You can understand how Walt Frazier feels. You could certainly empathize with Clyde during the dying minutes of Tuesday’s especially egregious game at Madison Square Garden, the Timberwolves eking out a 112-110 win over the Knicks because — let’s speak plainly here — the Knicks played the last three minutes of the game as if they were five cricket players being introduced to basketball for the very first time.
Clyde is a gentleman, and so it isn’t so much what he said on MSG’s telecast as how he reacted to watching the Knicks look wholly incapable of functioning as an offense on possession after possession after possession down the stretch. The pain in his voice was obvious.
And you can understand, right? Think about asking Beyoncé to sit through a recital where five amateurs try to outdo themselves singing horrifyingly off-key versions of “Single Ladies.” Think about asking Daniel Day-Lewis to sit through a series of screen tests from guys pulled off the street to do the “Always Be Closing” scene from “Glengarry Glenn Ross.”
That’s where the Knicks are right now at point guard.
“The Knicks are all over the place,” Clyde said at one point late in the game, and the angst in his voice was such that you hoped Mike Breen gave him a consoling hug at game’s end. But, then, Clyde has only two of the millions of eyes that see the same thing every game. We can talk about all the things that Leon Rose needs to do to drag the Knicks up the ladder in the Eastern Conference. We can no longer ignore the bright pink elephant in the room.
Point guard is a problem.
Point guard is a mess.
Point guard needs to be addressed.
Point guard needs to be fixed. ASAP.
Kemba Walker played fine Tuesday in his return, but at this stage in his career he is nowhere close to a classic point guard. Derrick Rose’s absence has been a major setback for the Knicks, but even at full health Rose’s greatest value at age 33 is as a backup, where he can contribute one shift per half on his knees. Maybe Deuce McBride can be a rotational point guard someday; he is a work in progress right now.
Leon Rose needs to target one of the point guards who are likely to be available either in the offseason or as the trade deadline approaches. The most obvious choice is Jalen Brunson, whom they saw up close last week when the Mavericks visited the Garden, who has taken a nice leap this year and is putting himself in position for a tidy payday next summer. Brunson isn’t Chris Paul, but he established at Villanova that he has winning basketball DNA, bona fides that have translated to the NBA quite nicely.
Brunson’s father, Rick, is an ex-Knick and worked for Tom Thibodeau in both Chicago and Minnesota, so there would be an instant familiarity there. If the Mavs are willing to move him before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, it also gives Brunson and the Knicks two months to see what might be playing alongside RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Julius Randle before committing the upwards of $80 million Brunson would likely command.
(The guess here: That would be a fun team to watch, even if by then they are making a futile pursuit of the play-in round)
The Knicks also can target Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon, still on the first year of a four-year, $85 million contract, – though that couldn’t happen until the summer and the return for him likely would be much steeper than Brunson.
That part is on Leon Rose’s shoulders now. He made the decision to pick Obi Toppin over both Cole Anthony and Tyrese Hailburton, and while Toppin is a Garden favorite right now that choice already seems dubious, especially because Thibodeau is clearly not in love with Obi. He chose not to make a play for Russell Westbrook (thank goodness), Fred VanVleet (alas) and Lonzo Ball (sigh). He has bided his time.
It is time to strike. It has become wearying watching Alec Burks play out of position and burdensome to watch the Knicks in crunch time without a compass, waiting around for Randle or Barrett to make a play. New York — for generations the cradle of point guards — craves one in the worst way. And you don’t have to be one of the best who ever was — like Clyde — to recognize that.
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