Requiem For Knicks, Rangers
New York City sports fans are uberdepressed as their Rangers and Knicks both lost in the first round of the play-offs, the Rangers winning one game and the Knicks being swept. Why, pray tell, should any fan be surprised at their lack of success when they both barely managed to get to the post season?
Arguably the best player on the Rangers unable to play due to injuries, Ryan Callahan, could only sit in street clothes and watch as the Rangers suffered from what they have suffered from all year, failure to put the puck in the net. Gaborik, who should have been their most prolific scorer, failed to find the net the entire season (save one multi-score game). Thus, he could not be expected to be the savior in the post season. The Rangers’ lack of conversions on power plays frustrated long suffering fans who, unless they were watching some other team play all season, must have expected that level of play post season. Their insistence on passing, not shooting, and dumping the puck in the corner rather than, once in awhile, floating a bouncer in front of the opposition goalie has to frustrate fans. Never out of any game thanks to excellent goalie Lundqvist, the Rangers must secure a scorer (or two) for the next campaign. What bothered fans most was, why weren’t there more shots on goal (and in goal)? Where was the offensive crowd in front of the goalie during a power play? Who was looking for the rebound?
The Knicks, no great rebounders themselves, currently suffer from an identity crisis that could have been resolved by not making the Anthony trade and signing a quality center instead. They went from being a quick team lacking defense before the trade to a slow team lacking defense after the trade. Before, they were a generous team, passing until an open man took the shot. Currently, it seems the only time Knicks other than Billips and Anthony shoot the ball is when the two former tire from excessive shooting and have no choice other than passing to the other three players. How many times can this reinvented team slog down the floor and take the quick shot without a single Knick under the basket positioned for the rebound? Moreover, is it too much to ask of a team to play defense even when it “doesn’t count?”
Miraculously, during games one and two, all of the Knicks played tough “D” which leads viewers to believe that they were saving this part of the game for the playoffs. This also means they never brought their “A” game until they determined it was necessary, cheating the fans who suffered through no “D” throughout the regular season.
This scenario is reminiscent of Alan Iverson’s tirade on the subject of ‘practice’:
In essence, it’s only practice. Why make the effort when it doesn’t count?
The Anthony trade brought with it brains and talent. Too bad the brains belong to an aging Billips and the talent, to Anthony. Carmello is a one-onone player who slows the offensive game down to a crawl. He probably failed, sharing, in Kindergarten. Between him and Billips taking most of the shots no wonder the other three teammates on the floor appear as window dressing and are there only because a team needs five on the floor. However, one would think once Anthony gets the ball the others would swarm the net looking for rebounds. Au contraire! They appear to stand with their hands on their hips gawking at the “third best player in the NBA.” As much as Coach D’Antoni took it on the chin for not impressing defense on his players, he did put together a team that was fun to watch during the pre-Anthony era. It will be interesting to watch the adjustments D’Antoni makes next season to put a cohesive, more generous, quicker team on the floor. Chances are with the resigning of an aged out Billips either pulling up for the shot or passing off to Mello, the pace of the Knicks will continue to be the slow two-on-five to which we are sadly becoming accustomed.
The Rangers, successful at every aspect of the game save scoring, must sign a goal scorer and not be held captive to a routine that stresses excessive passing to be in contention next season. The Knicks, lacking a center prior to the “trade” must sign a legitimate center in order to get themselves out of the first round of the post season. They must sign a decent rebounding center and spread the ball around to go deeper into next post season. Kudos to Amare for playing full out all season.
Is each team merely a player away from going all the way? The Rangers appear closer to success than the Knicks because the Rangers are more of a team than the Knicks. Until Anthony can absorb the well known fact that there is no “i” in team, the Knicks will never get out of the first round. Until Billips stops being Anthony’s enabler, the team will never get anywhere near the ultimate prize. That the Knicks re-signed Billips for another campaign portends good for Anthony and ill for the team. The two of them have played together so long it is difficult to believe they could change.