The Fortunate 500: Don't hate -- motivate

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
Bryant/AnthonyRobyn Beck/AFP/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony have both felt the cold sting of their #NBArank positions.
#NBArank isn't just a window into how all the league's players might stack up against one another. It's also motivational fuel for the athletes who feel slighted.

It's funny how players take umbrage about a score based on a collection of surveys. There's no one person to get angry at -- unless you subscribe to the belief that "ESPN" is a discrete individual.

Professional athletes are good at this, though. They're masters at taking dry, detached assessments and converting those into grievous insults that must be disproven. Write something that you think is a mostly positive assessment of an athlete and you're liable to get "I'll show you" where you might have expected "That was a balanced take on me." Getting to the top comes with a fair amount of pride and a gnawing need to prove oneself. As someone more defined by "laptop" than "the top," I'm often surprised by how reflexively athletes take negative information to heart.

Perhaps, per the rankings, there's just something so cold about a man listed as a number. It's tough, in a way, to see Kobe Bryant's entire career reduced to "25" in last year's NBA rank results. "Just a number" describes how people are treated in vast, impersonal systems. It seems as if a few NBA players strive to be more than just their allotted ranking number. Maybe they don't even have a specific goal. They would just like to shed the unflattering numerical definition of their talent.

Kobe Bryant appeared to include his "25" ranking in his Twitter handle. The vast majority of caterwauling over Kobe's ranking was done by fellow players and fans. Another way of defining those offended by Kobe's ranking is, "People who dismiss the importance of the Achilles tendon."

The Mamba didn't come out and prove all the #NBArank haters and doubters wrong. Unfortunately, Kobe's human, and his hasty return from a devastating injury resulted in uneven play and another injury.

Even other superstars aren't immune. In 2011, Carmelo Anthony saw himself outside the top 10 (at No. 12!) and took to social media to tell the world of his newfound motivation. (It didn't necessarily take. Melo has yo-yoed in #NBArank, falling to No. 17 in 2012 and rising to No. 15 in 2013.)

Ranking rancor went a bit better for Kent Bazemore, who wrote his 2012 #NBArank listing of "499" on his shoe. Thanks in part to a Summer League MVP performance Bazemore was able to move up 167 spots. He thanked the rankers for his progress, while expressing hope that he could prove us wrong once again.

Lavoy Allen was a temporary #NBArank motivation success story. After getting tagged with the dreaded rank of "500" in 2011, Allen helped the Sixers on a strong playoff run. Actually, I shouldn't say "temporary." Last year, Allen managed to finally escape what's become of the Sixers. That's a certain kind of success.

Jeremy Lin's trainer was yelling his 2011 #NBArank number ("467!") at Lin during workouts. Such tactics must have worked because Lin made the biggest jump of any player to 76 the next season. Oh, also Linsanity happened.

There might have been a correlation between that national phenomenon and the ranking boost. Last season, Lin slid back into a ranking of 106. It might be time for his trainer to revisit old routines.

All these players should be content to be in the top 500 and to simply be involved in the world's best basketball league. But if these guys were content with such a distinction, they wouldn't have gotten this far in the first place.

Melo opens door for Lin again

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
It was an injury to Carmelo Anthony that led to Jeremy Lin's meteoric rise to basketball relevance in New York more than two years ago. Now it appears that indecision on Anthony's part could lead to Lin trying to recapture the magic in Los Angeles.

The Lakers still hadn't heard any official word from Anthony on Friday, according to a league source, when they pulled the trigger on a trade with the Houston Rockets to acquire Lin and Houston's 2015 first-round pick in exchange for cash considerations and the rights to an undisclosed player stashed overseas.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
Andrew Richardson/USA TODAY SportsIn addition to providing consistency at point guard, one of Jeremy Lin's biggest assets is his ability to drive to the basket and convert.
While Lin hardly has the reputation now he had back in February 2012 when "Linsanity" reached its height of euphoria thanks to him dropping 38 points on the Lakers of all teams during a Friday night game at Madison Square Garden, it’s not as if he's some bum either.

There's no denying that the last we saw of him on the court, Lin struggled. Lin shot just 21.7 percent on 3-pointers in Houston's first-round playoff loss to Portland and was particularly ineffective early in the series, scoring five points on 1-for-5 shooting in Game 2 and four points on 1-for-6 shooting in Game 4 as the Rockets fell behind 3-1 before eventually losing in six games.

