weary, and very surly. No one comes into today’s affair saltier than Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, who was peeved about falling behind to the now 5-20 Bulls by double digits in the opening quarter. “The game was lost way in the beginning,” Coach Horny told the New York Post and postgame media. Kristaps Porzingis concurred. “We and I can’t start the game like that and I take full responsibility for the loss.” Hornacek added, “We come out at the start not ready to play and let them get out to a big lead. There’s no excuse for that. We talked about that – to hit them hard at the beginning of the game. Instead, we were floating out there.” That wasn’t the case in ATL back on November 24, went New York swam laps around the Hawks with a 39-24 opening frame, led by Lee’s 13 first-quarter points. Yet the Knicks still lost, 116-104, despite the best efforts of former Hawk Tim Hardaway, Jr. (22 points, 10 in the fourth quarter). As demonstrated in last night’s shockingly thrilling 117-110 win and in the last victory over the Knicks, the Hawks (6-19) are satisfied allowing two or three players to go off in hopes they can throttle the rest of the opposing cast. While THJ, Kristaps Porzingis and Lee combined for 76 of New York’s 110 points in Atlanta, the other six Knicks combined to shoot 12-for-31 while shooting just one free throw. Junior has missed the past four games while rehabbing a stress-fracture injury in his tibia, and won’t be around to save the Knicks if they fall behind late again tonight. The Knicks want to again pounce on the Hawks early, and this time, they’ll make heavy use out of Enes Kanter (NBA-high 16.7 O-Reb%, point+rebound double-doubles in four of his last five games), who missed the last Hawks-Knicks matchup and is hoped to wear down Atlanta, the league’s worst defensive rebounding team (NBA-low 73.8 team D-Reb%). The Hawks’ reliance on wings like last night’s late-game heroes, Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince, to secure opponent’s missed shots leave capable bigs like Nikola Vucevic (4-for-6 3FGs yesterday) and the Porzstar (4-for-8 3FGs @ ATL on Nov. 24), to camp around the top of the key for open jumpers. However, that often tends to neutralize backcourt teammates who are on the floor to take those same shots, especially when those players (Doug McDermott, for example) aren’t rebounding or defending to supplement the big men’s offensive contributions. Jarrett Jack was the box score beneficiary of the Knicks’ stars going bombs-away in Atlanta, tying his career-high with 14 assists. He remains slow-of-foot, however, and on the back end of a back-to-back, he’ll have a hard time trying to keep Dennis Schröder (last 5 games: 22.8 PPG, 5.8 APG, 1.4 TOs/game) from compiling video-game numbers up in MSG. Schröder had 26 points on 11-for-18 shooting, plus eight dimes and two TOs against the Knicks in Atlanta last month. Lotto-rookie Frank Ntilikina had perhaps his best NBA outing last night in a reserve role (10 points, 2-for-3 3FGs, 7 assists but 4 TOs in 21 minutes), and Knicks fans truly hope Hornacek noticed that. Also a bit on the surly side today will be backup bigs Joakim Noah, the 2014 All-NBAer who was DNP-CD’d in his old stomping grounds last night, and Willy Hernangomez, who was DNP-CD’d two days after compiling double-double numbers in just 17 minutes, during an 18-point loss in Indiana. Can the Knicks’ frontcourt players establish enough of a gap, early and often, to keep the more-upbeat yet depleted Hawks at bay? Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  7. "He's more like. 'uni-CORNY', amirite?" Phew, this shopping-day traffic is a trip! I'll try to be back in time for the game, but not in time for a full-blown pregame thread, as our Atlanta Hawks try to make today a Bleak Friday for Tim Hardaway, Jr. and his New York Knicks (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, MSG Network in NYC). The Knicks are back to smelling themselves a bit, checking in at 10-7 and in the thick of the race to return to the playoffs for the first time since coach Mike Woodson ran the show back in 2013. But they haven't really had a chance to take their show on the road, having played just five away games (every other NBA team has played at least seven to this point) and going just 1-4 in those contests. Hardaway scored 34 points, and Kristaps Porzingis 32, in their sole road win to date over Cleveland nearly a month ago. Jeff Hornacek's troopers have to show up for a game against CP3 and Harden in red-hot Houston tomorrow night, so this is one win they certainly want under their cap. At MSG, New York used a 28-0 third-quarter run to blitz past the Hawks' Saturday night visitors, Toronto, in the second half of Wednesday's 108-100 win. Shaking off the early-season rust that made him a easy target of the New York tabloid media, Hardaway returns to the ATL after scoring a career-high 38 points during Wednesday's game. The Hawks (3-15) floundered offensively in the second-half on Wednesday, allowing the Clippers to escape The Highlight Factory with a 116-103 victory. To avoid a fourth-consecutive defeat in front of what is likely to be another Knicks-friendly Philips Arena crowd, coach Mike Budenholzer's bunch must hit outside shots, particularly the bench (2-for-12 3FGs vs. LAC). The starters won't get any help today from Luke Babbitt (43.3 3FG%), who also missed the Clippers game and all but seven minutes of Monday's Spurs game due to nagging back problems. With super-rook John Collins starting in Babbitt's place, Coach Bud will hope to get a little more usage and effectiveness out of Ersan Ilyasova, who has been brought along slowly while recovering from a bone bruise. The Hawks cannot simply hope the Knicks will be trippin' off the tryptophan tonight. Dennis Schröder (career-low 7.1 D-Reb%) and Atlanta's swingmen must mix it up inside to help the NBA's least-effective defensive rebounding team (74.0 D-Reb%, lowest in NBA) seal off Enes Kanter (5.3 O-Rebs per-36, 6th in NBA), Porzingis, Kyle O'Quinn and the league's most proficient offensive rebounding team (27.8 O-Reb%). If they do limit New York to one-and-done possessions, the Hawks should be capable of creating plenty of quick transition scoring opportunities against a Knicks starting backcourt guided by Hardaway and Jarrett Jack, Jack, a 34-year-old former Yellow Jacket who is holding the fort for apprenticing rookie Frank Ntilikina, is excited to be playing his most significant minutes in the NBA since getting shelved with knee injuries in January 2016. Let's Go Hawks! ~lw3
