On This Date: Mike D’Antoni resigns

March 14th 2012: Mike D’Antoni resigns

Mike D’Antoni resigned from the team on this date, days after the Knicks lost another close game on national TV on the road against the Chicago Bulls. D’Antoni, in the final year of his contract, was on the hotseat for most of the season. The NBA Lockout significantly reduced the amount of time D’Antoni could spend to create an offensive system and strengthen team chemistry. Because of the lockout, the team had little practice time and often had bouts of back-to-back-to-back games.

D’Antoni could never find a way to successfully mesh the trio of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. Melo & Amare in particular did not come into the season in great shape (due to the lockout) and D’Antoni was not able to find a way to build an offensive system that could take advantage of their strengths.

Additionally, the team lacked a point guard for most of the season. After the team amnestied Chauncey Billups, the team relied on Mike Bibby & Toney Douglas to reign in the point guard duties for the early stretch of the season. Both players struggled (for obvious reasons) and consequently led to Melo & Amare’s struggles.

Furthermore, the rise of Jeremy Lin added additional pressure on the team to mesh in the 2nd half of the season. Once Melo returned from injury, both he and Lin could not seem to complement each other and the team continued to lose games.

Most of the attention focused on the clash in styles between Carmelo Anthony & Mike D’Antoni. While neither of them had a public outburst, it seemed that there just was not enough time to successfully build proper synergy between the two of them. After the big trade in February 2011, the entire team basically flipped over and there just was not enough time to develop a system. D’Antoni had an uptempo offensive system while Melo preferred a system that favored more isolation-heavy options.

At the time of his resignation, the Knicks were 18-24 and just suffered a 6 game losing streak (their 2nd 6-game losing streak of the season). Mike Woodson took over interim duties and the team reverted more to an isolation-heavy offense with an emphasis on defense. The Knicks went 18-6 to end the season to reach the playoffs. The Heat defeated the Knicks in 5 games.


March 14th 1992: Dick McGuire’s jersey retired

Dick McGuire’s number 15 was retired for the 2nd time on this date. The Knicks previously retired the number in 1986 for Earl Monroe. McGuire spent more than 8 decades with the Knicks as a player, coach, scout, and team executive. He was responsible for discovering various draft picks, including the point guard duo of Mark Jackson and Rod Strickland.

 

On This Date: Linsanity strikes against the Mavs

February 19th 2012: Linsanity strikes against the Dallas Mavericks in MSG

In one of the final games of the magical Linsanity run, Jeremy Lin scored 28 points and dished 14 assists in a 104-97 nationally televised thriller against the Dallas Mavericks. The Knicks started off the game on a torrid run where the team scored 17 straight points in the 1st quarter. Lin scored 10 of those points as the team took a 32-20 lead. However, the Mavericks bounced back and eventually took a 12 point lead by the 3rd quarter.

The Knicks bounced back with contributions from Lin and tough pressure to cut the deficit to three by the end of the 3rd quarter. In the 4th quarter, the Knicks were able to take the lead with the help of Steve Novak. Novak scored all 14 of his points in the quarter, connecting on 4 threes. By the time Novak hit his fourth trey, the Knicks went up by 6 and he pulled out the “discount double check” in delight of the MSG faithful.

Novak’s run helped fuel Jeremy Lin through the end of the game. After Novak hit the three, Lin hit a dagger 3 over Dirk to push the lead up to 9. Dallas did cut the lead to 3 with less than a minute to go, but a couple key defensive stops resulted in transition buckets for both JR Smith and Tyson Chandler helped seal the victory.

The game marked the NBA return for JR Smith as he flew into Madison Square Garden from China. JR scored 15 points and had 3 threes despite struggling from the field. Unfortunately, this game marked the end of Linsanity as Carmelo Anthony returned shortly after and the team spiraled into a tough losing stretch.

On This Date: Linsanity hits Toronto

February 14th 2012: Linsanity strikes in Toronto

On Valentine’s Day in 2012, Jeremy Lin gave Knicks fans more reasons to love him with a dagger three-point shot to defeat Jose Calderon and the Toronto Raptors 90-87 in the Air Canada Centre.

Lin had a double double with 27 points and 11 assists, but the most important shot was the final one that broke the hearts of Raptors fans. After Tyson Chandler grabbed an Iman Shumpert missed jumpshot, Lin received the ball for the final shot. Lin organized right around halfcourt as Calderon retreated past the three-point line expecting Lin to drive to the basket. Instead, Lin stepped ahead to hit the dagger three.