But that rough series, combined with the Rockets' preference for Patrick Beverly at the point, ended up clouding the player that Lin really is today.

The fact is, he's a better player than when he was setting the world on fire during that streak with the Knicks. Lin may have averaged fewer points (12.5 compared to 14.6) and assists (4.1 compared to 6.2) last season than he did when he was in New York, but he's more efficient (35.8 percent from 3, up from 32.0 percent, while his attempts have gone from 2.1 to 3.2 per game), more reliable (82.3 percent from the foul line, up from 79.8) and also more in control (2.5 turnovers per game, down from 3.6).

At 6 feet 3, 200 pounds, Lin is a bigger point guard than most think, which perhaps has something to do with his durability. Lin played in 71 games last season and all 82 games the season before that. Having a stable point guard would certainly be a welcome addition for the Lakers after Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all missed so many games because of injuries in the last two seasons.

(Read full post)

Mavs to Melo: You can win here

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3

Carmelo Anthony's free-agency tour hit Texas on Wednesday and left Jeremy Lin in its wake.

Anthony met with Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Dwight Howard, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki in separate meetings with the teams.

In trying to court Carmelo, the Rockets dissed Lin when they showed images of Anthony in a No. 7 jersey. Anthony wears No. 7 for the Knicks. Lin wears No. 7 for the Rockets.


Rockets GM Daryl Morey explained the rationale behind the display.

After a meeting at the Toyota Center and lunch in Houston, Anthony headed to Dallas to meet with Cuban, Nowitzki and Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, among others, at Cuban’s home, sources told

Here’s what the Mavs sold Melo on:

There was no pomp and circumstances from the Mavericks. Dallas' meat-and-potatoes pitch emphasized the opportunity to contend immediately with an elite coach in Carlisle, a selfless star in Nowitzki and a quality supporting cast featuring high-scoring guard Monta Ellis and defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks also focused on the creativity and proven track record of the front office, stressing their plan to sustain a contender throughout Anthony's prime and ability to add at least one more major piece next summer.

Dallas has enough cap space to offer Anthony a maximum contract valued at $96 million over four years. But Cuban has said that he won’t offer Anthony -- or any other free agent -- max money this summer.

The Knicks can offer Anthony the most money of any of the suitors -- $129 million over five years -- though it is unclear if Knicks president Phil Jackson will offer Anthony a max contract.

Both the Rockets and Bulls would have to alter their rosters significantly to create enough cap space to offer Anthony a competitive contract. The more likely path for either to acquire Anthony is via a sign-and-trade. But it’s unclear if the Knicks will cooperate in such a transaction, which would make it easier for Anthony to leave New York.

One key player in Chicago’s pursuit of Anthony is Carlos Boozer. The Bulls would need to exercise their amnesty rights on Boozer and his $16.8 million salary or move it in a sign-and-trade. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that the Knicks would not be interested in taking back Boozer in a sign-and-trade. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported on Wednesday night that the Bulls informed Boozer that he will be amnestied or involved in a sign-and-trade.

Anthony will head to Los Angeles to meet with the Lakers on Thursday. The Knicks expect to get the final meeting with Anthony, sources told ESPN New York. It is unclear if a date or time has been set for the meeting yet.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Jeremy Lin on Jason Collins: 'A big step'

February, 23, 2014
Feb 23
Adande By J.A. Adande

Two years after Linsanity, the month that took him to dizzying heights never before reached by an Asian American player in the NBA, Jeremy Lin offered his perspective on Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the four major American professional team sports.

"I think it's definitely a big step," Lin said after the Houston Rockets' morning shootaround before their game at the Phoenix Suns. "The game is evolving. You see a lot of different people breaking barriers in a lot of different ways. This is just another one of those."

Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. But Collins won't just be playing for the Nets ... or for himself ... or for his family. Collins now carries the hopes of the gay community with him, an additional responsibility that Lin handled as a representative for Asian Americans.

"It was definitely not easy," Lin said. "For me, if I didn't have faith, in terms of my Christianity, I'm not sure how I would have been able to handle it or understand it or process it. For me, I try to think of it as living or stewarding God's platform. That's kind of how I approached it."

Only a handful of reporters faced Lin as he spoke, a big drop off from the media throngs he attracted when he averaged 21 points per game at the height of Linsanity in February 2012. Lin is averaging 13.1 points per game in his second season with the Houston Rockets and recently moved to a reserve following the return of Pat Beverley from injury. Just as Collins will receive more attention than the typical player on a 10-day contract, Lin has found that he can't recede completely into the background.

