By David J. Cohen
After an impressive and entertaining showing in their summer league opener, the Knicks seemed to just be going through the motions against the Spurs. The team as a whole was lackadaisical and most of the players were in a “let me get mine” mentality. It didn’t work too well as the Spurs steady diet of mid-range shooting and power inside was too much for the Knicks to handle. The Spurs won 82-67 and outscored the Knicks by 19 in the second half.
This game marked the notable absence of top pick Danilo Gallinari. After rebounding from a rocky start “the rooster” sat out the game with a sore back. A precautionary MRI revealed nothing serious. He is questionable for Friday’s game against the Suns.
Late in the game incumbent forward Renaldo Balkman sprained his left ankle after trying to block the shot of former Creighton starter Anthony Tolliver. He landed on Tolliver’s foot. He was in excruciating pain for quite a while and was taken into the locker room. He came back near the end of the game on crutches with the ankle taped up with ice applied toward the back of the ankle. The fact that Balkman doesn’t really fit D’Antoni’s system makes this injury significant for his future in New York.
The Knicks now have 16 players under contract after signing Anthony Roberson to a two year contract for around $800,000 a year. The signing was fairly premature considering the Knicks had 4 more games, including today, left to go. They could’ve waited and evaluated him further. Roberson hasn’t proven he can play point guard. In both games when he has tried to run the show he’s struggled to get his teammates involved and his shot selection has been poor, especially today. Roberson led the Knicks today with 12 points but off 4 of 13 shooting. He is now shooting 38% for the tournament.
The Knicks need sharpshooters and Roberson hasn’t proven he is one. It’s unrealistic to label Roberson a “combo guard” as the Knicks have because of his size. A 6’2” player in the modern NBA will get eaten alive by taller, bigger shooting guards. The depth chart in New York also makes this puzzling. With Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon both being small guards there isn’t much room for Roberson to make the contribution the Knicks are expecting of him. They expect Roberson to be another Jannero Pargo.
This marks the second questionable move in as many days by Donnie Walsh. The first was denying a second round pick from the Clippers for Zach Randolph. Walsh specifically stated in his opening press conference that the goal of the Knicks was to get under the cap by 2010. This was the best opportunity to do that, as they were essentially offered a $48 million refund on their investment in Randolph. If the Knicks accepted the deal, their payroll for 2009 would be $33 million less then this upcoming season with the departures of Marbury and Z-Bo. They would be one good move away from being under the cap next year.
Walsh declined the Clipper deal because he wanted value in return. The Clippers basically bought Marcus Camby and now have two pure centers in their starting lineup. Camby would be a nice fit in D’Antoni’s system as the athletic enforcer in the middle who can run the floor. It would also be welcomed by the fans as they get back a familiar face. Camby is owed $15 million before bonuses over the next two years and his contract expires before 2010.
Nate Robinson also played today in his first summer league game. He looked rusty at times and was trying to make a highlight a little too much. He was 2 of 10 for 8 points but did chip in 4 assists and 4 rebounds.
Wilson Chandler also came up short after a terrific opening game performance. He had 10 points off 4 of 11 shooting after exploding for 26 points in game 1.
The lone bright spot for the Knicks might be the play of center Paul Miller. He had 10 points and 9 rebounds after recording a DNP in game 1. He was 5 of 7 from the field and displayed a nice mid-range game. He played for the Knicks summer league a year ago and has Brad Miller type range. The Knicks currently don’t have a big man with consistent range from that distance. If Miller can build on his effort today and the Knicks create room on the roster by trade or by releasing Marbury and designated couch potato Jerome James, Miller might finally stick on an NBA roster.
Miller will have to show he can play some defense. He had 7 fouls today and frequently looked slow laterally on the defensive end.
Hopefully Gallinari will be fit enough to play against the Suns. That game should be fast paced and free-flowing and would be a good test of how Gallinari fits into the high octane offense D’Antoni is bringing to Madison Square Garden.
The young Knicks already face a little pressure after a poor showing. It’ll be interesting to see how players like Chandler and Robinson respond Friday afternoon.