The Knicks Fix: Melo – ‘You Get What You Deserve’

In the media, we have our own version of the Triangle Offense. The foundation, simply, is that there are three sides to every story: your version, my version and the truth.

Carmelo Anthony has seen this before so it came as no surprise to him on Tuesday when he saw on the ESPN crawl a quote attributed to him claiming he was “the most underrated superstar that’s out there.”

It’s certainly not a controversial statement. In fact, it’s fairly accurate.

The only issue I had with the comment was he should have said “most unappreciated” instead of underrated. But that’s just editing.

The issue came when he backtracked from the comment when asked by reporters who cover the team to explain why he felt that way. Melo said, “I don’t feel like that,” and pointed to the interviewer, ESPN’s Chris Broussard, as the one who created the conversation and “took it and ran with it.”

In Melo’s defense, there were two factors that were overlooked in his initial statement, which he said was merely echoing a question. He said it with his usual smirk and laugh and immediately followed with, “but that don’t matter to me.”

Carmelo Anthony describes what training camp sessions are like and how the team is learning the new systems.

Of course it does matter to him, but it’s not a front-burner concern for the seven-time all-star, who knows he has the highest respect of his peers as one of the game’s great scorers.

It’s moments like this that will send more and more athletes to Derek Jeter’s new venture, The Players Tribune, which he created to, as the website says, “present the unfiltered voices of professional athletes.”

What wasn’t written, but very clearly stated, on Jeter’s website introduction is that this “new media platform” is the first shot fired in a revolution to eliminate the need for sportswriters.

Jeter, however, made a point to deny that as a guest with Jimmy Fallon on Thursday night.

“This is not trying to eliminate the sportswriters,” Jeter said. “I mean, the sportswriters are what makes sports great and fun to watch . . .”

Really? I thought it was moments like your final at-bat that made sports great and fun to watch. Sportswriters bring it to life and tell the story behind the moment and bring you inside the game. Sportswriters teach the game, explain the whys and the hows and offer provocative perspectives that create fun debate.

At least that’s what the good ones do.

Shortly after he insisted he wasn’t trying to make extinct a profession that just spent the last six months canonizing him, Jeter went on to explain why the website is, intentionally or not, designed to eliminate the need for sportswriters and other media.

“Athletes have a lot of opinions on things,” he said. “Sometimes, taking with athletes from different sports, they get a little hesitant to speak their minds because they don’t know how it’s going to be portrayed.

You always hear people say, ‘Well, that was taken out of context,’ but now it gives them an opportunity to say exactly what they want to say.”

Be careful what you wish. And, by the way, what Melo said WAS unfiltered. That’s what makes it so interesting.

In his conversation with ESPN, Melo also took a jab at sportswriters — or was it mainly at the Slide-Rule Sloaniacs who employ prosecution data? Perhaps the click-hungry websites that create arbitrary rankings of players? — whom he basically said lived vicariously through the players.

[That part probably offended some in The Fourth Estate, but we’re not going to climb the soapbox of sanctimony here, lest we forget the Twitter snark produced daily by media about athletes for the sake of a few RTs and LOLs.]

For the record, it is indisputable that Melo, one of the great talents of his generation, is underappreciated by a great deal of the national media and fans both in and out of New York. And while he’s only human for recognizing it, believing it and perhaps being motivated by it, we’re naive if we think it actually bothers him on a daily basis.

“I’m not even thinking about it,” Melo said on Thursday (yes, three days later he was still being asked about it). “If I’m thinking about that, I’m losing focus on the task at hand.”

The task, of course, is to win. And when that comes, so does the recognition. And appreciation.

And rating.

Which leads us to a quote everyone ignored from Melo that provided the best perspective. Perhaps it’s what he should have said from the start, when Broussard first asked the loaded question.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “you get what you deserve.”

