Last night’s Pelicans-Knicks matchup – overshadowed by far bigger sporting events – was nightmarish for three reasons. One, it featured Anthony Davis’s big night being cut short. Two, it featured the Knicks collectively refusing to get the ball to its best player. Three, the absence of the player perceived as the Knicks’ weakest link, Derrick Rose, wasn’t the problem.
Let’s do this!
Anthony Davis Has Big Night Cut Short
This website exists for many reasons – basketball is great! – but one of them is celebrating players who absolutely go off. So when those players are cut-off midstream (as Klay Thompson was after getting to 60 through three quarters), this website recoils in horror. Players going off is cool.
Davis posted his second-straight Anthony Davis last night (his seventh of the season), and in only 29 minutes, he had put up 40pts/18rbs. The game at that point wasn’t particularly close, so he might have only gotten a few more minutes of run, so maybe he posts a 45/23. But New York’s Kyle O’Quinn, having already spent his time on the floor getting abused by Davis, responded with something between a hard foul and an outright cheapshot. The hit sent Davis clattering into the first row, ending his night prematurely. The foul is here:
Whether or not it was dirty is really beside the point. But O’Quinn and the Knicks, who already play borderline unwatchable basketball, took the only interesting part of the game out of it, robbing viewers of the opportunity to see Davis finish his spectacular night.
The Knicks Freeze Out Kristaps Porzingis
One of the Knicks ongoing subplots has been the rise of Kristaps Porzingis. That dude is the team’s future, and by most accounts, he should be its present too. But with bigger names on the team still demanding their slice of the pie – Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose apparently sacrifice shots for no man – Porzingis has constantly had to play third-fiddle.
It’s tempting to reduce the situation to shot attempts. The Knicks are better when Porzingis shoots more; the team is worse when he doesn’t. It seems obvious then that Jeff Hornacek’s dry-erase board should be nothing more than a tally-board of Porzingis’s shot attempts, and whenever that number isn’t high enough, he calls in plays like, “Get Porzingis the goddamned ball so he can shoot it!” and “I swear to god if Porzingis doesn’t shoot it this time, you’re all getting benched!”
Instead, he oversaw a scenario in which two players shot the ball more than Porzingis did. The first one of those players is obvious: Carmelo Anthony. He’s the team’s workhorse, its best-paid player, its alleged everything, even at 32 with his best years almost certainly behind him. But the second of those players is not obvious: Brandon Jennings.
Jennings took 14 shots last night, one more than Porzingis, and it should be noted that he was shooting better than the Latvian. Porzingis only managed 9 points on a paltry 3/13 from the field. He was having an off-night. But Jennings is a bench-player who only got the start because Derrick Rose (we will get to this) disappeared before the game began. As a result, Jennings picked up the spot-start, and apparently concluded almost immediately that he should shoot the ball at least as often as the team’s future. That’s a wild conclusion to draw!
Derrick Rose Disappears
But Jennings was only in there because of Rose. The league’s former-MVP had literally disappeared prior to tip-off, after apparently absconding home to Chicago for reasons that remain unclear. (Update: He claims he was with family.) Critics are predictably furious and the Knicks, in as Knicksian a fashion as is possible, has been fined and reprimanded, which is precisely the thing to do when players disappear just before tip-off. But this tempest in a teapot is missing the bigger point: Rose* isn’t the player he used to be.
He clearly thinks otherwise. He is shooting as much as ever but his assists are down. He is plainly desperate to recapture whatever it was that he had before his knees turned into paper mache, even if that means refusing to get the ball to the Latvian that it ought to be going to. All of this makes a certain sort of sense in the modern NBA. Rose’s shelf life is remarkably limited, and is even moreso after his injuries. His obligation is to maximize his earning potential in the very small window he has for doing so.
But the Knicks obligation is, presumably, not to enable Rose’s wildass delusions of grandeur. Somebody somewhere has to intervene with him to declare that enough is enough when it comes to his voluminous offense and its underwhelming return. He is being paid at least in part to distribute the ball, and if he continues refusing to do so, the team has to deal with that for its own future.