By John Schmeelk
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As the Knicks open up their first west coast trip of the season, there should be one thing on Coach Mike D’Antoni’s mind: finding the team’s facilitator. With all the good things that came with the Knicks first win of the season at home against the Celtics, it was painstakingly obvious that the team needs someone that can overcome pressure defense and get the Knicks into their offense.
There’s obviously no one on this team that is going to be Steve Nash, or even Raymond Felton who can run the pick and roll with Amar’e Stoudemire and create easy shots. Perhaps Baron Davis could be that guy when he gets back. Until that happens, the Knicks are stuck with a shoot-first Toney Douglas, a dilapidated Mike Bibby and an unproven Jeremy Lin.
What the Knicks need from this combination of guards is to get the team into its offense, like Charlie Ward and Chris Childs used to do. Unfortunately, the third quarter against the Celtics made Knicks fans everywhere question whether they can.
There was a lot of talk from Mike D’Antoni before the season started that he was going to use Carmelo Anthony to initiate the offense more, hoping he could thrive as a passer despite his shoot-first reputation. Even though Anthony wasn’t seen in a ton of pick and rolls with Stoudemire, he did bring the ball up a ton in the first half and fourth quarter. It was when he left the game with foul trouble in the third quarter that the Knicks’ weakness was exploited. Their offense was disjointed and discombobulated without Anthony on the floor, unable to do even the simplest thing like get the ball to Amar’e Stoudemire in the high post.
And it’s Stoudemire that’s going to feel the brunt of the pain. His greatest strength, finishing off the pick and roll has been taken away from him with the lack of a true point guard getting him the ball. Unless Carmelo Anthony can improve in that regard, he will have to figure out other ways to score.
Luckily, he has developed an excellent mid-range jump shot and has even extended his range out to the three point line. The Knicks, however, do not want their 6’11 franchise power forward shooting jumpers all game. He’s going to have to figure out how to get baskets close to the hoop without a lot of help from his passers because help might not be arriving.
There’s no guarantee when Baron Davis will be back from injury and how effective he will be when he returns. There’s a reason Jeremy Lin was on the street, no matter how good scouts say he is at seeing the floor and running the pick and roll, he’s no answer.
Mike Bibby’s back issues are simply another sign pointing to the fact that he is over-the-hill. Toney Douglas is a streaky scorer and would be a great spark off the bench, but he is no point guard. Iman Shumpert is more of a shooting guard than a playmaker at the point in his career.
More than ever, the half court the offense will depend on the individual talents of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Without talented passers in the backcourt, there aren’t easy ways to get baskets.
That’s the real reason why the Knicks need to push the ball more. Easy shots can be had in transition, whether dunks or open jumpers, even without a great point guard. If the Knicks can’t run out west against the likes of the Warriors, they never will.
As much as things like defense and rebounding still need to be improved, I’ll be keeping an eye on the guy handling the basketball and the pace of the offense when the Knicks head out west. These two things will likely determine how good the Knicks are going to be until Baron Davis gets back.
Can any of the Knicks ‘in-house options’ fill the role of a facilitating pass-first point guard? Sound off below…
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