By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks took a big step on Sunday afternoon, showing that they have the offensive firepower to beat a playoff caliber team. This is a game the team would not have won a week ago, when Amar’e Stoudemire was still on the shelf with his bad back. The poor defense is a big concern but it can be chalked up to the absence of Tyson Chandler. If anyone ever doubted his value, all they needed to do was watch the game against the Hawks. In a game Mike Woodson called an old-fashioned shootout, the story was the offense.
Very wisely, Mike Woodson made sure that either Carmelo Anthony or Stoudemire were on the floor for nearly the entire game. The offense either ran through Anthony in isolation and post opportunities, or via Amar’e Stoudemire in the pick and roll. Both guys were able to do their thing without getting in each other’s way and both were effective. Carmelo Anthony’s bad shooting has nothing to do with Stoudemire’s presence. If those two can combine for 50 or more points per game in the playoffs, this Knicks team has a real chance for a first round upset.
Amar’e Stoudemire, playing center with Tyson Chandler out, tried to do more than just score. With 12 rebounds and a near blocked shot at the end of the game he had an impact that wasn’t on the offensive end. His play around the basket was especially encouraging, finishing with explosion, lift and power. This was not the below the rim player that Knicks fans saw the first two months of the season. Besides the still rusty mid-range jumper, this looked like the same athletic Amar’e Stoudemire that carried the Knicks almost singlehandedly for the first half of 2010.
It’s important to note, however, that the test isn’t over yet. Stoudemire showed the ability to play with Carmelo Anthony, but Tyson Chandler wasn’t there. Many of the pick and roll opportunities Stoudemire got in the game on Sunday could go to Chandler when he returns. With Chandler near the rim, will Stoudemire have enough room to operate inside? For readers of this blog, you know I never had much doubt that Anthony and Stoudemire could play together. But I’m starting to wonder whether or not Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire can co-exist offensively.
I realize that sounds somewhat silly since Tyson Chandler is an afterthought on offense, but bear with me. Both players get most of their opportunities as the roll man in high screen situations. Both players cannot fill that role on the floor at the same time. Stoudemire would be relegated as a spot up shooter if Chandler sets the screen. If Stoudemire is the man involved in the primary action, what does Tyson Chandler do? He doesn’t have the jump shot to spread the floor. More often than not his man can offer help defense and prevent Stoudemire from getting runs at the hoops. Stoudemire is not a strong passer and he wouldn’t make many plays getting the ball to Chandler cutting off those double teams.
Thursday night, the Knicks needs to get Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler on the floor at the same time and see how it works. Even if it isn’t perfect, it doesn’t doom the Knicks. Mike Woodson just has to make sure Amar’e Stoudemire, though a starter, is also the backup center and will be the anchor of the second unit with Jared Jeffries, Landry Fields, Steve Novak, and JR Smith. I would also like to see Baron Davis run with that group so Amar’e Stoudemire has a point guard to run the pick and roll with.
The solution is simply. Have Amar’e Stoudemire and Baron Davis be the first two Knicks out of the game about six minutes into the game. Let Chandler and Anthony play the entire first quarter. When the second quarter begins, check Stoudemire and Davis back in to match them with the rest of the second unit, and sit down Chandler and Anthony. This way the Knicks make the most out of their players talents and make sure they have enough offensive firepower on the floor at all times.
Mike Woodson has been dealt a tough hand and he only has a couple of games to figure it all out, but the Knicks have the talent to pull off a first round upset if they can put it all together. The standings matter, but figuring out rotations and substitutions is far more important. If he does, the playoffs could be a lot of fun.
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