While compiling the notes for the New York Knicks for my forthcoming Summer League team-by-team summary, I noticed that the tidbits I had on the Knicks were all kind of quirky. Adidas grassroots power player Darren "Mats" Matsubara once told me that the NBA is like a circus. We got to talking because I run one of the bigger Asian American recreational leagues in the nation (I've also run Women's Leagues and Open Leagues). At the time, he told me that it is inevitable that we will see an American-born Asian in the NBA someday, because the NBA "is like a circus".
I think Summer League is a reflection of that. Think about it, when there's a 6'9" three-point-shooting Brazilian named Marcus Vinicius on Phoenix, of course that's the first guy you're curious about, unless he sucks in which case you immediately tune out (I tuned out). It's just like on the pickup playground.
By contrast, if a guy is pretty good, but you've seen other guys like him who are also pretty good, then even though he is pretty good, you kind of tune him out. What grabs your attention? The oddities. And if the oddities perform well, then you've got hype. Even though there are other American players who can do the things Portland's Petteri Koponen, Koponen stands out because there aren't many guys from Finland who you've seen do the things you do. And another example is that Coby Karl stands out because he not only beat cancer, but he's the son of an active NBA coach. Therefore, in our current NBA, a guy like Vinicius probably has a better chance of making a team than an American who has exactly the same skills. We're definitely on the NBA's entertainment bit here.
Even in the new regime, it seems that the New York Knicks franchise, curiously the most valuable and one of the most recognizable NBA franchises, is right along that line of thinking.
Well, aside from Wilson Chandler, who at 6'8" 230 from DePaul (1 year pro), is a stallion. He's really mobile and athletic, strong with his game. He's got a chance to make an NBA roster somewhere. I'm really surprised he was not taken in the draft. After seeing him play, I don't know how you pick a Richard Hendrix over Chandler. Thanks to gsw55 in the comments below for clarifying that Chandler was picked by the Knicks last year: 23rd overall!!! Slap on the wrist to the guy who compiled the "What to look out for" section of the program guide. The program guide makes no mention of this. Btw, I would definitely not compare him to Popeye Jones, as Chandler's Wikipedia entry says!
Now, let's get back to the Knicks' circus, aka Summer League team.
Token Asian Guy spotted! 6'11" 212-lb center Zhang Songtao of China (rookie). He had a few good spin moves around the bucket, but sucked in general. Could never finish.
Nate Robinson was, well, Nate Robinson. Just a freak of nature, this guy. He's listed at 5'9" and obviously has amazing hops, being one of two Slam Dunk winners in the Summer League (Gerald Green is the other). One play, he knew Charlotte was going to foul with a few ticks remaining since they had a foul to give, and that's what you do in the NBA, so he jumped high when he got fouled and launched a trey. Therefore he got three shots out of what was supposed to be a routine foul-to-give, closing out the quarter.
But that just goes to show you how great Jerryd Bayless is. Nate was last year's MVP and has 3 years of legit NBA experience under his belt. Bayless, this year's MVP, is a better player already.
I don't get the Knicks' recent signing of Anthony Roberson. I mean, he's a great player and three-point shooter as compared to real life, a context which will be explained in my next post, a summary about Summer League. But at 6'2" 188, you want this guy in the NBA? Where you have beasts like 6'4" Chauncey Billups to play against? When you already have 5'9" Nate Robinson? Did they keep Isiah Thomas in charge of the Summer League team or something? Oh yeah, I forgot. The three-ring circus. Roberson is much more marketable than any of the many 6'4" guards in Summer League who can do exactly the same things.
Brandon Hunter resembles an oversized 6'7" 266-pound Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Whenever Robinson is not on the floor, Mardy Collins, listed as a guard at 6'6" 220 lbs, is playing the point. He's a good ballhandler in terms of protecting the ball and using his butt while creeping up to the halfcourt set, but has a hard time really moving forward in terms of north-south. I don't think he has the lateral quickness to handle big guards like Deron Williams or Billups or certainly not Jason Kidd, either, and the extra two inches he's listed at doesn't really help. So I'm not sure about that strategy of putting Collins at the point.
During one memorable sequence, Robinson was dribbling the ball around, killing some shotclock, when they finally found Paul Miller, 6'10" 250 rookie center from Wichita State, wide open and he shot a three which clanged. Nearby Knicks fans could be heard saying, "Oh yeah, let's give our center the ball to make the three." His buddy then added, "He's not Mike Miller!!!", to which another nearby Knick fan added, "Or Brad!"
Ah, the one thing we Warrior fans can always rest assured is, we're not the Knicks (although I have a feeling the Knicks will somehow get into the playoffs more than once within 14 years).
I really wish Danilo Gallinari hadn't gotten injured. He probably would have made me ignore the Knicks' circus.