Separating Kristaps Fact from Kristaps Fiction

Barring something extremely unlikely, Kristaps Porzingis will play more games against the New York Knicks before his career is over. As such, this last week is not the last time we’ll hear about the drama that proceeded his exit and the subsequent trade that sent him to Dallas.

But a funny thing happens to NBA narratives over time: they get warped and distorted, like a wood floor that’s seen one too many leaks. Eventually, if you put some pressure on it, the original truth will break into fragments…convenient bits of fact and fiction mixed and matched at the teller’s whim.

So before we get to that point, I thought now that the fiasco of KP is over for the year, I’d settle some things once and for all.

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Assessing The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of New York’s Brain Trust

As the Knicks reach what I can only imagine is DEFCON 2, I’m left wondering how those who eventually remain will pick up the pieces and put this lovable pile of steaming turds back together. You see, firing everyone is the easy part. Tearing it down is simple. It’s the rebuilding where, as you’re likely well aware, things can go awry.

That’s why I’m assessing the chants, diving deeper, and trying to make sense of what would follow after firings. Without further ado…

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What the Blowout vs Cleveland taught us about Fizdale’s Possible Ouster

With reports swirling that Knicks head coach David Fizdale might already be on his way out, there will be no shortage of questions raised about this organization, its direction (or lack thereof) and whether anyone could come in here and coach up this group of seemingly mismatched pieces.

If and when Fiz does get the ax though, left behind will be unanswered questions of just how much more he could have done. To that end, what might end up being his last game was fairly revealing, both in ways we’d expect and ways we may not have.

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RJ Barrett is playing too many minutes

The topic of load management has recently divided Knicks fans more than any other topic that does not relate to Frank Ntilikina’s ability to play basketball.

Some see the practice as players being soft while some see the benefit of ensuring a healthy and refreshed player when the playoffs role around. The playoffs might be just out of realistic expectations for the Knicks this season, but we still need to address the topic of load management as it relates to our potential perennial All-Star, RJ Barrett.

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RJ Barrett is Ready

Toss out all your “small sample size” caveats. Discard any “let’s wait and see” reservations. Do you hear that wary part of your brain? The part that’s whispering cautious thoughts to protect your heart because it’s been broken too many times before. Disregard all that, Knicks fans. Abandon all doubt ye who enter here.

RJ Barrett is ready to be anointed.

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What’s the Point (Guard)?

Once Kevin Durant tore his Achilles, this year was going to be one of two things: 1) A potential playoff team, carried by another star, with a roster catered towards those two big name players or 2) A 17-win squad with a few starting-caliber players. If you don’t already know, it’s now the latter.

It’s only been three games – three games – and yet the season already feels like it’s slipping away from the Knicks. I truly, truly wish I was being overdramatic. And hell, maybe I am, but the near future feels incredibly daunting.

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Allonzo Trier, Point Guard? Here’s How it Could Work

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

At first blush, the question is absurd on its face.

No, someone with the self-proclaimed nickname “Iso Zo” (it’s his Twitter handle, for crying out loud) and who teammates allegedly called out as a cancerous presence on the court at times last year should not man the position most directly responsible for ensuring others get to occasionally shoot the ball.

But then again, in the Bizarro World known as Knicksland, where having three nominal point guards really means you have zero, the Theater of the Absurd presents nightly double features (with free popcorn!)

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The One Thing I Want To See From Kevin Knox

We say it every year. We mean it every year.

“This season is all about the development of our young core.”

If the Knicks exceed expectations this season on the backs of veterans on (essentially) one-year deals – Marcus Morris, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, etc.,  the exhilaration of winning would still be a welcome change, make no mistake. Knicks fans would still get excited about the wins, but there would be a shallowness to that excitement. Most of us would deeply prefer to see promising play from RJ Barrett and demonstrable improvement from guys like Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr.

