With Arron Afflalo sidelined by a tender hammy, his earliest Knick debut could be a Robert Randolph-infused schedule loss against the Boston Celtics.
#Knicks hope that Arron Afflalo can practice later in the week & possibly play Friday or Saturday. If he's healthy, he's expected to start.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 11, 2015
In an effort not to hex our new pal, Derek Fisher might should wait until Saturday. The longer it takes to get a look at the color-penciled-in starter, the more it begs the question, is Afflalo gonna be the butter on this waffle or the stutter on this mouthful?
While reading about middling marks in the P&T bomb shelter, I got to wondering about the long-term future of the backcourt rotation. The early returns are a tad frightening. The Knicks starting pair of dam operators seem to usher all vessels to the front of the cup, closing out on their heels and flailing to recover as speedboats like John Wall and Ricardo Fischer have been able to penetrate and dish at will. This sucks bigs away from the paint and drains wings into the middle off of potentially deadly shooters. Bauru somehow managed to launch 43 3-pointers (if you didn't know, there are only 48 minutes in the game), 11 mid-rangers (including a few flippers and runners outside the paint) and the leftovers of their 81 shots were near or at the rim. Luckily they only managed to hit 25% of their triples, but good grief were they getting some decadent looks!
Yikes, at about 54-seconds, anyone that can identify what Jerian Grant is up to gets a never-ending cookie. Around 1:37 Calderon is a kind enough gent to get crammed on a pick and Carmelo Anthony fails to recognize it somehow, so Fischer waltzes to the rim and Calderon points to Melo about the breakdown. That's what you call defense, I suppose. Of course, Bauru is not even an NBA team! It can definitely get scarier. Washington only fired 23 from downtown, connecting on a paltry four. But in both games the opponent had enough time to catch, settle, line up the seams, take a beat, test the wind, admire the crowd, yawn, get out of bed, piss, make the coffee, scratch their asses and launch an uncontested three.
Right away there, Wall beats his man, pulls Lopez out, gets him off his feet to contest and zoomp nails Marcin Gortat on a roll that I doubt Vujacic intended to disrupt. At about the 50-second mark Vujacic and Calderon act like stopping the ball is beneath them. Other than that you'll notice lots of dying on screens and faux-aggressive shows, but not a lot of Galloway or Grant.
Now, Afflalo has the offensive chops to come in and get a similar array of looks to what we saw from Derrick Williams (against the Wizards). With any luck he's a little more in lockstep with the team's space and cutting. What remains to be seen is if he'll be able to stymie some guards to help keep Robin Lopez and the gang from floating out of position to help. Arron has not been considered much of a stopper in recent seasons. He's practically the model for league average on both ends. He has had some very good seasons on defense in the past, and part of NBA basketball is reputation. Like it or not, lots of guys coast through their careers on the idea of who they could be rather than chiseling the rock of what they drop on your head night after night.
The starters for now, Calderon and Vujacic, have been aware of their assignments and just mondo-heavy on their feet, slow to react, very chill. Then the bench guards have come in and tightened the screws a little bit. Langston Galloway has looked especially capable on defense, hounding around screens, icing ball handlers a little bit and jamming guys up on switches. Jerian Grant has looked especially capable of losing track of where and when to rotate. Sometimes just gently ambling closer to the play while everyone else scrambles to guard two players. Nevertheless he should be quick and long enough to agitate if he can get up to speed mentally.
Given the depth up front, perhaps Cleanthony Early can shift down and be part of the guards. It sounds freaky on offense, as I would be worried if he had to ever bring the ball up the floor or create space with his shooting, but his quick feet and strong will might help mask the ineffectiveness of others in short spurts. Maybe Thanasis Antetokounmpo can make the big squad, and be plugged in to harass crafty guards and switch assignments up top in a matchup zone. The offense would be further splayed apart unfortunately. Travis Trice is probably too small, and how many rookie and second year guards do we really want to rely on? DaJuan Summers and Darion Atkins don't make sense. If we're even looking that far-- Lance Thomas?! No, no, no. His dribbling and just the way he moves around is about as worrisome as a Chuck Hayes free throw.
So, what happens if this is hamstring injury (or anything else) persists? The combo of Vujacic and Calderon will absolutely get torched as the season takes shape and teams get their sea legs. Vujacic has the instincts on offense to speed up the machinations of the Triangle, scattering triples around to make defenses overreact to him, but his streaky shooting isn't powerful enough to be considered a legit strength. Galloway can definitely shoulder some extra minutes, but his creativity off the bounce is like a stick figure compared to Grant's stop motion animation.
Vujacic probably crams Grant further down the rotation with his innate sense of the offense. He also has an idea of what he should be accomplishing on defense, if not the will or athleticism. Grant provides a very different engine for the offense, getting into the lane, finishing through contact and slinging passes to the open man.
It's this Galloway fella that I keep circling back to. He is the two-way unifier that can be paired with any of the other guards. He can protect the ball, hit the open look, harass either guard on defense. Vujacic makes fewer mistakes than Grant, and that's why he is paired with Calderon for the time being. Hopefully Afflalo can get in there and make a positive impact on both ends. If he can't, I'd say it's time to start considering Langston Galloway one of your two most important guards. Let's see what happens!