"When I'm with my friends and family back home, it's as normal as it will ever be," Lin said. "But I think I'm getting used to a lot of the changes."

Houston's improbable midrange winner

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

NEW ORLEANS -- The Houston Rockets use an offensive formula they’ve been cultivating for years under their current regime: 3-pointers and rim shots. Everything in between is for suckers.

The Rockets attempted 35 field goals in the first half of their 103-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night. Only four of the 35 occurred between eight feet from the basket and the 3-point line. The trend held throughout the game, as more than 80 percent of the Rockets' shots occurred in their sweet spots.

That is, until the final minute of play, when Old Man Midrange reared his head and the Rockets soared back in time. Two possessions yielded two isolation plays for James Harden, the first resulting in a pair of free throws that briefly gave the Rockets a one-point lead, the second an ankle-breaking, step-back jumper that put the Rockets up 102-100.

But heroball this wasn’t. The Rockets didn’t run a 1-4 flat set with Harden pounding the ball into the hardwood until he felt inclined to put it on the floor. And though these shots didn’t originate from the Rockets’ preferred zones, each was cleverly crafted with one goal in mind: Take Harden’s primary defender, Eric Gordon, out of the play and draw a lesser perimeter defender on the switch. The way to accomplish that? A "small-small" pick-and-roll -- one guard picking for the other guard.

"Teams don't know how to guard it," Harden said. "Late in the game, either you’re going to switch it and put a smaller guy on me or they’re going to try to show and get confused. It worked tonight."

The first possession was more elaborate and took longer to materialize. It was a familiar NBA set: The point guard (Jeremy Lin) gets a staggered screen up top -- one screener a shooter (Harden), the other a big man who can roll (Dwight Howard). Harden pops while Howard rolls. The Pelicans defended it beautifully. Brian Roberts was able to fight over the first screen, allowing Gordon to stay home on Harden. When Roberts got hung up on the second screen, Jason Smith bought him some time, then quickly rotated back onto Howard. New Orleans survived the action with everyone in their right place.

That’s when Lin got crafty. He probed, reversed course and circled back out of the lane counterwise, with the sole intention of rubbing Roberts off Harden, thereby forcing Gordon to switch off of Harden and onto Lin.

The ploy worked. A pass from Lin went to Terrence Jones out on the perimeter, then Jones zipped it quickly to Harden. From there, Harden did his thing: one dribble, collision, whistle, two free throws, Rockets by one.

"I feel like it’s really hard to guard," Lin said. "You see, like, OKC [the Oklahoma City Thunder]. They run a 1-3 pick-and-roll, which is really hard to guard just because you’re not used to being in that position where they have to get out and show and do different coverages. They’re usually like sized enough where they’re, like, 'We can switch this.' But that gives us the matchup we want."

The game winner was more basic: Jones, Howard and Chandler Parsons along the baseline, with Harden at the foul line poised to set the 1-2 pick-and-roll for Lin.

Pelicans coach Monty Williams elaborated on the theme in Lin’s comment: It’s easy to say, "Don’t switch," but the consequences can be dire.

"The problem is the guy who’s setting [the screen] can shoot," Williams said. "If you try to hedge it and that guy pops, he’s going to get a shot. We wanted to try to keep Eric [Gordon] on him as much as we could. So we got [Brian Roberts] out of the game and put Austin [Rivers] in to try to give us some more size in case they do it again."

Harden set the screen on Rivers to Lin’s right (go figure) and, sure enough, when Lin turned the corner, there was Gordon waiting for him. Switch accomplished with relative ease.

"We run that play a lot, especially late in the game," Harden said. "We don’t really run it in the beginning of the game. They switched it, and Jeremy threw it back to me."

Harden explained that the element of surprise contributes to the 1-2’s effectiveness. Defenses tighten up in the closing minutes, which is one reason we see more switches late out on the perimeter. Nobody wants to be left out to dry. Switching poses the risk of a mismatch, but at least somebody picks up the ball handler.

Harden held the ball for a moment, thrust a head fake or two, then went right -- to his off hand.

"I was reading what the other four players were doing," Harden said. "They all stayed home. It was mano-a-mano."

