The struggle has been real for the Knicks lately.
In their last 13 games, the Knicks have compiled a 2-11 losing record which includes close, heartbreaking one-point losses to the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia Sixers, and the Atlanta Hawks.
Fans have been trying to find ways to cope with the recent bad form of the Knicks. Some of these ways may include popping bottles of Henny in the club or going to the local bar getting hammered. If you’ve spotted Knicks fans doing any of the two activities mentioned, in the previous sentence, now you understand why.
With the new additions to the Knicks roster this season, fans believed their fears and tears would turn into grinning and winning, but as usual, the Knicks destroy their fans’ hopes and dreams before the All-Star break approaches.
Despite this recent run of bad form, there is hope for the Knicks, and their hope rest on the shoulders of the man with the Shaggy-like hairstyle, Ron Baker.
Now, don’t get it twisted!
Baker won’t be the difference between the Knicks winning or losing games, but he may be the spark plug that the Knicks need to wake up certain players on the roster who have been underperforming. One player who needs to step his game up is Courtney Lee.
Throughout the season, Lee has been a consistent performer for the Knicks. He gave you consistent effort on defense, and the Knicks could count on him to get 10-15 points per game. In addition to his consistent play, Lee led the league in 3-pt FG percentage. If Lee was open, behind the arc, you could guarantee that Lee’s shot would be cash money.
Nowadays, the amount of bricks Lee is laying could build a new apartment complex in Manhattan.
In Lee’s last five games, he’s shooting 31.7% from the field (13-41), and behind the arc, he is shooting 17.6% (3-17). Both percentages are way below his season average (44.1 FG% and 42.9 3-pt FG%). Many would point to Lee’s poor shooting as a good reason to why he should be benched, but the stat that really magnifies Lee’s poor play is the plus-and-minus. In those last five games, his plus-and-minus is a staggeringly bad -54. Not only has Lee been struggling with his shot, but he’s also not providing any positive impact on the court.
Due to Lee’s recent poor performances, Coach Jeff Hornacek made the right move to bench Lee and move Baker into the starting lineup for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. Hornacek had the option to move Brandon Jennings into the starting lineup to play alongside Derrick Rose, in the backcourt, but Jennings, along with Lee, would strengthen the Knicks bench.
The reasoning behind inserting Baker into the starting lineup may be due to the positive impact he’s had on the court lately. He was part of the lineup that willed the Knicks back into the game against the Bucks in Milwaukee — his plus-and-minus was +18 — and he also showed supreme effort, in the Knicks’ worst performance of the season, against the Raptors in Toronto — his plus-and-minus was +19.
Baker may not blow you away with amazing stats, but he plays with consistent effort on defense, and his energy helps his teammates rise to the occasion. In today’s game against the Hawks, even though the Knicks lost, Baker’s presence was felt on the court. He finished with 12 points, shot 4-of-7 from 3-point range, and his consistent effort on defense was on full display.
Until Lee shows signs of life, Baker needs to stay in the starting lineup. Baker’s energy seems to be contagious, and if the Knicks want to get back into the playoff picture, Hornacek has to shake things up, and let players know their job isn’t safe. Continue to reward players who have a positive impact on the game.
Baker may not be the savior, but he may be what the Knicks need, right now, to send a message to certain players to play better.
Check out Ryan’s other work at http://mrgsportsblogs.sportsblog.com.