Well, it took a while, but we’ve finally got our first “The New York Knicks are dysfunctional and firing on zero cylinders” story of the 2017-18 NBA season.
Hmm? What’s that? It only took one week and three games? Ah! So it is!
The Celtics played without injured All-Star forward Gordon Hayward, expected starting small forward Marcus Morris and key perimeter stopper/secondary ball-handler Marcus Smart. It didn’t matter. They ran away from the Knicks with a 17-4 mid-first-quarter run and dominated from there leading by as many as 25 points and cruising to victory behind strong games from young wings Jaylen Brown (23 points on 9-for-16 shooting, four rebounds) and Jayson Tatum (22 points on 9-for-15 shooting, four rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks) and star point guard Kyrie Irving (20 points, seven assists, three rebounds).
Expected top scorers Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for just 18 points on 5-for-25 shooting. The Knicks went 1-for-12 from 3-point range, while allowing Boston to knock down 14 of its 29 long-distance looks. At no point over the final three quarters did the Knicks resemble a legitimate threat.
“Obviously Boston is much more talented than us and they have more weapons,” Porzingis said after the game, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “But that’s why we as a group – we have to play the right way and execute our stuff and do everything almost 100 percent right to win these type of games.”
The problem, it seems: the Knicks might not actually know “our stuff” is, or how do it “the right way,” or “almost 100 percent right.” Or, like, any percentage moving above single digits.
Courtney Lee said some players don't know the plays and they need to pay attention more in practice.
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) October 25, 2017
From ESPN’s Ian Begley:
“It was a lot of possessions like a normal eye might not see it, but we messed up on a lot of plays where the ball wasn’t getting delivered on time or one or two guys not being on the same page as far as the playcalling. That’s on us. We’ve got to pay attention more in practice, make sure we execute more when we’re out there…. There’s plays that we go over in practice, if we’re messing up in practice and we’re messing up in games we got to understand these plays and get in those positions to where we’re executing and being sharp. If we miss shots, we miss shots. That’s part of the game. But not being in the right position takes away a shot for your teammates. We got to learn the plays.”
“We’re all out there just running like we don’t know what’s going on,’’ Hardaway said. “It can’t happen. It’s frustrating at the same time, but it’s still early in the season. We’ve just got to go to the drawing boards and get back to practice, just go out there knowing what we have to do offensively and defensively.” […]
“You saw it out there,’’ Hardaway said. “It’s no secret. We’re turning the ball over, lackadaisical out there. Nothing seems crisp really. I mean, yeah, that comes with not really that much experience all together, like all these other teams.”
So, to be clear: three games into the season — a season the Knicks have started with three losses, including two blowouts and one in which they blew a big lead to the Detroit Pistons at home — Knicks players are saying that they either have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing, or that they’re doing an abysmal job of executing the things that they are supposed to be doing. Neat!
Such comments would not seem to reflect especially well on Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, who recently attributed early-season dullness to a relative lack of prep time:
Hornacek said recently that players not knowing plays is a consequence of a shortened preseason.
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) October 25, 2017
Everybody else has a curtailed preseason slate, too, though, and hardly anybody’s looked as disjointed as the Knicks in the early going.
No team’s averaging fewer points per 100 possessions than New York. No team’s got a lower collective effective field goal percentage (which accounts for 3-pointers being worth more than 2s). Only the Charlotte Hornets and similarly brutal Phoenix Suns have a lower team-wide assist-to-turnover ratio. Only the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz have turned the ball over on a higher share of their offensive possessions.
Combine all that with a defense that, as it has for most of the last 15 years, ranks in the lower third of the league in points allowed per possession, and you have a recipe for disaster. Which, through three games, is exactly what the Knicks look like.
Eight games, really, since the Knicks went winless in preseason. And with a tough slate coming up — the high-scoring and energetic Brooklyn Nets on Friday at Madison Square Garden,
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Ohio on Sunday, the second night of a back-to-back against the Nuggets back home on Monday, James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday — things could get much, much worse before they get any better. At least the Suns loom on the calendar on Nov. 3 … although, with the Knicks so summarily scrambled, even that doesn’t seem like a gimme. Y’know, Phoenix has actually won a game this season.
The glass-half-full take, here: it’s only three games. Before a clunker in Boston, Porzingis looked like a legitimate No. 1 star in his first two outings. Rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, who’s missed the start of the season dealing with an ankle sprain, will (hopefully) play eventually, and give the Knicks’ backcourt rotation a boost. Everybody can’t keep shooting this badly. The Knicks can, and likely will at some point, look better than this.
Then again … well, sometimes the glass really is a little bit more than half-empty.
Knicks own 7th worst def. Could be worse. Allowed 2nd most corner 3s in NBA but foes shooting 14th-best %. What if they start hitting those?
— Mike Vorkunov (@Mike_Vorkunov) October 25, 2017
It is no great surprise that the Knicks have not started the season looking like a bad team; many of us, in fact, predicted they would be just that! The more worrying part is that, with the new-car smell still wafting around the cabin of the 2017-18 campaign, multiple players felt so galled by the team’s crummy performance that they vocalized concerns that no one knows what the hell’s going on.
You can live with being bad if you’re bad with a plan; it’s being aimlessly, pointlessly bad that’s tougher to stomach. That’s been the Knicks’ problem for the better part of the last decade and a half; if it continues to hold true with this iteration of the team, you wonder how much more time Hornacek and company will get to try to get everyone on the same page.
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