Tonight the Dallas Mavericks, winners in eight of ten (and actually have lost ground in the Western Conference playoff race) play at the esteemed Madison Square Garden against the not so esteemed New York Knicks, winners of only two of ten and find themselves a New York sized 5.5 games back of the final playoff spot in the East. On top of it all, there’s no benefit to the team to embrace the bad and climb the draft board as the Nuggets have their first round pick in 2014 and Carmelo Anthony has every reason to opt out of his contract and look elsewhere.
Melo is scoring and rebounding very well and then scoring even more, but the Knicks supporting cast might as well be all the Celebrity Game participants…get it, cause they’re actors? Cast? Fine, bad team bad jokes.
Raymond Felton, when healthy (if you want to call it healthy) has been made the poster boy of the team’s struggles. Recently New York Daily News columnist Mitch Lawrence stated that “Ideally, Felton would be a third guard.” Oh, burn! That’s Roddy B territory. J.R. Smith hasn’t been able to follow up his 6th Man of the Year season, Amar’e Stoudemire is at a weird place where the former all-star big man is applauded for successful post move completions and the trade for Andrea Bargnani hasn’t worked out. Bargani hasn’t been bad, but he’s been hurt since January 22nd and the Knicks traded away their 2016 first rounder for him, leaving them with their 2015 pick from the next three drafts, insufficient to add to an old and expensive roster.
They’re one sign of hope comes in the form of free agency. They’re still the “Big Apple” and still the New York Knicks brand.
Kevin Love‘s name remains firmly attached to the Knicks but also his hometown Lakers, who will both have cap room galore in 2015 when Love can be an unrestricted free agent.
The Knicks commitments beyond 2014-15 are only the bothersome player options of Smith and Felton, a final year of Pablo Prigioni and the team option on Tim Hardaway, Jr. which will obviously be exercised.
Back to the Knicks and the here and now. For most teams the future is bright because of your players. The Knicks future is high on hope because they will be at last ridding of their current players. A unique situation for a team projected to be one of the tier 2 squads out East. Instead, they are 14 games under .500.
Amidst their undesirable roster are some desirable pieces. This includes a player oh so very dear to Mavs fans’ hearts, and that of course is Knicks center Tyson Chandler.
The 2012 Defensive Player of the Year – but more importantly the 2011 NBA CHAMPION – is coming off a 23 rebound game, double-doubling with the minimally required 10 points but despite this the Knicks fell to the extremely shorthanded Atlanta Hawks, 107-98 including a disastrous 4th quarter that saw them outscored 39-25. 39 points equaling the Hawks point total from the first half. Hawks forward Mike Scott had a career-high 30 points off the bench. He was 11-14 from the field, 6-7 from downtown in a Mirzy performance.
The game before was not as memorable for Tyson Chandler, who appropriately goaltended a reverse slam dunk by Tyson Chandler late in the game. One the Knicks eventually lost to the woeful but hopeful Orlando Magic. Adding to a list of teams at the bottom of the league that have also topped off the 21-win Knicks. Philadelphia, New Orleans, Sacramento, Milwaukee and then Orlando.
One of the bright spots for New York City’s silver medal basketball team came against our Mavs in Dallas just after the New Year. The Knicks were in a stretch of optimism after taking 2/3 in the Texas road trip, narrowly missing a sweep.
The third and final game of the Texas three-step was a convincing win at the Mavericks, 92-80. Never close, Carmelo Anthony scored 15 in the first quarter (finishing with 19) and the Knicks led by their final margin of victory after 12 minutes. At the other end, this was that game where a frustrated Dirk Nowitzki yelled, “WHAT THE **** ARE WE DOING?!” in the second quarter.
Since then the two teams have gone in the directions that the matchup absolutely did not indicate. The Knicks have slipped hard and the Mavericks have started to resemble a legitimate playoff team.
Samuel Dalembert on a great roll right now, giving the Mavs a center presence not felt since…
And we’ll see him tonight.