The game also marked the return of Amare Stoudemire after being away from the team due to the death of his brother. Amare was rusty in his return, but scored 21 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Contrary to popular expectations, we never saw the Amare/Jeremy Lin battery pick-and-roll tandem come to full fruition during Linsanity. A combination of missed games, added muscle (which slowed him down considerably), and a lack of cohesion with Tyson Chandler stunted the potential pick-and-roll potential.

Ironically, Jeremy Lin recently signed with the Raptors after being bought out by Atlanta.

On This Date: Linsanity Part 3: Lin scores 38 to defeat the Lakers

February 10th 2012: Jeremy Lin scores 38 points to defeat Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers

On a Friday night nationally televised broadcast that would have originally featured Kobe Bryant against the duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, Linsanity stole the show once again and shocked the Lakers with a 92-85 victory. With both Melo and Amare inactive, it was Lin who scored a then-career high 38 points to lead the team.

The Knicks started the game strong, led by Lin’s 9 points and a very tenacious defensive pressure. The MSG crowd went in a frenzy after Jared Jeffries and Bill (now Henry) Walker double teamed Metta World Peace, leading to a turnover and easy layup for Lin.

The Lakers didn’t seem to have a solution to defend the pick-and-roll. Likewise, Derek Fisher had no chance attempting to guard Jeremy Lin, allowing him to score at will, go to the line 13 times, and even fall victim to a nasty spin-cycle as shown below:

Kobe Bryant scored 34 points to lead the Lakers. Before the game, Kobe mentioned that he had no clue about Lin or Linsanity. After the game, he gave Lin credit for his excellent performance. The two would re-unite on the Lakers for the 2014-15 season which proved to be quite a tumultuous time for both players and the franchise.


February 10th 2010: Carl Braun passed away

Carl Braun passed away on this date in 2010. Braun spent the bulk of his NBA career with the Knicks and was one of the top guards in the league. He made the NBA All-Star team 5 years in a row from 1953-1957. Braun was one of the Knicks’ first stars who impressed the crowds with his scoring and shooting ability. As a rookie, he scored 47 points in a game against the Providence Steamrollers. He spent his final two years with the Knicks as a player-coach before playing his final year with the Boston Celtics who won the NBA finals.

His 10,449 points ranks #5 on the All-Time Knicks record. Only Patrick Ewing, Clyde Frazier, Willis Reed, and Allan Houston scored more points for the franchise.

On This Date: Day 2 of Linsanity and KP’s devastating ACL injury

February 6th 2012: Jeremy Lin makes his first start and helps beat the Utah Jazz

Day 2 of Linsanity gives Jeremy Lin his first career NBA start on way to a 99-88 Knicks victory. Lin put up 28 points, 7-9 from the free throw line, and 8 assists. He continued to dazzle fans with his uncanny ability to drive into the paint and make acrobatic layups. Near the end of the 4th quarter, Lin hit a three at the end of the shot clock and stuck his tongue out and gave us a signature wink.

One recipient of Lin’s 8 assists was Tyson Chandler. While Chandler continued to be a defensive presence, Lin rewarded him with scoring opportunities on the pick and roll. Another recipient was Steve “Discount Double Check” Novak. Novak received several passes from Lin that led to wide open threes. Novak scored 19 points off the bench on 5-8 shooting from three. Beginning with this game, Novak continued to receive consistent minutes off the bench and served as a major three-point threat.

The most important story outside the victory was the absence of both Carmelo Anthony & Amare Stoudemire. Melo only played 5 minutes before pulling his groin. The injury sidelined him for the next 7 games, which represented the entire tenure of Linsanity. Amare was away from the team following the death of his brother in a car crash.


February 6th 2018:  Kristaps Porzingis tears his ACL.

In what nobody knew would represent Kristaps Porzingis final game in New York, the 7′ 3″ unicorn tore his ACL after landing awkwardly following a dunk on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Due to the graphic nature of the injury, we decided not to post the video. The dunk had put the Knicks ahead by a point. The injury itself put a damper on the game and the remainder of the season.

KP’s friend Willy Hernangomez witnessed the injury firsthand on the Knicks bench. The Knicks traded Willy the next day as part of a busy trade deadline that involved acquiring Emmanuel Mudiay.

The injury put the Knicks in position to refuse an extension offer to Porzingis in the offseason. Had he stayed healthy, it’s possible he would have tried to negotiate a designated rookie extension which would have allowed him to earn a higher percentage of the cap based on performance criteria.