FIXINS

Derek Fisher

  • has spent most of the camp installing his defense — “If we practice three hours, two of it is on defensive mindset,” Melo said — which is not just theater for the media. There is good reason for the Knicks to make sure their defense is on point right from the start of the season, because the Triangle Offense, a variable-laden, intricate system, will take a while to click with the players. The Knicks will need to rely on good defense early on during the transition. Sound familiar, Giants fans?
  • Keep an eye on Tim Hardaway Jr. as a potential candidate to start in the backcourt with Jose Calderon. The All-Rookie selection developed an understanding of the Triangle in summer league play, so he is ahead of the curve. Plus his perimeter shooting fits the needs of the system while J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert make a good uptempo wing duo in the second unit.
  • The players on Monday night watched a screening of the Michael Rapaport/Doug Ellin documentary, “When the Garden Was Eden,” which is based on the great book by former Knicks beat writer Harvey Araton and part of the ESPN 30-for-30 series this fall. Phil Jackson wanted the players to start off camp with a strong sense of the championship history this franchise has and the tradition that goes beyond the 1990s and the more recent struggles during the 2000s that most of the players recall. Jackson also invited Willis Reed, the venerable Captain, to camp to interact with the players. A great idea.
  • The Knicks completed training camp at West Point on Friday and will continue practicing at MSG Training Center on Saturday. Their first preseason game is Wednesday against the Celtics at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. We will have coverage of the game and NYK Extra postgame on MSG Network.
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BULLS RUN: TIME TO BURY ANOTHER GHOST

The theme for the Red Bulls this postseason has been putting “ghosts to rest” as head coach Mike Petke put it. They have the chance to put another one way Sunday with a matchup against the New England Revolution in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals.

This will be the fourth time the two franchises will meet in postseason play and the Revolution have won the previous three playoff series (2003, 2005, 2007). That might not seem like a good omen, but here’s something that Red Bulls fans can take to heart: New York faced a similar situation heading into its Semifinals series against DC United and managed to pull off the upset against all the odds.

Scouting the Revolution

As good as the Revs’ record was during the regular season (17-13-4), New England’s play has actually gotten better over the past few weeks. The Revolution finished the season with a 9-1-2 record and rolled through the Columbus Crew in their series with a 7-3 aggregate victory.

New England will be expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the same type of system the Red Bulls have been using successfully the past few weeks. Coach Jay Heaps’ team strength is in the midfield, led by newly-minted US International Lee Nguyen. Playing in the “No. 10” role or central attacking midfield position has given the 28-year-old free reign this season and he racked up a career-high 18 goals. No other Revs player even tallied in double digits and the Red Bulls will be aware of the threat Nguyen provides.

The Revolution’s other main component in the midfield is another US International, Jermaine Jones. A star for the Red, White and Blue at this year’s World Cup, Jones is a robust battler in the center of the pitch and in charge of breaking up opposing teams’ attacks. He’s not afraid to put in a heavy challenge and was one of the main reasons New England went on a late-season surge.

“Since Jermaine Jones arrived, he changed the team,” Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry said in a conference call Thursday. “[He] allows everyone to go up the pitch more, he’s a guy that’s going to try to stop the play. He’s a guy that wants the ball and he’s a guy that will get into it. And therefore, Lee Nguyen started to be better.”

Previous Matchups This Season

  • June 8 – The Red Bulls end a 12-year losing streak in New England with a 2-0 win over the Revolution just before the World Cup break. Goals from Eric Alexander and Peguy Luylindula and a 10-save effort from Luis Robles allowed New York leave Gillette Stadium with three points.

Steve Cangialosi and Shep Messing analyze all of the action from the Red Bulls' 2-0 win over the New England Revolution.

Aug. 2 – Despite being down to 10 men after Matt Miazga‘s first-half red card, the Red Bulls storm back in the second half behind goals from Dax McCarty and Bradley Wright-Phillips, as New York beats New England, 2-1.

Keys to a Red Bulls Victory

  • Follow the Script From the Last Series

A 2-0 first-leg victory was the perfect result for the Red Bulls in their last series against DC United and it would set them up well for the second leg if they can reproduce that scoreline. New England is a different team away from Gillette Stadium – the Revs’ road-goal differential was a minus-9 – and protecting home field is paramount to any two-legged tie.

A significant victory in the first leg could also ease fears about risking Henry on the unforgiving FieldTurf surface in Foxboro. Henry has never played a game in New England since he debuted in MLS and a big win at home could allow Petke to start Henry on the bench in the second leg.

