Time to open my reporter’s notebook for Knicks fans. Some of my sideline reports made it to the MSG Broadcast, some did not. As you’ll see, these are
straight notes, quotes and mini stories.
• Amar’e Stoudemire told me he was aware the Wizards had a players-only meeting Thursday. He said that those meetings are good for teams, because you get the chance to clear the air and it gets everyone on the same page.
The background story on the meeting: theWizards’ Nick Young told the media that his team discussed how they have to play for each other. Young has looked dejected this week and said he’s tired of losing. Washington is searching for its first win and looking for some kind of chemistry and structure. It’s his fourth year in Washington and he’s sick of having “another one of those seasons.”
• Iman Shumpert Update: When the rookie cramped up Wednesday, it wasn’t because he was dehyrdrated, it was because he hadn’t played in over a week and had played nearly 30 minutes against the Bobcats. Shumpert said he suffered from cramps in college often. Trainers have told him that it’s the type of athlete he is and the way his muscles react because he sweats a lot. He’s always been a person who has to hydrate more often than other guys. He was taking the trainers’ advice, because he was drinking two big sports drinks while I was talking to him.
• Coach Mike D’Antoni is going to be sticking with Toney Douglas and Landry Fields in the backcourt for a number of reasons. While Shumpert energizes the team and The Garden crowd, he still is a rookie and is playing in his third game of his career. D’Antoni said he doesn’t give Shumpert too much too quick, and he’ll still have a lot of minutes off the bench. The coach said he sees Shumpert as a shooting guard and making a change this early in the season could affect the psyche of Fields. “I want to make sure everyone is good and confident,” D’Antoni said. “Any time you throw a pebble in the water, there’s ripples.”
• Carmelo Anthony said after the loss to the Bobcats that the team has to learn to trust each other on the defensive end. I asked him today how do the Knicks go about building that trust? “Just doing it!,” he said. “By making stops, playing good defense in practice, in shootaround, in games … we have to be repetitive to a point where you KNOW guys will be talking.”
• Melo also had lots of family and friends from the Baltimore area at the game, though not as many as his first few years in the NBA. “I used to have bus loads coming here,” he told me. He did say he was going to have a group of kids from his recreation center he started through his charity. He helped raise money for the charity during the lockout by having barnstorming games during the NBA lockout.
• The focus of practice in the last two days has been eliminating mistakes on both ends of the court. Carmelo said the focus yesterday was all visual, watching film and trying to pick out exact points where they were out of position or missing assignments. During the shootaround today, the team made sure all those adjustments were in place and everyone was on the same page.
• If you think about it, the Knicks started practicing Dec. 9 and it’s Jan. 5. In a normal season, training camp and the preseason would be JUST be wrapping up at this point.
• During the last two games, Tyson Chandler noticed some of the players’ body language, seeing heads or shoulders drop if a player gave up a shot. Chandler said he jumps right in and tells them to get their heads up and make sure you get your man the next time. “You’re not on an island, we have to defend as a team,” he said. If you bring energy, contest every shot and the whole team does that, we’ll be effective”.
• Chandler’s cheering, jumping up on the sidelines and screaming on defense is NOT an act. This is his identity and he wants the entire team to do it. He said the Knicks need to bring more energy and more focus from the tip on both ends of the court. He can gauge the energy by how much guys are talking on defense. He told the team that they had to be accountable for their energy and effort. The players have to police each other and encourage each other. When playing well, mistake-free basketball becomes natural for a team.
• Chandler also said that the loss to Charlotte was a real wake-up call for the entire team. He told everybody that the team should learn from the defeat and that it’s better to struggle now then later on in the season. One specific error on defense that he pointed out was that the Knicks let the Bobcats take the shots they wanted to take, especially Boris Diaw. Chandler said they have to funnel the ball away from the best shooters.
• The slow progress of the pick-and-roll this season:
The pick-and-roll worked in Sacramento because of the spacing and the quick flow of the offense. Douglas wasn’t holding the ball and was passing quickly, with players finding the right spots.
But the Knicks haven’t found the consistency yet. Even though the pick-and-roll isn’t a set play, players have to be organized and in their right spots to work. The “picker” and the “roller” have to be in sync and, with Chandler as a new piece, he’s still getting his timing down, whether it’s with Douglas or Anthony. As far as Amar’e getting more involved in the pick-and-roll, it will come once the team gets on the same page and what the defense gives them.
• Landry Fields is a completely different shooter than when the Knicks drafted him. The coaching staff has completely changed his shot and release and it’s still a work in progress. He used to catch-and-shoot at Stanford and he was always inside and facing the basket. With his moves off the dribble and him putting the ball on the floor, he’s still thinking a lot, but the coaches see it all syncing up now where he can just play and take his shot when it’s open.
• Most of the Knicks will be rooting for the Giants Sunday, but not Toney Douglas. “They’re all supporting the Giants … I’ll be in red-and-black cheering the Falcons!” Douglas has a brother on the Falcons — wide receiver Harry Douglas — and he talked to his brother right after the matchup was official. Toney said Harry is excited for the game and glad it’s in New York so Toney can go attend it.
• Carmelo is a Ravens fan and was talking about them to the Baltimore/Washington media, but he did say that he supports the Giants. Asked if the Giants and Ravens faced off in the Super Bowl: “Great, but I’ll have to root for my Ravens then!”