"Pieces are just falling into place a little bit. I don't want to get ahead of myself. We took a gigantic step forward, for sure." -- Mike D'Antoni
The Knicks finally looked like a basketball team that cared from the beginning of a game instead of the frantic-frenetic bunch of misfits trying desperately to get back into the game.
“I knew how hard I worked; I kind of figured that my chance would come.So I wasn’t too frustrated. I wanted to be out there, but I wanted to handle it the right way.”-- Larry Hughes
The effort, which resulted in the Knicks' first victory of the season, began with the coaching and culminated in an unlikely source -- Larry Hughes.
To begin with D'Antoni finally teamed Duhon up with a guard who could allow him to play off the ball, his strength, instead of controlling the tempo for the Knicks. Larry Hughes turned out to be a much better fit than using a forward/2 guard in the slot next to Duhon. The result was that the more versatile and possession conscious Larry Hughes upped the tempo from the beginning and made excellent decisions with the ball.
D'Antoni also got his team off the arc and into the paint. Finally. The results were more activity, a more diverse offense and easier scores.
The real surprise from this corner of the balcony was that Larry Hughes hit his shots (8 for 13) as though he had been preparing for this moment. He was simply on fire and for a moment proved that he may be the best point guard on the team -- (that still is not saying much, but it says enough for a win). Not only did he guard Chris Paul (with limited success of course) but he scored 20 points and contributed 6 rebounds, 2 assists to go along with his energy and maturity in the face of a Hornets comeback. It was one of his best performances, as far as I am concerned, since he played in D.C. with Michael Jordan and Jared Jeffries. Whether he can do this over the long haul is the question, but he was no bricklayer last night.
The other joy was Danilo Gallinari's game. Finally, finally, finally he played some basketball instead of simply standing on the arc shooting tres. Taking the lead from Harrington and the coaching staff, Gallinari started driving more to the hoop, creating opportunities for deft passes and foul shots. Gallo only had 9 points on 2-9 shooting but he was 4 for 4 from the line, and had 2 steals, 5 assists and at least 1 block. That strip near the end of the game was sweet. Gallo was very active. I look forward to being on the other (more positive) side of my evaluation. If D'Antoni is going to have him playing like that, keep him in the starting line-up.
David Lee is still defensively playing out of position, but if he controls the paint offensively the way he does on a night to night basis (as he usually does) it's a little tough to complain. 28 points and 8 boards on 13-17 shooting.
Harrington got 21 shots and hit 8 for 24 points, but his energy on offense is infectious when he drives the way he did throughout the game.
Hornets. Chris Paul is fabulous (32 points on 12-18 shooting; 4 of 5 from tre-land; 5 rebounds and 13 assists) and Omeka (24 points, 10 rebounds) looked pretty good (of course David Lee makes most centers look good offensively). I can't put my finger on it, but the Hornets don't seem to have much else including good energy. They certainly don't play like an elite team and their defense is un-Byron Scott like. Oh well, that's their problem, not ours.
Jump Shots. . . .Last night we hosted a last minute, unscheduled LBE. It was not as lively as our scheduled events but once again we had some great friends and guests come by to enjoy the first victory. We got Jay Bee, Post-Up Prince, Lives and an O&B cameo. Our Bloguin Buddies, Don (while in Japan), of With Malice (Lakers) and New York resident Jeff (Project Spurs) dropped by for some fellowship. O&B will host a scheduled LBE tomorrow night. Invites will be in the mail. . . . James Dolan feels bad for Isiah Thomas and clearly Magic Johnson, Zeke's former ace-boon-coon, does not. Apparently Dolan and Isiah are still good friends. When the Knicks played Miami, they went out to dinner together before the game and hung out with each other in an American Airlines Arena suite to watch the loss. Magic on the other hand is selling out books and Isiah. According to Magic, "Even today, though, I want Isiah to be successful. I'm sure he wants me to be successful even though we're not what we used to be in terms of our friendship. But sometimes what happened at the Olympics and on and on has to be revealed."
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