Above all else, the Red Bulls’ best chance to advance to the Final is keeping a clean sheet. We saw how the away-goals rule came into effect in the second leg of the DC United series and how just one goal away essentially ended the tie. Another shutout would go a long way in sealing a place in the Final.

  • Win the Battle in Center Midfield

This is a lot easier said than done when you’re facing quality players such as Nguyen and Jones, but it’s test that McCarty, Alexander and Peguy Luyindula will no doubt be relishing. The key is for McCarty and Alexander – the Red Bulls’ two holding midfielders – to find a way to shackle Nguyen and keep him contained. Stop Nguyen and you basically stop the Revs’ vaunted attack.

At the other end of the pitch, Luyindula must continue his exploits from DC United series. The Revolution will be keying on Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips, so it may come down to Luyindula chipping in with a timely goal again.

  • No Fear of Foxboro

Before this season’s 2-0 win on Aug. 2, the Red Bulls had not won at Gillette Stadium since June 29, 2002. With that laid to rest, New York can go into this tie with full confidence that it can get a result on enemy turf. This series may come down to a single goal either way and the Red Bulls now know that they can compete in New England … and win.

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The Knicks Fix: Knicks Must Learn the Value of Defense

At the start of training camp, the players gathered in a circle around center court for their first official meeting. The new coaching staff assembled around them on the surface of the perimeter. Their collective achievements were promoted thusly:

Meet Joshua Longstaff, the least accomplished member of the staff. He’s only been part of a conference championship team.

In other words, you, players, are surrounded by people who know winning. Every single coach has been to an NBA Finals. All but one has been part of an NBA champion.

So it doesn’t have to be just Phil Jackson — he of 11 rings — or Derek Fisher

— he of five — to raise his voice in demand of a higher standard of play. There is a delegation of accountability in place.

On one particular afternoon, just as the media was filing in to watch the last few minutes of practice, it was Brian Keefe, an assistant who was part of Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio and then Scott Brook’s in Oklahoma City, who turned up the volume when the Knicks were reverting again to habits of the past.

Keefe’s message was delivered with a demand, as if to emphasize the end of a way that has existed for too long. On the surface, the coach was merely pointing out the importance of communication between teammates on defense.

But it might as well represent a new standard that is attempting to be installed here in New York.

“We don’t do anything alone ANYMORE on this team,” the assistant coach yelled.

Fisher nodded with approval. Several players came suddenly to attention.

After the first 13 games, this effort to establish a winning culture has resembled staking a tent in a heavy wind and rain. There is so much force working against them, but Fisher and his staff can’t give in. The tent must be staked.

“Success and winning at an elite level requires a very high degree of sacrifice,” Fisher said after Wednesday’s loss in Minnesota. “It requires you to lay your basketball life on the line for those around you. You have to give some things up in order to get something back.

“We’re still trying to break through that as a group.”

Derek Fisher shares his thoughts on the Knicks' loss to the Timberwolves and says the team's defensive effort must be better in future games.

For most of the preseason, the Knicks found security in the mysticism of the Triangle Offense. The anticipated learning curve was used as convenient handicap for their uneven performance in the preseason. “For a while,” Fisher admitted, “that was our out.”

The loss of Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani, both to injury, were other crutches. Two-fifths of the anticipated starting lineup is missing. Shane Larkin, essentially a redshirt rookie, was forced into a lead role he developmentally isn’t ready for yet.

But the numbers show that offense isn’t an issue. One of the most singularly-minded, chuck-and-duck teams in the NBA last season quickly morphed into willing passers with hoops that came with high assist percentages and three-pointers shot at a conservative rate.

The Triangle isn’t complicated and it doesn’t take great effort. But it’s only half the game. And the anticipated returns of Calderon and Bargnani aren’t expected to have a major impact on the other side of the ball, where the real problem lies.

If the Knicks defense could be described in a geometric shape, it would be a Trapezium. There are no equal sides, no parallel lines and it has no symmetry.

Wally Szczerbiak was never mistaken as a top one-on-one defender during his career, but he was excellent in team defense. In fact, former Cavs coach Mike Brown once told me that Wally didn’t get enough credit for his skill as a heady positional defender. So there’s credibility in his words when, during Wednesday’s postgame show

, he said the issue with the Knicks defense is “the simple things. It’s not scheme things. It’s logic.”

