Briefing: July 11

Knicks beat Lakers

Good Morning,

The Knicks finally won 117-96 over the Lakers. Some highlights from Summer League…

  • 117 points were a high for any team in Vegas

  • Kevin Knox 25 points...on 12 shots

  • Mitchell Robinson has 4 missed FG’s in 4 games

  • RJ Barrett showed his passing touch (9 dimes/2 TO’s last 2 games)

Meanwhile, there is still mutual interest between the Knicks and Reggie Bullock to negotiate a new deal after a medical issue hampered their original agreement, per Ian Begley.

Jonathan Macri’s thoughts…

Well that was a relief.

I'm not sure I had it in me to combat the narratives that would have emerged from a) an 0-4 Summer League performance and b) more terrible RJ than not, especially with no games for the next three months.

Now we at least get to rest a bit easier. After all is said and done, the Knicks were outscored by two points total over their four first four games in Vegas (a consolation game is still to come).

Is that good? Of course not, especially when the team was favored to win the whole tournament going in. It was pretty clear that they entered believing their own hype, and it didn't help that they went up 20 in their first game. If this week taught this group one thing, it's that they're not capable of simply walking into the gym and beating anyone. Execution matters.

We saw that in spades last night. The Knicks looked like a power conference team playing a mid-major, pummeling the Lakers to the tune of 117 points, the high water mark for summer league. They got to the line an astounding 40 times, hit nearly half of their 28 threes, and lived in the paint all night. Best of all, they racked up 24 assists after averaging just over 13 a game coming in.

On one hand, you love to see that they finally woke up, especially following the previous night's desultory effort. The results of the first two games were almost more forgivable, as the team raced out to a big lead in each and let their opponent back in. There was no excuse for what we saw Tuesday, and the coaching staff clearly emphasized as much.

On the other hand, all last night really proves is that the guys who the Knicks hope will be significant contributors on their actual team are, in fact, able to push around non-NBA players. Gold star for that. 

Still, there are a few significant signs that we can take with us. 

First and foremost, Kevin Knox is starting to get it. He was drafted 9th overall because someone that size isn't supposed to be able to move with the ball at that speed (to say nothing of his shooting). All that's great, but if all it gets him is awkward-looking shots at the rim, the talent is meaningless. All summer league long but especially last night, Knox got into the body of opponents at the rim. He welcomed contact instead of shying away from it, and drew countless fouls in the process. This is how he must exist from now on.

RJ Barrett also showed up. The last two games revealed college RJ, which was encouraging, because that dude was really good. He bullied his way to easy baskets and finally decided to pass some. This is what he can do against lesser opponents, but it doesn't erase the questions that dogged him pre-draft, all of which continued to rear their head last night. The defense is really bad, the shot hasn't come around yet, and the first step isn't where you'd like it to be.

That said, almost all young players are booty on D. It'll come in time (although it's going to take a lot of work. I still say - like a lot of Knicks - he'd function far better in a switch-heavy scheme). The shot should be fine. If he can just get that initial burst off the dribble a half-step quicker, he can model his game after James Harden: take 3's when they're there, and otherwise live at the line (he got there 10 times vs LA, much to the delight of the announcing team).

There were other good signs. Iggy continues to get jiggy with it (please tip your waitress, thanks). He's going to play this year, and honestly, is a guy you're going to want on the floor late in close games far more than his more ballyhooed rookie teammate. The shooting and defense dictates as much, and we even saw some passing here and there.

Mitch, honestly, looked like a guy who knew all week that he's too good for this shit. And who can blame him; he is. Pay no attention to the fouls. He was constantly the last line in a defense that took Swiss cheese to new heights. He'll be fine. I'd pay far more attention to the fact that he was putting himself in the right spots to catch lobs near the hoop. With better shooting on the floor, those will become even easier to take advantage of. This kid is going to absolutely blow up.

Even considering all this good stuff, David Fizdale is going to have to mix in a lot of veteran playing time this year. For every promising sign with these kids, there's one or two that are less encouraging. Balancing painful growth time with opportunities to win games is going to be an unholy beast of a challenge for Fiz. Better him than me. The first remains the priority, but the second can't be totally eschewed as the only way to develop a winning culture is by actually winning a few games every now and then.

All in due time. For now, we sit and enjoy a fun night, and look forward to what will hopefully be one more solid performance in the consolation game. As is always the case with this team, it could certainly be better, but it could definitely be worse. 

Remember when…

July 11, 2015: Knicks rookies Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant make their unofficial Knicks debut in 78-73 victory over San Antonio in Summer League action in Las Vegas, NV.

July 11, 2012: Knicks acquire center Marcus Camby, via sign-and-trade from Houston in exchange for Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan and 2015 and 2016 second-round draft choices (2015, 32nd overall, Montrezl Harrell; 2016, 37th overall, Chianu Onuaku). Also, sign free agent guard/forward James White and re-sign guard J.R. Smith.

July 11, 2005: Knicks trio of rookies - Channing Frye, David Lee and Nate Robinson – lead the Knicks Summer League entry to an 86-74 win over New Jersey in Las Vegas, NV. Frye records 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 fouls. Lee posts 19 points and eight rebounds and Robinson scores a team-high 23 points.   

Thanks for reading, talk to you tomorrow!