  8. ~lw3
  9. ~lw3
  10. “I’ve had my Phil.” “Orange N Blue Flock Gotta Show Up In ATL Tonight. Turn Phillips Into Madison Square Garden South.” Remember back when Atlanta native and Morehouse Man Spike Lee used to care, really care, about his New York Knicks, like he did with this 2013 tweet? He Had Ta Have It: a Knicks team that strode into the Highlight Factory looking for ten wins in a row, rolling toward the playoffs with Mike Woodson coaching and minty-fresh superstar Carmelo Anthony running the show. Roll the calendar ahead nearly four years, and you can’t get Spike to give a tweet, much less find a seat. The closest we’ve seen to Spike recently is a dude in Houston dressed as his look-alike, when the Knicks visited the Rockets a few weeks ago. Down 29 last month against the Cavs, Spike pulled a Lethal, and bailed before the game’s end. He’s a busy man these days, I’m sure. It’s not likely he’ll be hyping up his Knicks as they waltz into Philips Arena this afternoon, outwardly hoping for the Atlanta Hawks (3:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, 92.9 FM in ATL, MSG Network in NYC) give his favorite team the same breaks Atlanta endowed upon the Wizards on Friday night, the Clippers earlier in the week, and the Bulls last weekend in the fourth quarter. Maybe the Hawks will lay down and allow Melo to pump up his trade value. Or, maybe the Hawks will bother to show up, and stop New York (21-27, 2.0 games behind the 8-seed) from winning two in a row for the first time since December 22. Either way, Knicks fans, go ahead and fill up Philips, and do those insipid chants you do… or not. Either way, Spike no longer seems to care. Truth be told, Melo isn’t all that thrilled himself these days. Anthony was booed mercilessly on Wednesday as he struggled through an 8-for-26 shooting night, by a Madison Square Garden crowd that didn’t seem to know how to react when he plopped a nine-foot shot that sealed the 110-107 victory for the hometown Knicks against Charlotte. Carmelo’s reaction toward the fans at the final horn was equally bewildering. The numbness is all part of the subterfuge crafted by Phil Jackson and the Knicks’ management, to poison-pill Anthony’s tenure in hopes he’ll begrudgingly accept a trade-clause waiver. For Jackson, this appears to be the last arrow in his quiver; he knows must ride-or-die with Kristaps Porzingis going forward if he is to salvage his tenure as a Knicks executive. Thus, just about every team is getting a phone call from the Zen Master. He’d trade Anthony crosstown to the Harlem Globetrotters, without taking back Meadowlark Lemon or Curly Neal, if he could get away with it. Porzingis continues to produce (last 10 games: 14.5 PPG, 44.8 FG%) as he has worked through Achilles issues. Yet he looks lost as far as understanding his role on either end of the floor. And Jackson realizes he cannot build a team around the Unicorn until Anthony is lofting 20-30 shots per game for somebody, anybody, else. Who else might not be feeling their team right now? How about the entire Hawks’ graphics department? Some poor souls spend endless hours on pixels and 3-D rotating characters for players who shot a collective 36.1 FG% at home on a Friday night, including All-Star Paul Millsap’s 1-for-7 atrocity as Atlanta flopped 112-86. Reverting to MS Paint intros would be perfectly understandable at this point. After making social media headlines on Wednesday night, the Hawks (27-20) forgot to bring The D to the proceedings. Dwight Howard and Millsap allowing counterparts Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat (11 combined offensive rebounds) to feast on the glass. No one bothered to read the scouting report on Otto Porter, Jr. (5-for-7 3FGs), either. Uncontested shots were available all over the floor for the Wizards (41.9 team 3FG%, 18-10 on fast break points, 40-30 on paint points), who extended Atlanta’s miserable run to ten first-quarter deficits/ties in their last 11 home games, the Hawks spotting Washington 37-25 in the opening frame and losing every quarter thereafter. The Wizards’ tape will be encouraging for Knickstape producer Jeff Hornacek, who has given up on The Ron Baker Experiment and returned Courtney Lee (16 points and 3 steals vs. CHA on Wednesday) to his place in New York’s starting lineup. Lee’s backcourt mate, Derrick Rose, hopes to exact a measure of revenge after coming up short late in Atlanta’s 108-107 escape from the Garden two weeks ago. Porzingis (8-for-11 FGs vs. CHA) did not play in that January 16 game, and hopes Atlanta will be as gracious as the Hornets in helping him shake off the rust. Tricking Millsap and Howard into a halfcourt tempo would allow Melo and KP to pick their offensive spots while not having to pay for loafing on the other end. Unleash the rookies! Be it either DeAndre’ Bembry or Taurean Prince, Atlanta needs to find some fresh legs to relieve Thabo Sefolosha (out with a groin strain), who presently seems too worn down to defend at the level he is capable of acheiving. Whoever the swingmen are, Coach Mike Budenholzer has to find a starting unit (alongside Howard, Millsap, and Dennis Schröder), and an early bench rotation, that is active with deflections, winning loose balls, and committing to perimeter closeouts. This afternoon, there is no excuse for summoning the ghost of Spike Lee. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  11. “Excuse me, sir? Hi! By chance, have you seen Derrick Rose anywhere around here?” The arc of the regular season is long, but it bends toward playoffs for the Atlanta Hawks. Aiming for their ninth victory in their past ten games, they swoop into Madison Square Garden on the observed MLK Day holiday to take on the New York Knicks (1:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, MSG Network in Gotham, NBATV everywhere else). At least, the ones that bother to show up. Whatever you do, don’t look down! The tier below the Hawks (23-17) in the Eastern Conference has morphed from a Crab Barrel to a Musical Chairs show. From 2.5-3.0 games below Atlanta, you’ll find five teams, including division rivals Washington and Charlotte, within a half-game of one another. If the East’s Top 4 hold firm, one of those playoff hopefuls will find themselves watching the postseason from home. Atlanta can stay above the fray if they continue pulling off wins on the road. A win today in Manhattan would move the Hawks into a tie with those annoying Celtics for the Eastern Conference lead, with 13 away-game victories. Below the “Musical Chairs” tier has formed the “Look Out, Here Come the Sixers” tier, and the Knicks (18-23) have taken up residence there. New York has lost ten of its last 12, including a 102-98 overtime defeat at Philips Arena back on December 28. They flew back home after getting waylaid in Toronto, the Raptors building up a 38-point third-quarter lead before letting off the gas pedal and winning 116-101. Derrick Rose going AWOL last week has taken over almost all the headlines (Mama Rose has relocated to NYC, so all’s well on that front). Following a hit-piece blog post from Phil Jackson ally Charley Rosen, Carmelo Anthony is offering hints that he’s willing to revisit his no-trade clause if the Zen Master (who has himself taken an odd vow of silence) wants him gone. And coach Jeff Hornacek is threatening to rearrange some more deck chairs on the Knicks’ ship. But an even more press-stopping issue for the Knicks is the problematic Achilles of the team’s future headliner. Kristaps Porzingis began feeling soreness during the Christmas Day loss to Boston. After struggling with his interior play in Atlanta (3-for-9 2FGs, 5 TOs on Dec. 28) and New Orleans, the lanky Latvian was held inactive for three games. Four games after that, his hampered mobility suffered a recurrence, and he was DNP’d in the Knicks’ past two contests. “They (the medical staff) want to make sure I’m good, 100 percent healed before I step on the court,” Porzingis said, as reported by the New York Post, “We don’t want this to happen again.” Allowing his heel more time to heal would be ideal. Unfortunately, the Unicorn’s replacement in the lineup, Lance Thomas, caught the business end of Jonas Valanciunas’ elbow yesterday, suffering an orbital bone fracture and concussion symptoms. Still, Porzingis will sit out today, making things even tougher for the Knicks up against Atlanta’s formidable frontline of Dwight Howard (17.0 PPG, 20.0 RPG, incl. 7.5 O-Rebs/game, vs. NYK this season) and Paul Millsap (Hawks-high 11 combined assists, zero TOs vs. NYK in 78 minutes). Joakim Noah (14 points and 16 boards @ ATL) is similarly soldiering on, despite a sore right shoulder (left-shoulder surgery ended his last season with the Bulls, around this same time). If Noah also cannot go, Hornacek will rely more heavily upon space-eater Kyle O’Quinn and up to four rookies: Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Maurice Ndour, Marshall Plumlee, and the turnover-prone Willy Hernangomez (NBA-high 54.3 FG% among rookies). No matter the combination, the Hawks’ bigs (without Mike Muscala, who is back home healing an injured hoof from Sunday’s game) are capable of exploiting a Knicks team that focuses on the offensive boards (4th in O-Reb%, largely due to ranking 27th in 2FG%) much more than the defensive ones (29th in D-Reb%). In Moose’s absence, coach Mike Budenholzer needs to look more toward not only Kris Humphries, but the underutilized Mike Scott. Both players will need to be present around the defensive glass to help limit the wayward-shooting Knicks to one-shot possessions. Anthony (42.6 FG%, lowest since his 2003-04 rookie season) will try to show he’s playing inspired ball on MLK Day in MSG. But the Knicks could use more than the one-dimensional offering provided by Melo yesterday afternoon: 18 points, one rebound, one assist, one block, one free throw. If only to showcase him to potential trade-deadline suitors (pending the clause waiver), Melo remains a lock in the starting lineup, no matter how bad things get. The more likely shakeup among the starters would involve supplanting Courtney Lee (2-for-9 FGs @ TOR on Sunday) with former Hawk Justin Holiday (17 points, 3-for-5 3FGs in 26 bench minutes @ TOR). Rose (45.2 FG%, best since his first All-Star season in 2009-10) is not only back in the locker room, but is trying to feign leadership by puppeteering his head coach. “I told (Hornacek) he has to be on us hard about defense,” Rose told the Post this weekend after practicing for the Toronto game. “Like, beat it in our heads where we get tired of hearing him talk about it.” While it’s nice for Rose to encourage his coach to find his inner Thibodeau, the point guard struggles to lead by example on the floor, and his primary backup Brandon Jennings isn’t doing any better. New York is surrendering the most points per game (108.3, 6th-worst in NBA) since 1988-89; the only Eastern Conference team allowing more resides one borough to the south. Ron Baker helped resuscitate the Knicks in the final quarter yesterday, and the rookie guard may be eating into both Rose’s and Jennings’ floor time in the near future. Nonetheless, Rose has returned, so now all that’s left is for Atlanta to figure out where Dennis Schröder’s game has gone. Dennis struggled in his last appearance at MSG (0-for-8 FGs, 3 assists in 21 minutes of the Hawks’ 104-94 loss on Nov. 20), but lit up the Knicks with 27 points on 11-for-21 FGs back home in December. Struggling mightily in the past two games (5-for-19 combined FGs, 9 assists, 6 TOs) after a solid road trip, Schröder could use a dominant performance today to shake off the cobwebs. With the Knicks’ injury-saddled frontcourt overly focused on the offensive side of the ball, Schröder should be able to break out in transition to break out of his slump. Hawks fans enjoyed a cameo appearance yesterday from Kent Bazemore, whose 24 points (4-for-7 3FGs) fell one short of his season-high. Baze’s confidence can remain high today if he’s focused defensively on the Knicks’ guards, and not switched onto lengthier forwards like Anthony and Kuzminskas. Expecting consistently-good performances out of Bazemore and the Force MDs – backup guard Malcolm Delaney (9 assists, 2 TOs in 26 minutes vs. MIL on Sunday), and newcomer sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (20 points, 4-for-5 3FGs vs. MIL) – may be a bit too much to ask at this stage. Thus, it’s crucial for Atlanta to get Schröder and former Knick Tim Hardaway, Jr. (0-for-3 3FGs vs. MIL; 0-for-7 FGs vs. NYK on Dec. 28) going strong from the outset. A solid first half from the Hawks’ starters and a spirited second half from the bench crew would go a long way toward keeping the Knicks (3-19 when losing after three quarters) submerged, and have their fans looking to find ways to enjoy the remainder of the holiday. For everyone on and off the floor, it’s a day on, not a day off. Have a Wonderful MLK Day! Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  12. “Who? George Karl? Man, he’s Old Hat…” After a disappointing finish on Christmas Day versus the Celtics at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks fly into A-Town to face the visiting Atlanta Hawks (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, MSG in NYC). No, that’s not a typo. The way they’ve performed over much of the past forty days, the Hawks are the “road team” in 30 NBA arenas, until further notice. Rue to Atlantans who have stayed True To Atlanta throughout this month-plus-long funk, their Hawks (15-16) coming back to Philips Arena with their tailfeathers between their legs after getting walloped once again. Their latest furball was coughed up in lowly Minnesota, falling behind the Wolves by 28 in the third quarter, 29 in the fourth, after their hosts had just returned on a cross-country red-eye from a loss in OKC the night before. Just five days prior to that game, those same Wolves sprinted out to a 12-2 start before the Hawks decided to take the Philips Arena floor. The “home” game before that, with a chance to take over the top spot in the Southeast Division, Atlanta watched Charlotte zip to a 16-point third-quarter lead. The “home” game before that one, the Hawks let one of the NBA’s worst offenses score 30+ points in three different quarters, watching Orlando go up 12 near the end of the half, then up 13 midway through the final quarter. The “home” game before that, down 15 at “home” in the third quarter versus OKC, while Russ Westbrook is resting. Before that, they go down in the 30s against Kyle Lowry in Toronto, then slipping down into the 40s once Fred VanVleet subs in. Before that, a “home” game against a Pistons team that’s today on the verge of implosion, yet Detroit’s up by 24 before the clock could reach halftime, up 33 at the end of the third, 36 by the end of the game. Losing by 15 in the Lakers’ house, by 27 in Utah, by 18 at home against New Orleans, down 20 in Milwaukee. Inexcusable double-digit deficits leading to inexplicable L’s, with some crawl-back W’s sprinkled into the mix every now and then. That is no way to live. What’s that? We’ve won five of our last nine? “Oh, good for you!” [/christianbalevoice] “True” as we may seem, Hawks fans won’t be coming downtown to offer up Citizen Kane applause for bad, lifeless, uncompetitive “pro” basketball. What’s “True”? We’re just fine with leaving the empty seats for the wannabe Jesse Itzlers of the world to fill tonight. Carmelo Anthony has no time to worry about his wife’s teen-era NBA squad. He’s got his own set of problems to deal with. His Zen Master boss is less concerned about tying the knot with Jeanie Buss than he is about reminding people that Melo holds the ball too long. His former coach is peddling a tell-all book at Christmastime, leaking snippets to entice the anti-Melo contingent to get in their pre-orders while they still can. Anthony called Phil Jackson’s critique “negativity,” and a “temporary black cloud”. Then along comes George Karl to rain on his parade even more. Karl cites Melo’s “low demand of himself on defense… no commitment to the hard, dirty work of stopping the other guy,” and comparing the Knicks star to a “blister” that offered a “sweet release” (ick.) once his trade demand went heeded by Denver. Karl also offered up a side heaping of shade when he pinned Carmelo’s shortcomings on a non-existent father; in his case, a father that died from cancer when Melo was 2 years old. Would ya like to hear more about Melo? Why, Karl will be very happy to tell you, for just $19.99, plus shipping and handling. Anthony understandably wants to steer the subject away from the self-satisfied Grumpy Old Men, and back toward his contributions toward a Knicks team that, at 16-14, is 5th in the duck soup called the Eastern Conference. Off the court, before the Christmas Day game, he and his foundation delivered a new car to the family of a teen struggling with a rare form of cancer. On the court, a give-and-go layup from Carmelo assisted by Joakim Noah helped New York tie the Celts with just 1:06 to play, a sign of the work coach Jeff Hornacek has been putting into the revamped Knicks offense. But then, with 40 seconds to go and Boston back in front by 3, Melo lapsed into the type of Melo-ball that must have had Phil running to reporters screaming, “See?”, while warming the cockles of wherever Karl’s heart resides. Melo, in the space of 20 seconds: a missed 3, but gets the ball back after a rebound by Noah; ball-stopping iso dribble in the far corner, fumbling the ball while trying to get a contested shot up on Avery Bradley, who strips and steals the ball away. Now, Anthony’s got much more than bitter coaching legends straying from his corner. Relying so heavily on isolation plays from him plus guard Derrick Rose, New York’s 41 made baskets featured just 11 assists. The Knicks’ comeback march from 13 points down with under 5 minutes to go in the game was made possible by 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis, whose 3-pointer (assisted, ironically, by Melo) and And-1 basket in the space of 15 seconds whittled an 8-point deficit down to 2. The Porzstar also had 7 of his 12 rebounds in the final quarter, plus four blocks, a pair of threes and a pair of steals in the game. No player in NBA history has averaged more than two triples and two swats over the course of a season, but Porzingis (2.1 3FGs per game, on 40.3 3FG%; 1.9 BPG) is right on the cusp. Nobody wants to hear about Carmelo’s 29 points (on 33 shots; 9-for-24 FGs; 9-for-9 FTs) versus the Celtics. No one wants to hear about KP’s five turnovers against Boston, either. But everyone seems eager to talk about one of Anthony’s two turnovers, the one that mattered when the game’s outcome still hung in the balance. Melo was once paraded about as the toast of Gotham, but now, it’s Porzingis who’s the Big Apple of Knicks fans’ eyes. No more transitioning: fans want Kris P Kreme to be the top billing, right now. Once again tonight, Anthony will do all he can to steer the narrative away, from the growing urge to steer him away from Manhattan. The Hawks had no answers for him (31 points, 12-for-22 FGs) back on November 20, Atlanta shooting just 6-for-21 as a team from the perimeter while Melo casually sunk four of his eight attempts from deep. Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap were at wit’s end. But perhaps Atlanta will have defensive help tonight in the form of Thabo Sefolosha (3 blocks, 3-for-4 3FGs @ MIN), who had missed the game at MSG and two games prior to it to rest a sprained knee. If he bothers to pass the ball, Anthony could find Courtney Lee waiting in the wing. Lee’s 46.7 3FG% ranks 2nd in the NBA, and it’s even better from the corners (54.3 3FG%). Rose, Porzingis, and Melo aren’t exactly creating looks for Lee, so Hornacek is encouraging him to take more shots when he receives the ball, even when contested, rather than waiting for someone to find him wide open for catch-and-shoot attempts. Lee has been dealing with a sore wrist and sat out of practice yesterday, but he is listed as probable to play tonight. Your ex-Hawk killer for the evening is Justin Holiday, now on his fifth team in four NBA seasons. J-Ho ranks second to Brandon Jennings with 6.7 PPG coming off the Knicks’ bench, while also shooting 38.2 3FG% and 85.3 FT%. If Thabo is occupied helping contain Carmelo, then Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince are going to have a busy day trying to keep Knicks like Lee and Holiday cool from outside. Former Knick Tim Hardaway, Jr. will test his groin during warmups before it’s decided whether he’ll play. Your leading dime-dropper on the Knicks? It’s not Rose (4.4 APG), it’s Jennings, whose 5.4 APG are mostly delivered while coming off the bench. Jennings has been beneficial to New York so long as he’s not expected to do much more than distribute (37.2 FG%; career-low 30.8 3FG%) when he’s in the game. With Rose and Jennings being such poor on-ball defenders, today’s game is another test to see if Malcolm Delaney (1-for-4 FGs and 4 TOs @ NYK on Nov. 20; 1-for-6 FGs and 4 TOs @ MIN on Monday) has reached the floor. Dennis Schröder went 0-for-8 shooting the ball in MSG last month, and will again be counted upon to bounce back quickly after a subpar game in Minnesota. It will begin by pressuring Rose out of his comfort zones, and forcing turnovers, before Rose initiates his fantastical forays toward the hoop. 36.5 percent of Rose’s attempts are at the rim, the highest proportion since his rookie season in Chicago, and his 55.7 2FG% drops off precipitously as he settles for shots further out. Paul Millsap was shooting 2-for-13 in Minnesota, a game interrupted by an inadvertent third-quarter elbow that has his eye swollen even today. “I didn’t play any worse than before I got elbowed,” he told the AJC after the game. The All-Star forward insists his vision isn’t obscured by his swollen eye, and it won’t be further obscured tonight by the 7-foot-3 Knick defending him. Besides, Sap can probably do better than 2-for-13 with his eyes closed. Defensively, look for Millsap to switch out to defend Noah, who is more dangerous as a post passer and a pick setter than as a scoring threat, and for Dwight Howard (18 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocks vs. NYK in November; 20&12, 9-for-9 FGs @ MIN on Monday) to use his size to keep Porzingis’ paint scoring down. On Monday night, Dwight could only watch as Karl-Anthony Towns matched Howard’s perfect shooting day with an 8-for-8 display of his own (incl. a Porzingian 3-for-3 3FGs), while also getting almost anything else he wanted (11 boards, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 1 TO). Howard will try to make amends tonight, but to help keep him anchored in the middle, Millsap will need to stay on Porzingis when the lanky Latvian hangs around the three-point line. It shouldn’t take injuries and ailments for Mike Budenholzer to recognize there are other players down on the bench at his disposal. Yet there sat Minnesotan Kris Humphries, who finally entered in the final quarter with Atlanta losing by 24, promptly dropping 12&5 on the T’Wolves. Even with Hardaway unavailable, Taurean Prince subs in for the first time during that quarter for Kyle Korver with Atlanta down 94-66, and together with Humphries the Hawks begin cutting the Wolves’ deficit in half, even while Towns and Zach LaVine were still in the game. Budenholzer is supposed to know his personnel well enough to pull the plug and switch things up, well before games like this get out of hand. He certainly can’t hide behind the team president for building him a 15-man roster on the cheap. Whether at “home” or abroad, double-digit deficits only seem to encourage Coach Bud to double-down on what hasn’t worked. The Hawks coach’s persistence in not adjusting game plans and personnel is eroding consumer confidence in not only his product, but his means of production. If (when) the Hawks on the floor revert to that head-buried-in-sand mode again tonight, we’ll see whether Coach Bud has learned anything from the fourth quarter in Minnesota. Sure, the Hawks need more time to recalibrate and gel and whatnot. But it doesn’t mean fans should expect to endure collective flops on the floor against mediocre competition, especially whenever Atlanta’s only guaranteed All-Star Weekend participant is on the 1s and 2s. Dig another double-digit-deep hole in front of a Knicks-friendly crowd tonight, and Hawks’ fans shouldn’t be surprised if Itzler fills in for Sir Foster (DNP-he’s in Paris for France’s All-Star Game) and plays some “Go NY, Go NY Go!”, just for old time’s sake. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  13. “Dolan’s posse on my tail, ‘cause I’m in demand!” It’s Breakfast at Madison Square Garden! The Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks are taking Centre Court a little early this Sunday (12:00 noon Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, MSG Network in NYC). I’ve got a busy week ahead myself, so rather than a full spread, in these game threads I’ll provide some tidbits for the upcoming games, including some strawberries-and-cream for this mid-day matchup. What is up, schedule gods? Only two games so far this season involved the Hawks (9-3) facing an opponent coming off a back-to-back. The Hornets had two full days off before nipping Atlanta’s six-game winning streak in the bud on Friday night. Recent Hawks opponents included the Bucks (three days off), and the Rockets (two days off), and the Cavs (two days off). When Atlanta returns home, they’ll take on a Pelicans team that had two days of rest. Today, they visit a Knicks squad that has been off since Thursday, although that team has spent much of its time stewing. The Knicks (5-7) thought they were climbing out of an early-season rut after home wins over Dallas and Detroit this past week, but they were sent reeling once again when they were tripped up in Washington by another reeling team. Before toppling New York, the Wizards (now 3-9) had just dropped their third-straight game one night before in Philadelphia (now 3-10), where’s it’s not always sunny. “On the road you should be 10 times [as focused], it should be 10 times more important to go in somebody’s house