For instance: Don’t leave a known shooter wide open. Seems logical, right? But then we show you this matrix of shooters from three-point range vs. the Knicks this season:

Kyle Korver 9-for-18 (two games)

Kevin Martin 7-for-11

Arron Afflalo 5-for-7

Joe Johnson 4-for-6

Mirza Teletovic 4-for-6

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 4-for-7

Garrett Temple 4-for-7

Paul Pierce 3-for-5

Khris Middleton 3-for-5

Ersan Ilyasova 3-for-4

It is here we should recall Phil Jackson’s search for, as he put it, “learners” as he assesses his roster. He wasn’t just talking about players who understand the Triangle.

The Knicks allow a league-high 43.3% shooting from beyond the arc this season. The 9.5 3PTM per game is the third-highest in the league. Fisher has indicated that he would prefer the Knicks pack in the paint and allow teams to, as they say, live-and-die by the three.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t hustle to close out on a shooter or get around a screen.

Despite back-to-back games allowing 40-plus points in the paint to the Bucks (48) and the Timberwolves (42), the Knicks, overall, have had success defending the paint and the rim this season. Opponents average 36.0 Points in the Paint per game against the Knicks, which is the second-lowest in the league behind the Dallas Mavericks (35.0). According to SportVu, Knicks’ opponents are shooting just 49.8% “At the Rim,” which is the fourth-lowest in the league.

But dribble penetration and pick-and-roll plays remain the team’s biggest issues. And defending both requires lateral quickness, communication and effort.

J.R. Smith has, on two occasions, pointed to that last critical element as a problem on defense.

If that’s the case, this should be correctable. Tom Thibodeau, the best defensive coach in the game, will tell you that defense is 10 percent system and 90 percent effort. It doesn’t matter what you have installed, it doesn’t matter how much you put together a scouting report or how much film you watch if the effort — the will — is lacking on the court.

And that goes back to the point Keefe attempted to hammer home at that practice, as well as how Fisher described a requirement of winning to be “a very high degree of sacrifice” and to “give some things up in order to get some things back.”

This demand excuses no one. Carmelo Anthony has had his lapses in coverage and effort on the defensive end. He was asked if his balky knee was a reason and he quickly replied, “Is that a trick question? No, not at all.”

Melo grumbled after the loss in Minnesota about “games we should be winning.” When pressed about the defensive breakdowns — which became alarming after the Knicks allowed 115 points to a Timberwolves team that played a roster of neophytes — Melo replied, “We have to figure out a way how we’re going to play defense as a team, as a unit. That’s where it starts at.”

There can be no finger pointing here. The issues, as Wally said, aren’t in the schemes. They are in the commitment.

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BULLS RUN: ON TO THE CONFERENCE FINAL FOR RED BULLS

The Red Bulls have buried another jinx on their road to the MLS Cup Final.

Whether they were known as the MetroStars or the Red Bulls, New York’s soccer franchise had never managed to beat D.C. United in postseason play … until last Saturday.

Inspired by a brilliant performance from Thierry Henry, New York survived the two-legged tie against the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded team and pulled off the 3-2 aggregate victory over their bitter rivals, a team that was nine points better in the regular-season standings.

“It’s another ghost to put back in the closet,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said to the media after Saturday’s match. “It wasn’t pretty at times, but we’re OK with that. We’re good at what we do and we’re good enough to advance [to the Eastern Conference Final].

So how did the Red Bulls manage to pull off the upset?

Thierry Henry Can Still Get It Done

Did you expect anything less from a man who’s won virtually every major trophy in the game?

There’s been loads of speculation about Henry’s future, but that can be put off until the end of the season. The Red Bulls’ captain turned back the clock with his play over the two legs, assisting on all three goals scored in the series. The first assist – a cheeky backheel that setup Bradley Wright-Phillips‘ series-opening strike – was one that Red Bulls fans won’t soon forget.

Bradley Wright-Phillips puts the Red Bulls ahead 1-0 over D.C. United after a beautiful back heel pass from Thierry Henry.

His role has changed since his halcyon days as a striker for Arsenal, but Henry is as dangerous as he ever was. Employed as a left-midfield playmaker by coach Petke in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the French maestro’s interplay with Wright-Phillips, and more recently Péguy Luyindula, has been nothing short of brilliant during the postseason.

