What To Watch For: Knicks vs. Trail Blazers
by Martin Burns
By now you’ve heard that Mike D’Antoni has resigned. You may have jumped up and down out of happiness, you may have cried tears of joy, you may have even ran around the block high fiveing every person you saw. Or maybe you felt indifferent about it. Maybe you felt like me in the sense that firing a coach whose system may not have fit the roster wont change the fact that we still have an overrated chucker dictating every decision the members of our clueless front office make. The dysfunction of the Knicks is still very much alive, make no mistake about it. I think it was the right move to get rid of D’Antoni, and I’m glad he decided to walk out and save whatever small amount of dignity it was that he had left. But what gets me frustrated are the people who feel like the Knicks are now primed to go on a run and grab a 5 or 6 seed in the playoffs. They wont. D’Antoni leaving now to make way for Mike Woodson is not going to change the fate of this team, and that fate is the 8th seed or not making the playoffs.
Anyway, now that I’m done ranting, the Knicks (18-24) will take the court at The Garden tonight without D’Antoni as they welcome in the Portland Trail Blazers (20-22). It will be interesting to see the look on the fans faces when the Knicks don’t score 200 points and hold the Blazers to under 40.
The Knicks are currently locked in a tie with the Milwaukee Bucks for the last seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bucks made a trade to bring in shooting guard Monta Ellis from Golden State today while trading a player away who hasn’t been on the court for them in about a month. The Bucks just got significantly better, so if the Knicks don’t turn it around fast they’re going to be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start.
Here are a few thoughts on tonight’s game:
- Mike Woodson even said it himself in his press conference earlier, “Things won’t change too much tonight until I get a few practices under my belt.” So everyone should keep that in mind in the event that everything looks exactly the same tonight. Don’t freak out, it’s going to take a couple practices for Woodson to implement his own system, even though the playoffs are right around the corner.
- It will be interesting to see where Jeremy Lin’s career goes from here. Many people believe he was a product of D’Antoni’s system, which is very point guard friendly, and that he won’t be as successful in another style of offense. Interim coach Mike Woodson likely won’t change the offensive game plan tonight so expect to see Lin put up his average numbers, but Lin’s productivity may take a huge dive if people are right about him being the product of a favorable system.
- Carmelo Anthony has exactly what he wants. The coach he didn’t get along with is gone and a new coach is in place who is more defensive minded as opposed to offense which will allow Melo to dictate the way the offense is run tonight. I won’t be surprised in Melo puts up 25 or more shot attempts tonight and only connects on 30% of them. This has probably been the worst stretch of Melo’s career and he better shape up fast after running a coach out of town.
- If the Knicks come out tonight and play energetic, inspired basketball we will know that D’Antoni was a big problem with this team and I will admit I was wrong. If they don’t, expect everyone under the sun to start freaking out about how “it was Melo’s fault all along!” and proclamations along those lines. The thing is, the makeup of this team wont change over night, its going to take some time for them to find a style of play they are comfortable with, and unfortunately time is not on their side.
- PLAYERS TO WATCH: KNICKS – CARMELO ANTHONY: Anthony is going to have to put up big numbers for the rest of the season if he doesn’t want to fall out of favor with everyone in New York, which he may have already done for the most part. I can’t decide whether I can see Melo having a huge game or an awful game, it will be interesting to see. TRAIL BLAZERS – LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: One of the best power forwards in the game, Aldridge is a force offensively. Expect Tyson Chandler to guard him for most of the game.
- KEY MATCHUP: KNICKS DEFENSE vs. TRAIL BLAZERS OFFENSE: Mike Woodson is a defensive coach, so if people want to continue to blame the lack of D on D’Antoni they’re shit out of luck. Portland doesn’t do anything particularly well, but the strength of their team is their offense. If the Knicks D can shut down Aldridge and the rest of them tonight, they should be able to escape with a win.
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