steph

Thank you for relinquishing two players with oodles of potential without practicing some due diligence. Thanks for not exercising some caution when dealing with a GM who has hoodwinked so many in the past. Thanks for helping to inject some much needed youth, athleticism, and hustle into this lineup. Even if these two players ultimately don’t pan out, at the very least, thanks for helping us win tonight’s game. You had everything to with what transpired tonight.

That would, of course, be the sublime efforts of one Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems to defeat the New York Kinicks, Future NBA Champions, signed, Mike D’Antoni. Jay Triano or Bryan Colangelo, whoever’s making these decisions, saw the light and rewarded Amir for a season’s worth of great play with his first start of the season. Why this took so long is beyond me. While he may lack the offensive polish many look for in a fulltime starter, here are a few things to consider for him being at least a spot starter:

a) For whatever he lacks in scoring prowess, he more than makes up for with his defence

The team has a 1.07 Defensive efficiency rating with him on the floor. One of those stats that definitely make sense to most fans.

b) That offense is getting better

He is starting to develop a post-up game which is predicated on quick moves and a soft hookshot/floater thing that is starting to fall with some consistency. He’ll never be a traditional back ‘em down post player, but then again, there are only a handful of guys like that in the league now.

c) He has 2 really good point guards to feed him.

Last night the Raps connected on a couple of high-low feeds for Amir. He can grab those lobs over most players and is a quick enough jumper to get back up and finish the play. Jose and Jarret are both capable enough to get him the ball in a position where he can succeed. That’s the benefit of having good point guards. It’s similar to the effect Jason Kidd had on a Kenyon Martin or Steve Nash on Shawn Marion. Not terribly gifted offensive players, but their athletic prowess was taken advantage of with great passing.

d) Second-chance points

Without Chris Bosh, someone has to generate extra posessions with second-chance opportunities that’s not an offensive blackhole (read: Evans, Reggie) We can all agree that will never be Andrea Bargnani’s role on this team, so this creates a void that the power forward position must always compensate for. Amir grabs 11.8% of all potential offensive rebounds to make up for Andrea’s 3.8, which is an absolutely pathetic, if I may.

Sonny Weems maybe be a tougher sell on a starting job, but last night definitely made a strong argument towards that case. What’s perhaps more surprising than the 20 points was the way he got them, and when he got them. Was it just me or did he drive to the rim, stop, and pull of a short fadeaway that looked like something a good NBA shooting guard might pull off? He was aggressive all night, and that’s because our point guards led by example. This is the element that has been lacking in his game, and he showed he has the ability to get by NBA defenders off the dribble. He’s quick and his athelticism is breathtaking, and he knows how to use it while maintaining control. What’s maddening is that he might have as much potential as DeMar DeRozan or maybe even more (Thank you again John Hammond) but he lacks the attacking mindset that DeRozan has (most of the time). Nothing better than leading by example, and his teammates, Jose Calderon especially did that. Talk is cheap sometimes. Having more playing time to ease into the game might have something to do with it as well.

Got to give credit to Jose Calderon tonight. Let me say this: When he is on, few in this league have this kind of impact on the offense. This alone makes him a better point guard than Jarret Jack. The problem is, he’s not always on, and you at least know what you’re going to get with Jarret. He looked for his offense today by driving to the rim, which is how it should be with him, because he’s just too natural a point guard to ever tip over into Mike James territory. It seemed effortless at times, but let’s be mindful, this is the New York Knicks, with a shooting guard (McGrady) and a defensively weak backup (Rodriguez) to throw at him.

Let’s not let our players take all the credit, we also must thank Mike D’Antoni for playing Tracy McGrady at the point. I think TMac is going to have trouble guarding anyone at this point, and you put him out against 1’s? It was entertaining and sad to see at the same time. Entertaining because he was a pylon on an assortment of layups by our points, sad because he was such a beautifully fluid player to watch in his prime. Guys that are 6’8″ weren’t supposed to be that quick and coordinated, and as much as we all hated him for abandoning us and a potential championship-calibre team, he was a dynamic player. he can still put up the odd 20 point night, but he got taken last night, time after time.

That’s why not having Chris Bosh as the offensive focal point kind of worked out this night. Granted, the Knicks are somewhat undersized and Chris may have taken more advantage of that than Amir did but in the long run, a game like this shows that with good guard play and hustle we can win significant contributions from our franchise power forward and centre. If the playoffs are to be this year for the Raps, it does get very physical, especially around the rim. Our guards will have to come through, jsut like they did so fabulously tonight.