“What can we say about Thierry that hasn’t been said?,” Petke said. “He always is that threat, he always possesses that ability to do something special.”

There may be one concern about Henry as the Red Bulls head into their Eastern Conference Final against New England Revolution. In his entire career with New York, Henry has never played on the unforgiving FieldTurf at Gillette Stadium in order to protect himself from the strain the playing surface inflicts on most other players. Will the skipper risk it all in the second leg against New England? It remains to be seen.

Mike Petke Gambles and Wins

It takes a lot of guts to bench your vice-captain and a designated player and that’s exactly what Petke did during the series against D.C. United.

Petke’s switched from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 and put Tim Cahill on the bench. Petke’s choice of using Luyindula in the central attacking midfielder or “No. 10” position proved to be correct. The other Frenchmen on the Red Bulls has struck up a wonderful understanding with Henry and the duo combined for the final two goals that essentially killed the tie against D.C. United.

There would have been second-guessing had the Red Bulls lost to D.C. United about the switch from Cahill to Luyindula. But Petke won’t have to answer them now. After all, his team is in the Eastern Conference Final.

Home Sweet Home

It may have been a two-legged affair on paper, but the Red Bulls ended up winning the series in the first leg at Red Bull Arena.

It seemed like the odds were against the Red Bulls of getting a result, let alone a clean sheet against D.C. United. They had played earlier that week in the play-in game against Sporting Kansas City and had fewer than 48 hours rest before playing the best team in the Eastern Conference.

But buoyed by a raucous crowd and Henry’s magnificence, the Red Bulls played arguably their best match of the season. The team’s defense – which has been less than stout for most of the season – kept a clean sheet, which is vital in any two-legged tie. By taking a 2-0 lead to the nation’s capital, the Red Bulls could opt for a more conservative, defensive gameplan in the second leg and put the onus on D.C. United to try and score two goals.

Once Luyindula scored Saturday, the series was put to bed.

 

 

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The Knicks Fix: Jackson Assessing Knicks’ Learning Curve

So at least now we have a timetable.

“Thanksgiving through December,” Phil Jackson said.

“That’s when we say, if you haven’t gotten it by now, we’ll have to really think about if you’re a learner or if you’re not a learner as far as individual ballplayers, at that time.”

Phil Jackson discusses what he calls a "tough start" to the Knicks season, the positives he's seen from the team and dealing with injuries.

Jackson addressed the media before Monday’s loss to the Hawks, which dropped the Knicks to a 2-6 start, to support the efforts of Derek Fisher

and the coaching staff and remind everyone that he forecasted a challenging start as the Knicks learn the Triangle Offense. He said he sees “growth in this team” and believes that “we’re playing the game much better.”

However, he added the Knicks are “still quite a ways from their execution capabilities as a team.”

No one ever said this roster was the final product. In fact, with an abundance of salary cap space awaiting over the next two summers, it’s safe to say everyone recognizes this to be just the start of Jackson’s rebuilding plan for this team. While he praised several players for their work in the system — Iman Shumpert, for one — Jackson also didn’t hide the fact that the team will need to make moves to upgrade the talent and to find more players that better fit the style of play.

“You want to have all five players work well in a system,” he said, “because all five players are involved . . . Without a fully-functioning group, sometimes it stagnates out there. We’ve seen that and we’re hopeful some of these players will catch on.”

And the ones that don’t won’t be square pegs forced into round holes. They will, when possible, be replaced by round pegs.

Those who scoff at the Triangle Offense claim it’s only successful when you have superstars, like Jackson had with the Bulls (Jordan/Pippen) and Lakers (Kobe/Shaq, Kobe/Pau). While that is true of any system, to find the necessary synergy to make the system effective, you need to have players who are comfortable playing within it and, most importantly, can think it.

Carmelo Anthony, unquestionably a star player, is proving he can thrive in the system as more than just a scorer. After posting a strong stat line of 25 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in the loss to Atlanta on Monday, Anthony is averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists on the season. That’s well-rounded production and considering that he’s shooting an uncharacteristic 39.1% from the field, his scoring should go up.

