The San Antonio Spurs (36-6) will look for a bit of pay back tonight as they host the New York Knicks (22-19) at the AT&T Center. The Spurs are currently on a seven game winning streak while the Knicks have suffered four losses in a row.
The last time these two teams met, the Knicks shocked the Spurs with a 128-115 win in Madison Square Garden. It was also the game where Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich pulled most of his starters with 3:13 seconds left in the game.
To discuss the game tonight, I once again speak to LIVES from Knicks Fanatics Blog the best Knicks blog on the Internet.
In this Q&A, LIVES talks about the state of the Knicks, the Carmelo Anthony trade rumor, tonight's matchup and more. To read the Q&A I did for LIVES, click HERE.
Jeff: Things are heating up with the trade rumors involving Carmelo Anthony. He says it's his dream to come to New York. At the end of the day, will he be a Knick?
LIVES: I have absolutely no idea. Sorry for the sex-less response, but the truth of the matter is that there is a lot of time between now and the trade deadline and between the trade deadline and the beginning of free agency. There are far too many variables and possibilities to be certain where Melo will be in October 2011. If labor negotiations falter, he just might be in La La Land and I am not referring to the Lakers.
The key fact is that this is a business. All parties are treating this like it is a business, except that Melo has a childhood dream, based on emotion not business, to play before the home crowd and win it all in Madison Square Garden. But that is a dream, not a necessity for his happiness and not necessarily smart business if it ultimately costs him $40 Million or being tagged with the franchise player tag, if the new CBA includes it for owners. So ultimately, Melo will make a smart business decision. Now his best leverage is to do nothing if he wants to make his dream of playing in the Garden to turn out to be a good business decision. But, Denver must act in order to maximize its position. Trading him to Chicago, Houston or the Nets may be their best option.
Yes, the Nets. As you know, the Nets deal is not dead just because Prokhorov says its dead. It has simply disappeared from public view. Prohkorov has stated his limitation and has created leverage that may ultimately bring Melo to Jersey. The public negotiations were bad for him and his franchise. Nets GM, Billy King just apologized to his players for the way it was handled and praised them for how they responded (which wasn't great actually). But key about the apology is that it was pretty clear that anything can still happen. He did not promise anyone they would not be traded. Now the real work begins, because Denver prefers to have something happen before the trade deadline which is in less than a month.
So will Melo wind up in New York. I have no idea.
How would you assess the Knicks at the midway point of the season?
They are slightly beyond where I thought they would be, but they are the team I thought they were when their fabulous run started. Yesterday, D'Antoni referred to the Knicks as playing like the team it was when it was "3-8." He is so right. What makes this team good is not its talent, but the willingness of the starters to play all out for 48 minutes. Perhaps coincidental to the heated Melo rumors and stiffer competition, the Knicks lost that edge, that sense of ownership of their collective fate. Only insiders and anyone inside the players' heads knows if the Melo talk has had an impact, but they certainly have been lacking in effort. Additionally, D'Antoni will never admit it, but the wear of an eight man rotation and the consequence of coach's refusal to properly use his big men is starting to show.
The last time these two teams faced off it ended up in a surprising win by the Knicks. What went right for New York in the previous meeting?
The Knicks hustled the entire game and the Spurs played horrendous defense. The Spurs were wrong to think they could run with the Knicks and not play defense. They refused to double Amar'e and allowed Chandler to beat them badly. I think we also had an advantage with Danilo out of the starting line-up because the Knicks perform better without him if all he is going to do offensively is stand on the arc. Ball movement and a modicum of defense is critical for the Knicks to win.
Tonight the Spurs will be looking for some revenge. What must the Knicks do to avoid a loss in San Antonio?
Work the entire game and run, run, run. They must not allow the Spurs to set their feet in transition defense and they must be very aggressive defensively. Even if they lose the board fight, if they can continue to challenge drives into the paint with some frequency and force the Spurs to shoot jumpers, the Knicks have a good chance. They also must overcome that feeling of powerlessness that comes with not knowing whether their agent will be calling with news about Melo and a plane ticket to Denver
What is your number one thing to watch for in tonight's contest?
Knicks energy quotient. Will they go all out the entire game. Will they play team ball while taking care of the details like loose balls, tight pressure on defense, getting to the free throw line, ball movement, avoiding fouls. Will they keep the environment clean for New Yorkers at home by using smart energy smartly. This is what I will be looking for. If I don't see it, I'm going to bed early.