and win,” lamented sixth-man guard Brandon Jennings to Newsday following the loss to the Zards. “This is a team that was desperate for a win and they got one. They just lost to Philly and they come and beat us? Nah… We definitely need to be more desperate. Every game, from here on out we need to be desperate. We play for the New York Knicks. Everybody wants to beat us. It’s a known national team.” The Knicks have been running in different directions on offense, at times trying to execute Jeff Hornacek’s new schemes, at times looking over their shoulder as the Zen Master implores the team to run more Triangle sets, at times getting iso-happy and doing their own things. They ended their night in D.C. on the losing side of a 119-112 score, but things were much worse when they found themselves with just 42 halftime points and down 87-65 through three quarters. New York is at their best when they key in on post-up plays, using the crafty maneuvering of Carmelo Anthony (22.3 PPG, 53.1 2FG%) and the height and length of Kristaps Porzingis (20.3 PPG, 54.4 FG%) to their advantage. The Knicks are one of two teams (joined by their borough mates in Brooklyn) that have made more than half of their shots on post-up plays, scoring at least one point league-high 53.1 percent of the time. Counter-intuitive to the offensive mindsets of Jennings and Derrick Rose, New York takes just 22.0 drives per game (2nd-lowest in NBA), scoring just 15.8 PPG (2nd lowest in East) off drives toward the hoop. Until recently, Anthony and Rose have been playing too much of a two-man game to the exclusion of their teammates, including the prodigious Porzingis. While each have started to produce more plays for Kristaps (40.0 3FG%, 35 points vs. DET on Wednesday), they need to get others involved along the perimeter, including swingmen Courtney Lee and Mindaugas Kuzminskas (each 40.0 3FG%) and ex-Hawk Justin Holiday (42.3 3FG%). The Knicks’ real problem, to few people’s surprise, is on the other end of the floor. New York allows 108.8 points per 100 possessions to opponents, a shade ahead of Portland (108.9) for the worst mark in the NBA. With all of his height, Porzingis is often deployed to help defensively deficient guards patrol the three-point line (37.0 opponent 3FG%, 4th-highest in NBA), the Knicks find themselves springing a leak around the rim. They allow 15.4 second-chance PPG (3rd-worst in NBA) as opponents’ 26.3 O-Reb% ranks as the 4th-most in the league. The Knicks also board-crash a lot on the offensive end (27.3 O-Reb%, 5th in NBA), but that doesn’t help them get back in transition as well as they’d like. Center Joakim Noah remains admittedly slowed by past injuries, and Hornacek has turned more often to Porzingis as a “small”-ball 5 than to reserve big man Kyle O’Quinn (career-low 10.2 minutes per game). For the Hawks’ frontline, the head-to-head matchups with the Knicks will seem transitive relative to the opponents in Charlotte. Paul Millsap goes from facing ample backside to ample upside with Porzingis. Dwight Howard got the Ashton Kutcher treatment from Charlotte’s Cody Zeller, and now the seasoned Noah will pull whatever tricks he can out of his bag, in his limited time on the floor, to distract and dissuade Howard from getting the job done. (EDIT: Noah sits today, see details a few posts down) Whether it’s due to foul trouble or an injury or an ejection, Millsap (team-high 17.3 PPG) has willingly covered for Howard’s absences on the floor to the best of his ability, as has the improved Mike Muscala. But as demonstrated in the closing minutes in Charlotte, going into crunch-time without Howard on the floor is not sustainable. Kent Bazemore will have his hands full with Anthony and will need to help force tough mid-range jumpers without fouling. Bazemore has struggled defensively against taller opponents, especially when they’re granted touches in the paint. Including his need to make Anthony work on the defensive end, Bazemore’s floor time will be integral to Atlanta’s success today, especially if Thabo Sefolosha (knee sprain) remains unavailable. The Knicks are pressed to begin the process of shifting from Melo to Porzingis as a first-option in their offense. Similarly, the Hawks also some transitioning to consider. If starting guard Kyle Korver is on the floor for nearly 30 minutes, as was the case versus the Hornets, it’s likely not with the intention that he get three three-point attempts up. His 4.7 3FG attempts per game are the lowest since his years as a reserve in Chicago and Utah. It is important for coach Mike Budenholzer to direct more of the ball from the point guards and bigs out to get Kyle (40.4 3FG%, career-high 55.6 2FG%) more touches. But as Korver becomes less effective as a decoy on offense and a helper on defense (no rebounds, steals or blocks @ CHA on Friday), it is time to other options starting at the 2-spot, including a guy that was once the lead scorer for a banged-up Knicks team. In exchange for a one-year rental of rookie Jerian Grant, the Knicks disposed of Tim Hardaway, Jr., who now resides in Atlanta. He does have a ways to go with perimeter shots (32.8 3FG%) and passing, and his free throw shooting has momentarily regressed (65.6 FT%). But he is attacking the rim with authority (66.0 2FG%, 3rd in NBA; Muscala’s 73.6% ranks 1st), and is building rapport with Atlanta’s first and second units. Baze (34.8 3FG%, 7-for-10 2FGs but 4 TOs @ CHA) as the starting 2-guard is the better long-term play. But the Hawks’ bench may be better served in the interim by a pairing of Korver with the eventually returning Sefolosha at the wing. Among Atlanta’s top-20 2-man combos, either of Hardaway or Sefolosha are part of six of the Hawks’ seven-best lineup tandems, in terms of net points per 100 possessions (the sole starter in that septet being Millsap). Baze-and-Kyle are at minus-3.4 net points per-100 (201 minutes together), while Baze-and-Timmy are a positive +7.2 (71 minutes). The not-so-grumpy, not-so-old men Kyle-and-Thabo have been +32.4 points per-100 net scoring, but have only shared the floor for 21 minutes this season. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  14. ~lw3
