What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA End of Season Worst to First Countdown: 29. New York Knicks

2014/2015 Projection: 42-40, second place Atlantic Division, eighth place Eastern Conference

Actual Finish: 17-65, fifth place Atlantic Division, fifteenth place Eastern Conference

Projected 2012/2013 Finish

Actual 2014/2015 Finish

Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 91.9 (30th)
  • Points Allowed: 101.2 (22nd)
  • Team FG%: .428 (28th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .460 (27th)
  • Team FT%: .769 (8th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .347 (15th)
  • Rebounds per game: 40.4 (29th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.5(16th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.8 (17th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.4 (17th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Carmelo Anthony (24.1)
  • Rebounds per game:  Carmelo Anthony (6.6)
  • Minutes per game:  Carmelo Anthony (35.7)
  • Assists per game:  Jose Calderon (4.7)
  • Field Goal Percentage:  Cole Aldrich (.478)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Jose Calderon (.910)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Jose Calderon (.415)
  • Steals per game:  Shane Larkin (1.2)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Samuel Dalembert (1.3)

SDH’s Hero to Honor: +Andrea Bargnani 

Soon the drama which is Andrea Bargnarni will come to an end: the story of a wayward Italian boy selected first overall in the 2006 NBA Draft and the tumultuous years that would come thereafter.  He never made the All Star team, but was certainly paid like one, and despite his best efforts, never got much, if any, as a player; however, this time he deserves the spotlight as he was the only Knick that was worth talking about this season.  Although he spent the bulk of it on the the sidelines, he spent the final 29 games of the season carrying the team offensively averaging a rather efficient 16 points per game in just under 30 minutes of playing time.  In the month of March, he certainly showed that he could still put up big numbers scoring at least fifteen or more points in all but 11 games he played in and was held to single digits just four times; however, as most of his most fervent of critics would point out, none of his performances ended up as wins.  Despite the wasted sham of a season, at least Bargs still had a chance to show prospective NBA teams that there still is some "Il Mago"  left in him.  

SDH’s Face to Forget: +Carmelo Anthony  

After such an abysmal performance by both himself and his team, it is understandable if Melo chose to cut out of the season early and crawl under the nearest rock; however, on the flip side, it does not very good for a captain not to stay and go down with the ship.  After all, he did choose to resign with the team despite having the opportunity to jump to a better situation where he would be in a better spot to have a chance to win a championship; yet, by doing that, he must have known that the road that he chose would not have easy to drive through in the least.  In his defense, even he did not fathom that his team would fall so far considering the fact that his boss, Phil Jackson did make a concerted effort to surround him with solid veteran talent and had the team been at full strength at opening tip off, the Knicks could have at least been in the playoff chase for sure; instead, the team came into the regular season injury plagued and short handed leaving it vulnerable for dissection by the opposition.  Anthony's inability to adjust to triangle offense did not help matters either--especially considering the fact that he was the primary focal point of the offense, giving him plenty of shot opportunities; nonetheless, he can hold solace in the fact that 18 wins will probably to the lowest the team can go and there is no where else to go but up.  Hopefully, next season will erase this debacle as the Knicks come into the off-season with plenty of cap space and the chance to snag the number one overall pick in the Draft Lottery which gives Anthony as well as the fan who had so much faith in him a glimmer of hope for the future making this past season a distant memory. 

At the opening tip-off of the 2015 +NBA Regular Season, the +New York Knicks came into the season with a better team, new coach, new management and a better outlook for the future as they made Carmelo Anthony  the face, heart and soul of the franchise for the next five years; plus, by some voodoo or black magic, the team's new boss, Phil Jackson, managed to snag draft picks and acquired a talented group of veterans to surround his star.  Add the return of a healthy +Amar'e Stoudemire, and a solid group of returning supporting cast players which consisted of JR Smith+Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnarni, +Tim Hardaway Jr., and +Pablo Prigioni, among others, Knicks fans as well as the rest of basketball viewing world would be treated to team that not only had a chance to return to playoffs, but might just also challenge for the Atlantic Division Title.  Fans also got teased in the off season as they watched their team gel rather well during the NBA Summer League as the players seemed quite at ease with the newly implemented "Triangle Offense" brought in by the team's new appointed head coach--Jackson's own protege, Derek Fisher--which combined with the roster upgrades made the Knicks look like quite a formidable foe coming into November.  Unfortunately, all these rosy projections turned into false hope and shattered dreams as fan and the rest of the world saw this one time historic franchise not only just stumble, but fall, crash and burn right in front of them finishing the league's second worst record and a rather prominent black eye.  Now all Knick fans can do is throw their hand up in the air, call the season awash and eagerly await the off season where their will have access to the most salary cap space it has ever seen in more than a decade and a chance to attain the number one overall pick in this upcoming NBA Draft.

The season started well enough as the Knicks won two of the first three games and even the seven game losing skid which followed did not phase fans a bit as many considered those as "growing pains" in which the team will eventually turn things around as there were still 72 games to play; however, the losing did not stop there.  After a short respite where New York went 2-2, their wounds would burst open once again and the Knicks simply started hemorrhaging as their finished December with just one win and continued to bleed out through 2015 thus making it quite apparent to not only fans, but the rest of the sporting world that there was no bouncing back for this team and it had become blatantly apparent that this team was headed nowhere.    After witnessing the team he built crumble before him, Team President Phil Jackson had enough and decided to take matters into his own hands--first by trading away JR Smith and Iman Shunpert to the +Cleveland Cavaliers for garbage player that would be waived soon after (1/6/2015), then buying out the remainder of Amare Stoudemire's expiring contract (2/16/2015), and trading away Pablo Prigioni to the +Houston Rockets for another expiring contract and two second round picks (2/19/2015).  By All Star break, the team had been completely gutted with just four players under contract next season and with the team in complete disarray around him, both Jackson Knicks head coach Derek Fisher decided to show mercy to their beleaguered star and chose to sit Carmelo Anthony out for the rest of the season under the guise of recovery for a knee surgery (2/18/2015).  Although it officially ended in April, the Knicks had already packed in their season by January as they played out the rest of it with a skeleton crew roster just counting the days until the final horn sounding and they can finally put that sham of season behind them and finally start looking towards the future.

