Game Preview: Hawks at Knicks 1/27


Hawks (25-18)  at    Knicks (26-15)

The only real positives that could be taken out of the Knicks beating to the Sixers in Philly last night is that they have to have a short memory and bounce back today. The Knicks return home after a couple of Atlantic Division road games to take on the Hawks, who currently sit in sixth place in the East, two games behind the Knicks.

After a gutsy and much needed victory over the Celtics on Thursday night, the Knicks laid an egg in Philadelphia last night. They lost to the lowly Sixers 97-80 in a game where the ‘Bockers seemed to be indifferent. It was the return of Raymond Felton to the lineup but that didn’t spark much as the Knicks couldn’t knock down any open shots. It was the first time we caught a glimpse of the Felton-Kidd-Shump-Melo-Chandler lineup, but it looked rusty as expected with Felton and Shumpert still working themselves back.

A bright spot from the game in Philly was Amar’e Stoudemire’s play off the bench. After scoring 15 points against Brooklyn and then Boston, STAT dropped in 20 against the Sixers. Even though Melo outscored him as he poured in 25 points, Stoudemire was the Knicks lone bright spot offensively last night. His improvement from game to game, not only offensively but he has been been more aggressive on the glass and on defense, is something that is encouraging going forward for the Knicks.

One thing that isn’t encouraging is the shooting slump that J.R. Smith has found himself in. His field-goal percentage has dropped to under 40% on the season, and he seems to be lost offensively recently. Smith went 0-8 from the field last night and didn’t score a single point. That followed a 3-16 performance against the Celtics, a 7-19 performance against the Nets, a 6-15 shooting night in London against the Pistons, and a dismal 3-11 shooting against the Hornets. It has been a real tough stretch for Smith who many people believed should have been an all-star. J.R needs to regain his shooting stroke and stop forcing up awful shots in transition and the half court. I think he gets it going again today, starting on the defensive end to get himself an easy bucket.

Felton looked rusty last night, but at least we saw one Felton to Chandler alley-oop that we became so accustomed to seeing. The Knicks host the Hawks today who have won three straight games, including a 27-point comeback against the Celtics the other night. The Knicks have beaten the Hawks four of the past five meetings, and need to get back on track against them today. The key will be keeping the Hawks off the boards who are led by Al Horford, Josh Smith and ZaZa Pachulia. The Knicks have been improving their rebounding on the defensive end over the past few weeks, and as weird as it sounds, Stoudemire has helped provide some rebounding help.

The Hawks leading scorer is the versatile Josh Smith who averages 16.9 points per game, but the more important defensive matchup for the Knicks is Felton on Jeff Teague. Even before the injury the Knicks and Felton had trouble keeping the opposing point guard out of the point. Last night was a prime example as Jrue Holiday did whatever he wanted en route to scoring 35 points in the blowout. Teague is another extremely quick point guard who can get in the paint and cause havoc. Teague averages 13.4 points and 6.7 assists per game, and the Knicks need to keep him in check today.

Follow Brian on Twitter @bcoles1029

Amar’e Stoudemire’s Post Game Has a Role in Mike Woodson’s Offense

Earlier this summer, Amar’e Stoudemire paid a hefty price (approximately $50k) to work on his previously non-existent post game with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. Given the history of Stoudemire’s offensive game, devastation as a roll man with a tint of mid-range shooting, there has been almost unanimous sentiment among the the basketball community that Stoudemire’s post game won’t be used much in games. I too felt the same way, until I looked deeper into the matter.

It isn’t that Amar’e is going to become a post up player. He’s not. That has never been his game, and likely won’t ever be the base of his offensive repertoire. However, that doesn’t mean Stoudemire’s post work this offseason can’t help his game. After analyzing Mike Woodson’s offense, I think there will be opportunities for Stoudemire to score in a post up game and in that area of the floor. We know that Woodson’s history indicates that he run a slower, more isolation based type offense. Unlike Mike D’Antoni’s offense, the pick and roll has never been a staple of the Woodson offense. That doesn’t mean pick and rolls will be eliminated, but we’ll likely see less of them next season. That means Amar’e Stoudemire will have to find other ways to score, because he won’t be rolling to the basket every third possession. Continue reading

Is a Howard to Knicks Trade Even Possible?

