It’s been 70 moons since we last mailbagged. No time for tears. Let’s do it to it.
- A new boss means a new lease on life for somebody. Spike Lee’s Joint wonders:
“[Which Knicks] will benefit most from David Fizdale’s arrival?”
When Fizdale took over in Memphis, four Grizzlies showed significant growth over his first and only full season as head coach. As luck would have it, there are four Knicks I could see echoing their Memphis brethren’s play.
Here are Marc Gasol’s numbers, pre- and post-Fiz:
And lastly, the longest, loveliest, lean/I call it the leanest/It’s another five-letter word rhymin’ with cleanest and meanest, James Ennis:
All four of these players saw their three-point shooting explode under Fizdale. Green and Ennis saw the floor a lot more in 2017 than in 2016 under Dave Joerger, and on offense a lot of those minutes were in the corners. 55% of Green’s three-point attempts and 41% of Ennis’s came from the corners; they hit 43% and 39% of said threes.
Watch Gasol find Ennis in the clip below. Easy to envision Kyle O’Quinn or a Porzingis who’s improved as a passer finding a wing open like Ennis here. Ron Baker, this could be your life.
There isn’t a detailed history of David Fizdale-led teams to take any trends from. The biggest thing that jumps out as far as what those Grizzlies did differently from under Joerger, and what the Knicks have done lately and will probably look to change, is putting more value on valued shots. This season the Knicks were the anti-Rockets: 28th out of 30 teams in free-throw attempts, 29th in both three-pointers taken and maken.
Gasol has always had a good touch shooting for a man his size, but before Fizdale came along the most threes he ever made in a season was three. Under Fiz in 2017 he topped 100 and he did so again last year, even amidst all the Fiz drama and firing. Enes Kanter has already hit 10+ threes in a season twice and was a career 39% shooter from downtown before going just 5 for 40 the past two years. I get the feeling Kanter’s read and heard a lot of the criticism about him not being a pace-and-space big. I get the feeling he could expand his range next year similar to what we’ve seen recently from centers like Gasol and Brook Lopez.
Could Isaiah Hicks play the JaMychal Green role for New York? They’re the same height and almost the same weight. Neither profiled as a three-pointer shooter coming out of college: Green took just 17 three-pointers over four years, Hicks just six. In the pros, Green’s minutes more than doubled from his rookie year to his second, and grew 50% from year two to year three. If Hicks can be merely respectable on corner threes, he could see a more prominent role sooner than later.
Ron Baker improved from awful in the corners as a rookie (24%) to average last year (36%). Then again, he took about 14% fewer threes per 36 minutes last year (3.6) than the year before (3.1). Ennis saw his attempts and accuracy drop as his minutes rose. That may be partly why he’s no longer in Memphis.
Mike Conley, like Gasol, took more threes and hit a higher percentage of his twos. He also got the free throw line more and committed more turnovers. Next April I want to be saying all those things about Frank Ntilikina.
- Out of the mouths of babes. Sweet innocent Magd writes:
“I’m consideribly new but has there been any times in history [with] two of our most hated division rivals squaring up at the top of the conference while the Knicks chill out of the fight? If so, any hint from old timers on how to deal with it?”
Hey, Magd! Welcome to hell.
There’ve been so many times the Knicks were on the ground floor while local rivals fought in the penthouse. It happened in 1960, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1981, and 1982. In 1980, the Celtics led the league with 61 wins and the 76ers won 59; only the 60-win Lakers spared us another Atlantic Division duopoly, something Los Angeles also pulled off in 1983 and 1984. This past year the Raptors, Celtics and 76ers finished with the 2nd, 4th and 5th-best records in the league. See? It can always get worse!
- Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale...A tale of a fateful trip...3marcus7 wants to know:
“You’re shipwrecked on a deserted island with three Knicks (past and present). Who gives you the best chance to survive?”
To endure day after day as an unending struggle for survival for both body and soul requires special, sustainable skills (unlike, say, surviving a zombie apocalyspe alongside 33 NFL players). 480 people have suited up for the Knicks. Which three make the cut?
For bodily health, I choose Micheal Ray Richardson. Sweet Sugar Ray is third all-time among Knicks in steals, despite ranking just 42nd in games played. Thievery, in essence, is a kind of magic; one starts with nothing and ends up with something. Food, fire, flora: I trust MRR can make something appear out of nothing.
For spiritual health, I choose Pablo Prigioni. I trust his perspective would outlast the isolation. To quote from a P&T piece almost four years ago,
With all the craziness and the awfulness of life, he handled it in a way that made those around him feel affirmed, alive. He wrote a poem a day. That was how he kept time after everything went to hell. He was always smiling. Said the horror just made the beauty all the more brilliant by contrast. Even at the end, overrun, he offered his last poem as they tore into him, whispered it, eyes shining: Hasta en el roto del fondillo del Diablo hay poesia. “There is poetry even in the Devil’s butthole.”
For mental health, I choose Charles Smith. A lifetime on a deserted island with him could finally bring closure to...you know.
- Ahh, June. When a Knick fan’s fancy turns to rosterbation. NoZingKristapsMe with the three for one:
“If not both (unlikely), who should the Knick’s re-sign: O’Quinn or Kanter?”
If it’s a choice between one or the other, O’Quinn, surely. He’ll cost less, yet impact games in ways Kanter won’t, like passing and defending. I wouldn’t be crushed if the Knicks lose O’Quinn. He’s a valuable bench big, but he’s 28. 28-and-under bench bigs making an NBA living wage may not grow on trees, but they’re not Périgord truffles, either. You can find them. If practicality’s your kink, you let KOQ walk, pocket the millions you save on a lesser-paid replacement and save that for next summer. If you’re an active nihilist, and the journey is the destination, then you hope a human who’s been enjoyable to watch on TV hangs around a few more years.
“Should the Knicks finally trade Courtney Lee before he isn’t worth anything?”
He turns 33 in traning camp, is owed $25M over this year and next and is the definition of mediocre. His only trade value is as ballast making salaries match in a bigger trade that won’t at all be about Courtney Lee.
“Do you think the Knicks should stand pat in free agency...or is there actually someone not from last year’s roster that we have the money to add?”
The 2018-19 salary cap is $101M. Ron Baker has already exercised his option to return next season.
A league source has confirmed Ron Baker picked up his player option for next season. #Knicks— Chris Iseman (@ChrisIseman) May 31, 2018
If Kanter and O’Quinn do the same, the Knick payroll would be around $99M. If they both opt-out, it’d be $76M. If the expected occurs, and Kanter stays but KOQ leaves, it’d be $95M. P&T has a summer salary cap/free agent primer coming out later this month that will dive deeper into this question.
- Riddle me this, care of felinequickness:
“Why are Knick fans shunned for supporting the Celtics in May, when they are the only team in the East that stands in LeBron’s way?”
Because the Celtics are pure evil. There has only been one good thing the Celtics or their fans ever did. Ever.
Meanwhile, Knick fans have zero reason to hate LeBron. I’ll expand on this in another question in part two of the mailbag next week. Merry weekend, fam!