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P&T Mailsack, pt. 2: Where in the world is Andrea Bargnani?

More mail!

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Adam Moss/flickr

Yesterday in part one we looked at the upcoming season, the aftermath of abolishing hand-checking, and whether “F*** Paul Pierce!” is sustainable long-term. Let’s dive in to the rest of the mailbag.

  • What can 170 inches of Sevilla bigs do for you? Prezs2ReprsntMe writes:

What defensive skills/habits do you think are the most important for Kristaps Porzingis & Willy [Hernangomez] to improve on and why next year?

When I picture KP on D, I hear myself muttering “Shit!” seeing him switched on some guard 25 feet from the hoop. When I picture Hernangomez on D, I imagine Maester Qyburn surgically grafting a Porzingisesque eight-foot wingspan onto Willy’s proportionate Madridista ass.

I’m hopeful Porzingis can establish himself as the defensive anchor in the paint, and that Hernangomez can use his IQ to handle 4s and not be abused defending pick-and-rolls. Some of that will come down to strategy; Hornacek and noted defensive guru Kurt Rambis need to cook up something beyond “Hey! You! Switch!” Some of that will boil down to Porzingis not getting two fouls in the first quarter every other game. I asked some of the other writers their thoughts on the matter.

Alex Wolfe: “I'd like to see Willy work on his lateral movement so he can keep up with the 4s and KP can cover the basket. I'd like them to develop the sort of defensive rebounding chemistry that KP and [Robin Lopez] had. Willy's clearly a great individual rebounder, but something about how Rolo rebounded made sure that not only he got his ~10 boards a game but KP had numerous double-doubles as well.”

Stingy: “KP needs to sit in his stance better when he gets switched out. Trust that his length a step further off will be enough to unfurl and make it really difficult on a pullup and that he’s quick enough to recover if they get a step on him, and just man. He's got to keep packing on weight and muscle. If he's a step back and lower, that should make him less likely to reach on blow-bys. And that should knock out a bunch of those early foul trouble games.

“Willy needs to shed some weight, pack on some muscle and just be more aggressive. Clocking dudes a little earlier so they never have position and bumping little guys the hell off their routes. Just body people a lot more. He needs to be on the verge of fouling out more often and those fouls need to be Oakleyfied. I don’t know that Willy will ever be able to keep up with the increasingly more mobile 4's. His passing and touch near the rim are keeping him in the league. And his rebounding. But he needs to be able to step out to 18 feet and can those bitches, too. [Willy]...turns his hips pretty well for..a big...[b]ut he takes bad beats, and because he's so upright he can overrun it really easily.”

Dillon Dente: “[T]he same way [Porzingis] uses his height to get deflections at the rim, he should sit down better and use his long strides and angles to better defend the perimeter. I've probably run this into the ground, but most importantly he needs to use his length to contest shots without leaving his damn feet, which I thought was his biggest failure. The foul trouble issues were worsened with his willingness to bite on pump fakes when simply contesting with that reach and height is enough.”

  • The art of war. Carmelapplestapz Godzingodthony writes:

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized Porzingii or one Porzingis-sized duck?

My first instinct is to choose the 100 Porzingii, because big birds are no joke. I was once cornered on a beach by a couple of N-A-S-T-Y swans and literally was not sure did I’d make it out alive. You know how in any sport, going up against a lefty is weird? Trying to game plan how to fight a swan is going up against a foreignness ten times odder than lefties, only they also have an infinite reach. You’re pretty much trying to win in Space Jam without having Michael Jordan on your team.

But when faced with the unknown, it’s best to consult one’s elders. So in honor of KP’s jersey number, I turned to page six of Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War, where he wrote “ your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison...on which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?” Ya gotta believe 100 duck-sized Porzingii are more capable of staging a disciplined assault than a 7’3” duck. I’m not taking advice from some girl from Long Island, but I am taking advice from Mr. Tzu. Porzingis Pato: it’s on.

  • From Porzingis’ duck to Porzingis’...hmm. Kupe writes:

Do you think Porzingis will settle down and get married through the end of his first extension, or peruse the NYC dating/sex scene for longer than that?

KP isn’t getting married till 28, minimum. He saw Melo/Lala go down. Put the line on nuptials at 28.5 years. I’m taking the over.

  • Looking back - What if? Visions of Future Shump writes:

What do the Knicks look like today if the Melo trade would have been only one of Gallo and Chandler, one protected first, and Mozgov? Bear in mind that this mean no Billups so no wasting the amnesty on Billups.

That’s easy. The Knicks would have signed Billups the following summer, then right before the next season they’d have amnestied him and signed Tyson Chandler.

Maybe you were hoping for a more creative response, but don’t get the vagaries of spacetime twisted. Dumb is denser than reality and this franchise is the Borg of dumb, the apotheosis of it. The first person ever to travel inside a black hole is going to find James Dolan there, where he’ll offer them one year of Optimum discounted if they sign a two-year contract, then call them an alcoholic when they refuse.

What's Andrea Bargnani doing right now?

Recreating the magic of the 2015 Knicks alongside Shane Larkin for Spanish league power Saski Baskonia, that’s what!

Bargs put up 10 points in just 18 minutes per game and hit 41% from distance last season. But as his time in New York showed us, what goes up must come down.

According to my (phone’s) translation, that means: “After a complex physical year, the planned recovery plan for the coming months, unfortunately and with regret, makes it impossible to participate in the commitments of the national team.”

Get better, Bargs. You don’t have us having you to kick around anymore.