ESPN New York’s Stephen A Smith reported yesterday on his show that the Orlando Magic inquired, the key word there, the New York Knicks about a potential Dwight Howard for Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler trade. Given the contracts of Stoudemire and Chandler, the Knicks would have to also take back a sizable contract from Orlando. The 2011 figures in this rumored trade look like this:

Amar’e Stoudemire $18,217,705 million

Tyson Chandler $13,107,838 million

Total: $31,325,543 million

Dwight Howard: $17,885,400

The new NBA collective bargaining agreement contains new rules pertaining to trades. Taxpaying teams can take back 125% of their outgoing salary plus $100,000. Non-taxpaying teams (based on team salary after the trade) have two options as to how much salary they can take back. Non-taxpaying teams can acquire up to the lesser of 150% plus $100,000 OR  100% plus $5 million. Teams can trade up to $3 million in a trade but the Knicks used up that $3 million in the Tyson Chandler sign and trade.

The Knicks sit at $62,487,871 in salary. The Orlando Magic currently sit at $69,066,010 million dollars in salary. This figure puts them slightly under the $70 million luxury tax threshold. Here are the 2011 salaries for their players, significant to this trade, minus Dwight Howard:

Hedo Turkoglu: $10,600,000 million

Jameer Nelson $7,305,555 million

JJ Redick $6,500,000 million

Glen Davis $6,300,000 million

Jason Richardson $5,395,000 million

Chris Duhon $3,460,000 million

Quentin Richardson $2,446,200 million

Ryan Anderson $2,244,600 million

Earl Clark $1,200,000 million

Excluded: Von Wafer, Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins, Justin Harper, Larry Hughes

Because of the cap standings of both teams, both teams being under the luxury tax threshold, the Knicks and Magic have more flexibility with a potential trade. However, the Knicks swapping $31.3 million in salary with Orlando and taking in Howards $17.8 million in salary is not possible. Under the new CBA trade guidelines, the Knicks would have to take back another salary because swapping STAT and Chandler for Howard would not work. Here are some trade scenarios as pertained to each CBA rule:

  1. The Knicks take back 100% of Orlando’s salaries plus 5 million. The Magic would have to give up $26,325,543 million or more in salary to make this scenario work. That means in addition to Howard’s salary, the Magic would have to shed an additional $8,440,143 million in salary. Any trade of Howard likely will include the long term contract (3 years remaining, $34.2 mil) of Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu makes 10.6 million this season thus bring Orlando’s salary price up to $28,485,400 mil. This trade will work under the new CBA rules. However, the Magic would be taking back an additional $2,840,143 million in salary. Under the 100% + 5 mil rule, the Magic would have to remain under the tax. Therfore they would have to give up another contract resulting in an excess of $1,906,153 million. In my opinion, ex-Knicks Chris Duhon (3 years remaining, approx $11 mil in salary) and Quentin Richardson (2 years remaining with an additional players option for 2013, approx 5 mil in salary, $7.8 mil with option) would be the most likely candidates to be included in a trade. I believe that the basic framework of a Turkoglu/Howard/additional contract for Stoudemire/Chandler trade is the most likely trade if one is to come to fruition.
  2. The Knicks take back 150% of Orlando’s salaries plus $100k. The Magic would have to give up a little bit more than $20.8 million in salary to make this trade work. Given the long term contracts the Magic have on their roster along with the minor rebuilding they will need to do losing their star player, I believe the Magic would want to give up more than $20.8 million in a trade. In order to use this 100% + 100k clause, the Magic would have to give up between $20.8 million and $26.325 million (from the scenario above). However, if they were to give up Turkoglu, which they should and which they want to, they would eliminate this clause from being used in the CBA. This scenario would be plausible if the Knicks were going to take back any other Orlando player not named Hedo Turkoglu in a trade. This scenario is unlikely because I truly believe the Magic are going to part ways with Turkoglu as well as Howard in any trade they make.
  3. The Knicks and Magic never have serious discussions. Per the new CBA, Tyson Chandler, a newly acquired free agent, cannot be dealt until March 1st. If Orlando is swept off its feet by the Lakers, Clippers, Mavs, Nets or a mystery team, which I do not believe it will be, then they could move Howard before the Knicks can even discuss this trade seriously.
  4. The Knicks and Magic find a 3rd team. Conceivably, just like the trades that brought Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to New York, the Knicks could find a 3rd team to deal with. Any trade scenario involving 3 teams would have to include more parts than just Turkoglu/Howard and Stoudemire/Chandler. At this point it is impossible to predict what 3rd team could be involved because no serious talks have gone on between Orlando and New York.

