Thursday, December 29, 2011

Knicks Vs Lakers Preview

The NBA pre season is almost over and we can finally get to some real hardwood action...what's that you say? This is the season? Yikes. Well, sloppy, low scoring basketball is better than no basketball at all I guess. Even if it does feel like you're watching the best pick up game at McKinley park ever at times. So tonight, I'm still a little excited for the first matchup of the abbreviated season between my first and second favorite teams. And that's not the only first you'll see tonight; it's also the first matchup between Kobe and Carmelo since the trade last February as well as the first time these two teams have matched up where the Knicks might actually be a better team (or at the least have a brighter future) since Nick Van Exel was running the point at the old Forum. What to expect tonight?

Both teams are off to uneven starts albeit in a very small sample size (3 games for the Lakers and 2 for the Knicks). As expected, play has been pretty ragged thus far as the result of the lack of practice and training camps and the compressed schedule, so there's always a chance that these two teams are simply going through what the rest of the league is, but there are big holes in each team's roster. The Knicks were thin to begin with, and since the injuries to the rookie Shumpert and (Thank GOD) Jared Jeffries, they've become even thinner (Chinese fans shouldn't get their hopes up to see Jeremy Lin get off the bench any time soon though, sorry). Meanwhile, the Lakers got nothing in return for their most versatile bench player, Odom, and everyone else is a year older. They've sorely missed the big bully in the middle, Bynum, who will be finishing his suspension tonight, but even when he returns they're still a barely above average team. After melting down against a Chicago team that was shooting 15% at one point in the second half on Christmas, they then proceeded to get blown out by the Sacramento Kings of all teams. Narrowly avoiding disaster by blowing out a truly awful Utah Jazz team on Tuesday in their third game of a back to back to back, the Lakers still have a similar look to the 06-07 Lakers pre Pau that resulted in ridiculous Kobe numbers but not much else. This team is of course more talented than anything that involves Kwame Brown and Smush Parker could be, but Kobe isn't that guy anymore either. I expect a Lakers team that hovers a few games over 500 this season as they struggle to find their identity post Phil Jackson and Kobe struggles to not punch Mike "Al Roker" Brown.

The Knicks, on the other hand, are being touted as some kind of a title contending juggernaut with the acquisition of an injury prone guy who's had one good season as a pro, and that season he averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds. They escaped X-mas with a skin of their teeth win against an elderly, injured Celtics team prompting annoying "KNICKS BACK!" Facebook statuses and tweets. Truthfully, as excited as I am to see the Knicks even in the discussion with the top teams in the East again, their lack of a real backcourt and team chemistry is enough to cause me some concern. Last night's debacle against Golden State was an example of how far they still have to go, as well as how unsightly much of the gameplay will be in this shortened season. As Hater J pointed out during the travesty that was the Jazz and Lakers on Tuesday, amidst a game in which the Jazz missed 20 out of 22 shots in the second quarter yet were only down by 5 points, we were spared a lot of this crappy play in 99, but now thanks to the immense media coverage and league pass, etc., the ugly play is forced down our throats all day and night.

I expect more of the same tonight. An unevenly played game with both teams going through droughts and showing occasional flashes of real basketball interspersed between turnovers and clanked shots. Also, expect to see Kobe curse a lot and make faces at the official and Landry Fields and expec Tyson Chandler to be in foul trouble again. I think these two teams are fairly evenly matched this season, with the Knicks being slightly better than the Lakers sans Bynum, but L.A. being at home coming off a days rest should trump the Knicks who played last night and are obviously still feeling things out.

Lakers by 7.

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