Opening Statements: Wizards at Knicks, Game 4 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Knicks, Game 4

Updated: November 4, 2014

Washington Wizards vs New York Knicks - Nov. 30, 2012

The last time the Wizards were an over .500 team this early in the season was in 2009, when Washington started 2-1 after beating Dallas, losing to Atlanta, and then beating the the New Jersey Nets. A thoroughly disenchanted but still prolific Gilbert Arenas (32 points), who had been dropped through the maw of the injury sarlacc and voided out the sand-packed other side, said “I don’t get excited anymore” after the game ended. Andray Blatche also scored 30 points, and was definitely excited about it. It was the end of an era, even if no one quite knew it yet.

In the years to follow, the Wizards would start very, very slowly. In 2010-11, John Wall’s rookie season, the Wizards started 3-6. In 2011-12, the Wizards started 1-8. In 2012-13: 0-9 (which would become 0-12 before it was over). Last season, a campaign that operated under a playoff mandate, the team started 2-7 before knotting up the record at 9-9. When the Wizards started 0-1 this year, that insidious welp-hood set in before anyone could remember that this wasn’t your last pet fish’s D.C. basketball team. The offense seemed herky-jerky, the late-game play-calling seemed nonexistent, the defense was uncharacteristically poor for a Randy Wittman-led Wizards team.

Then the Wizards rattled off two wins against inferior opponents and got a few days off. At 11 assists per game John Wall (through three games) trails only Boston’s Rajon Rondo (11.7) in assists per game, and has shouldered a heavier scoring load in Beal’s absence. Garrett Temple, the team’s liquid cement, is shooting at a career clip from behind the arc. Otto Porter Jr. more than doubled up (21 points) his previous career high of nine points against the Milwaukee Bucks after Paul Pierce was involved in his second “I’m obviously not aware that I am a Washington Wizard player now” incident of the season.

Not even an out-of-touch John Feinstein column (with two willfully blind digs at Wall—one character, one performance—in one paragraph) could shake this righteous comfort.

The Wizards travel to Madison Square Garden tonight to face the New York Knicks (2-1), who have earned a toast of water-turned-wine after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in LeBron’s Second-Coming home opener. Joining me in the spirit of joyous insight dissemination are Robert Silverman (@BobSaietta), editor of ESPN Truehoop’s Knicks blog, Knickerblogger, and Angus Crawford (@arkcrawford), of Knickerblogger and NBA Australia. Let’s get it.

Actually, wait. Jim Cavan, also of Knickerblogger, recently learned that his 6-month-old son, Rett, was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor on his liver and will require chemotherapy. If you read about basketball on the internet, there’s a chance you’ve laughed along with one of Jim’s pieces on Grantland or the Classical, or nodded in glowing approval of his analysis on Bleacher Report or Truehoop. Jim’s sister-in-law has set up a medical relief fund. For every delight, (hopefully) like what you’ll read below, there’s a reality like the one Jim’s family is experiencing. If helping is something you’d be into doing and can afford to do, Rett’s GoFundMe is here.

Teams: Wizards vs Knicks
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, New York
Television: CSN+
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards favored by 1.5 points.

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Q #1: Rank the Knicks offseason transactions/trades/free agent acquisitions/draft picks, worst to best:

@BobSaietta: For a team that looked hopelessly hamstrung by the cap, Trader Phil has actually been doing a lot of deck chair shuffling in the eight-odd months since he became Zen Overlord of this particular commonwealth. For the most part, I like what they’ve done. They added picks, and made some shrewd selections in the draft, inked Jason Smith to a friendly contract, re-upped Cole Aldrich, and (we’ll talk about this more in a sec) made a solid deal with the Mavs, even if it meant losing the best center they’ve had since Patrick Ewing’s grunting, pouting corpse was sent to Seattle.

There is, however, one glaring example of the old Knicks: sending a 2019 second rounder, and the right to swap seconds in 2018 to shed Travis Outlaw’s guaranteed deal to the Sixers, so they could keep Travis Wear on the roster.

It’s a minimal bit of mismanagement, to be sure, but what’s so grating is that the there was no need to give up anything at all in order to hold on to Wear; they could have simply eaten Outlaw’s contract and have been done with it. Look, it’s easy for me to say, “BURN 4.7 MILLION DOLLARS, JAMES DOLAN, BECAUSE IT PLEASES ME” but yeah. The Knicks were the most profitable team in the NBA last season. Really. The biggest advantage the Knicks have is that sweet, sweet $96 million in the black, so why not take advantage of having a huge stack of chips, particularly in situations like these?

Being smart about minor transactions is the way that a well-run franchise maximizes its ability to succeed. It’s also one of those jagged reminders of all those horrid days of future past, when the Knicks would burn picks in a trade because the giggling GM on the other end of the line knew that Dolan was somewhere in the background of any and all conversations, tooting a kazoo until the deal went through, and a piddling 2nd wasn’t going to stop him from flinging his fedora at Grunwald/Mills/Walsh till he got what he wanted.

