Two games are upcoming this week, one against a top Western Conference team, the other against a rebuilding team with the jaw-dropping front-runner for Rookie of the Year. Plus, another P&T interview!
New York Knicks vs LA Clippers, Monday, November 6, 2023, 7:30 PM ET
The New York Knicks (2-4) are set to clash with the Los Angeles Clippers (3-2) on Monday night. You already heard that the Clips acquired James Harden from Philadelphia. Harden last touched an NBA court in May and is set to start his season, and Clipper career, in tomorrow’s game.
If you follow the Knicks, you know their numbers should come with a shot of Pepto-Bismol. The Knicks hold the NBA’s third-best defensive rating, sure, but the offense . . . the offense. . . .
Despite Jalen Brunson lighting up the scoreboard, the Knicks fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 110-105 on Friday night. Plenty of blame goes to Julius Randle, who has been stupendously bad—blame from every sector save the coaching staff, that is. In Friday’s loss, it didn’t help that besides Brunson’s 45 points, the other four Knicks starters managed 39 points. Nor did it make sense that Immanuel Quickley played 22 minutes (14 points) in a game without RJ Barrett (knee soreness). Logic would dictate that in a shorthanded tilt, Quickley would garner extra minutes, especially for a team that needs a boost of energetic scoring. But we inhabit Planet Thibodeau, a world without gravity, logic, or accountability for tempestuous power forwards.
Last season, the Knicks went 47-35 overall, with a 23-18 record at Madison Square Garden. They shot at a decent 47% from the field and hit triples at a 35% rate. This season, the Knicks have not yet won on their home court, have shot a league-worst 40% from the field, and converted 32% of their three-pointers.
The rebounding of Mitchell Robinson has been a saving grace over these early games. He should win the battle for the paint on Monday and has averaged 8.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in seven games versus Ivica Zubac. In honor of the long-retired Jared Jeffries Shot Tracker, maybe we should start the Mitchell Robinson Oop-Tracker. . . . I think we’d get support from Mitch’s trainer.
The LA Clippers have pinned their hopes on All-Stars: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and now Le Beard (but not James Beard). The catch is that all these stars are north of 32, so their championship window is narrow, and growing narrower every time Kawhi feels a twinge.
Now, for the injury report: Barrett has been one of the few bright spots in this early season; he practiced today and, if everything goes well, he will suit up tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Clippers are missing Terance Mann (ankle) and Brandon Boston Jr. (quad).
Against a healthy Clippers crew, the gnarly-shooting Knicks could easily emerge with a 2-5 record.
New York Knicks vs San Antonio Spurs, Wednesday, November 8, 2023, 7:30 PM ET
The San Antonio Spurs (3-2) is not a team with which to trifle, mostly because of a nine-foot-tall alien who is often heard at his locker mumbling, “Vhiii-ctor . . . phone home . . . .”
Victor Wembanyama, the 19-year-old French phenom, has averaged 20 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in five regular-season games. The Spurs selected him first in the draft without blinking, and he’s rewarding their confidence in spades.
San Antonio is most likely better than you’d expect. They’re still coached by Pop, one of the all-timers. Guard Devin Vassell has averaged 19.4 points in their first five games. The 6’8”, 230 lb Jeremy Sochan—listed as a point guard on ESPN’s SAS Depth Chart—has averaged 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists this season. The sophomore had 14 points, nine assists, and five rebounds in their last game, a win over Phoenix.
And How did Wembanyama do against Kevin Durant’s club? He recorded 38 points, 10 boards, two blocks, and one steal while shooting 15-of-26 and 3-of-6 from deep.
The Spurs can put up a lot of points, while the Knicks . . . do not. If this game devolves into a let’s-trade-buckets affair, New York could end the week 2-6. I’ll keep a rough draft of a “Fire Thibs” article ready.
Finally, we have another exclusive P&T interview in the pipeline. This time, Andrew sat down with a famous NBA player who came up through the NYC playgrounds. Intrigued? Look for that later this week, barring any hiccups. Peace til then.
You can follow Russell on Twitter at @ruxxdeluxx.