Once it was clear he would miss most of the 2018-19 season, there was no way for him to meet any of the performance parameters that would lead to a higher salary, and therefore, the Knicks could theoretically offer him the same extension offer in 2019 as they could have in 2018. It therefore made sense for them to wait to see if he returned healthy and maintain cap space from his reduced cap hold. Whether this strategy frustrated Porzingis is yet to be fully reported. And whether the injury cast doubt on the Knicks willingness to offer him a max contract has also not yet been fully reported.

The Knicks traded Porzingis just before the one-year anniversary of the trade after he provided the front office with a 4-team list of teams where he preferred to be traded and threatened to rehab in Spain if not traded by the deadline. It appears that both sides were ready to move on, as the Knicks were considering offers for Porzingis before he officially made it clear that he wanted out of New York. Of course, it was no secret that Porzingis was unhappy, so the Knicks were not surprised by what they learned in the meeting requested by him and his brother before the trade.

On This Date: The Birth of Linsanity

February 4, 2012: Linsanity Begins

The New York Knicks, losers of 11 of their previous 13 games, needed a jolt to spark the team. The trio of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler were not meshing, partially due to the lockout.

The team also lacked point guard production since amnestying Chauncey Billups before the season. Toney Douglas significantly struggled with starter minutes. Mike Bibby was beyond his prime. Baron Davis was still sidelined with a back injury. While rookie Iman Shumpert showed promise with his athleticism and defensive awareness, he did not have a natural feel as a point guard. With the Knicks down 20-16 to the then-putrid New Jersey Nets, coach Mike D’Antoni finally unleashed Jeremy Lin.

Due to the lack of point guard depth and Iman Shumpert’s injury in the first game of the season, the Knicks claimed Lin off waivers in December. Lin spent most of the first month of the season shuffling between the Knicks and the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League. The Knicks almost cut him near the end of January, but Baron Davis suffered a minor setback in his recovery and the Knicks just came off a bad loss against the Boston Celtics.

Lin came off the bench to play most of the 1st half against the Nets. He helped the Knicks cut a 10-point deficit down to two by halftime. He brought a new level of energy with his defense, aggressiveness attacking the paint, and passing. Players such as Landry Fields and Toney Douglas, who struggled for most of the season, felt revitalized during the game. He showed excellent chemistry with Tyson Chandler by feeding him several alley-oop passes.

Lin also played most of the 2nd half. With the Knicks down 72-70 to start the 4th, Lin continued to impress and shock the MSG faithful. He scored 12 of his 25 points in the 4th quarter and did most of his damage against Deron Williams. He attacked with pizzazz and scored a ton of difficult layups to excite the crowd.  The crowd, overall, was in awe of his performance.

Lin ended with 25 points on 10-19 from the field and 8 assists. This game forced D’Antoni to start his in the next game against the Jazz and thus began the short, but fun Linsanity era. Additionally, the game helped reenergize Madison Square Garden and helped fuel a 7 game winning streak.

A midseason review of Allonzo Trier

Allonzo Trier is doing his thing.

The undrafted rookie, who had been struggling since returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for seven games, has found his scoring form again, breaking out in the Knicks loss to Houston. He became the first Knick rookie to post 31 points and 10 rebounds since Patrick Ewing in 1985.

It seems like a good time to do a midseason review of his game.

The Knicks roster is a bit fluid right now, as they balance player development, reclamation projects, and potentially creating cap space via trade to chase superstars in the summer. However, unlike a handful of his teammates, Trier can breathe easy that his roster spot is secure, at least until late June. Because of the contract he signed in December, the Knicks can’t trade him before the February 7th trade deadline. And the way he has played, they wouldn’t have wanted to trade him, anyway.

Let’s take a deeper look at how Trier has performed so far and try to identify a player of similar style and fast-rising story.

Some Stats

Let’s start with the former Arizona Wildcat’s shot chart to date, per Austin Clemens:

He’s averaging 10.5 points per game, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks over 39 games.

Per 36 minutes, that translates into 16.9 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.

He is fourth on the team with a 3-point percentage of 36.9 percent. Because of his big game against Houston, he passed Dallas Mavericks’ phenom Luka Doncic in true shooting percentage (TS%).1 Trier’s teammate Mitchell Robinson leads all rookies with a .672 percentage among players who have logged at least 15 minutes per game. (If Robinson is not swatting the ball, he’s probably dunking it).

Using advanced stats, Trier lives up to his nickname “Iso Zo.”

He is excellent in isolations (86th percentile, per Synergy Sports). He possesses a full arsenal of weapons to pick from in these situations, showing-off a variety of moves on drives in both directions, pull-ups, and jumpers without taking a dribble.

Per Synergy, he ranks in the 75th percentile in “spot up” plays. And he’s elite (87th percentile) with less than 4 seconds on the shot clock and is forced to create under duress.

