Back in July, Carmelo Anthony didn't cite a top-five pick among his motivations for re-signing with the Knicks. But with Anthony ailing and the 5-30 Knicks bleeding losses he may not have much choice.
Knee problems prevented Melo from playing in Friday's blowout home loss to the Pistons -- their 10th loss in succession -- and the latest chatter suggests the injury could lead Anthony to be shut down for the remainder of the season. That could be fortuitous timing for the Bucks, who held on to beat the Knicks in Milwaukee in November and are hoping to bounce back from Friday's home loss to the Pacers by winning their fourth straight road game on Sunday at MSG.
Sometimes you come for the tank. Sometimes the tank comes for you.
The Bucks learned that the hard way last year, and the Knicks seem to be getting a firsthand lesson this season. New York enters Sunday's game with just one more win than the tanktastic Sixers (4-28) and three more losses than the third-from-the-bottom Wolves (5-27), with little reason to believe things will get much better anytime soon.
Looking at their recent lineups you can understand why. Rookie coach Derek Fisher fielded a lineup featured a big man pairing of Jason Smith and Cole Aldrich vs. Detroit, underscoring that the Bucks aren't the only team struggling to find enough bodies up front. J.R. Smith started at small forward and scored 22 points (5/9 threes, 3/11 twos, 8/20 overall), though his more notable contribution came after the game.
J.R. Smith compares taking pride on defense to having your video games stolen: pic.twitter.com/if0ngKmu0I— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) January 3, 2015
Wait, J.R. Smith takes pride in his defense?
Assuming Melo and Amare don't play, that would leave Aldrich as the only Knick with an above-average PER and Smith and Hardaway as the only guys averaging double figures in points (and just barely).
Get excited Knicks fans: Andrea Bargnani is back! Well, he was back...for 20 minutes on Wednesday and 2 minutes on Friday before re-aggravating a calf injury that has him listed as doubtful. I also don't have the first clue as to whether that's actually a good thing, since I don't know if Bargnani helps them win games and I don't know why the Knicks would be particularly interested in that anyway.
Otherwise pretty much every Knick you might consider interesting is currently on their injury report, reiterating why Phil Jackson probably doesn't mind seeing the losses pile up -- even in the East. Iman Shumpert (shoulder), Melo (knee), Amare (knee) and Bargs are out, while Sammy Dalembert (ankle) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (concussion) will return.
For the Bucks, the Larry Sanders Saga continues until further notice, while Kidd also revealed on Friday that Ersan Ilyasova (concussion) is also without a specific timetable for returning. On the kind-of plus side, Gery Woelfel tweeted on Friday that Jabari Parker is expected to have reconstructive surgery on his torn ACL this week, possibly as early as Monday. It's been three weeks since Jabari went down in Phoenix with the injury, but presumably the team has been waiting for swelling to subside.
The Knicks struggle in pretty much all phases of basketball, though they are slightly above average on the offensive glass. Other than that...well, they're 5-30 for a reason. Notably they're last in defensive rebound rate, so the Bucks can hopefully take advantage of that if they're not having a good shooting night.
Matchup: Calderon/Prigioni vs. Knight/Middleton
UPDATE: Tim Hardaway will return from a concussion and start next to Calderon tonight:
Knicks starting lineup tonight: Acy, J.R. Smith, Aldrich, Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr. Knicks have lost 10 in a row.— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) January 4, 2015
Dating back to his Raptor days, it seems like a general rule that Jose Calderon scores 12 points off pick-and-rolls in every first quarter against the Bucks, so let's see if the Bucks can maybe do better in that department, OK? Otherwise, the Knicks' European backcourt combo of Calderon and Pablo Prigioni is long on guile and probably has a terrific knowledge of mediterranean cuisine, but they're smallish and not going to hurt you off the dribble. This should be the kind of game where Brandon Knight can attack the paint, so hopefully he won't be settling for too many of those 18-foot P&R pull-ups.
Other than Knight, I'm not sure if Kidd would consider changing up his backcourt combination based on the Knicks' lack of size, but you'd guess that he'll look to post up the Knicks' small guards no matter what (I can already picture Kendall Marshall backing down Calderon, Prigioni, and Shane Larkin on the block). Middleton isn't the ideal guy to be chasing smaller guards around pick-and-rolls, but he makes more sense against Hardaway, and at a minimum he should be able to shoot over top of the smaller guys more easily.
Here's Aron Yohannes' report from Friday featuring Zaza talking about Larry Sanders' ongoing absence and John Henson's recent improvement.