Our friend Seth Rosenthal from SBN's Knicks blog Posting and Toasting was kind enough to give us the scoop on all things Knicks ahead of the Bucks' trip to MSG tonight--the struggles of the Knicks, Amare Stoudemire's mere mortal start to the season, and the evolving cult of rookie Iman Shumpert. Check out my questions in bold and Seth's responses under them. Thanks Seth!
Much has been made of the Knicks recently slipping to below .500 since making the Carmelo trade and losing four straight overall. How concerned are Knicks fans? How concerned should they be?
Knicks fans are pretty concerned. Actually, "concerned" isn't really the right word for how Knicks fans get when things are going poorly. "Irrational", "rabid", or "bloodthirsty" might be more accurate. We don't take losing well, especially when we know the games of the guys on the team. Now, I say "we", but I do think a lot of us understand that this is a hastily slapped-together team trying to spackle together some uneven parts, and they're perhaps hampered more than anybody by the lack of a full training camp and limited practice time. Moreover, they've been playing essentially without a point guard, as Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert, and Mike Bibby have been saddled with managing the ball while Baron Davis recovers from a back injury. So, I don't claim to know whether Knick fans should be as violently "concerned" as they are at the moment, but I do see some reason to hope that things will get better.
I've always been skeptical of the Melo/Amare core as a stand-alone, but for me the wild card has always been whether having those two guys would help lure other stars into the fold. Adding Tyson Chandler used up any potential cap room for next summer, but there's plenty of talk about the Knicks going after Steve Nash, Jameer Nelson or even Ray Felton with the MLE. Is that enough, or are the Knicks setting themselves up to come up short?
That remains to be seen. Like I said, I'm one of those who thinks the presence of even an average point guard would dramatically improve the functioning of what should be a deadly offense. They need somebody confident and creative enough with the ball to hit Amar'e Stoudemire on the move, find Tyson Chandler when he's open under the basket, and make sure that Carmelo Anthony isn't allowed to eat up entire possessions with jab steps. There is absolutely no reason this team's offense should be worse than it was last year other than the present hole at point guard. So, if they continue to struggle even with Davis, then I'll just be awash with sorrow and without any idea of what they should do. I have a feeling that won't be the case, though, and that one of the names you mentioned could do this squad a lot of good.
The Chandler/Amare combo seems like a perfect pairing on paper, and by his numbers it seems like Chandler is doing exactly what one would have expected. So what gives with Amare's struggles?
Amar'e has several problems right now: 1. There isn't a point guard to feed him when he's on the move in transition or in pick-and-roll situations, which is traditionally where he thrives. 2. He keeps bumping into Tyson Chandler under the basket, which is something that could be remedied with the aforementioned insertion of a point guard and perhaps some more creative coaching. 3. His jump shot isn't falling. He looks very, very bad right now, but one hopes that it's just because he's getting different touches and different looks than he's used to and hasn't just completely been drained of talent.
I've seen a ton of chatter in my Twitter timeline about Iman Shumpert, the Knicks' high-flying first round pick who has been getting good run at both backcourt positions so far. But looking at his fairly middling numbers, my small market, knee-jerk reaction is that it feels like another case of a guy getting overhyped because he's a raw talent playing in a big market. As someone who watches him every night, have you bought into Shumpert or is it all a bit premature?
Well, I think Shump's getting overhyped because he's been overexposed by necessity. The kid's really not a pure point guard-- which is fine-- but he's been thrust into the starting point guard spot. In the beginning, he performed remarkably well, which is why you heard all that bluster from the seedy underbelly of the Knicks fan base. More recently, though, he's struggled to create for others and his own shots haven't been falling. Really, though, Shump's quite precocious and undeniably talented. I think he'll look a lot better when he's not being made to play starter's minutes as a point guard, and I think he'll turn into a terrific player and an excellent value for the 17th pick. He's already capable of some marvelous things on defense, and appears to have both the athleticism and the work ethic to develop a reliable offensive game. So, yes I have bought into Shumpert AND yes, it's all a bit premature.