We are still seeing some Iso-Melo late in games. But truth be told, those mid-post isolation sets are not “breaking the Triangle” plays. If you watch carefully, you will see the Triangle is set on one side of the court with Melo on the weak side. It was something Jordan, Pippen and Kobe both went to, as well. What Melo needs to continue to improve upon is how to recognize double teams and be willing to pass out of it, even in crunch time. That’s the trust factor we’ve often talked about, but Melo gets antsy when the team needs a basket and the ball isn’t in his hands.

“He’s going to want to step up at that time and help the ballclub with what he’s known for and what his genius is, which is scoring,” Jackson said of Melo. “That sometimes is frustrating to not be able to get there and do that.”

Alan Hahn and Al Trautwig give their thoughts on Phil Jackson's assessment of the Knicks start to the season.

There were a few times down the stretch in the loss to the Hawks on Monday where it seemed J.R. Smith could have taken Kyle Korver one-on-one to the basket. But Smith seemed content with getting Melo the ball and then watching him go to work on the mid-post. Meanwhile at the other end of the floor, the Hawks kept their starting point guard, Jeff Teague, on the bench because second-year guard Dennis Schroder was shredding the Knicks in the pick-and-roll.

Most nights it’s going to be your star. But some nights you need a second or even third guy to step up and get the job done at a high level.

“We have to find ways [for players] to be at their best,” Fisher said. “We need 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 guys to really be able to hold it down out there.”

This is why the assessment period is so important. As we reach mid-December, when the trade moratorium is lifted on players signed or acquired in the summer, you begin to see activity among teams that come to the conclusion that what they need for their system is not on their current roster.

The Knicks are learning a new system. Jackson wants to see not just who can play, but who can learn, the best.

GRIP IT & RIP IT

The Triangle Offense should eventually unlock more options as the team gets more familiar with it, but right now, in it’s most basic stages, the Knicks are not getting a lot of production around the basket. In other words, “easy” scores.

Going into Monday’s game against Atlanta, the Knicks were scoring just 12.4 points per game on “drives” — which involves anything that starts around 20 feet from the basket and results in a shot within 10 feet, according to SportVu. But since we know that dribble penetration isn’t a major part of the Triangle, let’s look elsewhere.

Consider that 33.9% of the offense in the first seven games came from “mid-range” shooting, which was the highest rate in the NBA. But the problem is the Knicks shot just 40.9% from the mid-range, which was 12th in the league. For a team that prioritizes the mid-range shot, they clearly need to be a better mid-range shooting team.

Within that, we see the Knicks struggled with pull-up jumpers (at least one dribble before a shot), of which they recorded 20.8 attempts per game, the 10th most in the league, according to NBA.com. They shot just 30.8% in those scenarios, which is 26th in the league.

So where are the Knicks most successful in the mid-range? In the Catch-and-Shoot situations. Going into Monday’s game, they attempted 28.4 catch-and-shoot shots per game, which was the 4th most in the NBA. They also made 48.6% of those shots, which was the 2nd best rate.

So, yes, less dribbles, more quicker decisions, lead to success.

By the way, after years of being among the league’s leaders from beyond the arc, the three-point shot isn’t exactly a lost art here in New York. The Knicks went into Monday’s game shooting a league-high 41.7%. But they only attempted 17.1 3PTA per game, which was the seventh-lowest in the NBA.

THE ORIGINAL ‘DOCTOR’

Ernie Vandeweghe, father of Kiki, passed away Sunday at the age of 86. A star from Oceanside, Long Island and Colgate, he was a member of the Knicks team that went to three straight NBA Finals from 1951-53. Knicks coach Joe Lapchick allowed him to attend medical school while he played and a few times because of school he would arrive late to games.

So before there was Dr. J, there was Dr. Ernie.

I heard a great story involving Vandeweghe from the 1951 playoffs. The Knicks met Bob Cousy and the Boston Celtics and the teams split the first two games of the best-of-three. In Game 3, the score was tied at 87 and Vandeweghe, a 77.5% free throw shooter that season, missed a pair of critical free throws with 17 seconds left. Harry Gallatin corralled the rebound and Lapchick quickly called timeout.

He then instructed the team to get the ball back to Vandeweghe. Someone in the huddle then blurted, “But what if he gets fouled?”

