By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
It’s starting to feel that way, isn’t it? The last three losses for the Knicks, all winnable games, have shaken the confidence of fans everywhere. The most troubling thing of all is how the Knicks are losing these games. There is no consistent effort on defense and offensive execution has been poor
In the preseason and early in the regular season, effort level was something that seemed like it was going to set this Knicks team apart from those the last few years. There was a consistent ferocity on defense, both on the perimeter and in the paint. The group looked like it was willing to do whatever it took to win every game. Now there are times the team looks like it is coasting.
On defense, there are way too many lapses that result in layups or wide open jump shots for the opposition. Stephen Curry ravaged the Knicks on reverse layups on cuts to the basket. The starting five, with Stoudemire and Chandler at center and power forward, showed an alarming lack of help defense, something that’s been a strength this year. The team needs Ronny Turiaf back in the worst way. He is truly a difference maker on the defensive end of the floor.
Poor execution on offense has hurt the defense too. The Warriors scored at least five baskets on uncontested layups off of sloppy Knicks turnovers on Wednesday night. While the defensive problems are more about effort, which are disturbing, those seem far more correctible than the problems on offense.
Raymond Felton has been a good addition to the team with his defense, ability to penetrate and better than advertised shooting. But much like everyone else that covers the Knicks has pointed out, he still hasn’t figured out how to get Amar’e Stoudemire the ball on the pick and roll. Stoudemire is virtually unstoppable when he gets the ball in motion and he can use his athleticism to finish.
What the Knicks have discovered is that he’s down right pedestrian when he has to isolate 15-18 feet away from the basket and create off the dribble. Even though it isn’t in D’Antoni’s system, Stoudemire should try catching the ball closer to the basket in the low post area. He won’t play back to the basket, but he can get to the basket using one quick dribble. It would make it more difficult for help defense to come over, which has been the cause of his turnover problems.
But that would only be a stopgap. This offense is not about isolations and low post play. It is about motion, spreading the floor, and moving the ball on the pick and roll. The Knicks don’t have great three point shooters so they have to get their points going towards the basket. Stoudemire is the guy that has to get them and Felton needs to be the guy getting him the ball. The offense is going to continue to be stagnant until that connection is made. It got so bad Stoudemire even stopped rolling to the basket, playing more of a pick and pop system. The Knicks won’t win games like that.
There’s still plenty of time left in the season, and sometimes chemistry takes longer to develop between some players, but it better happen sooner than later or the Knicks are going to find themselves in a hole they can’t get out of.
Up and Under
Up: Amar’e Stoudemire had his best game as a Knick against the Warriors. But as I mentioned above, is still working way too hard for his points. He has been forced to rely on his jumper to score. Stoudemire has a good one, but if the Knicks are going to win he needs to get to the basket and the free throw line, where he shoots a high percentage. It might also benefit Amar’e to actually work on a move going to his left, where every defender sends him. It was fun to see his eyes light up all the way from section 420 and when the Warriors decided it was a good idea to put Vladimir Radmanovic on him. Oops.
Under: With Ronny Turiaf out with his knee, either Anthony Randolph or Timofey Mozgov needed to step up defensively and on the boards Wednesday night. Neither did. Randolph needs to give this team something off the bench, and he has been a virtual non-factor. Mozgov is mentally psyched out by all the fouls getting called on him.
Going Around the World
If you read my NBA preview you would not be surprised by the Utah Jazz. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson have stepped in and the team hasn’t missed a beat without Carlos Boozer. Now I’d be lying if I told you if I thought he had a 40+ point performance in him, he is making the Jazz not regret that big contract he got. Jerry Sloan has another very good team on his hands, and even though I picked the Thunder to win that division, I’m starting to wish I went with my first instinct and stayed with the Jazz. For a team that really struggles on the road, getting two wins in Florida against the Magic and Heat is huge.
I gave David Lee a round of applause with all the other Knicks fans after the tribute video (not a standing ovation – those are reserved for guys that win) but there’s still no question the Knicks made the right move not bringing him back. It’s impossible to pay two power forwards that don’t play good defense that type of money and put together a balanced team. But remember, Lee is the third banana on the Warriors, and do you really want to pay the third best player on your team 80 million dollars over six years? That’s the bottom line question everyone needs to ask and to me the answer is no.
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk
- Lee Returns, Gives Knicks The Business (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Lee Back At MSG – This Time With Winning Record (newyork.cbslocal.com)