Harden took one slick dribble, yanked the ball back as he thrust his arm forward at Rivers. Did it make contact? Hard to say. Harden then lurched back, with all the space in the Bayou to rise and shoot.

"[Harden] made a tough shot on Austin," Williams said. "Austin played him well. Austin thought he got pushed, but in that situation, you got to just play tough. You can’t even ask for the ref to bail you out in that situation. It’s just not going to happen."

With that, the team that’s driven the midrange jumper out of fashion won the game on a 21-footer.

Lin discusses Marshall matters

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
HOUSTON -- After Kendall Marshall's impressive 20-point, 15-assist night in his first game starting at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, coach Mike D'Antoni was so charged by the performance that he likened Marshall to the most surprising success story of his coaching career: Jeremy Lin.

The "Linsanity" run during New York's 2011-12 season coincided with a seven-game winning streak by the Knicks, led every step of the way by Lin putting up points and dishing out assists as the starting point guard.

The Lakers are just 1-2 since Marshall took over starting point guard duties last week, but the former D-Leaguer (just like Lin) has been superb, averaging 15.7 points, 12.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds on 56.3 percent shooting in those three starts.

"He's done a great job," Lin said when asked about Marshall after the Houston Rockets' shootaround Wednesday in preparation for the Lakers. "He's a phenomenal passer and he's just a smart, smart player. He's definitely taken advantage of the opportunity and all the injuries that they have and really done a great job. So, I think people are happy for him, for sure."

D'Antoni compared Marshall's inauspicious first appearance with the Lakers, when the North Carolina product had four turnovers in six minutes against the Golden State Warriors, with Lin's game against the Boston Celtics just before his memorable run started when Lin had just two points, one assist, one turnover and two fouls in seven minutes.

"The first time he went out in Boston it was awful, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh,’" D'Antoni recalled following the Lakers' 110-99 win over the Utah Jazz last week in Marshall's first start. "Then, obviously it happened to him. It does happen to guys."

A lot has happened to Lin since his days being coached by D'Antoni, most notably signing a $25 million contract with Houston, receiving critical acclaim after releasing the documentary "Linsanity" detailing his rise to fame and just this week, inking a new endorsement deal with Adidas AG.

"We'll still text back and forth throughout the season," Lin said of this relationship with D'Antoni. "He came out and was there for the 'Linsanity' documentary premiere (at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood) and he let me work out at the Lakers' facility when I was down there in L.A. this summer. So, I think we'll always have a special bond just because of everything that happened."

Lin said that D'Antoni's coaching style helped him grow.

"I think he lets guards play through their mistakes," Lin said. "I think he gives them a lot of freedom and creativity and I think he's really good at finding ways to get mismatches on the floor and he's really innovative when it comes to that type of stuff. So, he does a great job and he makes you feel like (you're important). He empowers you, basically."

Lin said that he even notices D'Antoni's coaching influence on the sets that Rockets coach Kevin McHale runs in Houston.

"I think in general the league has adopted a lot of what he started," Lin said. "Him and Golden State 'small ball' and stuff like that, you see lot of that just filtering into all different teams right now."

Five reasons why the Knicks are a mess

November, 17, 2013
The Knicks lost their fifth straight home game on Saturday night.

So far, Debbie Gibson has had a better performance at Madison Square Garden than the home team. Let's sift through the mess and look at five things holding the Knicks back:

[+] EnlargeTyson Chandler
Elsa/Getty ImagesTyson Chandler's injury has devastated the Knicks defense.
No Tyson, no defense: Mike Woodson says his team isn't being competitive or showing any effort on defense. He has to find a way to get his players to play defense because the Knicks can't rely on their offense or Carmelo Anthony to bail them out.

The Knicks miss Tyson Chandler badly. They could rely on him to be that last line of defense. He obviously can be a terrific shot blocker. But they miss him most on the boards. Now they rely on Melo to grab the rebounds (as if Melo didn't have enough on his plate). And they miss Chandler's hustle and energy. Woodson needs to find a way to motivate his defense, which is giving up an average of 104.5 points per game in the last seven games.

Woody's task: Some fans are chanting for Woody's job. Look, it doesn't all fall on Woodson's shoulders since he does have a flawed roster that is thin and loaded with streaky scorers that do many of the same things while also having to survive without Chandler. But Woodson has to find a way to get his team better shots.