However, there is no one whose development I’m more interested in watching this season than Kevin Knox. Continue reading →

The Necessary Soft Skills to Build a Successful Team

by Jeremy Cohen (@TheCohencidence)

Greetings, everyone. Seeing as how this is my first contribution as an official “professor” for Knicks Film School, I felt it would be fitting that I bring you all back to class.

During my junior year of college, I took a course called “Organizational Behavior in Business” and it blew my mind. It was a qualitative course that focused on the soft skills required to be successful in the working world, something that often goes overlooked. “In your career, you will need to depend on people to accomplish tasks, goals, and projects,” the class syllabus read. “You will need to work for other people, work with other people, and eventually direct other people.” Continue reading →

Video Breakdown: Spencer Pearlman on the Knicks corner-3 defense

Spencer Pearlman took some time to break down the Knicks corner-3 defense last year, and why it’s one of the most important things they need to improve in the year ahead.

In the video, he mentions how Mitchell Robinson’s presence should allow defenders to stay home on shooters more easily this season. Sure enough, according to Cleaning the Glass, Knick opponents were 2.9 percent less accurate from the corners when Mitch was in the game last year.

Inside Fiz’s Mind As He Considers Lineup Possibilities

I recently reached out to Coach Fizdale requesting a one-on-one interview about the upcoming season – his goals, his rotation, coaching adjustments he planned to make – and he said, “I’ll do you one better! How ’bout you hook my brain up to a psychological supercomputer and read my thoughts while I work!” I thought it was an odd request but, of course, agreed.

What follows is a live transcript – August 19th, 2019 – as he works on his rotation:

*

Alright, baby! This is the year! I got the green light from Pat for true positionlessness, so here we go: ‘Bron at the one, D at the…

[Realizes where he is, sobs for approximately 46 minutes]1

Get it together, Fiz. I mean, bright side – at least you’re not in Memphis. Right? You good? Good. Back to Fizness. New York Knickerbockers. Go New York Go New York Go. We on our way up, and Step One is beating last year’s win total. Shouldn’t be hard with the talent we added. Just gotta find the right combinations. Let’s go. Starting five…

Payton / Barrett / Knox / Randle / Robinson

Duh. Now, rest of the ten-man…wait a second. Uhh, Allan Houston, we have a problem. We’re trying to win games, and I’m pretty sure to do that someone’s gonna have to stick a jump shot. I mean, Julius is the best three-point shooter in this lineup! 2 Nah. Can’t do it. Yeah, Knox looked good in Vegas, but lots of stuff looks good in Vegas; then you sober up and you’re…never mind. Point is, until he does it in a real game, it ain’t real…

And who’s playing defense in front of Mitch here? Payton’s alright, and Julius’s 8-pack might scare some people, but no. No good. Ball-handling and play-making, sure, but no shooting and very little D. Can’t win that way.

mubarakmalik/IG

Payton / Trier / Barrett / Randle / Robinson

Shooting’s up at least. I love Zo. Love him. His near-40% from deep should help us do some things. Four guys who can get into the paint, two-and-a-half that’ll create for others, the best rim-runner in basketball…but…ahhhhhh.

I love Zo but I don’t love him and RJ together, at least not to start. Both need the ball, and so does Elf since he can’t spot up, and Julius is going at his man off the bounce…

Payton / Dotson / Barrett / Randle / Robinson

Dot’s good without it, and he’s probably our best perimeter defender, except wasn’t their some French dude? Is he still on the team? Anyway, this is more balanced. Let’s settle here for now. So who does that…well, might be easier to do it this way: who’s out of the rotation altogether?

Reggie B – street clothes for a while.

Big Taj – I like him, and I’m gonna play him, but spot minutes.

IGGY – I LOVE this kid. And how’s that saying go? Love means never having to spell his last name properly? But where are the minutes coming from? We’ll bring him along slow. Wait for injuries. Turn him loose in 2020.

Wayne – The guard version of Taj – just lead and stay ready and I’ll get him PT when I can.

