Defense on the plank tonight

Blazers come into town/Knicks minus Noah again

The New York Knicks (6-7, 3rd Atlantic Division) 10 point win over the Atlanta Hawks (9-4, 1st Southeast Division) Sunday night without the services of Joakim Noah.  They will really be severely tested tonight against the Portland Trailblazers (8-7, 2nd Northwest Division) duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

knicks-1“Not only Lillard, but that whole team,” Knicks guard Derrick Rose said. “They’re playing well. We know what Damian can do. McCollum is playing great, he’s becoming an All-Star-type player, and it’s a challenge. That’s what this league is about, challenges every night. It’s going to be different matchups and it’s about how you approach it.”

“I talked to him [Noah] this morning. He’s still feeling not so great. So we’ll see [Tuesday] morning if he’s any better,” coach Jeff Hornacek said Monday.

Great seats and affordable tickets for tonight’s game are still available so be sure to grab yours today and help cheer on your New York Knicks~!

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The Numbers Merit Taking A Chance On Potential

In February, during the height of the Linsanity phenomenon, I attended a game at Madison Square Garden between the Knicks and the Sacramento Kings.

The tickets cost an arm and a leg. But Jeremy Lin and the Knicks did not disappoint. Lin had just 10 points in 26 minutes of play, but many of his 13 assists were spectacular, a series of flawless alley-oops that sent Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields dunking on the Kings like the guys from Sacramento were the Washington Generals, the Harlem Globetrotters’ perpetually hapless opponents.

What was more remarkable was the action that took place off the court. This was only Lin’s sixth game as the Knicks’ starting point guard — and just his third start at Madison Square Garden. But the concourses were filled with fans in Lin jerseys. And the high-priced seats were full of people carrying well-intentioned (although sometimes racially insensitive) signs in tribute to him.

The Knicks seemed to be doing everything in their power to encourage the trend. At the team stores around the arena, a wall of Lin bling dominated the displays, while gear for the Knicks’ other high-priced stars — Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony — was consigned to the sale racks. (Lin jerseys eventually outsold those of all other Knicks — and all other players in the N.B.A. except Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.) After every Lin bucket or assist, the Knicks public address announcer Michael T. Walczewski paused for emphasis before reciting his name, before the stadium burst into manic applause.

Lin, in other words, was getting the superstar treatment from the Knicks and their fans. Here, after all, was one of the more remarkable sports stories in a generation. In a sport which is not usually forgiving to underdogs, an undrafted point guard out of Harvard was lighting up cash registers and scoreboards, and turning even the most jaded New Yorkers into die-hard fans.

It didn’t hurt that Lin was Taiwanese-American — in a city where there are about 450,000 residents of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. There are more Chinese-Americans in New York than the entire populations of several N.B.A. cities like Miami, Atlanta or Cleveland (about 400,000 each).

To think of the marketing potential in China itself, which has been starved for an N.B.A. superstar since the gradual demise and eventual retirement of the former Houston Rockets star, Yao Ming.

Investors were quick to recognize the marketing bonanza. The market capitalization for the Knicks’ publicly traded parent company, The Madison Square Garden Company, added about $250 million in value in February alone, and has gained roughly $600 million overall since Lin’s first start.

But now that it comes time for the Knicks to actually pay Lin like a superstar, they seem to be balking. Reports in The New York Times and elsewhere suggest that they might not match the offer sheet that Lin signed with the Rockets, which would pay him $25.1 million over three years.

From a pure basketball standpoint, the merits of the deal are uncertain. Lin’s average salary under the contract — about $8.3 million per year — is concomitant with a good (although not necessarily great) level of performance over a sustained basis.

Using a statistic called estimated wins added, developed by ESPN’s John Hollinger, I charted the performance of the N.B.A.’s top 40 point guards over the past five seasons. Mr. Hollinger’s statistic (as its name implies) estimates the number of additional wins that a player is worth to his team, above a marginal-level player that could be picked up for the minimum salary.

Then I converted this number from wins into dollars based on the salaries of all N.B.A. players. On average, N.B.A. teams are paying about $1.63 million per win, which means that a player good enough to produce 10 extra wins for his team is worth about $16.3 million.

If Lin plays like a top-10 point guard, he’d be well worth the contract, even without the marketing bonus. A top-10 point guard is worth about 12 wins per season, according to Mr. Hollinger’s numbers, which is equivalent to about $20 million in market value.

Anthony’s 29 Not Enough to Lift Knicks Over Bulls

It would be a momentum changer, one way or another. But Anthony could not replicate his Sunday shooting heroics, nor the outcome. The shot missed, and the raced the other way and ran off with a 98-86 victory, avenging their defeat in New York two days earlier.

