The Big Picture: Tonight, the Charlotte Bobcats face the New York Knicks in a battle of contrasting styles. Though the Cats have sped up their pace in recent games, they're still primarily a slower team, while the Knicks play the NBA's second-fastest pace. The Knicks have also attempted the most three-pointers in the league, while the Cats are solidly in the bottom-half, thanks to Larry Brown's aversion to long-range shooting. (When did they put in a three-point line?) On defense, Brown has made a career of coaching up his squads, while Mike D'Antoni has widely been considered an offense-only coach, even though when he has talent on the roster, his teams' DRtg have been in the middle of the pack.
The one thing both coaches seem to have in common is a strong distrust of rookies: Brown's treatment of young players has been covered extensively here (Exhibit A), while, for his part, D'Antoni's Suns used to sell off all their draft picks, ostensibly to keep below the luxury tax. But I question just how much of that was Robert Sarver's parsimony, and how much was D'Antoni's dismissive attitude toward rookies. Landry Fields is getting a good amount of playing time for the Knicks right now (and playing exceptionally well: +22, adjusted!), but the last three rookies of note on the Knicks were Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas, and Jordan Hill.
The Rooster got hurt, and then came back with a three-point vengeance his second season. Douglas got half the minutes of Chris Duhon, despite being (if we're generous to Duhon) an equal player, and a player more suited to the D'Antoni style, to boot. And then there's the case of Jordan Hill, who only played 252 minutes for the Knicks before being traded to the Rockets, despite putting up a 14/8, with 1 block, per 36 minutes. That's nothing special, but hardly embarrassing, and he immediately improved in Houston. To make matters worse, the Knicks were barely in the playoff discussion, finishing 29-53, and they ended up giving minutes to Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender(!), instead. Awesome.
Musical Interlude: Daft Punk -- "Digital Love"
Key to Victory: As always when facing D'Antoni teams, it's important for the Bobcats to play the game they want to play, not the game the Knicks force them to play. True, I've been hoping the Cats speed things up a bit, but the Knicks' frantic pace is another matter, altogether. Just as pitching in baseball is all about disrupting timing, so is D'Antoni's offense: seven seconds or less is predicated on finding a good shot before the defense figures out what to do, before the defense assesses and then acts. If the other team starts pushing the pace and playing ahead of themselves on offense, too, all the better.
Short circuit that process. Impose pace upon them, and don't let them impose pace upon us.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: I've signed up to be an assistant coach of a youth basketball team. My goal is to produce the best 2-3 zone 8 and 9 years olds have ever played.