These are often of the highlight variety:

Having so many offensive skills makes him very unpredictable; something that bodes well for a 23-year old. Try to guess what he’ll do the next time he has the rock in an iso-situation; it’s tricky, I’ve tried. Steer him left and he may start that way, then hop back, shot fake, and go right:

There’s room for him to grow as a Pick-n-Roll ball handler; he ranks in just the 44th percentile. Some argue this area will define whether or not he’s a long term solution for New York as a starting point guard in the modern NBA. If he wants to continue to prove his doubters wrong, this is the area he’d spend his upcoming summer on.

Something that surprises: his numbers suggest he’s better in catch-and-shoot situations (71st percentile) than he is off the bounce (46th percentile). But Knicks fans know well his fondness for putting the ball on the floor before pulling up. And while that appears to be his first instinct, it’s not necessarily more efficient. In the future, head coach David Fizdale might encourage him to shoot more off the catch.

He’s shooting 42.3% from beyond the arc on catch-and-shoot jump shots.

Defensively

The eye test would tell us that Trier isn’t the worst defender, but he isn’t the best at stopping people either. Per Synergy, the undrafted guard ranks a bit below average in overall defense. For a rookie, that’s not the end of the world. He’s made some really exciting plays on that end:

Funny enough, the area he’s been the best at defending is against isolations, where he receives a Synergy grade of “excellent” (for a limited 20 possessions).

Maybe he knows a thing or two after becoming a one-on-one wizard of his own? If this continues, the Knicks will really have something. I have an idea! We can call him “Iso Zo” when he scores in iso and “Iso Zone” whenever he gets a stop while being targeted.

He’s very good at the point-of-attack if he doesn’t have to figure out how to navigate screens and switches.

New York Jets legendary cornerback Darrelle Revis would be proud. Notice the fluid hips and quick feet here against John Wall:

He can use the most improvement in defending high screen-n-rolls. He’s a little better in side pick-n-rolls where the defense generally has less options, and he’s about average when chasing his man around screens.

Of course, struggling against a high pick-n-roll isn’t uncommon for rookies. Right Collin Sexton? 

Being able to catch and shoot, score in isolation, defend the pick and roll and defend in isolation are four skills Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey undoubtedly keeps an eye on when scouting. Zo is already quite good at three of those four.

Who does he remind me of?

When I study Trier’s game, I see a confident, aggressive, talented, but streaky player. I think his limitations are mostly in screen-n-roll situations, which he will improve upon as he gains more experience and understanding of NBA details. Certainly, he didn’t see these situations as much at Arizona. To reach his ceiling, he’ll need to improve significantly in this area.

I’m a biased Knicks fan who lived through Linsanity, but I often think of former Knicks’ guard Jeremy Lin when I watch Trier play. Lin made a name for himself in the NBA as a hyper-aggressive slasher who’d put relentless pressure on an opposing defense by getting into the paint and wreaking havoc.

During Linsanity, Lin was actually in the 95th percentile in the NBA in isolations. He was truly unstoppable for a stretch of time playing in former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. It would have been fun to see the coach/point guard duo get to work together more while surrounding Lin with shooters.

Knicks fans know he wasn’t afraid of the big moment:

We saw this same confidence when Trier delivered in crunch time against Houston.

Lin has had a tough road in the NBA. Almost like a child actor, Lin experienced the pinnacle of his career right at the very beginning. He openly struggled with having to start fresh and fight and claw just to maintain the role he has held in the league since.

But Lin is a fighter and capable of handling that pressure and has responded by learning the intricacies of the game that didn’t come naturally to him early on. He morphed into a pitbull on defense, before having to start from scratch again following the patellar tendon tear that cost him his age-29 season. Lin is roughly average from long range but offers more in the relentlessness of his game on both ends.

Lin is a great model for an undrafted and overlooked, but talented player with a chip on his shoulder. Trier isn’t shy. He once started a clothing line branded with his personal motto at the time: “When the lights come on, it’s time to perform.” He was in 6th grade at the time. Precocious, but that might be some of what’s needed to keep your head level when playing at The Mecca becomes your full-time job.

I’ve heard the Jamal Crawford comparisons as well. They’re both from Seattle, as is Nate Robinson. I think Trier has less offensive gifts than Crawford, but looks like he’ll be a better defender and rebounder.

Constant attack mode. That’s what I see in Trier so far. Unlike a few of our other favorite players, we can count on seeing more of him in the uniform the rest of this season and perhaps more.

And if there are any opposing team scouts reading, don’t bother testing “Iso Zone” if he’s alone on an island. He’ll be ready when the lights come on.