Middle Kingdom Previews: Magic + (Raptors x 2)

USA TODAY Sports

Don't bother asking me for the answer...I haven't taken a math class in ten years!

Good Wednesday, P&T! With my move back to America rapidly approaching, I find myself pulling double duty today - writing about the Knicks and their injuries while at the same time researching America's vaccination policy for immigrant pets. Can anyone tell me the last time the Knicks' medical staff checked Raymond Felton for screwworm?

Over the next few games the Knicks have a slate full of winnable games, a bench full of injured all-stars and a lineup full of creaky, overworked geezers. That sounds like a recipe for...I dunno, gumbo? I'm not a chef.

To the previews! (Unless you have screwworm...in that case, stay the hell away from me and my pets!)

Wed., March 20 - Orlando Magic

Chinese name: 魔术 (mo-shu) Lit. "evil spirit method"

A cursory glance suggests that the most winnable home games left on the Knicks' schedule are:

  • This Magic game
  • March 29, against the Bobcats (Crap, it's a Friday night game!)
  • April 9, against the Wizards (Who have already beaten the Knicks once)

And that's it - the other home games are against either playoff teams or the invincible Toronto Raptors. I don't think you can overemphasize how much the Knicks need to take care of business here. Lose this one and all the good vibes from the Utah win will be a distant memory.

For you see, the Magic are a terrible basketball team. They were within shouting distance of .500 around Christmastime, but then they went 2-12 in January, 2-11 in February, and 2-7 in March...good, they've already reached their win quota for the month! They traded away J.J. Redick at the deadline, which means I can't make anymore Duke jokes. Oh wait, they still have Josh McRoberts, so the Duke jokes are still on! What? They traded him too? Damn you, Magic!

Orlando is an equal-opportunity purveyor of of crap basketball - 25th in offensive efficiency, 26th in defensive efficiency. About the only thing they do well is protect the defensive glass (3rd in DRB%), thanks to Nikola "Don't Forget, All the "C"'s Are in My Last Name" Vucevic and recent addition Tobias Harris. Needless to say, the new Mini-Knicks will have a hard time keeping up on the glass, especially now that Kurt Thomas will be staying at home, talking smack to his grandchildren.

I've heard a few names bandied about to replace Ye Olde Kurte in the Knicks lineup. My preference: a former Syracuse forward who has fallen on some hard times recently. I''m referring, of course, to Hakim Warrick Carmelo Anthony.

Sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out. I know there are certain facets of Kurt's game that Melo just can't replace - post defense, three-point shooting (still 100% from downtown) and that certain razzle-dazzle he brings to the court - but Melo could still make a difference. Scratch that: an even remotely healthy Melo could still make a difference...otherwise we might as well try talking broke-footed Kurt into going out onto the court one last time.

Will Melo come back for this game? Probably not...he still plays for the Knicks, after all. But I for one would love to see him come back and light up the scoreboard again, especially after all the grief he's taken recently. I don't blame him for trying to play hurt, I blame the Knicks for allowing him to play hurt. I thought we wanted our stars to try to play hurt. Now I'm confused. Come back soon, Melo!

Fri., March 22 - @Toronto Raptors

Sat., March 23 - Toronto Raptors

Chinese name: 猛龙 (meng-long) Lit. "fierce dragon"

The Knicks and Raptors are playing a home-and-home here, so let's kill two dinosaurs with one stone (FYI: Kurt Thomas once literally killed two dinosaurs with one stone).

Next on "When Curses Collide": What happens when you combine the Friday Night Knicks Curse with the Ex-Knick Curse?

During this road trip, I analyzed the Ex-Knick Curse in sadistic detail, and then the Knicks went out and made me look like a genius: 0-4 against ex-Knick teams, 1-0 against no-Knick teams. The only silver lining in my research was the fact that, of their four wins this season against ex-Knick teams, an impressive 50% have come on Friday night - both against Trevor Ariza's Wizards, but at least it's something.

We know that Tyson Chandler won't play in this game, we know that the Raptors can not be beaten, and we know that Andrea Bargnani is out for the season, which increases the Raptors' chance of winning each game by at least 15%. So why haven't I taken my cyanide pill yet? Perhaps it's because, even with all I just mentioned, the Raptors still aren't very good. Sure, they have beaten the Knicks twice this year, but that doesn't mean a whole lot going forward...this group is just as likely to implode and let the Knicks sweep this back to back.

Nobody reflects this fact better than Rudy Gay. You may remember that Gay torched the Knicks for 32 points last time out, most of them coming in the second half; you also might remember him scoring 11 points 4-for-21 shooting in the Raptors first win. Gay is the ultimate giveth-and-taketh-away player, and he's a case study in the battle between new school and old school player evaluation. You might have noticed a bit of that friction in the awesome Zach Lowe article Seth linked yesterday, and Gay might just be the perfect flash-point for this kind of argument. The Old School guys see a kid who can score - 20.4 PPG since coming to the Raptors - and hold his own in the clutch. As for the Nerd Patrol, what they are looking for - other than a vague hint of nipple on some high-res photos of Alison Brie - is a player who can score efficiently. Here's a fun exercise - let's compare the advanced stats of two players separated by little more than 100 minutes of playing time this season, Player A and Player B:


MP TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% TOV% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
Player A 705 .483 .428 4.6 16.3 10.3 14.3 13.2 94 105 -0.4 0.8 0.4 .028
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/20/2013.

Player B MP TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% TOV% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
Player B 576 .453 .430 4.1 11.1 7.4 9.1 12.3 95 107 -0.1 0.5 0.4 .032
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/20/2013.

Keep in mind: according to the WS/48 statistic, a score of about .100 is the NBA average, so both of these guys have been pretty bad. But it would seem that Player A is just slightly worse than Player B. Drum-roll please...

How can that be? Well if, like Rudy, you use over 30% of your team's possession, and you shoot the ball at a worse effective field goal percentage than Iman Shumpert, than the computers will not judge you kindly. Also, you will lose a lot of games. Maybe Rudy will light up the Knicks again, or maybe he won't...both are equally likely. The Knicks might help tip the scales in their favor this time by, I dunno, actually defending him. The defense has been better lately...let's hope they can keep it up, because they're not equipped to win a shootout right now, Kurt won't be there to save them this time, and Willis Reed still hasn't accepted their offer to come out of retirement.

P.S. I'm taking a trip to Europe next week, so if any well-traveled P&T'ers have travel have advice about any of the following cities, I'd be much obliged:

  • Paris
  • Venice
  • Trieste, Italy
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia

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