Yes, I’m probably grousing way too much about a minor move that will have zero impact on the all-powerful, planet-eating colossus that Phil will inevitably craft, but it’s that nagging sense of, “Ugh. I thought were past this ish,” that rankles.

@arkcrawfordIn lieu of Mike Woodson’s ousting not being in the true spirit of your question, I’d slot the Knicks’ offseason shuffling in the following order (worst to best):

    • Declining a third-year team option on Shane Larkin’s contract.
    • Trading Travis Outlaw, a future second-round pick, and the right to swap future second-round picks for Sixers forward Arnett Moultrie; immediately waiving Arnett Moultrie.
    • Signing undrafted rookie Travis Wear.
    • Trading Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Tyler to Sacramento, in exchange for Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw.
    • Re-signing Cole Aldrich.
    • Trading Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas, in exchange for Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, and two second-round picks (Cleanthony Early, Thanasis Antetokounmpo).
    • Re-signing Carmelo Anthony.

Frugality has scarcely been the name of the game when it comes to front office decisions at the Garden, and kick-starting the fiscal responsibility agenda in what is otherwise a transitional twelve-month period—if nothing else—seems like a puzzling choice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for shrewd, calculated, cap-conscious transactions, I just don’t know that palming off future picks is the best way to dispose of the remaining year (and luxury tax shrapnel) attached to Travis Outlaw’s contract.

The same logic could swiftly be applied to the case of Shane Larkin—default starting point guard and one on a very narrow list of young commodities affiliated with this Knicks roster, who is now extremely unlikely to remain in New York beyond 2014-15.

It was difficult for many to see ‘Phish,’ the new regime, jettison Tyson Chandler as part of a deal that netted a new starting guard and a pair of lesser picks in the 2014 draft. Chandler’s unique amalgam of ferocious back-taps/offensive boards, reliable rim protection, character, voice, and athleticism have to some extent been undervalued as a given component of the 2011-2014 Knicks.

As for Melo’s new deal and the strong financial shackles that come with it, plenty of thoughts have been shared on whether or not it was the right course of action, and it’s tough to scrutinize just how the contract will fit into the league’s landscape in the wake of a new media rights deal with so many specifics remaining up in the air.

Q #2: What happened with Tyson Chandler, and why didn’t it work out?

Also, how do two entities with the best intentions end up hurting each other’s feelings so often on this planet? Follow up: why does heartbreak exist?

@BobSaietta: He was miserable. You can partly ascribe his down year to injuries, to be sure, but for the most part, he jut got sick and tired of the 48-minute game of Whack-A-Mole that he had to play for the Knicks to have a smidgen of hope of stopping the seemingly endless parade of pick-and-roll ballhandlers charging towards the rim. Tyson’s a smart dude, and it wasn’t remotely run to watch him clench his jaw and whir through a mental rolodex of non-answers during post-game pressers, when it was painfully obvious that, more than anything, he wanted to grab the nearest reporter by the scruff of his collar and scream, “Mike Woodson is a blithering idiot who needs a nautical compass of exacting precision to locate his own derriere!” (Or something to that effect.)

I was so repulsed at the thought of slogging through another year of Ray Felton’s mushy body manning the point, that it’s a deal that was worth doing, even if the broadcasts of Mavs games look like they’ve been drenched in a sepia-toned, nostalgic hue, especially when Chandler howls like a banshee after a ferocious alley-oop dunk. And things were clearly so rancid that the situation was irreparable and irreconcilable. There’s probably some off-court, behind-closed-doors stuff that most of us will never know about too. But yeah, Tyson’s great. It’s sad that he’s not around, for sure.

As to your follow-up, there’s a line that I fall back on a lot w/r/t human relationships that I actually think might be pilfered from the movie “Cocktail.” Lemme check… Yeah, it is. Oh well, post-“Top Gun” Cruise notwithstanding, it’s this: “Everything ends badly. Otherwise it wouldn’t end.”

It’s just as true for the significant others in our lives as it is the basketballers that we drape—like one of those jaunty capes that Tyson Chandler is so fond of—with our precious #feels.

@arkcrawford: Chandler’s play well and truly plateaued in his final campaign under Mike Woodson, with the coach’s stubborn, switch-laden scheme drawing his ire, and the sheer monotony of delivering last-ditch help defense night after night seemingly sapping his enthusiasm. The goateed, gangly defensive anchor earned eight techs across only 55 games last season, with the height of his dissatisfaction arriving after a forgettable January loss to the Nets:

“I don’t want to switch,’’ Chandler said. “I personally don’t like it. You come in with defensive plan and everybody mans up and takes up his responsibility. Switching should be a last resort and, no, I don’t think we’re built to switch everything.’’

Such rumblings, along with Chandler’s status as one of the few tradeable chips left on the Knicks’ roster, were the impetus for his relatively abrupt exit.

