D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Knicks, Preseason Game 4
Tonight, the Wizards return to Baltimore for a preseason game against the New York Knickerbockers for the first time since October 1999.
TAI’s Adam McGinnis and Kyle Weidie (me) will be on-hand to cover the festivities. As part of our standard game preview—the D.C. Council Opening Statements—Robert Silverman (@BobSaietta) from the ESPN TrueHoop blog Knickerblogger.net joins us for a couple of questions with his statements about the team desperately looking to hold onto their claim to the Big Apple.
Teams: Wizards vs. Knicks
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Baltimore Arena, Baltimore, MD
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Q #1: When prospecting the Eastern Conference, most talk about a top four—Miami, Indiana, Chicago, and Brooklyn—then the Knicks, and then the remaining three playoff spots essentially being up for grabs for any team not located in Philadelphia, Boston or Orlando (or Charlotte). How do the Knicks feel about having middling status, do they even have a shot at completing for a title this season, and, most importantly, does all this mean that Carmelo Anthony will be handed a max contract next summer?
@BobSaietta: It’s a complicated question. Let’s break it down:
From the players, whenever the re-tooled Eastern Conference is mentioned, we usually hear variations on a clenched-jaw/white-knuckled steely defiance, like this one from the ‘Bockers formerly portly point, Ray Felton: “I’m like, ‘How can y’all even say this? We made changes and I feel like we got better, and we were the No. 2 team [last season]. We won over 50 games, we won our division, but y’all going to sit here and say that, ‘Just because Brooklyn made some changes, they’ll overpower us just like that, like we have no chance.’ Come on.”
In the name of full disclosure, I’m one of the many y’alls that think the fourth/fifth seed and a second round exit is about as high as the Knicks are going to finish. I could just as easily see things going terribly, horribly wrong (as opposed to last season, when all the breaks seemed to fall in the New Yorkers’ favor, netting them the Atlantic Division crown and the two slot—Rose missing the season, Amar’e's injury forcing Woodson to get creative and go to a small-ball lineup that absolutely pulverized teams on offense out of the gate, Indiana taking all season to gel, Brooklyn failing to do so at all, and on and on).
What does that mean with regards to Carmelo? Absolutely nothing. Melo’s going to get paid in full regardless of what happens in the regular season, whether his team is crowned champions of the known basketball universe or they fail so miserably that they’re relegated to the D-League. He will opt out of the final year of his contract and re-up with the team that can pay him the most money for the most years, namely the New York Knickerbockers (Wednesday’s quotes about dreaming those dreamy dreams of the glorious day when he gets to fulfill his lifelong dream of testing free agency notwithstanding). I’d bet my first born on that (if, you know, I wasn’t an absolutely atrocious gambler).
As far as Knicks fans go, it’s about as polarized a group you’ll find this side of Congress. About half is wildly optimistic and thinks this team can and should contend and the other half is like an animal that’s been physically abused—tense, guarded, pessimistic and sure that another beating is just around the corner.
Q #2: What, if anything, should the Knicks have done this past summer that they didn’t do. Conversely, what’s the best thing they did this past summer?
@BobSaietta: Let’s start with what went well. Resigning Pablo Prigioni for three years at close to the vet minimum, Beno Udrih and Kenyon Martin at the minimum, and Metta World Peace after he’d been amnestied was about the most you could hope for given the constraints they were working with under the salary cap. I wish they could have found a way to retain Chris Copeland but the cold, hard math meant it was him or Prigioni. If only for the Neruda-esque prose poetry that he is wont to unleash in post-game interviews, I’m glad they chose the latter.
Then, there’s the Andrea Bargnani trade… Stop that. Stop laughing. It’s not that funny. Please stop laughing and pointing fingers at us and taking our lunch money and beating us soundly over the head with our viola case whilst you chuck our Ventolin inhaler into the nearest body of water and/or tall tree. Done? Thanks. Best case scenario, I think Bargs represents a net gain on the offensive end and does relatively little damage in every other facet of the game. It’s a trade Knicker-backers have been wringing their collective hands about since July. We ran an article about it this week that I think unpacks all the issues rather nicely, so if you’d like to delve deep, read this.
In brief, I think giving up a first rounder was a mistake—one that represents a lack of organizational structure/coherent philosophy. Or rather, that the philosophy it’s an exemplar of is a pretty dumb one (if your long-term goal is to compete for championship, rather than just making gobs of money and at best the second round of the playoffs.). If I were in charge, I would have held on to Novak and the picks and used them on another player who may become available this season. Someone like, say, I dunno … Rajon Rondo. You’d have to think a 1st, two 2nds, Iman Shumpert and Ray Felton for Rondo and one of Boston’s bad contracts would be a reasonable starting point for a sit down with Danny Ainge.
Q #3: Which x-factor player needs to do what in order to make the Knicks a team to fear come playoff time?
@BobSaietta: Remember the last paragraph, where I, in my role as fictional Knick GM, just sent Iman Shumpert shuffling off to Beantown with a fare thee well and a don’t-let-the-door-hit-ya-where-the-Good-Lord-split-ya? Forget that. Didn’t happen. If the Knicks are to put a legit scare into Miami/Indiana/Brooklyn/Chicago, it’ll be because in exchange for ditching his glorious flat topped hairdo, Shump’s transformed into a legitimate two-way threat. It’ll mean on defense he stops gambling/relying on his overabundance of athletic gifts and improves his positioning, while on offense, he continues to add pieces to his game. He maxed out at 40 percent from 3 last year and, in the preseason, we’ve seen him display increasing confidence in scoring off the dribble and creating for teammates in the pick-and-roll.
The potential, though, is there to be one of the top two young two guards in the league—even if for reasons that remain unknown, Coach Mike Woodson continues to treat him like a red-headed stepchild. Yes, the criticism is not dissimilar from the path to greatness I just laid out, but Iman is one of the few players that the normally close-lipped Son of Wood feels comfortable taking to task in public. There’s been a lot of chatter that our eccentric, let’s say, owner is displeased with young Master Shump, so any and all press musings/rumors are treated as confirmation he’s the next ‘Bocker with upside to be dealt for an established ‘star’.
Q #4: Baltimore, huh?
@Truth_About_It: Yes, for some reason the Wizards franchise eschewed their past and has not sought to play a preseason game (or any type of game) in Baltimore since October 1999. Starting in the late-1980s and up to March 1997, the team actually played several regular season games in Baltimore per slate. Now, they return in the inaugural Baltimore Basketball Classic. Ted Leonsis’ hockey team started playing a “Hockey Classic” in Baltimore in 2011, did not in 2012 because of the NHL lockout, but picked it back up this year with another preseason Capitals game.
For a deeper dive into the franchise’s history in Baltimore, please check out this post I wrote in September 2011, which includes Earl “The Pearl” Monroe’s once-dissatisfactory quote about Charm City in 1969: “The less I have to stay in Baltimore, the better.”
A disgruntled, trade-requesting Monroe was sent to the rival New York Knicks several games into the 1971-72 season.
Otherwise, the Wizards will play tonight—not quite sure who will play, but players will be on the court, namely budding point gawd John Wall and the player Wall will likely serve as co-pilot to in the future, Bradley Beal. It was said that Nene would play tonight after staying back in Brazil and missing the Heat game to attend to a family matter, but he had not yet surfaced in the District as of practice yesterday.
Hey, preseason basketball… in B-more.