Recap: Knicks 99, Wizards 115

No, the sky is not falling.

Friday night was a good reminder of just how much of a roller coaster ride this season is going to be. There will be ups. There will be downs. There will probably be a few more downs than ups.

The important thing isn’t whether the Knicks win or lose games (although at some point, the record will become so bad - or, I suppose, so good - as to matter), but how they do it. If they’re coming out, especially on their home floor, looking like that as we get deep into the regular season, it’s a problem.

That said, I’m not worried…yet

One Big Thing: It’s the second time taking the floor for a team where 2/3 of the roster is new.

Let’s keep things in perspective here. Whatever the Knicks are trying to build - culture, a return to the 90’s, Humpty Dumpty back together again - will take time. All the rhetoric coming from camp masks the fact that words only mean so much.

A lot of the reason last night looked so ugly was due to a lack of familiarity, and on a related note, a lack of trust. The push and pull of this season on offense will be players trusting that better things will happen if they move without the ball (didn’t happen last night) and that if they give up the rock, they might get it back (ditto). The focus of camp has been mostly defense, so one would expect this to build up over time.

Speaking of defense…yeah, that wasn’t pretty. Missed rotations are one thing, and fall under the category of “should improve.” Not getting up on shooters, one game after this was something they did rather well, is inexcusable, and frankly, confusing. Maybe the team was riding high and thought it would always be as easy as Friday night.

HA. Sorry, you must be new here. Nothing. Is ever. Easy.

Regardless of the reason, it’ll officially be something to keep an eye on when they take the floor again Wednesday night.

Unpopular Opinion: I’m not yet willing to kick Elfrid Payton to the curb.

I know it might seem insane to not cast judgment on a player after one “meh” game and one terrible one, but I’m going to put myself out there on this limb. Jesus, take the wheel.

Look…he was atrocious, and reminded everyone why the Knicks are his fourth team in the last three seasons. He can’t shoot for shit, and he’s not the penetrator (DSJ) or distributor (Frank) that either of his counterparts are. There are moments when he looks like he’s just kind of …out there.

I get it. It’s also his second game in New York. Payton is a player who doesn’t put much on the table, but doesn’t take a whole lot off of it either. He’s steady, and other than his lack of range, he’s not going to be a detriment to anything you’re trying to do at either end. Assuming they can surround him with ample shooting - a definite “if” - there’s a role for him on this team somewhere.

Key Stat:14.

That’s how many points Allonzo Trier scored in 17 minutes, all of which came in the second half.

Some of his tendencies drive you nuts. He failed to appropriately hustle after a rebound last night, leading to a jump ball, which he lost. Also, his attitude on the court at times just…I don’t know. It rubs me the wrong way, which maybe explains why he’s been the odd man out of the rotation thus far.

But he’s the only guy on the roster who can both penetrate a defense and has a respectable outside shot. You can survive with him as your worst defender.

Trier’s going to be a fascinating test case for the organization this year. There’s a reason he wasn’t drafted, and it’s not because he lacks for talent. Teams clearly had questions about what he would bring to the floor and in the locker room aside from just his otherworldly scoring ability. Last season, the only time we heard the word “cancerous” used in relation to this team was by an anonymous player describing Trier’s occasional play. The Twitter/DM thing with Timmy also wasn’t pretty.

Good organizations take guys like Iso Zo and either shape them up or ship them out before they can cause too much damage. Let’s see what happens.

Made me Smile: RJ Barrett, again looking the part.

The numbers weren’t terribly efficient (15 points on 15 shots) and he had a few obvious gaffes (dribbled into the lane, only to get the ball swiped rather easily), but overall, we should feel encouraged by what we’ve seen. He’s done just enough of everything well (including shooting from deep, where he’s now 4-for-11) to make you feel encouraged that he eventually becomes the player we all hope.

Other notes:

  • Mitch had 5 fouls in 11 minutes. As Fiz said postgame, nights like this are going to happen. I’m not worried. More concerning is the fact that the spacing often seems so cramped that Robinson couldn’t find lanes to attack the rim for possible lob attempts. He’s also still slipping every screen. Hopefully Taj rubs off on him here.

  • Marcus Morris continues to light it up. If anything goes right for this team this season, I have a feeling he’ll be at the center of it, not only because of what he does on the court, but hopefully as the guy to rally the troops. After last night’s desultory effort, he needs to be the one to reinforce that, no, this shit is most certainly not ok.

  • Julius…Julius, Julius, Julius. I love ya’ man, but if you dribble into the lane, and there’s a wall of humans waiting for you, it’s ok to give up the rock. Only saving grace is he's had 11 dimes in two games. If only he could be an even more willing passer, we’d be in business.

  • Bobby Portis has some of the most horrendous defensive instincts I’ve seen from a player. They’re going to need to run some kind of simplified system when he’s out there, because man, he is a bull in a china shop if there ever was one.

  • Frank again wasn’t hitting his shot, but again looked really good in moments. The five fouls in 19 minutes wasn’t ideal (and, please…I know picking on Fiz about Frank’s minutes has become a cottage industry amongst some members of the Knicks’ beat, but really, if a guy picks up three fouls in the first half, you take him out of the game. Pretty standard stuff). That said, he had a gorgeous drive and dish to Taj Gibson, and a few other penetrations that were indicative of a more confident approach to the game. All that said, I’m still not convinced he gets off the bench on opening night if both DSJ and Payton are healthy. I hope against hope that I’m wrong.

  • Iggy played, and looked like a second round rookie getting his first NBA minutes.

Final Thought:

Be patient with this team. Seriously. This thing is going to take time. 20 years of ineptitude doesn’t disappear in 12 days, which is how long this team has officially been together.

It’s going to be ok. Even if it takes a while.