In conclusion, the main idea of this long and potentially head-ache enabling blog post is that financially the Knicks could pull off a trade for Dwight Howard. The new CBA allows it and both teams have contracts to make it work. The factors that would hold up a trade go beyond the financials. Whether the Magic are fully committed to trading Howard is up in the air. It is unknown whether the Knicks would part ways with newly acquired Chandler. As well as whether to give up Chandler, there have been no indications from the organization that Dolan is ready to break his loyalty with Stoudemire. It also remains unknown as to whether Orlando would even take this kind of deal. They would be locked into two long term big contracts and two decaying Amar’e Stoudemire knees. In my opinion, I do not believe this is a trade that will ever come to fruition. I think it makes obvious sense for the Knicks but I think the financials of the situation would far outweigh the on-court benefits for the Magic. I believe Amar’e and Tyson Chandler could fit nicely with that already strong Orlando team but I do not think the two players would launch the Magic into championship contention. Either way, Chandler cannot be dealt until March 1st so the Knicks will have their current center for at least 6 more weeks before they go chasing after another team’s star center. A lot can change in six weeks but if I had to bet a hypothetical house (seeming that I don’t own a house) on whether this trade would happen, I would bet against it.

Analysis of Amar’e Stoudemire’s Offensive Game Versus Magic

Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire has struggled mightily this season getting his offensive game going. Over the past few games, I’ve paid more attention to where he was getting the ball and where he took his shots. Stoudemire has been cold this season but often times he is receiving the ball in a position that does not help his game. Today against Orlando, I decided to log where he got the ball on impact plays. Meaning, I didn’t record if he got the ball and passed it off but I logged possessions in which he shot, assisted or turned the ball over. Here is what I recorded:

1st half

  • left elbow coming off screen – travel
  • left elbow coming off screen- missed jumper
  • left post- pass out, near turnover
  • ran fast break – assist
  • post mid-left- blocked shot
  • right post- miss
  • middle paint on movement- hook shot-good

2nd half

  • free throw line off screen- pass: play was designed for STAT but taken away by defense
  • right elbow off screen- jumper good
  • left elbow off screen- penetration to the rim- shot good
  • left elbow- penetration- got to free throw line
  • left mid-range baseline- penetration- dunk

Overall: 22 minutes, 4/7 shooting, 2/2 from free throw line, 12 points.

Analysis: Despite his foul trouble, Stoudemire’s offensive game showed a few signs of improvement. His post play was poor but that’s to be expected against Dwight Howard. I liked Stoudemire’s adjustment of driving the ball in the second half as opposed to settling for jumpers. I thought Stoudemire did a nice job of not settling for stagnant jump shots. When he shot the mid-range jumper he was coming off a screen and shooting a rhythm jump shot. A lot of his success came against Glen “Big Baby” Davis who Stoudemire routinely destroys (as noted in my game preview). I thought he showed some great explosiveness on the poster dunk of Davis. It was the type of explosive move we haven’t seen from Stoudemire this year. It is one thing to drive the ball but I thought in the second half, Stoudemire did a good job of exploding to the rim to get to the line and get some shots in the paint. D’Antoni did a nice job of getting Stoudemire moving in the offense and not just isolating him 22 feet away from the rim. Against Oklahoma City, there were times where Stoudemire was running isolation beyond the arc which was asinine and ridiculous. Today there was none of that which was good to see and despite his smaller sample size of shots, Stoudemire was efficient today. I liked a lot of what I saw in terms of running him off screens and getting him rhythm jump shots.

