he True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Crawford's Injury Shuts Him Down For At Least Rest of Seasonh

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Crawford's Injury Shuts Him Down For At Least Rest of Season

Today I came home from work to find out that the Knicks shooting guard, and second best scorer, is out for the year with ankle surgery. When I heard the news I wasn't sure how to react. Obviously I felt bad for Crawford, but immediately after my thoughts went straight to how this would affect the team. In my opinion I can see one of two things happen. The Knicks will get worse for obvious reasons, or we will be better, and noticeably so better. Allow me to explain.

With Crawford out Isiah announced that Quentin Richardson will move to the two guard with Jared Jeffries once again starting at SF. Right away this improves the team defense dramatically. Crawford is a below average defender, and has even lost the person he was defending at key moments (most notably against Utah). Richardson is one of the Knicks better defenders, and Jeffries is in the NBA for his defense. With Marbury normally playing solid defense at point guard, and Q plays good defense on most nights, whether it is against a SG or a SF. Also, the Knicks will always have a plus defender at SF. Jeffries is obviously starting, and the only true SF to back him up is Balkman. In my opinion Balkman is the Knicks best defender in terms of steals of and shot blocks, and Balkman's minutes should definitely increase.

Also, even though the Knicks offense runs through Eddy Curry, curiously Crawford is averaging nearly three more shots per game than Curry is. That means that the Knicks have 15 extra shots to play around with and spread out. This means that all of the scorers on the team should see a rise in their numbers. Curry most certainly will get even more touches, Steph as well. With Q at the shooting guard I could see Isiah featuring him in the post a couple of possessions a game. Most SF can't guard Q's post up game, much-less SG. Obviously not everything is positive with Jamal out, there are also a handful of negatives.

The main loss is Crawford's scoring. Crawford was second on the Knicks with 17.9 points per game. But, in his 36 games as a starter Crawford averaged 20.8 points and 4.9 assists. In addition the Knicks are 18-18 with Crawford in the starting lineup, and 8-14 without him. An underrated facet that the Knicks lose is Crawford's camaraderie with Eddy Curry. Crawford usually has 1-3 "chemistry" passes to Curry each game, such as an alley-oop or an instinctive cut pass. An obvious loss is the Knicks team depth. The Knicks had six guards entering this season (Marbury, Nate, Collins, Q, Crawford, Francis) and they are now left with four, with two of them being question marks on what they will bring to the table. Last but not least, Crawford's ability to be clutch and take over games offensively is gone. However, judging by Marbury taking over the fourth quarter last night Steph certainly has the ability to take over quarters and lead the Knicks to a victory. The question is if he can do it on a consistent basis like Crawford did.

Nate and Collins will obviously be seeing more time with Crawford out and I'm not sure whether these are positives or negatives. Robinson has played sporadically throughout his career. Nate will be part of the second unit which may be the perfect place for him. I don't think Nate can contribute consistently in the starting due to his lack of defense and streaky shooting. The 22 year old is a spark plug, and spark plugs usually fit the best in the second unit. Nate does have a keen ability of blowing by defenders and flying at the hoop, and I can see him averaging around 12 points a game the rest of the way. Collins, on the other hand, is a huge question mark. The rookie has only had three games this year where he has played double digits in minutes. When he has played he has shown flashes of being a good pass first point guard. With the exception of an 11 point performance against the Clippers Collins' shot has been dreadful this year, even air-balling a few jump shots. In fact, if you take away the Clippers game in which he shot 4-9 and 3-6 behind the arc Collins' field goal percentage for the year is 31%. Collins is known as a defensive player, however, so perhaps Balkman and Collins could make some things happen whenever they are both in the game.

With all of that said the Knicks are known for their offense and lack of consistent defense, if the Knicks do in fact improve defensively will they score enough points to win games? Stay tuned, they play the Celtics Wednesday night, a game they must win. Keep an eye on how Isiah uses the bench, and how the team responds to playing without Crawford. If Lee returns look for a big game out of him.

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