PARIS -- Such a beautiful city, such an ugly game. Maybe David Stern has it right with the decision to have the Nets and Raptors in March play a pair of regular season games in London. If you're going to sell the game, better to sell it when the games matter.
Then again, by March those games might not matter to the Nets and Raptors.
This was a trip loaded with enriching experiences, but from a basketball perspective, the Knicks showed in a 106-100 loss to the Timberwolves here that they have a lot of work to do, mainly on offense.
It starts with Raymond Felton, who clearly hasn't found a comfort zone in this guard-dominated system that helped helped Steve Nash become a two-time MVP and even made Chris Duhon look like a legitimate NBA starter at times. Felton had a Duhon-like stat-line tonight, with four points (1-for-6 FGs) and four assists and four rebounds with five turnovers in 29:20.
That's got to get better and it should once he understands that he has to have the ball in his hands more and not look to give it up so quickly.
Right now, after two games, Toney Douglas has looked like the better point guard. Douglas has the advantage of spending a full season learning the system. And he's in tremendous shape. And he is relentless on defense. Toney's stat line: 12 points (4-for-9), three assists, three seals and zero turnovers in 21:22.
Timofey Mozgov endured his first night of frustration with a full NBA officiating crew. He had three fouls in his first five minutes of playing time and fouled out in 14:46. He still managed eight points (3-for-5) and two blocks, but he grabbed just two rebounds. If he's going to be mention as a potential starter, he has to do more board work than that.
So does the entire team. The Knicks were outrebounded 62-35 in this game. Kevin Love (14 boards) had as many rebounds in 24:35 as the entire starting frontcourt for the Knicks. Anthony Randolph had another nice scoring game with 14 points (7-for-9 from the line) but he had just two rebounds.
The issue is that the floor is often so spread out, the one big who is down low is usually outnumbered. Another issue is just lacking the intangible skill that comes with having a strong rebounder, as we saw with David Lee. It's an instinct, but it also has to become a responsibility. Players have to get it in their minds to focus on it. Right now, at least among the starters, there is a lot of watching.
"We just didn't do a good job on the weak side," Mike D'Antoni said. "We got lazy on it. We were just turning heads and they were good.
"It's not something we can't do," he continued. "We can rebound. We'll get better."
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* - If you're looking for positives (and so many of you on Twitter seem to chafe at my need to make brutally honest observations during the game), focus on the deep end of the bench, where the rookies we featured in the previous blog sit. Landry Fields had a solid 16:19 and put up 13 points (5-for-9 from the field) and Andy Rautins saw his first live action and had six points (2-for-3 from downtown), three rebounds, an assist and even a blocked shot with two turnovers in 11:43.
* - If you haven't seen it yet, you need to take a look at Amar'e Stoudemire's cover photo for ESPN the Magazine. Then make sure to read my story off the game on Newsday.com to get his thoughts on the shoot.
* - So the Ricky Rubio's parents chose not to accept T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor's invitation to meet him here in Paris Tuesday to have dinner and discuss Ricky's future. Not entirely a big deal now, but Rubio does have that opt-out for FC Barcelona to come to the NBA in 2011, but there might not be an NBA to come to if there is a lockout. GM David Kahn, who was here, maintains that Rubio will begin his NBA career in a T-Wolves uniform.
* - Chris Mullin introduced me to a Long Island basketball star, Ron Stewart, who played with him at St. John's and was a standout for Coach Stan Kellner at Brentwood High School (Class of '81). Stewart played professionally here in France and also coached. He played an important role in the development of several French-bred players, such as Tony Parker and Joakim Noah.
* - Of the many amazing sights I was able to take in over the last three days here in Paris, one of the most memorable will be spotting Walt Frazier walking the streets in his famous "Clyde" character, dressed to the nines and, as he put it, "Stylin' and profilin'". We walked and talked for a little while and even in this trend-setting city, people stopped in their tracks to gawk.
* - The team flies back to New York on Thursday morning, along with your loyal bloghost and the rest of the traveling beat boys at the Times, Post and News. The team will have Thursday and Friday off for a much-needed rest and then get back at it Saturday. On Sunday, the team will hold their annual Open Practice for fans at Madison Square Garden. Doors open at 11 a.m.See the team website for details and information.