At Suns practice on Wednesday neither Steve Nash, Alvin Gentry, or Amare Stoudemire thought that this game had any special meaning other than it would count in the standings. The logic seems very professional and believable to me. Another night, another opponent, all that matters is victory. But there will be a familiar face manning the sideline for the New York Knicks-the 'Stache has returned, albeit on the wrong pine.
Mike D'Antoni's New York Knicks are 26-45, 20 games back of the Celtics and 9.5 games back of 8-seed Toronto. But they've proven they can take out any team on any given night this season. They are coming off of a home victory versus the Denver Nuggets this past Tuesday. They also pulled off victories against Atlanta and Dallas.
Along with the addition of Tracy McGrady, this is a much different New York team than the one that destroyed the Suns last December 126-99. The loss counts but I think we all know the Suns players had a little too much time to enjoy the Big Apple before that game. I'll just leave it at that.
I must admit when I look at the Knick starting lineup, a couple names don't exactly stand out for me. Bill Walker? Toney Douglas? The starting point guard for the Knicks was a first round round draft pick out of Florida State by the Lakers and then traded to the Knicks for a 2011 second rounder and cash. Douglas is listed at 6-1, 200. Yeah, 200 pounds. Douglas has scored in double figures the past 6 games.
Bill Walker is a 6-6 hybrid who was drafted by the Wizards, traded to the Celtics for cash, and then finally traded to the Knicks this year in the Nate Robinson deal. Walker poured in 23 points and 5 threes in the Dallas thrashing.
We all know Danilo Gallinari, perhaps too well. Danilo is capable of going crazy from behind the arc if given enough space. DG picked up 28 against the Nuggets and is averaging 26 ppg in the past 3 games. The big talk of late though, is his defense. Said Mike D'Antoni:
"He's a good perimeter defender and he takes pressure or whatever. He's 6-foot-10, he keeps his feet in front of guys and he does a good job on point guards, guards and (small forwards). He works at it."
We also know David Lee, who leads the Knicks with 20 ppg and 11.9 boards. He'll certainly test Robin Lopez' "tweaked" back for as long as Lopez can stay in what looks to be a run and gun orgie of sorts tonight.
PPG: 101.7 ppg (11th NBA)
OPP PPG: 104.5 ppg (26th NBA)
RPG: 40.59 (25th NBA)
OPP RPG: 45.23 (28th NBA)
3PT%: 33.9% (24th NBA)
PPG: David Lee- 20.2, Al Harrington-17.5, Wilson Chandler-15.3
RPG: David Lee- 11.8, Al Harrington-5.5, Wilson Chandler-5.4, Danilo Gallinari-4.9
3PT%: Tony Douglas-40.7%, Bill Walker-39.1%, Danilo Gallinari-38.9%
What can anyone say? It's the STAT show these days. Over the past 11 games he's averaged 30.8 ppg, 10 boards, while shooting 59% from the field. The Suns are aiming for their 6th straight victory before taking off on a 5 game East Coast road trip. You've no doubt read the Western Conference Update, so I need not remind you that the Suns are entrenched in the 5 spot, 1.5 games ahead of OKC, and 1.5 games back of Denver, Utah, and Dallas.
C: David Lee-Robin Lopez
PF: Danilo Gallinari-Amar'e Stoudemire
SF: Bill Walker-Grant Hill
SG: Tracy McGrady-Jason Richardson
PG: Toney Douglas-Steve Nash
We all recognize this is a dangerous game. The Knicks players have nothing to lose, a coach who knows most if not all of the Suns (including their coach) very well, and some good talent on their roster. I expect a little more defense being played than in the Warrior game. Gallinari needs to be contained, or at least guarded, unlike the last matchup, and Lopez and Co. will have to body Lee. I smell a lot of Lou Amundson time tonight if Robin is still "tweaked" or cannot keep up.
Oh and by the way....
NBA TV will air the winner of Fan Night, the Phoenix Suns @ Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. Voting for Fan Night will continue on NBA.com from Tuesday, March 30 (8 a.m. ET) - Thursday, April 1 (Midnight ET) as fans select the match-up for the season's final Fan Night on Tues., April 6.
Knicks vs Suns coverage
Some further links (pilfered from Paul Coro-thank you Paul!):
Phoenix Suns' general manager Steve Kerr could get extension
Near the end of his three-year contract with the Suns, Kerr's image is on the mend, his popularity on the rise. Inside the organization, many believe the Suns general manager will sign a new deal and remain in power, a stunning change to those who believed he would walk away once this season is over. "Robert (Sarver) and I have talked about it, and I feel good about the situation," Kerr said. "We're going to figure out everything at the end of the season."
SUNS: Analyze This: Kerr Using Science to Gain Edge in Front Office
Where athletes meet mathletes, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, Mass. is fast-becoming a can’t-miss on the schedule of professional sports executives. After attending for the first time this year, Suns President of Basketball Operations and GM Steve Kerr is one such executive.