What I find irritating about Phil Jackson (and by proxy Kurt Rambis)'s attitude toward basketball is the overly vocal disdain for the modern offense. The Triangle is pure, team-oriented ball, with movement, as opposed to the modern two-man game, buffeted by shooters standing in the corner.
The Charlotte Hornets -- coached by a former Knicks assistant and disciple of the notoriously defense-first Jeff Van Gundy -- showed the egalitarian beauty of a varied offensive attack Wednesday night in their 111-97 win. Steve Clifford's team softened up the Knicks early with the pick-and-roll and then finished them off in the fourth quarter with some good old-fashioned post play. Knicks defenders were no match for slippery point guard Kemba Walker, who torched them for 34 points; nor could they guard rugged post savant Al Jefferson, who scored 14 of his 24 points in the final quarter. In the meantime, the ball was shared by all -- all 12 Hornets scored at least 4 points, and 11 of 12 recorded at least 1 assist.
It was old-school, it was new-school. Each Hornet was allowed to play to his strength, yet was held accountable within the general confines of the offense. It was nice to see.
Oh, I guess I should talk about the Knicks now ...
- As much as I like to joke that Carmelo Anthony is the real coach of the Knicks, he of course is not. He's a player -- a player who gives it his all every night, who doesn't back down from a heavy minutes load. He appeared to injure his knee late in the first quarter, but came back to start the second. He would play 30 minutes over those final three quarters ... after hurting his knee ... at the age of 32 ... one year removed from knee surgery ... in a game that means absolutely nothing ... after Melo himself had urged Kurt Rambis to cut down on his minutes in favor of some of the younger guys.
Melo just went out and played, because it's what he does. He led the team in assists, because that's what he's done all season. He even dove for a loose ball in the third quarter, and the MSG crowd showered him with approval. He deserves that praise ... every damn bit of it.
- Derrick Williams is quite a poor defender. I wish he could be at least slightly below average on that end, because he has been killing it on offense for over a month now. The 24-year-old dropped 17 points and 10 rebounds on Charlotte, which is not even that far out of character for him at the moment. Dude is averaging 11.6 points on 50.0% shooting (46.7% from beyond the arc!!!) over his last 15 games.
- Robin Lopez got himself ejected. He's not in a good mood these days.
- [Suddenly possessed by the spirit of Hubie Brown] OK, you have this kid Jerian Grant. He's a rookie. Can get to the rim. He's not stopping Kemba Walker, but NOBODY is stopping Kemba Walker right now, OK? What he's doing is MAKING KEMBA WORK on the other end of the court. NOW, this kid gives you 9 points and 2 assists in the third quarter. So WHY would you SIT him for the entire fourth quarter?
Sorry, I blacked out there for a minute. So yeah, Jerian Grant played 23 minutes through the first three quarters, scoring 14 points on 5-7 shooting. He finished the game with 23 minutes played and 14 points on 5-7 shooting.
- Some surprising run for Lou Amundson. He had 4 turnovers in 4:13. As knicksfanhere96 pointed out, it was rather unbelievable.
- Quoth the Rambis:
Rambis: "We're still a work in progress. We're not doing anything nearly as well as what I'd like."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 7, 2016
Rambis: "That's kind of been our problem all yr long: What are we hanging out hat on as a ball club?" Essentially says team lacks identity— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 7, 2016
This team absolutely has an identity. They play slow as hell, can't penetrate opposing defenses, no longer guard the three-point line after doing a terrific job through the first half of the season, and consistently fail to execute down the stretch of close games:
Knicks now 1-8 under Rambis in games separated by 5 pts or less during final 5 mins of play. Team was 12-16 in such situations under Fish.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 4, 2016
Playing slow, playing old guards who can't penetrate, de-emphasizing three-point defense, and going with super-duper old lineups heavily dependent on the Arron Afflalo/Sasha Vujacic tandem at the end of close games -- those are all your decisions, Kurt. That's what the team is hanging its hat on. I'm sorry that many of the old, crappy players you've chosen to lean on have not played up to your expectations.
The Knicks will play Philly on Friday. They may or may not win.