Wolves vs. Knicks Gameday
The fans in New York are witnessing a drastic change to their beloved Knicks during the 2008-09 season. The process began over the offseason with owner James Dolan discarding Isiah Thomas as head coach and hiring Donnie Walsh to fill the president of basketball operations position. Walsh then brought Mike D’Antoni to the Big Apple to coach a Knicks team that only won 23 games last year. D’Antoni was the architect of an incredibly successful run-and-gun style in Phoenix. Numerous trades this season and the adaptation of D’Antoni’s style have the Knicks competing once again with an 11-16 record. New York continues to gripe with Stephon Marbury, who is riding the bench because he apparently does not fit into the long-term future for the team. Marbury is due $21.9 million for the final year of his contract and D’Antoni is steadfast in his decision to keep the point guard on the bench. In cap-cutting moves, the Knicks dealt Jamal Crawford to Golden State for forward Al Harrington and then Zach Randolph to the Clippers for Mardy Collins, Cuttino Mobley, and Tim Thomas. New York also has several injury issues with first-round pick Danilo Gallinari suffering from a back injury, Jared Jeffries missed six weeks with a broken leg, and Eddy Curry has not played all season due to a bruised knee. In the midst of all the changes, D’Antoni transformed the Knicks style as the team averages 104.4 points per game, third-best in the league. New York is fairly absent on defense by allowing 107.9 points per game, which is evident during the four-game losing skid.
The Knicks new backcourt feature former Bulls point guard Chris Duhon running the show along side Quentin Richardson at the shooting guard position. Richardson played for the Suns under D’Antoni and averaged 14.9 points per game and 36 percent shooting from the 3-point line in 2004. The reunion between D’Antonio and Richardson has allowed the guard to fire away six 3-point attempts per game in the up-tempo pace. Wolves defenders will need to close out on Richardson to force him to put the ball on the floor. Duhon is dishing out 8.6 assists per game but the real secret weapon comes off the bench for the Knicks. At 5-foot-9, the speedy-little guard Nate Robinson is averaging a career best 16.5 points to provide the energy for the second unit.
At the small forward position, Al Harrington is finding his role on this Knicks squad. Harrington is multi-faced offensive threat with the ability to hit jumpers from long-range and put is back to the basket. At 19.9 points per game, Harrington leads New York in scoring but has struggled during the four-game losing streak by only shooting a combined 20-for-68 from the field. With the ever-changing roster, D’Antoni will rely on Harrington in the half-court set when the fast break is halted. Harrington is the only true go-to player for the Knicks, especially in the frontcourt. David Lee continues to start at center for the injured Curry. The smaller lineup allows Lee to run the floor and finish, which accounts for most of his offensive production. Lee is an athletic center that averages 10.6 boards per game but he is undersized for the position at 6-foot-9. The Wolves frontcourt should match up well with New York considering both teams feature smaller lineups.
The challenge for Minnesota tonight is to adjust and limit fast break opportunities from the Knicks. D’Antoni does not have the talent he enjoyed in Phoenix but the style remains the same. New York is looking to outscore opponents along with pounding the glass by averaging 42.6 rebounds per game as a team. The Knicks feature a 7-5 record inside the legendary Madison Square Garden and are coming off four days rest. Minnesota is suffering through a 13-game losing streak while the Knicks have lost seven of their last ten games. Tipoff in New York scheduled for 6:30 PM.
Mike Miller is listed as day-to-day with a sprained right ankle. Miller tweaked the same ankle that cost him four games earlier this season in the loss to Houston.
Jared Jeffries could return to the Knicks lineup after missing the first six weeks with a broken leg.
Eddy Curry will attempt to practice next week for New York as he deals with a bruised knee.
Danilo Gallinari has not played since October 31with a back injury and the team will re-evaluate his progress in two weeks.
Chris Duhon, PG
Quentin Richardson, SG
Wilson Chandler, SF
Al Harrington, PF
David Lee, C
Randy Foye, PG
Rashad McCants, SG
Ryan Gomes, SF
Craig Smith, PF
Al Jefferson, C