Too many times, the offense stalls and slows down as four players watch one guy jack up a quick or contested shot on one side of the court without a single pass. The ball needs to move more and Woodson has said as much. Part of that has to do with who he has on the floor. Woodson admits he's trying to find the right combination of who will play hard, defend and move the ball for him. Nine games into the season, he has not found that consistent lineup with several new faces, injuries and a suspension to deal with. Woodson says he likely will continue to tinker with his lineup until he finds the right combination. Playing Pablo Prigioni a bit more could help the ball movement.

Shooting blanks: J.R. Smith has more problems than just what Brandon Jennings tweets. His shot is just not falling right now. Smith shot 3-for-18 and scored just seven points in 36 minutes against the Hawks and then said, "I was playing like s---."

He has no rhythm right now and the Knicks desperately need another scoring option to help Melo. Since his return from a five-game suspension, Smith is shooting a dismal 22.6 percent from the field and just 26.9 percent from behind the 3-point arc. In three starts, Smith is shooting 11-for-44 overall and 6-for-21 from 3-point range. Woodson could opt to bring Smith off the bench again and put Prigioni back in the starting lineup. But Woodson has been concerned with his team's slow starts. No matter, Smith has to get his shot going again.

Kenyon and Amar'e: The Knicks are trying to preserve their veteran big men and have been playing Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire on a minutes restriction. There just seems to be no comfort level at all when Stoudemire is in the game as he tries to do what he can in limited minutes. Things just seem disjointed when Amar'e is in the game and the Knicks can't afford to be patient right now. Martin has tried setting the tone with defense and hard fouls. So far he is averaging 12.1 minutes. Amar'e is averaging 10.5 minutes but just 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds. Amar'e would like to play more minutes which might get him to feel more comfortable. Whatever the plan is right now with Stoudemire, it's not working.

Everybody needs Raymond: Raymond Felton has had some hamstring issues early this season and the Knicks need their point guard healthy and playing better. Felton is averaging 11.1 points and 5.2 assists in 35 minutes a game. But he's shooting just 37.6 percent from the field and only 20.6 percent from behind the 3-point line. Felton has to find a way to get the ball moving and the offense flowing better. Offensively, Felton's two best games have come in Knicks' wins. He scored 18 in a win over Milwaukee and 15 in a victory over Charlotte so they can use an aggressive but efficient Felton.

And the Knicks need better defensive play from Felton and their point guards. Atlanta's Jeff Teague and Shelvin Mack combined for 28 points and 13 assists on Saturday. Teague had 25 points and eight assists against the Knicks last Wednesday. Jeremy Lin had 21 points against the Knicks last Thursday.

How would you guys fix the Knicks issues so far? Let us know what you think below.

Lin stays perfect against Knicks

November, 15, 2013
NEW YORK -- Jeremy Lin didn't hear the cheers when his name was announced just before he entered the game at the 5:33 mark in the first quarter.

Lin also says he did not hear the smattering of boos whenever he was at the free throw line. He just tried to concentrate on the game, have fun and do what he keeps doing against the Knicks -- win. Lin improved to 3-0 against the Knicks since leaving New York as the Rockets left the Garden with a 109-106 victory.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIJeremy Lin, who improved to 3-0 against the Knicks at the Garden, finished with 21 points.
It's safe to say that his second return to the Garden wasn't nearly as intense as the first time back last year.

"Yeah, it is a lot more mellow," Lin said.

Lin scored 21 points and added five rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes off the bench and had some flashes of Linsanity.

"I was just having fun out there," said Lin, who was surrounded by a throng of reporters after the game. "You know I miss playing at the Garden. It’s great to come back here once a year and play. The fans are great. The atmosphere is incredible. It was just a lot of fun for everyone."

Well, not fun for the Knicks. Lin is averaging 18.6 points and five assists against his old team. There were still some Lin fans who came to the Garden to see the former Knick favorite. Lin, though, said he did not hear any of the cheers or boos he received throughout the night.

Lin's night began at the free-throw line. He went 6-for-6 from the line in the first quarter. He started heating up early in the fourth quarter when he made 4 of 6 shots and scored nine of his points. He drilled a 3-pointer and drove the lane for an uncontested dunk to put the Rockets up 83-75 with 10:04 left. He buried a 23-footer and had a fast break dunk with 7:21 left to keep the Knicks down six.

With the lead down to 102-100, Lin had an eight-foot shot rejected by J.R. Smith with 2:22 left. But the Rockets would survive and Lin left New York with another win.