  • L'enfer, c'est les autres. J N T G writes:

What would an All-Star team of post-2001 Knick flameouts look like? [I]f you put all the underperfoming [Stephon] Marbury/Jalen Rose/Eddy Curry/Antonio McDyess-types and all the others who were said to be “saviors” when they first arrived on the same Knick team, all in the same year, using the career-best seasons of each of them, how good would that team actually be? Can't use Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford, David Lee, etc., cause those guys always performed while here. I'm talking about all the “saviors” that turned out to be deadbeats once they put on a Knick uniform.

I’m leaving Rose off this ignominious squad ’cuz he was 33 when the Knicks traded for him, too old to be seen as a savior. Plus he was one of my favorite college players ever, and I like his podcasts and just generally like him. He’s off the hook. So, who makes the cut for Team Infamy? I studied every roster imposter from 2002 through today and came up with this lot:

STARTERS: Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Danilo Gallinari, Amar’e Stoudemire, Eddy Curry

BENCH: Allan Houston, Antonio McDyess, Channing Frye, Jared Jeffries, Shandon Anderson, Howard Eisley, Randolph Morris

Marbury - A two-time All-Star who came to the Knicks at 26; whatever his failings, still the best point guard this team has had in like 40 years.

Francis - Put up 19/6/6 over 6+ seasons in Houston and Orlando before coming to New York. He was just 28 at the time; no one would ever have imagined he’d be out of the league at 30.

Gallo - The Knicks’ highest draft choice in 20 years. Before the Melo trade, people thought stars would wanna come to NY to play with Gallo (if you remember Melo’s last game at MSG as a Nugget, he spoke for a while afterwards to Gallo. We thought it foreshadowed a future alliance. Sigh.) He could shoot, he defended better than anyone imagined, and at a time when European players were still stereotyped as soft, he was a real tough cookie. He still is.

Stoudemire - STAT signing with the Knicks in 2010 always felt to me like when Pedro Martinez joined the Mets in 2004. Everyone knew his new team was paying him for what he’d done with his old one. But somebody has to be the frontiersman, the guy who accepts the thankless challenge and inspires others to follow. Beyond that, STAT was a six-time All-Star who brought Knick fans their first glimpse of greatness and joy this century.

Curry - His time as a Knick is a well-documented disaster, and he’s had more than his share of off-the-court drama and tragedy. So it’s easy to forget he was just 23 when the Knicks traded infinity plus one for him. Curry averaged 15 points per game as a Knick and shot 56% from the field while here. Do you remember how efficient he was around the hoop, how skilled? Bask in the curiosity, if you can. We could all use a break from the usual snark. That doesn’t make the trade any less disastrous, but nothing would.

Houston - Signed his historically bad contract right before the 2002 season. You probably know the NBA’s 2005 amnesty clause was named the Allan Houston Rule, in honor of his nightmare $100M contract. Did you know the Knicks actually did not use the Allan Houston Rule to amnesty Houston? Without peeking, how many of y’all remember the player New York did amnesty in ‘05?

McDyess - I spent a goodly sum of time on Youtube searching for clips of young McDyess that would do him justice, to no avail. If you were too young to see him play, just know that between Shawn Kemp and young Stoudemire, there was no more feared big-man dunker than McDyess. He was the first post-Patrick Ewing messiah, yet he played fewer games for the Knicks than Qyntel Woods.

Frye - Marbury called him the next Tim Duncan less than a month into his rookie campaign. Around that same time, Isiah Thomas said he would have taken him first overall in the draft (the Knicks selected him 8th). He’d end up trading Frye after two years for Zach Randolph. Long one of the league’s best bigs shooting from downtown, Frye made just six three-pointers over two seasons in NY. Phil Jackson would be proud.

Jeffries - Not your classic “savior,” for sure. But in the summer of ‘06, Isiah said this about Jeffries:

“I spent a lot of time this summer talking to different people about chemistry,” Thomas said, “because one of the things that was written and said and that’s true about us is the chemistry wasn’t right. And what Jared brings to us, more so than talent, he brings chemistry. I think he balances your locker room. He balances the plane ride. Relationshipwise, in a group setting, he’s the chemical piece that makes everything kind of work, in a strange kind of way.”

Never, never, never let anyone ever forget how bad the Isiah years were.

Anderson/Eisley - Also def not on the same level as most of these other guys. But Scott Layden traded for Eisley with SIX years and $42M left on his contract, and gave Anderson a SIX-year, $41M dollar deal. That’s $83,000,000.00 for a point guard who ran the worst fast break you’ll ever see and a shooting guard who couldn’t shoot...and that $83M is in 2001 dollars! The Knicks didn’t view them as messiahs, but for that money they were at least expecting a couple apostles. The next time someone complains about the Tim Hardaway Jr. deal, punch them in the throat.

Morris - James Dolan owns the Knicks and the Rangers. The Rangers have done well signing guys right out of college. In 2007 Morris was an asterisk: he’d declared for the draft two years prior and not been selected, but never hired an agent, allowing him to return to Kentucky. But also, since he’d been exposed in the draft, he wasn’t eligible to enter a future draft, making him a free agent. The Knicks signed him the same week he played for UK in the NCAA tournament. The Knicks, it turns out, are not the Rangers.

If all those ex-Knicks could be cloned from their prime years and put on the same team, they’d be the best team in the East this year. But they still wouldn’t beat Golden State, and ultimately I’d bet against them reaching the Finals. They’re still Knicks. They won’t defend anybody.

Hope you learned something today! Keep the mailbag material a-coming, and maybe send a note of appreciation to a teacher you remember fondly. Catch you on the flip side.