However, there were a few things I did not like. How many pick and rolls do you see in that list above? 0. The Knicks did not run any pick and roll to Stoudemire. At times he set screens but there was no effort to get him the ball off the roll. The pick and roll what Stoudemire does best and the Knicks do not even run it. I understand there’s no point guard but that doesn’t mean abandoning the pick and roll is a good idea. Clearly Stoudemire is best moving towards the rim, why not even TRY to get him the ball on a pick and roll? Especially when Stoudemire’s jump shot has been cold and struggling. The second thing I did not like was Stoudemire’s lack of usage in the 4th quarter. He started the 4th quarter on fire and then the Knicks went away from him. Part of this is on Melo. Part of this is on the point guards and the coaches but I think Stoudemire needs to receive blame as well. I thought he did a poor job of presenting himself for the ball in the middle and late stages of the 4th. As a result, he barely touched the ball and when Melo went cold the Knicks were done.

Looking past his foul trouble and limited minutes, I thought Stoudemire played a decent offensive game. His impact was not felt after about the 8 minute mark in the 4th but he did show some good signs when he had the ball. His jump shot is still cold but he did show good willingness to adjust his game and get to the rim. Clearly he can get to the rim when he wants and I would like to see more of that from him. I want to see some pick and rolls as well but the Knicks seem hesitant to do it until Baron Davis gets back. Stoudemire must stay on the court first and for most but overall he did do some good things today.

Stoudemire Becoming Too Perimeter Oriented

Amar’e Stoudemire is widely considered the best pick and roll man in the NBA. He is 6’11 and wildly explosive. When he drives to the paint he is damn near unstoppable. Last season, Stoudemire shot 63% at the rim and 45% taking 3-9 foot shots. Conversely he shot 44% from 16-23 feet. Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, Nene Hilario and Kevin Garnett all shot a higher percentage on shots taken from 16-23 feet. Stoudemire is a good mid range shooter but he made his money devastating defenses in the paint and at the rim and he needs to get back to that style of offense.

In last nights game, Stoudemire was 3-5 on shots at the rim, 3-9 feet and 10-15 feet. He was 2-9 on shots 16-23 feet. I understand that part of this is having no point guard and seemingly no pick and roll game in sight right now. That is not Stoudemire’s fault. What is Stoudemire’s fault is his seemingly willingness to just shoot long jumpers. David Lee is a great guy. I love him and Knick fans loved him. He is a good player but he cannot stay with Stoudemire, as shown by Stoudemire’s poster dunk on him last night. Once he realized his jumper was cold, and it was ice cold, Stoudemire should have reverted to his drive and post game. Instead, Stoudemire began firing 18 footer after 18 footer and could not deliver the offensive efficiency that the Knicks needed last night. Against the 6’9 Lee, Stoudemire should have attacked the post and the paint and dominated inside. That is what he is known for and that is what he needs to get back to. This 2-9 from mid-range cannot happen when you are one of the two consistent scoring threats on this team. The Knicks need 20-25 points a game from Stoudemire and he needs to use the most successful aspects of his game to get there.

A lot was made about Stoudemire hitting a 2 three pointers game 1 versus Boston but I do not see that necessarily as a positive. This is why I say that. You’re paying a guy a 5 year max deal to be your dominant, unstoppable inside force. Do you want him shooting 3’s? Yea it is great when he makes them but what happens if he reverts to a 35% shooter from 3. Do you want your dominant power forward working on his 3 point perimeter shooting when his focus should be getting into the paint and postering people? His 3 point shooting is a nice fasset of his game but that, along with his mid range jumper, should not be the emphasis of his offensive game. Stoudemire needs to get back to dominating on the drive and in the paint.

