The Wizards and Knicks face off for the second time this season, the previous meeting coming in Washington, a 99-96 Knicks win (the Wizards have only one trip to New York on their schedule). Without much deliberation, let’s get into tonight’s 3-on-3, featuring John Kenney (@JohnBKenney) of KnickerBlogger.net, the TrueHoop Network’s Knicks blog, along with TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20) and myself, Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) When John Wall and Jeremy Lin (as a member of the Dallas Mavericks ) faced off in the 2010 NBA Summer League, Wall had trouble defending Lin (as did Lin with Wall). John went under a lot of screens and Jeremy made him pay. The Wizards won 88-82, thanks to 23 points from Cartier Martin, but Lin did score 11 fourth quarter points. Tonight will be the first meeting between the two since. Considering the environment (especially Lin’s recent boost into the limelight as the Knicks prepare to play Washington without Carmelo Anthony (groin), Amar’e Stoudemire (death in the family) and Baron Davis (presumably a beard-related injury or ailment otherwise)), how will this Wall-Lin matchup play out?
KENNEY: While many have focused on Lin’s offensive explosion, his defense has also been pleasantly surprising. Wall’s athleticism makes him a tough matchup to defend, but if Lin’s performances against Deron Williams and Devin Harris are any indication, he’ll do a fine job. (I also wouldn’t be surprised to see 6-foot-5 Iman Shumpert defend Wall at times.) And on offense, I expect Lin to score around 20 points, while delivering a number of nice assists to Tyson Chandler. The one concern should be that Lin must avoid foul trouble. If Lin is out for extended periods of the game, that means more Toney Douglas (currently in the worst slump of his career,) which helps explain why Lin played the entire 2nd, 3rd AND 4th quarters against the Jazz. Luckily, having Tyson defending the rim is a good safety net against Wall blow-bys.
MOBLEY: Based on the results of the last two Knicks victories, Lin will have to carry the offensive burden in order for his team to win–which is the equivalent of playing with house money. He’ll play loose and carefree. Coach Randy Wittman will tell Wall to run the offense and play within himself like he did against the Raptors. But Wall will struggle to balance that with his own competitive streak, and his numbers and overall game will suffer.
WEIDIE: Jeremy Lin will get his… Why? Because he’s a smart player, has great confidence, New York will be in desperate need of scoring, and Washington’s bigs are generally inept of pick-and-roll defense (aside from rookie Jan Vesely). Screening action has proved to be Lin’s bread and butter in his two dazzling games with the Knicks. They honeymoon, however, will be over for Jeremy tonight. Not that the Wizards will intimidate a depleted Knicks squad by any means, but I think John Wall remembers that Summer League battle and his athleticism advantage will overwhelm Lin (even though Lin has legitimate 6-foot-3 height). Before the game Sam Cassell was telling Wall in the locker room that Lin will try to bait Wall into some charges, so watch out for that.
#2) The Wizards have made some bench players look like All-Stars lately — Amir Johnson with 18 points and 13 rebounds for Toronto last Friday, and Linas Kleiza with 30 off the bench for Toronto on Monday — what bench player shines tonight? [NOTE: It could be a bench player from New York or Washington, as it also could be a player filling in for one of New York's unavailable stars -- the Knicks started Lin, Landry Fields, Jared Jeffries, Carmelo Anthony (now hurt; Bill Walker will likely replace him) and Tyson Chandler versus the Jazz on Monday; the Wizards started Wall, Nick Young, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee.]
KENNEY: The Knicks have long produced bench-player All-Stars from among their opponents rosters, so I feel your pain. If the Wizards defense is not sound in locating Steve Novak, he could hurt them from deep, but lacks other skills. Iman Shumpert, now coming off the bench, looks to have been a great pick for the Knicks, but likely won’t shoot enough to burn the Wiz. It is unlikely any other (healthy) bench player for the Knicks possesses the requisite basketball ability to “shine.” On the Wizards side…Woah, Rashard Lewis still plays basketball? Against the Jazz, the Knicks took to deploying three players normally classified as shooting guards (Bill Walker, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert) at the 2, 3, and 4 spots. If Lewis comes in at the 3, he’ll certainly be able shoot over whoever is guarding him. This would, of course, require him to still be playing basketball by the time the game tips off. Guess we’ll see!
MOBLEY: Lin and Wall promises to be an entertaining duel, but they cannot play all 48 minutes, which means the game within the game will be between backup point guards Shelvin Mack and Toney Douglas. Douglas has not played well as of late, but he’s a threat from behind the arc, and if he watched Linas Kleiza and Jerryd Bayless on Monday, he knows a big night is ripe fo the plucking. Mack’s play has been improving the past two weeks, this trend can only continue if he’s going up against the struggling Douglas. I’m giving the edge to Douglas.
WEIDIE: Tonight is Jan Vesely’s night, although I won’t go as far as saying he’ll look like an All-Star. With Knicks stars out, Jan will have a chance to come off the bench and provide a spark for Washington with deflections, defense and overall activity against New York’s second, second unit. The rookie is due for one of these games, and I’m not exactly sure how it will happen, but I’m betting Vesely will shatter his career-high scoring mark of 7 points (in 22 games played thus far).
3) If Mike D’Antoni, firmly on the hot seat in the Big Apple, were to be fired by the Knicks, how viable an option would he be for the Wizards/a fit with John Wall? (Also feel free to debate how hot D’Antoni’s seat is/should be.)
KENNEY: I am not of the opinion that D’Antoni’s seat is actually that hot. If warm, it appears that it’s in a Tom Coughlin “the-fans-get-skittish-when-
MOBLEY: D’Antoni is a coach who thrived in Phoenix when he had a great, veteran point guard (Nash) and good players surrounding him (Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Leandro Barbosa, Tim Thomas, Shawn Marion, etc). He’s had lesser talent in New York, which is why he’s firmly on the hot seat. The Wizards, even with a promising guard in John Wall, have less talent than the Knicks, let alone the Suns. If given the chance to coach in Washington, D’Antoni’s one season (he’d be fired after that) would mirror Flip’s Saunders’ three-year tenure: Few highs, way more lows, and then a pink slip.
WEIDIE: D’Antoni’s fast-paced system would fit with the athletic abilities of John Wall and with parts of how Wizards management says its shaping the team (to run with John, but defense and toughness have often been cited first). However, Washington just doesn’t have the personnel to make it work under D’Antoni right now, much less any coach. But if Wall was surrounded by more shooters, I could easily see education under D’Antoni helping bring his game toward the measured pace it needs to be at (in a ‘using change of direction to an advantage’ kind of way, not necessarily slowing down). There might ultimately be better coaching candidates for Washington, but should D’Antoni be available when the time comes, I couldn’t argue with picking him.