Or maybe I should say “thinner than the Bobcats’ bench.” My oh my, since the Knicks victory, we’ve gone one-and-five, and once promising guys like Jared Dudley and Ryan Hollins are now distant memories, like the movie Lions for Lambs. The only notable sub recently has been Matt Carroll, and only in the sense that he’s been terrible. Even the Nazr Mohammed parade has been thoroughly peed on. In their “Are You For Real?” column on ESPN.com, Guy Lake and Brian McKitish both took turns bashing him—it was like the final scene in Death Proof. Darn it, I’d been so pleased with Nazr too. I mean, no one’s going to confuse him with Hakeem Olajuwon, but no one’s going to confuse him Primoz Brezec either—and that was the whole point. Apparently, though, Mohammed has a history of starting fast with new teams before regressing severely, at least according to Lake and McKitish. And all I can do on that one is tip my cap to them, because quite honestly I haven’t followed Nazr’s career that closely. And if they’re right, I appreciate the warning.
If there’s been any bright spot, it’s Jason Richardson, who’s finally been playing up to his contract. In the last 5 games, he’s put up 28.8 points on 51% shooting. But even with him it’s not all rosy and cheerful little Juno-style acoustic songs: the dude’s only hitting 66% of his free-throws this year. And worse: his career free-throw percentage is just 69%. You know what? I somehow feel personally responsible for this, because I had no idea the dude couldn’t shoot foul shots. When I learned we were getting J-Rich, I knew that the guy was a gunner, and so I just naturally assumed he could both get to and score from the foul line. It didn’t even occur to me to look. I wish I had, because I would have said something. Now I feel like I bought some used car that I thought was good until I realized that it had no heater or air conditioning. Oh well, like Kanye said, everything he’s not makes him everything he is, right? And that would be an $11 million scorer who can’t shoot free throws. He’s basically the basketball equivalent of Pedro Cerrano.
Similarly, Ryan Hollins…oy vey. Do you realize the guy’s 7 feet tall and can’t rebound? How did this one slip through the cracks? Once again, this one's on me, because I didn’t notice it myself until the Hornets game, when I saw everyone from David West to Chris Paul jumping over, around, and through him to clean the boards. Often the ball would bounce directly to him and he STILL couldn’t come down with it. Even Primoz would at least get a hand on it and lose it out of bounds, but with Hollins it’s like his arms disappear entirely. Puzzled, I looked at the stats, and there it was: 2 rebounds per. And then I looked at John Hollinger’s profile of him, and sure enough: “non-factor on the boards.” Wasn’t there some highly scientific study done last year about how the one skill that transfers the most consistently from college to the NBA is rebounding? I’d pull up Hollins’ UCLA stats, but to tell you the truth, I’m too afraid. But the point is, did anyone on the staff bother to check this before we drafted him?
Add all this to Raymond Felton’s 5.5 assists-per-game and 39% shooting for the month of December, and you’re going to get exactly what we got: depressing beat downs by the likes of the Bucks, Magic, Hornets, etc. In the Magic game, I actually spent most of the game debating whether the correct phrase is "steamrolled" or "steamrolled over," as in, "Orlando steamrolled (over) us." I'm still not sure. But anyway, all of it’s made even more dreary when you consider these losses are mostly at home and with no significant injuries to our roster. Opponents are shooting 46.5% on us, fourth-worst in the league. And when they miss, they’re averaging 12 offensive boards a game—tied for 7th worst in the league. Forget playing us like a violin, they’re playing us like Guitar Legend by getting open shots and getting second chances.
At least we ended on a bright note by beating the Pacers…except it wasn’t on League Pass, which makes us 4-0 on games not televised in the NYC-area. Yay. I’m so bummed out I’m practically jealous of the Knicks right now: at least lots of people CARE that they suck. We’re like Kenya to their Pakistan. How could I feel any worse right now? Wait—honey, the in-laws are back home, right?