Knick-a-leena?That’s his name! Frank whatever. Great defender, unselfish, leadership qualities…but he drives blindly into four defenders so…

That leaves these reserves:

Smith / Trier / Knox / Morris / Portis

Okay, shooters in the frontcourt – think of the space that’ll create for DSJ and Zo! And if Kev’s shot is fallin’, that’s four good shooters! And you seen those videos of Denny working on his mechanics? This ain’t bad. Defense still an issue, though. Lots of pressure on Twin to lead this unit, but that’s what the 15 mil is for…

Who passes in this lineup? I’m not even talking, like, a good passer – who’s a willing passer? I mean, yeah, I love reckless aggression as much as the next guy, but you need at least one…

A ha! I got it:

STARTERS: Smith / Dotson / Barrett / Randle / Robinson
RESERVES: Payton / Trier / Knox / Morris / Portis

If he’s finally put the J back in DSJ, then this works. Slight step back on defense, maybe, but Junior did average almost a steal-and-a-half with us last year. What he lacks in actually stopping guys he makes up for in pressure and steals, right? Right?

And that second unit now – a pure facilitator surrounded by shooters! Done. Let’s not overthink it. Let’s not worry about what the media will say about Kev bumped from the starters, or the fact we got $38 million in free agency money coming off the bench…

*This was completed prior to official signings of Marcus Morris and Ignas Brazdeikis and re-structuring of Reggie Bullock*

…this is the most balanced these lineups are gonna get: facilitators and scorers, shooters and drivers, defense and, well, no defense…maybe it changes after watching these guys work out and scrimmage, maybe it changes in training camp, maybe injuries force me to change things, but for now, this is what we’re going with! Boom!

Now the fun sh**: specialty lineups!

BIG AS BIG GETS
Barrett / Knox / Morris / Randle / Robinson

Part of me wanted to play Randle at the two or three to make room for Portis, but that’d be ridiculous. Or would it? #positionless

BIG BUT MORE TRADITIONAL
Barrett / Dotson / Knox / Randle / Robinson

BIG WITH MORE SHOOTING
Barrett / Dotson / Morris / Portis / Robinson

I can’t wait to turn RJ loose at the one. It’ll be Harden-esque. This writer sitting next to me would call my Harden-RJ comparison insanely premature and unreasonable…just don’t get so excited that you say it out loud, Fiz!

SMALL
Payton / Trier / Barrett / Knox / Randle

#positionless

I really wanna see the Knox-Randle frontcourt. I know, revolving door on D, but that offense? Watch out, now. Five athletes, five ball-handlers…I can run my offense through my center!

Maybe I should put in an offense…

ALL SHOOTING, ALL THE TIME
Trier / Ellington / Dotson / Morris / Portis

Or as I like to think of them:

39.4% / 40.3% / 36.8% / 37.5% / 39.3%

In an ideal world, Knox will shoot his way into this, and then, my boy: IGGGGGYYYYYYY!!!! Man, I can’t wait for trade season to make room for Ignatius. Ignacio. Ig – whatever. Bro-zeikis. Love that kid.

NO PASSING…AS IN, WILL TRY TO INBOUND TO HIMSELF
AFTER MADE BASKETS TO GO COAST TO COAST

Trier / Barrett / Knox / Morris / Portis

Hell yeah, this is what I’m talking about. Keep-what-you-kill thoroughbreds, forget about the white noise and go get me buckets. RJ’s got the potential to grow out of this lineup, but my four guys with NBA experience? Averaged a COMBINED 5.9 assists per last year. That stat can’t be right, can…yep. Yep, it’s right. Four men. 5.9 assists. WOW.

#KNICKSTAPE – HIGHLIGHT REEL
Smith / Trier / Barrett / Knox / Robinson

Adding an ACC-record-breaker to the flashes we saw last year? Am I drooling?

EXPERIENCE
Payton / Ellington / Morris / Randle / Gibson

Years of service: 5 – 10 – 8 – 5 – 10

We got a 24-year-old and a 25-year-old in our “Experience” lineup, and media will still find ways to kill us for late-game meltdowns. This city is a beast, man.

