March 19, 2012
Bayless hot, but Calderon starts
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Things sure have changed since Jeremy Lin hit one of the most memorable game-winners in Air Canada Centre history last month.
The Knicks have gone from winners, to losers, to winners again, but at the expense of former head coach Mike D’Antoni, who has been replaced on an interim basis by Mike Woodson.
The team’s commitment to defence has done a complete 180 under Woodson.
Lin, while no longer a phenom, has still looked pretty good (19 points, seven rebounds and six assists in his last game) and Carmelo Anthony has even managed to get himself back into the good books of some Knicks fans of late.
The team has only been surrendering about 89 points a game since Woodson took over.
“They’re playing really good defence right now,” was the assessment from Raptors head coach Dwane Casey ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in Manhattan.
“They’re trapping a lot, they’re really double-teaming the pick and rolls ... I’ve seen a difference in their approach. They’re playing at a higher level right now than what they were on the defensive end.”
Toronto is a different team as well.
Injuries forced Jerryd Bayless out of both earlier meetings this season, but he’s back, and playing tremendously for the Raptors as the starting point guard.
“Jerryd has been playing real well, not only offensively but defensively,” Casey said.
Still, long-time starter Jose Calderon said his sore ankle was feeling better and he expected to play against the Knicks. Calderon has tended to get the most out of Andrea Bargnani, one of the major factors in why the team currently prefers to start him.
Casey said Calderon would return to the first group, though he planned to use both Calderon and Bayless at the same time in order to keep Bayless’ minutes up.
Though he will grin and bear a return to the bench, it is clearly not an ideal situation for Bayless, who has posted markedly improved numbers over his career as a starter versus a reserve.
“(Starting has) always been comfortable for me, but Jose’s here, he’s the starter, like I said, I just want to be here to help this team and do whatever I can to help this team whether that’s starting, coming off the bench or just cheering,” Bayless said.
“I want to be here. I said I love this city, I want to be here for a long time. Whatever they want me to do I’m going to do it.”
But the truth is, the restricted free agent-to-be has not helped the team nearly as much coming off of the bench and he is not surprised, though he can’t quite explain why.
“It’s just a different way you can play, it’s just different. You get four cracks instead of two, it’s just different,” he said, struggling a bit to elaborate further before going into more detail.
“It’s tough. I think being a backup point guard is the toughest role that there is because it’s tough to kind of find that balance (between looking to score and looking to set up teammates),” Bayless said.
“Not a perfect situation, but you try to do the best you can. Whatever that game calls for, that’s what you try to do.”
In about 7.5 fewer minutes per game off of the bench, Bayless has posted 9.3 fewer points, 2.2 fewer assists and shot 39%, compared to 45% he has managed as a starter — including a ridiculous 54.3% clip over his past five starts.
While the thinking has long been that Bayless might best be served as a high-scoring combo guard, like the recently traded Leandro Barbosa, he doesn’t seem overly interested in that role.
He recently reaffirmed that he saw himself as a point guard— meaning a distributor as well as a scorer — and on Monday advocated Gary Forbes as a better fit for the Barbosa role. Forbes scored a career-best 20 points two games ago.
“That’s going to be moreso Gary,” Bayless said of the combo scoring guard slot in the lineup. “Gary did a great job for us. Showed us what he can do.”
Bayless has shown what he can do as well.
The question with Calderon’s impending return, is will that continue to be the case?
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Jerryd Bayless vs. Jeremy Lin
Linsanity has died down substantially, but he’s still playing very well (14.7 points, 6.3 assists in 26.6 minutes per game). Lin sank the Raps at the ACC earlier this season. Meanwhile, Bayless has been brilliant for the Raptors of late and should give Lin all kinds of trouble.
With the way Bayless is going, Mike Woodson’s strong defensive system will get one of its biggest tests yet.
Jose Calderon is expected to return and start, but Bayless will still get a lot of minutes.
Knicks have really shored things up under Woodson, stopping opponents with much more regularity than under Mike D’Antoni. Tyson Chandler no longer is left to do everything.
Woodson became the sixth coach to win his first three games by 14 or more points in each.
Opponents have shot just .392 over the three games.
If the ball movement doesn’t stop once it gets in Carmelo Anthony’s hands, New York’s offence can be deadly.
DID YOU KNOW?
Knicks start two players who entered the NBA straight from high school (Chandler and Amare Stoudemire) and two who came from the Ivy League (Lin and Landry Fields), that’s never happened before ... Frontcourt averages just shy of 50 points a game ... New York has won three straight after dropping six in a row ... Knicks lead all-time season series 33 games to 30 and teams have split two playoff clashes ... Each team has a win head-to-head so far this season ... Knicks erased an 18-point deficit before eventually losing in first meeting of the year ... Steve Novak’s .482 shooting from long-range is second in the league ... The minute restrictions for Andrea Bargnani have been lifted. If Calderon plays, he won’t have any minute limitations either.