D’Antoni Must Be Careful With Stoudemire’s Health

The NBA regular season would run through April 26 and require teams to play at least one set of back-to-back-to-back games if a new labor deal is ratified in time to start on Christmas.

The league posted an outline of what the schedule would look like on its Twitter pages Sunday. The plan is a 66-game regular season, ending about 10 days later than usual. The last possible day of the NBA Finals would be June 26, two weeks later than the championship series ended last season.

Teams would play 48 games within their conference and 18 outside their conference. Teams will not visit every NBA city.

Teams will play about two more games per month, but no team would play on three straight nights more than three times.

Back-to-backs might also be played during the second round of the postseason.


This condensed schedule combined with a lost offseason will result in more player injuries this year in the NBA than in years past. Unfortunately, Knicks superstar Amar’e Stoudemire does not have the best injury history and wore down late in the season and in the playoffs last year. Part of the reason for his breakdown was bad luck, like trying a trick dunk before game 2 of the playoffs, but also because of Mike D’Antoni’s shortened rotation throughout the season. D’Antoni shortened the rotation due to a lack of team depth which is understandable but now with Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to supplement some of Stoudemire’s scoring, D’Antoni must be smart with Stoudemire’s minutes. Only having completed 3 full seasons of his 9 year career, Stoudemire averaged 36 minutes per game last season. Despite his 78 games played, it was clear that his stamina and health declined late in the season resulting in a poorer on court performance. D’Antoni must relegate Stoudemire to 32-34 minutes per game in order to keep the power forward fresh. Unfortunately, the Knicks currently do not have a serviceable backup power forward on the roster. My suggestion is to use Jeffries there but also to give Shawne Williams minutes at that spot. Williams is 6’9 and has the toughness to play low post defense. He will not be anywhere near the All-NBA Defensive team but I think Williams can adequately guard power forwards. If he can get back to his 2010 early season form, I think Williams would be a nice stretch 4 to use in a smaller lineup.

Obviously I want to see Stoudemire on the court as much as possible as he is one of the most dominant and dynamic scorers in the league but he has clear injury problems that cannot be ignored. Remember that Stoudemire has 4 more high priced seasons in New York and the Knicks do not have the depth to replace him adequately if he goes down with a major injury. Hopefully Stoudemire can stay on the court but if he is unable to the Knicks may want to use the amnesty clause on him down the road. Obviously it is way too early to seriously discuss that but it is just something to think about…


Amar’e Needs to Shut It Down

According to Marc Spears of Yahoo, Amar’e Stoudemire will be scratched from Drew Gooden’s charity game due to a re-injury of his back.

I think Amar’e has to shut everything down until an NBA season starts. He is under contract for 4 more seasons with the Knicks and makes a maximum contract. The Knicks cannot afford to have Stoudemire missing games throughout his tenure in New York. He and Carmelo Anthony are the cornerstones of this franchise and they need to be on the court for as many games as possible. The Knicks do not have the depth to succeed without Stoudemire in the lineup. As Dan L from Knicks Fan Blog tweeted about yesterday, the Knicks may end up having to amnesty clause Stoudemire later in time if his injury problems continue. Obviously way too early to say but something interesting to think about…

Kevin Durant Charity Game Will Be Streamed Online

Today’s KD Charity Game featuring Melo, Amar’e and Kevin Durant, will be streamed online on the basketball channel. Here are the rosters for the teams

Team Blue:

Chris Paul

Carmelo Anthony

Amar’e Stoudemire

Rudy Gay

James Harden

John Wall

Damien Wilkins

Johnny Flynn

Team White:

Kevin Durant

Russell Westbrook

LeBron James

LaMarcus Aldridge

Monta Ellis

Jeff Green

Michael Beasley

Jamal Crawford

You have to sign up for an account on the basketball channel but it only takes a few seconds.

Here is the link for the game