Bullock, if healthy, would be in here somewhere, since he’s going into Year Six, but I don’t see him suiting up at all this season if I’m being honest with myself. At least not for us. Weird deal, the way that all went down.

YOUTH
Ntilikina / Barrett / Brazdeikis / Knox / Robinson

How did the French guy get in here? I meant to put Dennis, but…whatever…since I broke the seal…

DEFENSE
Ntilikina / Dotson / Bradzeikis / Morris / Robinson

No one will score. Not us. Not them. No one.

PASS-FIRST
Payton / Ntilikina / Dotson / Randle / Robinson

Gimme a second, just trying…okay, sorry…almost threw up. Too much unselfishness. Can’t stomach it.

Actually, now that my nausea’s subsiding, I kinda like this lineup. Enough defense to hide Julius, I can run the offense through him and Payton, got Dot working off the ball for open jumpers, Prince coming off a World Cup run and some summer Instagram workouts…you know what? These Frankie lineups are interesting. Maybe I’ve had him all wrong. Maybe he belongs in the rotation. Maybe I need to rethink my starting lineup…

5 Questions with Vivek: Knicks @ Raptors 07-09-2019

5 Questions: Knicks vs. Suns:

Who will finally win their first Summer League game?

The Knicks & Raptors are both searching for their first summer league win. The Raptors lost last night against Lonnie Walker and the San Antonio Spurs. The Raptors’ lone standout player on the roster is Chris Boucher. Boucher coincidentally won a ring in his first two seasons with the Warriors & Raptors respectively. While the chances of a Summer League championship are slim, he will look to capitalize off a 24 points, 12 rebounds effort against the Spurs. The Knicks lost the first two games after blowing significant leads against the New Orleans Pelicans & Phoenix Suns. The Knicks look to finally preserve a lead.

Will this be the end of Summer League for our Knick sophomores?

So far, Kadeem Allen, Allonzo Trier, Kevin Knox, & Mitchell Robinson had solid starts so far in Summer League. With the exception of Trier, who missed the previous game due to an “illness,” all of the players received significant rotation minutes. With Summer League eventually coming to an end, it’s imperative for the Knicks to evaluate some of their other invites. This includes players such as VJ King, Billy Preston, Zak Irvin, Amir Hinton, and Lamar Peters amongst other players who either played sparingly or not at all.

Will the Iggy-Woooten-Cavanaugh show go on?

Ignas “Iggy” Brazdeikis put on a spectacle against the Suns with a team-high 30 points on 11-19 from the field, 3-6 from three, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. His energy excited the crowd and his physicality allowed him to get plenty of opportunities to score. Kenny Wooten brought an increased level of hustle and defensive energy on the floor. Even when Mitch sat, the Suns had to be reminded that Wooten is a beast at the chase down blocks. His defensive energy was contagious. Tyler Cavanaugh had another solid effort with 12 points off the bench and led the team with 8 free throws attempted.

Can we get RJ Barrett going?

RJ’s effort is present, but the shots are just not falling right now. He’s simply pressing out there. The shots are not falling and a lot of his passes are missing the zip that we saw at Duke as evident by the 8 turnovers. RJ should be able to receive some nice words of wisdom from his parents who were in attendance in the game against the Suns. Additionally, RJ should also remember Trae Young’s performance last season as inspiration to trust his work and improve.

Can anyone play defense, pass the ball, or not turn the ball over?

Yes, it’s only summer league, but the Knicks should not have 21 turnovers on 15 assists. Yes, RJ & Iggy combined for 13 of the 21 turnovers, but it’s not a good look. The lack of assists mirrored the season-long issue with the Knicks. Kadeem Allen led the team with 6, but there just wasn’t enough passing. Perhaps utilizing some Spain P&R would certainly help. Furthermore, the Knicks lost a good chunk of the lead in the 2nd half once the Suns capitalized on the Knicks’ piss poor footwork in the P&R defense. Fixing the gaping holes in P&R will be tough during Summer League, but it should be a point of emphasis on Coach Fizdale’s staff.


