Saturday, February 12, 2011

LA Lakers @ NY Knicks, 2/12/2011

2 NBA games, 2 cities, 2 days. This is as close to being a NBA beat writer as I will possibly get in my life. Thoughts on Friday night's game, a 113-96 Lakers W:

- Despite the setback in Orlando today, the Lakers are playing as good of basketball right now as they have the entire season. They've beaten 4 teams over .500 in the first 5 games of this 7-game roadtrip, and held all 5 teams under 100 points.

- Steve Blake's alley oop to Shannon Brown were absolutely unreal. In the words of my friend and Knicks fan/sympathizer (because at this point, aren't Knicks fans more sympathizers than anything else?) BockerKnocker, "Steve Blake and Shannon Brown are hurting my feelings right now."

- Kobe has a lifetime 30.3 ppg average in the Garden, and last night did not dissapoint. He dropped 19 in the first quarter almost effortlessly....though he merely had Danilo Gallinari and Landry "The Punisher" Fields on him for most of the quarter. Hardly First-Team All-NBA defense right there.

Also, a lot of being said of Amar'e's (doesn't that look so strange in writing with the apostrophes everywhere?) "MVP" caliber season. I've watched a ton of Knicks games this year, and there's not doubt that he's the best player in a blue and orange every night, and the leader of the team. Along with Coach D'Antoni, Stoudemire has been the galvinizing force behind a team that has played miserably for the past 6 years and now is in playoff contention. This is all apparent to me. But after watching him play in person on Friday, what I saw was pretty similar to the player that I had seen for so many years in Phoenix. I think his season is being completely overblown.

The guy is having a fantastic season, statistical or otherwise. But looking at his numbers, he's playing on par with his best years in Phoenix:

04-05: 80 games, 36.1 MPG, .559 FG%, .733 FT%, 1.60 BPG, 2.4 TO, 8.9 RPG, 1.6 APG, 26.0 PPG

07-08: 79 games 33.9 MPG, .590 FG%, .805 FT%, 2.10 BPG, 2.2 TO, 9.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 25.2 PPG

10-11: 52 games, 36.9 MPG, .507 FG%, .787 FT%, 2.20 BPG, 3.4 TO, 8.6, RPG, 2.7 APG, 26.2 PPG

Basically, his minutes and points are up, but he's not shooting at quite the same clip and he's turning over the ball a bit more. Overall, he's having a year akin to his 04-05 and 07-08 seasons when he finished 9th and 6th in MVP voting, for teams that finished with 62 and 55 wins, respectively (Granted, Steve Nash was the best and most important player on that team, which I'm sure took away MVP votes from Amar'e).

When I'm watching a so-called "dominant" MVP-caliber player, I'm always looking for him to take over games, on a consistent basis at that. I fully expect that everytime I see Kobe or Carmelo or LeBron or Wade or Dwight take the floor, that at no point will I forget that they're out there. Win or loss, when I leave the game, I'll remember that that guy was playing, and that the team won or lost because of his performance. With Amar'e, I didn't get that feeling. At times, I forgot he was on the floor. He's got a great offensive skill set, but most of his moves are isolation plays at the elbow or top of the key. It's not like he had a bad game - the guy shot 9-20 and ended up with 24 points and 10 boards. But it was just a pretty forgetable performance. But that's the feeling I get from most of his games - he's the best player on that team, no doubt, but utlimately, I feel that he doesn't leave that same indeliable mark on the game that Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo, et al leave on their games. I think his MVP candidacy is being made simply on the premise that he's brought the Knicks back to any type of prominence, rather than the outhouse they've been in the past few years.
Stop blowing this guy up as a MVP candidate New York. He's resuscitated the corpse of an Isaiah-mutilated franchise. Let that be enough.

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