A resurgent Richard Hamilton led Chicago with 20 points, including 18 in the third quarter, and the Bulls (44-14) overcame the absence of Derrick Rose, who rested a sprained right ankle.

Anthony had 29 points, a solid encore to his 43-point performance against the Bulls two days earlier. But the Knicks could not muster enough defense nor find a consistent second scorer, and Anthony — who won Sunday’s game with two big 3-pointers — could not re-create his late-game magic.

Anthony tried, with a transition 3-pointer with just under 4 minutes to play and the Knicks down by 11. The shot missed, leading to a fast-break and a 3-point play for Kyle Korver. Instead of cutting the deficit to 8, the Knicks fell behind by 14.

“That’s a big bounce in their favor,” Coach Mike Woodson said. “We struggled all night.”

Korver had 11 points in the fourth quarter and blocked shots by Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields as the Bulls won the season series 3-1. If these teams meet again, it will be as the first and eighth seeds in the playoffs later this month.

At the moment, the Knicks (29-28) are not even assured of making the playoffs. The loss dropped them back into eighth place, with a mere one-game lead on Milwaukee Bucks, their opponent Wednesday night.

A loss in Milwaukee would give the Bucks the season series and the tiebreaker, dropping the Knicks to ninth and out of the playoff field. They have reached the point of the season where every hiccup rattles the standings.

“It’s a must win,” Anthony said, repeating the statement. “It’s probably one of the biggest games of the season for us, and we got to approach it like that. We got to be ready. Forget this game, it’s behind us.”

The Knicks were outhustled, losing the rebounding contest by 51-33 while giving the Bulls 25 second-chance points. Their offense looked stagnant. With no big-man depth and little playmaking, the Knicks for the first time seemed to miss Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, their injured starters.

J.R. Smith had 14 points on Tuesday and Shumpert had 12. But the Knicks’ 86 points was their lowest output in 10 games, and they shot just .425 from the field.

“We didn’t get ball movement,” Woodson said. “We didn’t flow into things like we’ve been. This is the first time I’ve seen that since I’ve been the head coach. I don’t want to fall into the pattern.”

The Bulls were missing Rose, their star point guard, whose injury-plagued season took another bad turn Sunday, when he sprained his right ankle in the first half against the Knicks. It was his first appearance after a 12-game absence stemming from a groin injury.

Rose showed no sign of the injury on Sunday, but he reportedly wore a walking boot on Monday and was listed as a game-time decision Tuesday. He went through a series of drills on the court before being scratched from the lineup.

Rose has also battled through toe and back injuries this season, missing 23 games in all, although the Bulls have weathered it well, going 16-7 without him. With the best record in the league, Chicago could afford to be cautious.

“If we’re going to err, we’re going to err on the side of caution,” Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He wanted to play. We felt it best that he didn’t.”

Tyson Chandler had another strong showing, with 15 rebounds, 10 points and 3 blocks, bolstering his case for defensive player of the year. He could have used some help in the paint. Jared Jeffries, who recently returned from a knee injury, is not moving well and played just 14 minutes.

“We’re a little small right now,” Chandler lamented, adding, “We didn’t do a good job boxing out tonight. We’ve got to do a better job of when we switch and I challenge the guard’s shot, someone has to get the big guy out.”

The Knicks had a 6-point lead late in the first quarter but scored just 10 points in the second and trailed by 47-35 at halftime. They never got the lead again, and never got closer than 8 points in the fourth quarter.

The schedule may doom the Knicks on Wednesday night. Tuesday’s game, televised by ESPN, started at 8:30 p.m. local time and ended after 11 p.m. — giving the Knicks less than 20 hours before they tip off in Milwaukee.

REBOUNDS

Amar’e Stoudemire went through shooting drills at the morning shootaround, but he is not running yet and he remains at least a week away from playing. The Knicks projected that Stoudemire would be out for two to four weeks after he received an epidural to treat a bulging disk in his back. He will reach the two-week mark on Thursday. “He looked pretty good,” Mike Woodson said. “But again, I think its going to be up to Amar’e and the doctors to figure out when he decides to make his move.” Stoudemire has not spoken publicly about his injury in two-and-a-half weeks. When Stoudemire does return, he will return to his starting power forward position, Woodson said. Carmelo Anthony has been thriving as an undersized power forward in Stoudemire’s absence….The Knicks are expected to send a team Las Vegas for the N.B.A.’s summer league, which returns this July after a one-year hiatus caused by the lockout. Iman Shumpert is likely to play. …The Knicks sent center Jerome Jordan to their Development League affiliate in Erie. This is Jordan’s second stint with the team.