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Game Preview: Knicks @ Bulls, 2/1/2021

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Da Bulls

Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan Pregame Portrait Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

There was brilliance in their defeat to the Clippers yesterday. Unfortunately that doesn’t help the Knicks flip a digit in the win column and there’s no time to think about it. Right back in the mix today. Heading into Chicago, dissatisfied and cold, maybe they’ll take out their frustration on a Bulls team that has lost three in a row and seven of their last ten.

Bring your frustrations with you and wear these Bulls out, Immanuel! Channel the spirit of Patrick Ewing.

New York Knicks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Projected Starters

I can’t believe Elfrid Payton plays minutes on this team with how little he brings to the table. Haters of Frank Ntilikina, hark, unite and come catch these sentences. Elfrid is a complete fucking goofy. Can he manage some 10-15 minutes both capably and meekly? Why yes he can. Here’s the fucking deal, mouth breather, I need the team to play a decisive advantage instead of an impotent minutes sponge. Immanuel Quickley is good to go. You wanna keep him running the bench unit? Fine. But the fact of the matter is RJ Barrett and Julius Randle can handle the majority of the half court playmaking and they would benefit from a connector like Ntilikina who can get the ball up the floor as needed, run pick and rolls as needed and space to the three point arc the rest of the time. They do not need any more driving help. Randle and Barrett drive all game, putting pressure on the opponent to wall off leak after leak after leak in the dam. It’s a whole lot easier to plug things up when a non-shooter is cutting over the top of the driver- to what? You gonna catch a pass in traffic and dunk on everybody, you bonehead? Leave that shit to Mitchell Robinson.

Now. Defense. You ready get your trash compacted? Ok, have a look at Reggie Jackson’s twelve field attempts yesterday. Don’t wanna relive it? Me fucking either! But you know what it is? It’s a series of shading too far off your man while being one pass away, not getting back and committing to stopping the ball in transition (baby stuff, holmes), “sneak” doubling (everyone sees you, dippy) and forcing a huge defensive rotation only to not help the helper and leave someone wide the fuck open (bless your heart). Even when he sticks someone and stays in front, his inattentiveness prevails, as they just cut behind him and he ball watches. Boom, bucket.

So let’s cook this down. You got a guy that can’t shoot, drives a lot but doesn’t score efficiently, isn’t an incisive passer and ultimately is a piss poor defender. And the starters are...

Elfrid Payton v Coby White (open for no reason)
Reggie Bullock v Zach LaVine
RJ Barrett v Patrick Williams
Julius Randle v Lauri Markkanen
Mitchell Robinson v Daniel Gafford

I hate it. Replace this fool’s minutes with someone who spaces the floor, finds the hot hand or open man as needed and defends the point of attack as well as anyone in the league. Any amount of point guardy, driving and kick/dish type stuff you can chisel out is an added bonus. But Elf got to go. Frank Ntilikina is, yet again, the answer to a question that no one on any Knicks coaching staff ever seems to pose.

Here’s to hoping Thibs is just being methodical. Fast track that method for me though, Tom-Tom. It’s a slam dunk, I’ll bet my life savings on it.

Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Keys & Predictions

Has anyone else noticed that this Zach LaVine feller can put the leather sphere in the steel circle? Gonna trademark that for a hipster bar in Springfield, Mass that I just decided I’m opening. Leather Sphere & Steel Circle, the best local craft micro brews and barbecued chicken. Come by, or don’t because you tip like shit, and I’m depending on tips, so I’d rather not serve you. Maybe we’ll be a no-tip establishment and just pay staff a living wage. Back to Zach, get a load of some of this stuff.

Oh yea, Chicago tossed it away in the end. That seems to be part of the issue for the underperforming Bulls. Gone are the days when you can just blame it on Jim Boylen though. Perhaps the residual effect of Boylen’s unhinged power strokes of diseased guidance served to irreparably fracture the team’s dynamic. As much as David Fizdale was a complete dunderhead, one thing he never did was tear apart the locker room. I’m sure there are egos in need of massaging, but Thibodeau didn’t come in and immediately step in shit. Fiz was a people pleaser. Unfortunately that meant he didn’t challenge the best guys to be better.

That’s no longer the case in New York with Julius Randle actually bringing shades of the 90’s Knicks. He leaves it all on the floor, challenging relentlessly on both ends, a human battering ram. Today he’ll be facing the somewhat peachy, Lauri Markkanen. A Randle runs through it. It’s like they say, that gum I like has come back in style. I’d imagine the Knicks will do everything in their power to get this one for Thibs against his old squad.

Knicks by -4

Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Parting Shot

Years of fierce battles between two absolute legends. Rivalry and camaraderie. The Knicks never came out on top but those were some fantastic years. It felt like the Knicks scared the daylights out of every team in the league and there was a string of 50-win seasons. It’s been quite a while since New Yorkers have been able to witness such sustained excellence. He may have never gotten a ring, but Patrick Ewing was unequivocally a champion of the game.

Patrick Ewing Guarding Michael Jordan Photo by © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Ewing in the Nikes while Jordan is wearing... Cons!? Seems a lil’ weird, but there once was a time.