  15. “Who He Play For???” There’s nowhere to hide, Atlanta Hawks! It’s January. The Bravos aren’t out on the diamond immolating themselves, and the Failcons aren’t on the gridiron getting in their own way. No Dream and no Dawgs playing with annually outsized expectations, no Jackets with already low bars to crawl under. Before winter meetings and spring trainings, the Atlanta sports fan’s attention will be undividedly directed toward the Hawks, who will try to keep the New York Knicks (8:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, MSG Network) from evening up the season series at the Highlight Factory. A major factor in the brilliance of Atlanta’s campaign last January was the timing. Despite ongoing concerns as to whether Dan Quinn would ride into town on a white horse, the Hawks’ ascension to the top of the NBA East became increasingly harder to keep off the front-page headlines. Add in a tradition unlike any other (individual Hawks making runs for non-fan All-Star Game bids) and January becomes a great time to annually build up the Believer base. It cuts both ways, though. Stories of the Hawks getting crop-dusted by Arron Afflalo and the Knicks, as was the case in Sunday’s 111-97 defeat up in Manhattan, can no longer be obscured by Matt Ryan’s weekly insistence on remaking himself into Vinny Testaverde. The quality of Atlanta’s nightly performance on the hardwood, flaws and all, will be laid bare, along with the Hawks’ ability to at least remain a solid contender in a much more competitive Eastern Conference. All eyes are on thee; what shall we see? To achieve significant levitation toward a permanent spot at the top of the East, Atlanta (21-14) must recommit itself to a primarily defensive identity. At the moment, they look like a team more focused on creating good shots, not so much making them. With a spry DeMarre Carroll bringing it as a starter last season, the Hawks established themselves as a team capable of getting stops and, with the help of crisp offensive ball movement, taking (and making) more advantageous shots than their opponents. Kent Bazemore (4-for-7 3FGs but 2-for-6 2FGs @ NYK on Jan. 3) and Thabo Sefolosha have stepped up their play in DMC’s departure, but perhaps not enough defensively to compensate for a slower-reacting Kyle Korver and a occasionally checked-out performances by Jeff Teague (3-for-12 FGs, 3 assists, 1 steal in 29.5 minutes @ NYK) and Al Horford (3 rebounds in 28.5 minutes @NYK). Last season’s record-breaking edition of the Hawks finished 7th in the NBA in defensive rating (100.7 opponent points per 100 possessions). As it stands this season, they’re 7th in the East (101.2 D-Rating), although 11th overall in the league doesn’t look so bad, now that almost the entire West is going full 1980s. Many of the Hawks’ conference contemporaries spent their past couple offseasons retooling their defensive strategies and reorienting personnel. Now, Atlanta’s the sole team among the East’s Top-9 allowing triple digits per game. Coincidentally, New York (16-19) is the sole bottom-five team in the East allowing under 100 PPG. Poor perimeter defense is among the eye-poppers, and Atlanta’s 36.0 opponent 3FG% above-the-break is 7th worst in the NBA, but the worst in the East, while the 42.4 opponent 3FG% in right corners is the 5th-worst mark in the league. If you’re looking for the number of the truck that ran us over on Sunday, try #4. Afflalo exploited Atlanta’s underwhelming closeout efforts by sinking his first seven threes, all of them above the break, all of them buttressing New York’s double-digit leads even as Carmelo Anthony (4-for-10 FGs, 11 points, fewest shot attempts in complete game since 2012) was largely bottled up. The Knicks’ 11-for-26 three-point shooting followed the Rockets sinking 11-of-20 five days before, which produced another hole for the Hawks to try climbing out from. Atlanta, by comparison, has shot 35% or more on treys four times since December 1, compared to 12 occasions back in October/November. Rather than jacking up a franchise-record 41 attempts (as was the case in Houston) just to try keeping up, tightening up the perimeter closeouts (especially after opponents’ second-chance and broken plays) without fouling will produce more desirable results. Tack on a league-high 44.1 opponent 2FG% in-the-paint (outside the restricted area) and you can see that Atlanta’s defense is, as Mike Budenholzer is wont to say, “not where it needs to be.” Keyed by Paul Millsap (team-high 4 TOs but 5 steals @ NYK on Sunday), the Hawks’ defensive strategy has been Steal or Bust (9.6 steals per 100 possessions, 2nd in NBA, tops in East). Opponents wise enough not to put the ball on the floor, keep the ball stuck on one side of the floor, or mindlessly hold the ball at waist-level are most likely to recoup the benefits. New York connected on 9 of their 17 attempts in the paint beyond 5 feet on Sunday. Millsap and Horford have to bring more to the table than strips against Robin Lopez, whose stat line on Sunday (5 TOs, 4 via Hawk steals, but 7-for-10 FGs and 5 O-Rebs, plus 5 assists) well-encapsulates how one-dimensional Atlanta’s defense can be. Jose Calderon and rookie Jerian Grant (combined 7-for-13 FGs; Grant 7 assists and 1 TO in 18 minutes) should not experience such little resistance getting to the interior and making plays. It’s on Teague, and whomever Budenholzer graces with minutes behind him, to limit penetration. We’ll await to find out whether Dennis Schröder continues “developing” from the pine. If Coach Bud is intending to showcase Shelvin Mack (5-for-10 FGs, 5 assists, 3 TOs in 18.5 mins. @ NYK), he won’t want other GMs to know that Hawk opponents have scored 17.9 points per-36 off turnovers with Mack on the floor, the most by any non-76er who has logged 100+ minutes this season. While Smooving Schröder, Bud has also sung the praises of rookie Lamar Patterson (last ten games: 50.0 FG%)at every opportunity, particularly as a short-term ballhandler and on-ball defender. With his and Mike Muscala’s contracts becoming fully guaranteed this week, Patterson will get even more opportunity to demonstrate his worth in the coming days. But at whose expense? We’ll have to wait-and-see. It’s January, Atlanta Hawks. The whole town is watching! No pressure, though! Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  16. “Could’ve done this with my own arm, but okay!” It’s the first day after Christmas. Did your true love give to thee -- a Kristaps Porzingis jersey? Hands down, Kris P. Kreme is the hottest, freshest thing flying out of the Big Apple’s ovens these days. Children trained by their fathers to thumb-down the selection of the 7-foot-3 Latvian-a-leaping over the past summer are now, in what is purported to be wintertime, begging Santa, the NBA Store, and anyone who’ll listen for his jersey. That has a lot to do with the 20-year-old’s highlight-reel talents. It also has an awful lot more to do with the name of the city on the front of the jersey. Porzingis’ New York Knicks are in town to face the Atlanta Hawks (EARLY START: 7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, MSG Network), and dormant Knicks fans around the ATL could not be more pleased. You have to keep this all in context. The Knicks have exactly one 50-plus win season, and one playoff series victory, in the past 16 NBA seasons, including this one. That season had Mike Woodson, of all people, running the show. At this point, as the calendar turns toward 2016, Knick fans around the globe could not possibly care less about title contention. Winning always sounds great. But failing that, they simply want to be entertained. Linsanity, Imandemonium, Zingsanity, whatever it’s called these days, just make the darn games interesting. Do fans fret over whether Derek Fisher and this concocted New York (14-16) roster are mediocre, at best? Does Spike Lee care if Chi-Raq or whatever he cranks out breaks even at the box office, or gets three stars from critics, anymore? All that matters, for now, is give Knicks fans a decent reason to watch. The Porzstar (23 points, 13 rebounds @ CLE on Dec. 23) is doing all of that, and more. Judging from the reactions of the Gotham populace, one would think he was doing much more than averaging 13.3 PPG while shooting 42.5% from the floor (making roughly a third of his threes). But on a team that’s spent multiple seasons with players merely going through the motions, Porzingis’ 8.2 RPG (2.2 offensive) and 2.0 BPG shows he is putting forward the effort, and has the attitude to kick any mistaken aspersions of cottony Euro-softness to the proverbial curb. He’ll see to it that this ain’t Frederic Weis Redux, or Andrea Bargnani Junior. Carmelo Anthony has to feel like it’s Christmas morning each time he steps onto the floor. He’s scoring the fewest points per game (21.8 PPG) since his sophomore campaign in Denver, while shooting a career low 42.1 FG%. But nobody cares. All eyes aren’t on him anymore. There’s no need to be Manhattan’s LeBron. Plus, he doesn’t have to wear himself out at the 4-spot anymore, so long as Porzingis and Robin Lopez (7.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG, and 48.5 FG%, lowest in past four seasons) are hanging around. The Knicks’ leading scorer injured his ankle on Monday in the Knicks’ loss to New York, sat out Wednesday’s loss in Cleveland, and might rest again as the Knicks embark on a 3-games-in-4-nights swing. But who cares, really? Nobody’s freaking out about the 31-year-old’s salary pushing $25-million over the next two seasons, or questioning if he deserves to be an All-Star starter, or an All-Star at all, or whether he wants to be traded, or the missus’ Twitter-pinions about anything. If he can contribute tonight, tomorrow, or next season, that’s really swell. If not, oh, well! The Bright Lights of the Bigger City now shine on Porzingis, and Melo couldn’t be happier. After a lost first season at the helm, Fisher has his future star here with Melo, Jose Calderon, Arron Afflalo, and Lopez, and all of them are sorting out this whole Triangle thingie together. They are quite content with keeping the pace low (24th in NBA) and finding the best long-range shot they can get near the end of the shot clock, so it’s not much of a surprise that despite Porzingis and Lopez’s talents the Knicks rank last in the league with 33.6 PPG in-the-paint. Being out-scored by over 10 PPG in-the-paint won’t help against the Hawks, who oppose the Knicks three times over the next five games and whose 52.4 PPG in-the-paint since starting their five-game win streak on Dec. 16 ranks 3rd in the league. That’s unless Atlanta (19-12) suffers once again from the post-holiday blahs. Spirits were merry and bright for the Hawks last year at this same time, riding a five game win streak and a spiffy 21-7 record into a post-Christmas home game against Milwaukee. That was before Jared Dudley put some coal in their stockings, Atlanta disappointing upbeat fans with a 30-point letdown. At that time, though, there was no sense that a 19-game win streak and heightened expectations would follow. A year later, Atlanta has to come out tonight playing strong perimeter defense, versus everyone from Melo and Porzingis to Sasha Vujacic and Lance Thomas, and keeping the Knicks from a bunch of extra-chances. The struggle for New York is greater without Kyle O’Quinn, perhaps their top-performing defensive big man, who remains questionable with an ankle injury. If you’re Kyle Korver (3-for-5 3FGs @ NYK on Oct. 29), chances are Arron Afflalo and the Knicks’ opposing guards will Forget You are open for jumpers, and you have to take advantage when the ball comes your way. Jeff Teague (team-high 23 points, 9-for-10 FTs @ NYK on Oct. 29) bounced back with a magnificent game against the Pistons (team-high 23 points, 9 assists, 4 steals, 2 TOs) on Wednesday. Teague has to bring the same level of energy, and when on the occasions when they are bottled up in the paint, they have to be mindful of open shooters like Korver and Kent Bazemore, and not force interior shots. They’re the flagship NBA team of America’s biggest market, and have not one NBA title in the past 40 years to show for their trouble. At this point, the Knicks’ fans simply don’t worry about winning the next game or the next ring, so long as their team shows some competitive fire from night to night. Does that make them Crazy? Possibly. But who cares? Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  17. “I’m talkin’ ‘bout what they call these days, ‘open marriage’, Al! I’m talkin’ ‘bout… ((WAP!))... I was only trying to help!” On travel today (suffered through the Hornets game last night, gonna kiss the ground when I get back to Ball Movement City), so no running my mouth ahead of today's matinee in MSG between our Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks (3:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, MSG Network). How many points will the Hawks give up (63 vs. NYK on Dec. 26, 71 at HOU on Dec. 29) before coming back this time? And who shows up in the boxscore first, Dennis Schröder, or Kyle Korver? In any case, these teams will be good and sick of each other by the time Tuesday night's game concludes! Let's Go Hawks! ~lw3
  18. Did Fisher flop when Barnes faked a punch at him? Inquiring minds want to know! **cue soap opera organ** ~lw3
  19. "If they can go from 7 straight playoff seasons to 60 wins and an ECF, then why can't weeeeeee..." ~lw3
  20. Ain't even time for this move... ~lw3
  21. "In case of futility... break contract." ~lw3