The Knicks lost to the Bucks Wednesday night. They played generally like poop. Poopily. They played like poop would play if poop could play basketball. But hey, it didn't count, and I'm more than happy to maintain belief that they'll look nothing like this next week. Let's get specific!
- Carmelo Anthony chucked and chucked and chucked. Something about a feisty match-up with O.J. Mayo, an occasional match-up with Giannis Antetokounmpo (FIRST TRY, Y'ALL), and... I dunno, the Green Bay crowd goaded Melo into shooting quite a lot from the perimeter. Besides all that, though, I saw two patterns I liked. One was Melo banging in the paint for his own offensive rebounds, which I always enjoy. I love defiant "GOD DAMMIT THIS BALL'S GOING IN THIS BASKET I DON'T CARE IF YOU MAIM ME" Melo. One of my favorite Melos. The other nice pattern was Melo passing quite nicely out of the post. Let's actually move to a new bullet point for that.
- The Melo/Andrea Bargnani tandem wouldn't be my choice, but I can imagine a way in which it would work, and we've at least gotten glimmers of that way during the preseason. It's becoming clear that Melo has to be the guy working out of the post. Bargnani's competent down there, but it doesn't look like teams want to double him (and when they do, he's not as quick-witted a passer). Last night, Melo worked out of the post in stretches, and we repeatedly saw the Buck defending the strong-side elbow shooter cheat toward him. Melo got several of his seven assists by simply reading that help and kicking off ball movement. Now, the next step is Bargnani and friends hitting from the perimeter or attacking open lanes, and that didn't always happen. Folks need to make quick decisions, and Bargnani in particular seems to prefer prolonged contemplation ("What is this basketball, really? Why is this basketball? Does it care what happens to it? Should I care? Oh, the shot clock's winding down.") to a catch-and-shoot or sudden drive.
- It's striking how Bargnani's success rate off the dribble has fluctuated in preseason. I used to annoy my dad by walking up to him and just leaning on him with all my weight until he either had to catch me or let me drop (he learned to just let me drop), and Bargnani's drives sometimes remind me of that hilarious prank. The defender's in his face, so he just falls toward the defender and keeps falling until a foul is called or NBA traveling rules mandate that he release the ball. It either draws a foul or ends with Larry Sanders smacking the ball away and laughing at Andrea and laughing at you and me. Other times, he attacks seams or times his drives perfectly to catch a defender off-balance. I just don't know what to make of him. I think he sucks at shooting, then he buries a three (albeit a sloowww one) off the catch. I think he's useless out of the post, then he drops in a lovely sweeping righty hook. I think he should get the hell out of the mid-range, but his stroke looks purest from there by far. Even on defense, I think he's awful, then he comes up with one of those Go-Go-Gadget blocks. The one thing I'm certain of is that he's going to need some help rebounding. Even when he's in position, he just can't catch the ball off the rim. He claps at caroms like a sea lion and the ball just squirts every which way.
- Nice, then, to see Iman Shumpert rebounding (including one lovely two-handed put-back dunk. I would not be upset if that became a nightly occurrence). Nice, too, to see him getting looks over pick-and-rolls and cutting free over pin-downs. Less nice to see him getting beat over and over again by O.J. Mayo. Shump just got caught wrong-footed far too often. It's tough, because his reaching ways got him a few knock-aways, but they also got him left in the dust. Just gotta strike that balance. Mix things up.
- Nice six fouls in 17 minutes for Tyson Chandler! He hasn't looked quite like TYSON CHANDLER in the preseason, but he hasn't looked like last May's tyson chandler either. Just Tyson Chandler. Maybe Tyson chandler. Not really thwarting people around the rim.
- Oh, that was another thing I meant to mention with the Bargnani/Melo tandem. That group-- several groups, actually-- threw pretty excellent doubles at the Bucks last night. They put timely, premeditated pressure on ball-handlers when they had their backs to the action. A couple times, though, the men getting trapped were able to toss bail-out passes, and things got scary. Either there was no one on the floor to protect the rim, or there was Chandler guarding two or three men at once and not doing as heroic a job of it as one might hope.
- So, not so much on the threes, eh, Beno? I didn't realize until glancing at the box score that Beno Udrih shot one of SEVEN from behind the arc. He should maybe practice those. Then again, his shot selection mirrored Melo's a bit too closely last night. 'Twas the Beno show in Green Bay.
- Metta World Peace didn't have the touch from outside, either, but I like his three-point attempts better than his leaning hit-the-wrong-button-in-NBA-Live-99 runners in the paint. He also doesn't need to shoot as a ballhandler ever. At all. Like, when teams go zone like the Bucks did a couple times, the zone-buster probably shouldn't be Metta backing down for nine seconds.
- I did enjoy when Metta took over the Caron Butler assignment and set his mind to shutting him down completely for a few possessions. When he's in his element, Metta's footwork makes him look prescient.
- Nice to see Tim Hardaway Jr. moving to the right spots when someone's working out of the post. Nicer if he hit more than three of nine three-pointers, but nice nonetheless.
- Toure' Murry learned a bit about Larry Sanders last night. He learned that even the nicest of first steps isn't going to buy daylight at the rim when Sanders is around, and he learned to just let Sanders shoot jumpers instead of sliding under him when he's doing that. I'm not coming away from preseason with much confidence in Murry's floater or his outside shot, but he hit one of each in Green Bay.
- We've mentioned Clyde's endearing habit of referring to World Peace as "World", and it gained another layer of appeal when he used phrases like "the omnipotence of World" and "World all over". That's what World is, man. World is everywhere and everything.
- Cole Aldrich played! He was the only camp bro besides Murry to get anything resembling real minutes. I saw what I've seen: Aldrich ran the floor well on offense, played a pretty good goalie on defense, and really busted his ass for rebounds. He took reasonable shots, but did not make them because he either has too few or too many fingers.
- Nice moment: Chandler tracked a loose ball all the way into the backcourt, letting it roll out of bounds since a Buck had touched it last. He snatched it up as soon as it hit the line, but realized immediately that a fan in the ball's trajectory had been excited to catch if off the roll. He tossed the ball to the fan for a second before inbounding. I have only one in-game experience of getting to toss a stray ball to a player. The player was...Paul Pierce. We were both much younger. I didn't know yet that I was supposed to smear venom on the ball.
One more at home, and then they start to count. To the Garden they go!