Knicks Fanatics

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LAS VEGAS DIARY: DAY 1, PART 2: Observations On Knicks’ First Outing

I had a great time yesterday guys, but I am pooped from watching so much B-Ball.  I haven’t watched that much ball in person since I followed the high school tourneys in Chicago years ago.   These type of competitions have a different type of fresh, enthusiastic feel where the players are still youthful in their energy and perspective about the game.  As the players walk into the arena towards the locker-room, they still look like kids with their over-sized shorts fanning the ground and backpacks hugging their shoulders tightly.   They try to look serious but often crack a smile and knock fists as they see a familiar or friendly face — a media personality, college rival or friend or just one of the hundreds who are part of the industry.

When Blake Griffin walked over to James Harden, who was being interviewed after a stellar game, and patted him on his back,  you could feel the sense of knowing between the two first and third overall picks respectively; the knowing that they were two blessed rare individuals in a similar circumstance.  Their stars are rising and they exude confidence — one can only hope they appreciate the moment.

As for the Knicks’ two first round draft picks, Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas, one can only wonder about how confident they are about their relative positions.  In his first game as a professional, Jordan Hill showed flashes of the force he could become, but generally his play was lackluster and  devoid of passion. He looked winded in an intensely played 90-86 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Surprisingly, he also seemed a bit disinterested early in the competition although he was going up against the highly touted Hasheem Thabeet.  You would think that Hill would be overexcited to show why he is better than Thabeet.  The saving grace for Hill, who scored 13 points and pulled in 8 boards, was that Thabeet had bust written all over him — and I am not referencing a bust that you put in the Hall of Fame.

I do think it is unfair to label someone on one performance, so I prefer to give Thabeet the benefit of the doubt.  He was winded within minutes of the start of the game.  Perhaps that is the result of the whirlwind life he’s faced moving from college to workouts to the draft and now to the summer league.  Thabeet had virtually no post game.  His feet moved as fluidly as a tangled vine in the post save for a decent hook move.  He also did not exhibit great strength. Again perhaps he was tired .

Hill didn’t look any better in the first half as he finished it with 2 points and 4 boards.  He strolled down the court and played the role of voyeur as opponents attacked the rim.  His footwork in the post was painful on the eyes.  He tries to face up and  is clearly over thinking moves that he doesn’t have before passing the ball out of the post.  He rarely tried to reposition himself in the post. Unimpressive. Uninspiring.  Get the big man doctor.  He, like Toney, drew quite a bit of  positive instructive attention from Phil Weber who was looking dapper in his best impression of Pat Riley roaming the sidelines.

Hill showed more energy in the second half and made a quick turnaround jumper about five feet from the rim.  The move was almost instinctive as he planted his foot on the turn and faded with a soft touch.  I think it was over Thabeet.

Toney Douglas on the other hand brought a lot of energy to the court as he demonstrated an ability to run Weber’s squad.  Toney has a strong build and quiet intensity in his game.  He keeps the ball near his body on the dribble as he challenges and splits defenders.  An excellent passer, he had 11 assists and would have had more if he had teammates other than Almond and Crawford who could score at will or consistently.

He performed extremely well while defending Marcus Williams, who has yet  to catch the starring role he covets, but possesses a NBA point guard’s game and frame, if not frame of mind.  At the endgame, William’s NBA experience showed as he began to out-duel Douglas.

Nikoloz Tskitiahvili will probably not make the team since we have a glut of forwards, but it would not be a horrible idea to have him as a role player.  He was easily the most energized big on the court in the Knicks-Grizzlies matchup.  He had 12 points and 4 boards, but was very active around the ball.

Morris Almond may not make the team either, but he would make up somewhat for the Knicks’ inability to pick up Stephon Curry.  No secret.  This man can shoot:  Pull-up jumpers, tres, teardrops. Bam, Bam, swish.  He went 7 for 12.  However, he didn’t seem to be as effective doing much else.  Morris Almond will be scoring for some team — why not the Knicks?

Joe Crawford also has a likable game although in New York and at least 46 other states he would be called a ball hog.  He had no assists as he went 4-9, including 1-4 from the tre. He is fearless on the drive and get get the ball in the basket with bigs around him, unlike Toney who seemed to be a bit challenged in getting the ball in the basket around the rim with bigs hovering over him.

. . .

It turns out that I didn’t need those credentials anyway, although I could write these pieces a lot faster with internet access which I can’t get until I return to my sister’s house which was after midnight this time.

Part of the fun is meeting and talking to a wide variety of fans during and after the games.   There are plenty of Knicks fans here and the opinions about the quality and direction of the Knicks is as diverse as a bag of Halloween candy.  And trick or treat just about sums it all up.  One fan who I hung out with is willing to give the Knicks a four (more) year window to become a playoff contender.  He is so mad at Isiah that he wants everything Zeke touched to be shipped out the way of Anucha Browne (and Isiah Thomas).

One of my favorite fans is a scout who I talked with for about fifteen minutes before he told me he was Toney Douglas’ dad and that he has another son who plays for the Falcons.  It was a great conversation which I will share later in an interview we’ll be doing later.  But, I must admit that now Toney Douglas will definitely be one I root for (I was actually doing that anyway, but now I have another reason).  So, I admit now that if I don’t talk badly about Douglas as I do Duhon, you know why.  Full disclosure.  But, I will say that Douglas needs to take and hit those open shots or opponents will be treating him like Rondo without the ring.

I missed Anthony Randolph’s performance which had the arena abuzz.  I chose to watch James Harden battle the Lakers and Adam Morrison.  That was another great game and Harden is the real deal.  I’ll talk about him more later too.

Later, I’ll share some more atmosphere stuff like the irritating effort to make the arena sound like an NBA stadium with all the loud music, sound effects and cheesy dance competitions between quarters.  I do like the T-shirt tosses, but I clearly need to sit in a higher row to get a T-shirt. Not happening.

Gotta roll.  Hopefully, I  can get today’s report out a little faster.  We’ll see.  Keep hope alive.  I’ll try to read the comments and LBE sometime today if I can get WiFi away from the house .

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July 15, 2009 - Posted by | Jordan Hill, NBA Draft, NBA Summer League, New York Knicks, Toney Douglas | , , , , , , , , ,

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