Q #3: We were all Knicks fans on October 30, 2014, when they took on the Cavs at Quicken Loans Arena, for LeBron’s homecoming’s home opener.

What’s the opening paragraph of your thesis paper on “Why It Mattered When the Knicks Beat the Second-Coming-Era Cavs.”

@BobSaietta: I’m going to defer to Kevin McElroy here, and turn in his recap as my paper. Hopefully, the fictional professor that’s grading this doesn’t know how to use the Google.

“The Cavs wake up the Cavs tomorrow. The Knicks wake up the Knicks. But on one night of eighty-two, a rebuilding team reminded us that though they might not pile up enough victories to take us where we want to go, they will give us moments of genuine joy and inspiration on an otherwise weary road. And those moments are to be cherished because, in the final analysis, they’re the reason we stick around.

The 2014-15 Knicks can only be who they are, can only rise to the occasions that fate lays before them. Tonight, the occasion was LeBron James’ homecoming.

Well, welcome home.”

@arkcrawfordAs utter pandemonium descended upon the fringe of the Cuyahoga River, few could have accurately forecast the unfolding of events. LeBron James, the anti-antihero of Northeast Ohio, once more thrust unto parquet contours adorned in the Cavaliers’ wine and gold, had met his nemesis. A well-groomed, green, and slender forward with waterlogged feet and a restrained smirk—Travis Wear—jilted James in a showing that surprised even the rookie. Gloved by the UCLA prospect of 128 collegiate appearances, the pomp and circumstance permeating through James’ ceremonial return stifled the Cleveland royalty, coaxing the protagonist into eight turnovers and fewer than 20 points for the first time in four years.

Q #4: The Knicks have opened the season with two wins against teams that almost everyone outside of New York believe are more likely candidates for the playoffs than the ‘Bockers.

Outside of Carmelo (who can’t rightly be called a surprise—he just surpassed 20,000 career points), who has been the biggest surprise performer so far?

@BobSaietta:The fact that all of these flawed parts are working as well at they have is somewhat surprising, without a doubt. But for the most part, everyone’s performing about at the level that your standard-brand Knicks optimist could have hoped. Fisher’s been cool, calm and composed. STAT looks healthy (for now). JR Smith remains totally bumfuzzled. Jason Smith has a sweet midrange jumper and not much else. Sam Dalembert’s a nice rim protector and capable rebounder but his shot is janky as all get out, and his positioning on defense leaves a lot to be desired. Shane Larkin is whippet-quick and a pesky, harass-y defender, but doesn’t really know how to best utilize his physical gifts yet.

The bigger surprise, that ‘Bockers are a gaudy 2-1, isn’t due to any one bro surpassing expectations; it’s just that they’ve eliminated the borderline criminally stupid shit that absolutely defined the 2013-14 squad. None of the in-game moves that Fisher is making are brilliant or revolutionary, but logic and common sense are a massive step forward for this team. Like I wrote in the recap of the Pants-Bugs game, “what occurred tonight, win or lose, is infinitely preferable to the sense of all-encompassing doom that you felt last season, girding your loins against a galling, laugh-to-keep-from-crying self-inflicted wound that you knew was just around the corner.”

This is a good thing. We fans are happy. I still think they’re going to struggle to make the playoffs, but that’s okay. What’s far more important is the there’s a solid long-term plan in place, and a reasonable amount of faith that the people in charge of executing that plan are competent. That is a HUGE step forward for this franchise.

@arkcrawfordIman Shumpert. Long a darling of Knicks fans and an inhabitant of coaching kennels, the fourth-year man approached the new season as a candidate for a contract extension prior to the October 31 deadline. Too often Shumpert has floated through passages of a season, unable to mold robust offensive output from his genetic tools, and hard-pressed when looking to push into conversations of elite perimeter defenders.

His scoring, as a secondary cog and a bonus to anything delivered by the team’s central attacking weapons, has lacked the consistency and fluidity necessary for his teammates to defer to on a regular basis.

Regardless, opponents outscored the Knicks by more than seven points per 100 possessions with the flat-topped force riding the bench last season, per, a gruesome 12-point turnaround from his shifts on the hardwood across 82 games. If Shumpert can stagger his fouling, and work to refine his finishing at the rim, it’ll go a long way to bursting through what some viewed as a relatively limited ceiling.

Over/Unders! with @arkcrawford:

Over/under 40.5 wins this season for the New York Knicks?

Over, by a hair. I had them pegged for the 8-seed in the preseason, squarely at .500. —Angus Crawford

Over/under 49.5 games played for Amare Stoudemire (who dropped 17 points and 10 rebounds on the Hornets) this season?

Over. Sensible, nuanced minutes distribution and Amar’e should be able to comfortably amass 60 games. —Angus Crawford

Over/under 7.5 moments of “Wait, would Carmelo sign somewhere else?” this past offseason.

Under. Cheers. —Angus Crawford


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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.