5 Questions with Vivek: Knicks vs. Suns 07-07-2019

In a new segment for Knicks Film School “5 Questions with Vivek,” I ask 5 questions to preview the upcoming game. In this case, I’m previewing tonight’s matchup against the Phoenix Suns:

5 Questions: Knicks vs. Suns:

Will Cam Johnson & Ty Jerome come out with a Summer League splash?

The Phoenix Suns orchestrated a draft-day trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to send the #6 pick (Jarrett Culver) to Minnesota for the #11 pick (Cameron Johnson) & Dario Saric. Additionally, the Suns acquired Aron Baynes & the draft rights to Ty Jerome from the Boston Celtics for the Milwaukee Bucks future 1st round draft pick. Both deals became official yesterday, thus allowing Jerome & Johnson to suit up for the Suns. Both players are expected to suit up and should look forward to excite the crowd against the Knicks.

Will RJ Barrett overcome his shooting struggles?

Clearly RJ Barrett came out of the summer league gates with a boatload of excitement. Hey, it’s his first true NBA game (albeit Summer League) and he’s on national TV against his former teammate Zion Williamson. Unfortunately, both Duke players had a somewhat disappointing start. Zion left the game after the 1st half with a bruised left knee that will sideline him for the remainder of the Summer League. RJ, on the other hand, couldn’t hit the side of a barn. Maybe it’s due to the first game jitters. Perhaps game 2 will help RJ relax and better find his shot.

Is this the Billy Garrett Jr. revenge game?

After a cup of tea with the Knicks roster late last year, Billy Garrett Jr. got an invitation to join the Suns’ summer league squad. Garrett didn’t get to play Friday night due to the 7.1 earthquake that cancelled their summer league debut. With the return of Johnson, there may not be a plentiful amount of minutes to direct to Garrett Jr., but it’s worth noticing tonight.

Who will be a part of the Knicks’ bench unit?

In the summer league opener, the Knicks sent out Kenny Wooten, Ignas Brazdeikis, and Lamar Peters as part of their main bench rotation. Summer League is an opportunity for the Knicks to evaluate their entire roster. Perhaps we see some more opportunities for Amir Hinton or VJ King over the next couple games coupled with a decrease of minutes for our starting lineup.

Will we pass the ball?

One thing for certain, passing was quite optional during the first game. The Knicks had 11 assists and 10 turnovers. With a more cohesive summer league unit, we should expect the passing numbers to be a bit better compared to some of the other teams. Look forward to our guards (Kadeem Allen & Allonzo Trier) to prove me wrong in distributing the ball. Additionally, look forward to RJ Barrett refocusing his approach and showcasing some of his passing abilities he showed at Duke.

Group Project: How to Maximize RJ’s Summer League

Steve Mills: Professor, are you ready for us?

Yes, yes. Come in. I was just reviewing your grades from past projects, ummm…are we all here? Good, good. Take a seat.

Now, as you know, I’ve been meeting with every group to ensure we’re all headed in the right direction, but this one I’ve had marked on my calendar. I won’t sugarcoat it – the pressure’s on, folks.

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Analyzing the on-court strengths and weaknesses of the newest Knicks

To the enjoyment of many NBA fans outside of New York, the Knicks were, as you are likely well aware, unable to lure in a superstar this past week.

Following their failure to land a game-changing stud, Scott Perry and Steve Mills got straight to work and fulfilled their Plan B. The Knicks filled the barrel with veterans and interesting young players on short-term deals, looking to push the team back towards respectability while also assisting the development of their young core.

There are many ways that this new batch of vets can help the younger Knicks fulfill their maximum potential. One of them is very simple: being more competitive can lead to more fruitful development.