Afterward, he shook hands with some of his old teammates.

"It was great to see Shump [Iman Shumpert] -- unfortunately Tyson [Chandler] is hurt -- Melo [Carmelo Anthony], STAT [Amar'e Stoudemire] and J.R., all of the guys I had some good memories with," Lin said. "It was definitely fun talking with them on the court."

"I was so focused on playing, I try to tune everything else out," he added of his reception from the Garden fans. "I don’t try to listen to anything, hear anything, see anything. Try to play worry free. Try to be myself on the court. Not worry too much about anything. Any distractions. Really trying to play as hard as I can."

Rapid Reaction: Rockets 109, Knicks 106

November, 14, 2013
NEW YORK -- Linsanity might be dead and gone, but Jeremy Lin still owns Madison Square Garden.

Lin and the Houston Rockets weathered a big game from Carmelo Anthony to walk off the floor with a win on Thursday. Lin is 2-0 at the Garden since he left the Knicks for Houston in the summer of 2012.

Oh, Melo: Anthony did all he could to lift the Knicks (3-5) to a win. He finished with a season-high 45 points and 10 rebounds and hit what appeared to be a game-tying 3 with five seconds left. The shot was waived off because officials ruled that James Harden fouled Anthony on the floor. Anthony hit both free throws to bring the Knicks within one with five seconds to go. Harden knocked down two free throws on the other end and J.R. Smith missed a prayer from inside half court at the final buzzer.

Linsanity lives: Lin certainly had several big moments in his second game at the Garden since leaving town for Houston.

The ex-Knick had nine fourth-quarter points, including a dunk off a fast break with 10 minutes to play that quieted the crowd and a deep jumper over Anthony's outstretched arm to put Houston up seven with about nine minutes to go.

Lin, coming off a 34-point, 12-assist performance in an overtime loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday, finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Houston's Harden also crushed the Knicks. He finished with 36 points and nine rebounds. He had 16 points from the free throw line.

Bargnani better than Superman: Raise your hand if you thought Andrea Bargnani would outplay Dwight Howard on Thursday? Didn't think so.

But that's how it played out for the Knicks. Bargnani had his best game at Madison Square Garden to date, finishing with 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting and and four rebounds. Bargnani stood toe-to-toe with Howard, blocking his shot twice in the second half. He and Kenyon Martin held Howard to just one shot attempt in the first half. Howard finished with seven points and 15 rebounds. But Howard came through for Houston late in the game, hitting both of his free throws after gathering an offense rebound to put the Rockets up five with 1:07 to play.

Where's Amar'e?: It was easy to overlook, but Amar'e Stoudemire played just five minutes against Houston. He was scoreless, missing all three of his field goals. Mike Woodson turned to Martin in Stoudemire's place. The veteran power forward played 10 minutes, finishing with three rebounds.

What's next: The Knicks will likely take the day off Friday to prepare for Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Rockets

November, 14, 2013
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during Thursday's Knicks-Rockets game:

He's baaaack: Jeremy Lin will play his second game in Madison Square Garden since the Knicks decided to let him go to Houston in the summer of 2012.

Here's a quick refresher on Linsanity: After being cut twice and sent to the D-League, the Harvard grad came off the end of the Knicks' bench to average 18.2 points in 25 starts for New York in 2012.

He's had his struggles with the Rockets, but comes into Thursday's game red hot. Lin had 34 points and 12 assists in the Rockets' loss to the Sixers on Wednesday. In his past two games, Lin has scored 65 points on 20-for-36 shooting but has turned it over 13 times.

Will Harden play? James Harden will likely be a game-time decision due to a bruised foot. If he sits out, that would be a blessing for the Knicks. Harden had 61 points in two games against the Knicks last season. Houston won both games by a combined 41 points.

Inside job: The Knicks fulfilled owner James Dolan's guarantee when they won in Atlanta on Wednesday night. The only thing guaranteed about Thursday's game is that the Knicks will have their hands full in the paint.

With Dwight Howard inside and penetration from Harden, the Rockets are scoring 49.1 points in the paint per game.

Paint defense has been an issue for the Knicks with Tyson Chandler out.

New York allowed 56 paint points to the Hawks on Wednesday. The Knicks gave up 44 points in the paint on Sunday in a 31-point loss to San Antonio.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.


Carmelo Anthony
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2