Mike D’Antoni has the deepest rotation since he began coaching the Knicks, sometimes going with as many as ten players in the first quarter. The rotation, and the players’ performances, are forever changing. As part of our Knicks coverage all season, taking a note from Mark Lisanti’s “Mad Men Power Rankings,” we’ll be tracking each player every Tuesday. Come with us for the Knicks Power Rankings!
1. Amar’e Stoudemire. (Last week: 1). We salute the general excellence of Seth Rosenthal’s fill-in last week by saluting the general excellence of Stoudemire, who has certainly earned all his “Superstar” D&D points this week. His 37 points in the win over the Pistons were his best as a Knick, but what truly stood out was how he willed the team to victory in a way that was never required of him as a Sun. Stoudemire has often been seen as brittle, or even aloof, but he gutted out a messy ankle and the second day of a back-to-back to play 54 minutes and score every time the Knicks desperately needed a basket. Check it out: Stoudemire is currently third in the Eastern Conference in scoring, ninth in rebounds, sixth in blocks, and third in free throws attempted. And he’s doing this without as much support as he’ll presumably have later in the year. The Knicks are getting what they paid for. Amar’e is having his breakthrough.
2. Landry Fields. (Last week: 5.) His story isn’t a cute, heartwarming aw-look-he’s-a-second-round-pick-and-he’s-playing! ditty anymore. Fields is as vital to this team as anyone. In the win over the Pistons, Fields played 51 minutes and filled a box score like crazy: sixteen points (all after halftime), eleven rebounds, six assists, and one coffin-nailing three-pointer in the second overtime. Fields is making a living off the out-of-nowhere rebounds and his leaping ability. He also seems to be sewn to the basketball, like the middle of a human-basketball centipede. (That wins this week’s award for “most stretched cultural reference.”) Wherever you look, Fields is there. He isn’t just thrilling to watch; he’s the team’s most reliable, coolheaded player. How in the world did he fall to the second round?
3. Raymond Felton. (Last week: 2.) Suffering from a nasty stomach virus, Felton still somehow slugged through 53.5 minutes in the win over the Pistons. He would go through energy spasms every few minutes: One trip down the court, he looked like he was about to keel over, and the next he’d drain a massive three-pointer. Felton’s resurgence is directly related to coach Mike D’Antoni’s meeting with him after the Knicks lost the first game of their road trip two weeks ago. Apparently, D’Antoni told him to stop worrying about the pick-and-roll already and, as Seth pointed out last week, play less like “Amar’e Stoudemire’s point guard.” Since that meeting, the Knicks are 6–1. It might have made a difference.
4. Danilo Gallinari. (Last week: 3.) The Rooster has a tendency to disappear when he’s not hitting shots, and the Knicks have a tendency to lose when he does that: Danilo missed a couple of shots early in the loss to the Hawks and ended up scoring just four points in 23 minutes. He doubled those minutes against the Pistons and drained two crushing three-pointers at the beginning of the second overtime to essentially clinch the game. Here’s a fun stat: In games in which Gallinari hits more than one three-pointer, the Knicks are 8–3. When he hits one or none, they’re 1–8. Stats you can use!
5. Wilson Chandler. (Last week: 6.) Because of Ronny Turiaf’s injury, Chandler started against the Pistons, his first start in nine games. It was a nice reward, because Chandler really had a terrific week, shooting 23-for-39 over a three-game stretch, including 8-for-15 from long range. Chandler is still versatile enough to fill in wherever the Knicks need him, which is why he’s such a nice sixth man, particularly when you add in his excellent help defense. You don’t want him starting regularly, and you can’t count on him as a four every night — he’s shown a nearly Mozvogian tendency to pick up fouls — but this is, so far, the year we’ve been waiting for.
6. Ronny Turiaf. (Last week: 4.) Shy Ronny’s balky left knee kept him out of the Pistons game, but he should be fine to play against the Nets tonight. He would have been handy as a Ben Wallace antidote in that game, but he should be fine. The Knicks haven’t lost a game he’s been healthy for in two weeks.
7. Toney Douglas. (Last week: 7.) He missed Sunday’s game, too, but should also be back tonight. Douglas is lovable and cuddly and a spitfire of fun to watch, but when he has a bad game, like he did against Atlanta, D’Antoni needs to pull him out and keep him out. Even when he’s scoring, his defense has suffered over the last week or so: If that continues, he’s going to be in danger of losing some serious minutes, particularly when Kelenna Azubuike comes back, if that ever happens.
8. Bill Walker. (Last week: 8.) Every minute that Roger Mason Jr. is on the floor, it reminds you why Walker will never truly be a full benchwarmer again. We still find ourselves befuddled by Walker’s body type. He’s lost a ton of weight since last year, and it’s left him in that weird Paul Pierce not-sculpted-but-not-fat mode. We still encourage plenty of push-ups. It’s all about definition, Bill.
9. Timofey Mozgov. (Last week: 9.) He’s still one of the first fellers off the bench; it’s always helpful to have a seven-footer to pop in occasionally, even one who still seems to not understand one iota of what NBA basketball is all about. We also are beginning to wonder if his hands are actually Legos. By the way, the points-to-foul tally is getting awfully close with Comrade Mozgov: Points now only lead by three, 44 to 41.
10. Anthony Randolph. (Last week: 10.) Well, he’s getting his Five Minutes of Lunacy Time each game again, which is at least entertaining. If you looked at those five minutes against the Pistons all close and stuff, like the Knicks Blog’s Tommy Dee did, you’ll see even more. We are intrigued and exhausted, all at once.
11. Roger Mason Jr. (Last week: 13.) With Douglas out Sunday, Mason ran around on the court for a while, missed a shot, then sat back down. Every time Mason shows up from now on, we’re going to play the “Where’s My Chippy” game from Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show. Where’s my Chippy? [Looks around for Mason.] There’s my Chippy!
12. Shawne Williams. (Last week: 11.) Williams hadn’t gotten into a game all season, and then, Sunday, before anyone even knew he was playing, within seconds of checking in, he was tipping in a Stoudemire miss. He didn’t do anything after that, but hey, Shawne Williams got to play!
13. Andy Rautins. (Last week: 12.) The Knicks are 0–2 in games Rautins has appeared in, so, you know, cut ‘im.