The New York Post’s Marc Berman has found another expert critical of the Knicks’ first round draft selection, Renaldo Balkman. Sadly for Isiah Thomas, the person quoted is Balman’s most recent coach, South Carolina’s Dave Odom.
Odom said he’s concerned how Balkman will defend quicker small forwards on the perimeter and how he’ll fit into halfcourt sets on offense. Balkman played power forward at South Carolina, which won the past two NITs at the Garden.
“He hasn’t played a lot of one-on-one defense; he was our post defender, so it’s something he has to work on,” Odom said. “I was very honest with [Isiah]. Isiah will you tell you, I didn’t blow him up. I’m very proud of him but I really do think he’s a work in progress.”
Though Balkman was NIT MVP at the Garden in March, blocking six shots in the final, he was benched 12 games last season.
“Looking over his career, every third game was a great game,” Odom said. “But two of the three have been OK, sometimes not OK. Consistency has been a problem. He has to discipline himself to bring his best every night, and he’ll be a very good player.”
Odom said Balkman’s biggest strength is grabbing defensive rebounds and dribbling out on the break. Though Thomas plans for the Knicks to be high-tempo, most possessions are halfcourt sets where Balkman’s decision-making, passing and shot-making are suspect, according to Odom.
“At his size, he’s got to play on the perimeter in the NBA,” Odom said. “He’s not going to make a living playing with his back to the basket. He’s got to work on catching the ball on the perimeter and making plays. That’s not something he’s done a lot of. Most championship games are decided at the halfcourt level. That would be an area he’ll need to work on.”
Balkman was a defensive dynamo at the Orlando pre-draft camp, but most NBA executives felt there wasn’t a first-round pick on the floor. Odom was upset with Balkman that he signed with an agent five days before the draft, ruining his chances of coming back to South Carolina if he didn’t get drafted.
“But I will say, if he went back to school, it wouldn’t have improved his draft position next year from 20,” Odom said.
Thomas compared Balkman in style to Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman. One league scout said, “He’s a Jerome Williams, that’s a better comparison.”
The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk is excited by the Raptors’ acquisition of former Longhorn standout PG T.J. Ford…and pretty quick to bury the notion that Charlie Villanueva is a breakout star in the making.
It’s easy to argue the fundamental flaws of moving Villanueva, which is what you were probably expecting from the resident grump. It’s been said you simply do not trade big guys for small guys in a league in which size usually wins. But this is a special case, for a few reasons.
It’s true that Villanueva is both a hard-to-guard scorer and a 6-foot-11 specimen, a rare combination. Yes, he overcame an ugly draft-night reception a year ago to have some great games ” including a 48-point outburst in a loss to the Bucks ” and he finished second in rookie-of-the-year voting. But Villanueva hasn’t exactly proven the scouting report wrong. He did disappear for long stretches, just as the college watchers said he would. When it came to defending, he seemed to disdain the prospect of sweating without statistical return.
That’s not to say he’s not going to improve. But with Spanish forward Jorge Garbajosa on the way to town and centre Rasho Nesterovic already here, the frontcourt is getting crowded. And it’s important to remember that Villanueva arrived in what he called the best shape of his career and still sported a body soft enough to make the press corps feel slightly less self-conscious about their spare rubber. So while Ford is a risk ” while a spinal cord injury kept him out of the entire 2004-05 season recovering from surgery ” even more risky was the possibility that Villanueva, who needed constant butt-kickings from the coaching staff last season, could see his career flat-line or regress.
Previous Raptor regimes have underestimated the importance of a true point guard to their doom. Mike James isn’t a true point guard, and with Bryan Colangelo as president and GM, James won’t be retained as a free agent. Rafer Alston couldn’t be relied upon. And even Alvin Williams, as justifiably revered as he is, was never enough of a penetrator for the purist’s taste.
Once upon a time, I told a good friend a couldn’t attend his birthday part because I’d made plans to watch the NBA Draft.
Said friend has barely spoken to me since.
(Cheetos are journalism-fuel!)
With this memory firmly in mind, I can only imagine the response had I begged off the party in order to heckle Stephen A. Smith. Some people have their priorities in order, and I salute them.