By John Schmeelk
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Before I go off on my own hyperbole, I’m going to warn everyone else to be stay calm and be reasonable. The Knicks didn’t just discover a double-double machine in Timofey Mozgov. Things won’t come so easily for the big Russian moving forward, but that doesn’t mean the Knicks haven’t found a 10-20 minute per game center for the remainder of the season.
The Knicks don’t need a lot from the center position. In essence, all they require is someone that can rebound, fill the lane, catch the ball, and finish from three feet and in. There’s no question that Mozgov has the athletic ability to do those things if he can keep his confidence intact. It would go a long way if the Knicks crowd really embraces him, rather than release nervous grumbles every time he gets on the floor or touches the ball.
The Knicks have been hunting for a center for a while now, but there isn’t much out there. There just aren’t a lot of good centers in the NBA anymore. If a player like Marc Gasol becomes available, Donnie Walsh will rightfully do everything he can to acquire him. But right now, the only other centers on the trade market or on the scrap heap are no better than what Mozgov can potentially give the Knicks.
What really bothers me are the members of the “Hate D’Antoni” Club, going after the coach for keeping Mozgov on the bench for so long. They believe that Mozgov has been in the coach’s “doghouse” for months, which apparently has better security than Alcatraz. Has it occurred to anyone that Mozgov simply wasn’t ready two months ago, or even two weeks ago? Anyone who watched Mozgov early in the season could see that he was completely overwhelmed and mentally shot. He was actually playing worse and worse as the season went on. It got to the point where he couldn’t even catch a pass, or finish layups.
The time on the bench has helped him become a better player and build confidence. It showed when he was able to recover from an early missed layup (and the subsequent MSG rumbles) and play the best game of his career. Coach D’Antoni compared it to how the Knicks let Toney Douglas watch last year, and then brought him back to play his best basketball later in the season. It’s a perfect comparison.
There’s been nothing but glowing reports about how hard Mozgov worked after his benching, and how good his attitude was about earning his way into the lineup. If Anthony Randolph showed the same type of professionalism, he might find himself back in the rotation too. If Mozgov builds on this early success and stays out of foul trouble, he’ll be playing regular minutes for the Knicks the rest of the season.
UP AND UNDER
Up: Danilo Gallinari is playing the best basketball of his career. He’s found explosion in his legs that we haven’t seen before and he is getting to the rim on the regular basis. Besides consistently finishing with dunks, he is also getting to the foul line with a remarkable consistency. That, more than anything else, is what will push his scoring average towards 20. I’ll have more on Gallinari later in the week, and I’ll tease it by saying he’s the one player I’d try my best not to trade for Carmelo Anthony.
Down: The Knicks defense remains way too inconsistent. The most frustrating part about is that they can play good defense when they want to. Their defense against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade last week was excellent. The 4th quarter defense against the Pistons was similarly excellent. On the other hand, the defense against the Hawks and in the first three quarters against the Pistons was an embarrassment.
AROUND THE WORLD
People keep asking me why the Nuggets are being so quiet and nothing is being talked about in regards to Carmelo Anthony. It’s simple. The Nuggets are stuck and they know it. At this point, they are waiting, hoping and praying that some mystery team comes forward with a ridiculous offer to rent Carmelo for a few months. Or maybe the Nets will re-engage and convince Carmelo to sign there. But in the end, they’ll have to take the Knicks offer. NBA people keep saying it will be something like Chandler, Fields, Curry, Anthony Randolph and a first rounder. Three months ago, when other teams were in the mix that seemed about right. Now, with the market where it is, I get the feeling the Knicks won’t have to give up as much. It’s my guess (and that’s all it is) the deal will look more like Chandler OR Fields, Bill Walker, Eddy Curry, and Anthony Randolph and/or picks. And no, the Knicks won’t have to take back Al Harrington, perhaps Renaldo Balkman. I’m sure a lot of people think this is pie in the sky, but where do the Nuggets get a better offer? Walsh won’t bid against himself.
If the Knicks are actually going to hire Mark Warkentien (as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski on Yahoo on Sunday) as a consultant it’s good for a few reasons. The first is his great working relationship with the front office in Denver. Carmelo also has great respect for him. The second is that the consultant role was once filled by Isiah Thomas. If this signals that he has less power around the Knicks all the better. Finally, it also shows James Dolan might finally be completely behind Walsh and the blueprint he has drawn up for the organization.
One other thing: To all those fans ripping LeBron James for dishing it to a wide open Eddie House at the end of the Thunder-Heat game on Sunday– get a clue. No one was more down on LeBron than I was last year, but it was the right basketball play. Just because he’s a superstar doesn’t mean he has to take every shot at the end of every game. House was open (someone was closing on LeBron) and is a better three point shooter. It’s about winning, not glory. Remember when Jordan would feed John Paxson or Steve Kerr at the end of games? Same thing. Oh, and Eddie House – as much as I appreciate any Major League 2 reference, (Pedro Cerrano and his marbles) your celebration was a little over the top. Relax, it’s a game in January. Enjoy your fine from the league office.
For more on the Knicks, and everything else in the world of sports, dare to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.
- Stoudemire, Mozgov Lead Knicks To 124-106 Win (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Report: Knicks Hire Ex-Nuggets GM As Top Consultant (newyork.cbslocal.com)