Upon closer examination, what made this season such a shame was the fact that in the first two months, most of the losses that the Knicks had suffered were by single digits with 12 going down by five points or less, three in over time, and had the ball bounced their way in the last couple minutes or even a few seconds, their season would have probably ended far differently.  In November, the Knicks went through a four game stretch where they lost by a total of 17 points, which is an average of just four points each, with two of them being decided by one basket; in addtion to those gut churning turn of events New York had equally heart wrenching moments such as the three point loss against the +Detroit Pistons (11/5/2014), the +Milwaukee Bucks by four (11/18/2015), the +Houston Rockets by five (11/24/2014), the +Dallas Mavericks in overtime (11/26/2014), and in spite holding them to just 86 points, lost to the +Miami HEAT by seven (11/30/2014).  Had the Knicks managed to hold on and win such nail biters against the Pistons, the +Orlando Magic (11/12/2014) and the +Utah Jazz (11/14/2014)--all of which were decided by just one basket--they would have started the season at 5-5 instead of 2-8 which would have probably been much better for the team's overall confidence and morale; however, the hands of fate would not allow it and waged  a cruel campaign against the Knicks shattering both their resolve and collective self esteem.  Add the two straight games where the +Atlanta Hawks squeezed past them (11/8, 11/10) as well as the Bucks game where both teams scored a whopping 230 points altogether, the Knicks would have been right in the thick of the Eastern Conference race with an 8-5 record and had they pulled out wins against Dallas, Houston and Miami, they would have started the season with a rather respectable 10-8 record which would have given them enough momentum to at least help split the four games they started December in which they lost by a total of just 14 points--less than four per game.  Had the pendulum swung in their favor in many of those early hard fought losses, it probably would have been a far different season with the Knicks Probably earning a sixth or seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs instead of finishing with the second worse record in the NBA behind the +Minnesota Timberwolves.

Regardless of what may or may not have happened, either way the Knicks and their fans will be looking forward to an off season where they will not only have more than 50$ million in salary cap space as well as the chance to acquire the first overall pick in this upcoming NBA draft which is too bad of a consolation prize for finishing last place in the Eastern Conference; however, unlike most teams on the road to rebuilding, the Knicks do not have that much time on their hands.  Carmelo Anthony has recently turned thirty and certainly did not envision spending the last five best playing years of his career on a rebuilding team especially since he signed a long term extension deal with the team and planned on finishing his career in the Big Apple thus the Knicks' front office will most certainly have plenty of pressure to ensure that their team bounces back from that horrible season as quickly as possible.  If not, they will certainly have one unhappy player on their hands and as he ages, his performance as well as his overall market value will certainly diminish thus resulting in a toxic relationship that might just possibly sink the franchise and its star player to the point of no return which makes it even more imperative that the Knicks get the job right the first time as there is little room for trial and error.  For both their sakes, Phil Jackson and his cronies in the Knicks' front office better come up big in free agency because unlike last season, the picking are rather slim compared to the last off season in terms of game changing free agents available and the patience of both his team's star and its fan base can be considered as rather slim to say the least; however, salary cap space is not a guarantee that he can get a difference maker and it may take a year or two for a lottery pick to make an immediate impact.  He literally has his back on the wall as there will be numerous factors out of his control come the off season; plus, add the pressure of needing to succeed as soon as possible, Phil Jackson will definitely have a job on his hand to turn this team to a 16 game loser to championship contender.

The obvious step for next season for Phil is certainly to get the Knicks back into the playoffs which is not too much of a difficult task considering it just took 38 games to make it into the post season this year; however, that is still quite a daunting task considering the fact that his team is in rubble and be virtually has to build it back up from scratch.  Hopefully with all the tools available at his disposal--the ridiculous amount of cap space that no Knick GM has had since FOREVER and the prospect of receiving, at worse, the second overall pick in this upcoming draft--Jackson will have what he need to make this team at least semi-respectable when the NBA restarts in October; plus, he also has the additional luxury to know build the team as he seems fit since he has a virtual clean canvas to do it on.  Unfortunately, he works in an rather cynical, scrutinizing and unforgiving marketplace where every breath he makes, every move he makes, every bond he break, every step he takes . . . okay, you get the point--he will be watched very closely.  Many would scoff at the idea that Phil will buckle under the pressure considering he took two team with very high standards in excellence to twelves NBA Finals winning eleven of them; however, what these same people do not understand is that there is a big difference between coaching a team that has been given to him compared to being in the background and building a team for someone else to coach.  Perhaps his plan is to ultimately take over coaching duties once the team has been molded into his own image with all the pieces in place; however, if that is the case, he might just set himself up for failure if things fall awry.  So let us all hope that for the sake of not only the NBA, but the sports world in general, that he can turn things around as soon as possible in the world's largest and most lucrative sports market because not only the people of New York, but the entire world needs to see this team be successful and time is not on his side.