So, how will each of the new Knicks additions help the team on its quest back to legitimacy? Recently, I took a comprehensive dive into Julius Randle’s skillset. Here, we’ll dig into the primary strengths and weaknesses of the other five free agent additions making their way to 4 Pennsylanvia Plaza.

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July 1st Roster Update

If you know a Knicks’ fan claiming they are happy we didn’t get Kevin Durant, it is your duty as a friend to get them help. Things did not go the way we wanted yesterday. It’s okay to be upset, to be frustrated, but let’s accelerate the mourning the way we hoped to accelerate the rebuild. Let’s stop lamenting what was or could have been and begin looking at what is and what’s on the horizon. Let’s start with a roster breakdown (with ’18-19 stats) as it stands right now.

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A Debate With Myself: The Kyrie Irving Conundrum

[Checks Voicemail]

Hi Mike,

It’s Scott Perry, General Manager of the New York Knickerbockers. Listen, I know we don’t know each other, and I know I’m infinitely more qualified than you in all things basketball, and I know I work in tandem with someone whose Princeton degree suggests he’s MUCH MUCH smarter than you, and I know I have plenty of people on my payroll whose opinions I trust, but look man: this one’s tough. All this talk that Kyrie’s coming; we’ve got a really good shot, I just…[sigh] Look, if KD says, “I want him,” done – end of conversation; and if Kevin falls through or Kyrie decides to go elsewhere, then it’s a non-issue of course, but…see, what if Kevin signs but doesn’t demand Kyrie? Should we still sign him? I’m conflicted. So do me favor: take some time to think it over, and hit me back.

—-

Yo, is he for real? What’s there to think about? It’s Kyrie f***ing Irving. One of the best players in the NBA. Top — 

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Remembering Allan Houston and “The Shot,” 20 Years Later

I remember the basement well.

We moved into the house in the summer of 1998. It was right after the Knicks ended what was probably the most memorable 6-year playoff run any NBA team ever had without winning it all.

1993 had the Dunk, and Charles Smith.

1994 had everything.

1995 had the finger roll.

In 1996, we took a game (a game!) off the 72-win Bulls.

In 1997, PJ Brown flipped, and the league flopped.

Then, in ’98, Jeff Van Gundy became a rag doll.

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What if the Knicks don’t get the first pick?

Oh, hello there. Welcome to 6th grade math! Please put away the headphones. Now.

I can still see them.

We can do this all day, really.

Thank you. Now class, on each of your desks is a quarter. No, you don’t get to keep the quarter. On the count of three, I want all 28 of you to flip it. 1…2…3…flip!

Now raise your hand if you got heads.

(15 hands go up. Wait…scratch that…14. One kid was picking his nose.)

That’s half of you. Now everyone who got heads gets to flip again. Everyone else, keep my money where I can see it. Ok…1…2…3.

Raise your hand if you got heads again.

(Seven hands)

OK, last time…flip.

Who got heads a third time?

(Four hands go up)

That’s it? Only four of you managed to get heads three times in a row? Out of 28?

You all suck.

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If KD comes, it’s time to “skip steps” and start trading…even Zion.

Everyone is excited about the draft lottery, but what do the Knicks do with their pick if they land KD?

If Kevin Durant comes to the Knicks, he may not ask them to start “skipping steps.” He isn’t the same person as LeBron James who probably insisted the Cavs trade Andrew Wiggins and more upon his return to Cleveland in 2014. KD seems a bit unique. He went to the 72 win Warriors after they’d just beaten his Thunder. And remember when KD asked to be called “The Servant” instead of Slim Reaper?

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Contemplating Current and Future Knicks

Let’s pretend for a second that our luck is changing, that everything will fall into place the way it’s supposed to on May 14th, June 20th, and finally, July 1st.

A Top-3 player. A second superstar. A ROY candidate and potential franchise cornerstone. What more could you ask for?

And yet many Knicks fans are asking for more. They’re asking for Anthony Davis. And this isn’t some pipe dream, some deluded fantasy that the most hopeful among us typically conjure up.

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