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The New York Knicks still think Andrea Bargnani is 'a big piece of the puzzle,' which is sort of correct

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie
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Just when the whole of the basketball world seemed ready to feel sorry for New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson, left to dangle in the wind as silent, invading forces build above him in a season gone terribly wrong, he has to go and point to Andrea Bargnani as some sort of Knicksian salve that could have saved the team’s woeful season.

Bargnani, who the team traded a slew of expiring deals along with a 2016 first round pick and a second round pick to Toronto for last summer, hasn’t played since dropping 20 points on 7-12 shooting in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on January 22. The fact that one of Bargnani’s best games of the season couldn’t help a Knicks team beat a 76ers squad that would go on to lose 29 of its next 30 games is telling. The Knicks played terribly with Andrea in the lineup this year.

To Woodson, though, the injured Bargnani is the one that got away. Scope this out, from Friday’s Knick shootaround:

Sigh.

Predictably, Basketball Twitter went into hyperdrive with the numbers that have been well-established in Bargnani’s absence with an elbow injury. How the team went 15-27 with him and 18-18 without him heading into Friday night. How the Knicks were a below-average team with the offense-only Bargnani in the lineup, and a top five offense without him. How the team was dead in the water in late January, only to vault back into playoff contention in April.

Now, it’s a pretty pathetic brand of “playoff contention,” the Knicks only have 33 wins with four games to play and they could be eliminated on Friday night, but it’s something. Still, both the trade for and defense of Andrea Bargnani speaks to this CAA-inspired groupspeak that has just about doomed New York’s 2013-14 season from the start.

Most outside of Knick owner James Dolan’s lackeys were trashing the deal from the start. Bargnani had two years and over $23 million left on his deal before the trade, he’s a historically-bad rebounder even at the small forward position (where the Knicks did not play him), he’s a supposed shooter that doesn’t shoot well, he clearly doesn’t play defense, and that’s all before considering the two draft picks New York gave up for him.

This isn’t a pile-on. This isn’t revisionist history. And even prior to Woodson’s comments, the New York Post’s Marc Berman’s trashed the deal in a discussion with those all-knowing league sources:

“Getting anything for him was a surprise,’’ a Western Conference executive said. “But you get desperate. The guy has talent, a 7-footer, mobile, his first few years he made shots. But I question his love for the game and mental makeup. I’m surprised the Knicks didn’t do more homework on him.’’

[…]

“They got him as a stretch 4, but he hasn’t been a stretch 4 for years,’’ an NBA scout said.

No, he hasn’t. And he has one year and $11.5 million left on his contract. Here’s hoping Phil Jackson doesn’t hire Bryan Colangelo to be his number cruncher this summer.

One player that has been a fantastic stretch four, at least until recently, is Carmelo Anthony. The All-Star’s play has been a bright spot in New York’s disappointing season, but his shooting from the perimeter has gone off the rails recently, and a bum shoulder is to blame. We think. Because for whatever reason the Knicks haven’t given Anthony an MRI (a relatively quick and non-invasive procedure) to determine the extent of the injury.

Because Knicks, that’s why. From Chris Herring at the Wall St. Journal:

If it seems like Anthony doesn't actually know what's wrong with his shoulder, well, the Knicks might not know, either. First, the organization called Anthony's injury a "strained right shoulder," and said X-ray results had come back negative. But the Knicks, who have been off since Sunday's loss in Miami, still haven't given Anthony a more-detailed MRI exam, which could highlight any ligament or tissue damage.

The decision to bypass the MRI has left fans to wonder why the Knicks seem content with knowing less, rather than more, about the health of their best player. It's clear that Anthony hasn't been himself since suffering the injury. He has shot just 3-of-15 when left wide-open in the Knicks' past two games (both losses), with his outside jumpers getting an average of 14.3 feet of arc, a half foot less than in his first 73 games of the year, according to SportVU player-tracking technology. Those numbers back Anthony's rationale for not attempting a single fourth-quarter shot in Miami: He couldn't generate the power.

Anthony’s play has been the driving force for New York’s run back to near-respectability, he’s clearly hurting and once again the New York front office is being duplicitous with the media, and more importantly their star player’s health. If Anthony and the Knicks want to play through a ligament, muscle or tissue tear in a bid to make the playoffs, that’s fine, but Anthony should have taken an MRI days ago.

The athlete will always want to play. It’s the medical staff’s job to not have the mindset of the athlete, though, and inform the person of what they’re dealing with. And it’s the Knicks’ job to instruct their staff to do as much.

Of course, the Knicks will be eliminated any day now, if not on Friday night, Anthony will have that MRI soon after and he’ll sit out the rest of season. And we’ll probably forget all of this soon enough, as the New York Knicks give us something else to sadly shake our heads over.

You deserve better, New York.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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