Lapchick replied, “Any idiot can make one of three.”

Sure enough, Vandeweghe was fouled and made one free throw to break the tie. And the Knicks won.

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Clyde Frazier’s Vocabulary Quiz

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The Knicks Fix: Shane Larkin Emerging at the Point

Shane Larkin is basically performing without a net.

In his second pro season, coming off a rookie campaign that was limited by an ankle injury and now with his second team, Larkin learned last Friday that he does not have a contract after this season.

The Knicks opted not to pick up the third-year option of Larkin’s rookie deal, worth $1.6 million. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Shane Larkin discusses the Knicks' road win over the Cavs and what he is using to motivate him on the court to build his confidence level.

“That’s a business deal,” Larkin said. “Obviously they want to build a championship team here and they need as much money next summer as they can to be able to bring in the free agents, whoever they’re looking at.”

The team made a similar decision with Iman Shumpert, who was not offered a contract extension off his rookie contract, which expires at the end of this season. Shumpert will become a restricted free agent on July 1.

But not picking up Larkin’s option is a bit of a bigger risk for the Knicks, who could lose Larkin, 22, for nothing if he signs elsewhere next summer.

“If they didn’t believe that I could play they wouldn’t have me starting,” Larkin said. “It’s not like we’re going into this year thinking, ‘Well, let’s just throw our young guys out there and have a bad year and get into the lottery. The Knicks are a proud organization and they want to win. We’re a gritty team. We’re not going out there to lose.”

With Jose Calderon’s calf injury, Larkin was pressed into service as the starting point guard in the season opener. After an inconsistent preseason, Larkin has raised eyebrows with his effectiveness in the first three games of the season.

He’s matched up against Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker so far and this week will face John Wall, Brandon Jennings, Deron Williams and Jeff Teague.

“Those are all all-star caliber guards,” Larkin said. “As a second year guy, coming off an up-and-down rookie season with an injury, being able to be thrown into that kind of a fire, you just go out there and play. It’s a great experience . . . It’s just going to make me better.”

After three games, Larkin is averaging 8.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.6 steals with just 1.3 turnovers in 26.8 minutes per game. He has played with a defensive tenacity of a player who is now in survival mode, but Larkin says his impending free agency did not change anything.

“I didn’t need any extra motivation,” he said. “I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been in my life to prove I’m an NBA player.”

Most players would take the Knicks’ decision to decline his option for next season — something rarely done with first round picks — as a slap in the face. It also would appear to be a clear indication that he is not in their plans for the future.

But Larkin doesn’t feel that way at all.

“It’s not like they told me, ‘We don’t see you as part of our future, we don’t want you.’ If that was the case, I’d be sitting on the bench,” he said. “Obviously they want to see what I have. That’s what I’m doing, just going out there and playing as hard as I can with the opportunity presented to me and we’ll see what happens.”

FIXINS

  • Carmelo Anthony hit the 20,000-point milestone in Sunday’s win over the Hornets. Melo is the 40th player in NBA history to join the 20K Club, just behind Antawn Jamison. (Is anyone else stunned to see Antawn Jamison’s name in the 20K Club?)
  • Melo is also the third player to have played for the Knicks in the 20K Club, followed by Patrick Ewing (24,815 points) and Walt Bellamy (20,914). Of course, a majority of Melo’s points (13,970) were scored while playing for the Nuggets, but Melo is moving up the Knicks all-time scoring list.
  • He’s currently 21st in franchise history with 6,055 points. He should crack the top 20 by the end of the week and could be in the top 30 on the NBA all-time scoring list by the end of the season.
  • Have the Knicks gone away from the three-point shot? After three games, the team is averaging 15.0 3PTA per game, which is 10 fewer per game than last season’s average. The Triangle Offense has created the most offense in the mid-range areas so far, but the Knicks have shot a decent percentage (37.8%) so far from downtown, which includes 14 for 28 over the last two games after a 3 for 17 in the season opener.
  • Last season, 28.2% of the Knicks’ points came by way of the three-ball, which was the second-highest rate in the NBA. This season, just 18.8% of the scoring has come from beyond the arc, which is just below the NBA median.
  • Catch up on all episodes of the Knicks Fix Podcast, which are available on MSG.com or subscribe and download via iTunes.

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