By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks lost their first game over the weekend to the Memphis Grizzlies, who exploited the Knicks small lineup with Carmelo Anthony at power forward. With Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol at power forward and center the Knicks had few answers in the paint, and struggled on the boards. It was truly the first time a team could show the Knicks real size at the four and five and it created all sorts of problems.
The first one was foul trouble. Carmelo Anthony battled foul trouble the entire game trying to guard Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the post. Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace got into foul trouble as well. The constant whistles also put the team in a foul mood and got them out of their game in the third quarter. The referees had a quick whistle but this type of problem could crop up against teams like these.
The Grizzlies also out-rebounded the Knicks by six, and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds. Zach Randolph finished with eight of his fifteen rebounds coming on the offensive end. With a constant mismatch in the post, the Knicks had to double team a lot, which leads to a lack of boxing out. The Knicks are a poor rebounding team overall with Carmelo Anthony at the four, and the Grizzles made a point to exploit, especially early in the game (5 first quarter offensive rebounds).
This season the Knicks sit as the second worst rebounding team in the league, getting out-rebounded by almost five rebounds a game. With the way the Knicks rotate on defense, and with Carmelo Anthony playing power forward, this is unlikely to change. It’s a weakness the Knicks can survive considering last year the Celtics were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. (this year they are the worst) But it’s not easy given the other teams at the bottom of the list numbered as some of the worst teams in the league. The Knicks do have some options to try to solve the problem.
I was surprised the Knicks didn’t go to Marcus Camby against the Grizzlies. Head coach Mike Woodson says he is healthy enough to play, and I don’t quite understand why he wasn’t used to counteract the Grizzlies’ size. Despite Camby’s age and offensive deficiencies, he can still rebound the ball. I’m guessing the Knicks like Wallace’s ability to stretch the floor on offense and that’s why he is ahead of Camby in the rotation, but there’s no reason both guys can’t play at the same time in certain situations. It would also help to limit their minutes so they are fresh later in the season. Once Camby gets more practice time, remember he missed the entire preseason with a calf injury, I would expect him to play more.
Amar’e Stoudemire’s return will help in this regard as well. Once he gets back the Knicks will have an option at power forward other than Carmelo Anthony that can score consistently. Granted, he is not a great rebounder or defender, but he still provides athleticism and punch in the paint.
Fortunately for the Knicks, few teams have to big guys that can score down low like the Grizzlies do. The Lakers are one, but there aren’t many others, especially in the East. Even against a team like the Pacers, Carmelo Anthony can match up with a guy like David West just fine. But eventually the Knicks are going to have to figure out their rebounding problem. Mike Woodson has the flexibility to go big if he has to, and I would have liked to have seen it more against the Grizzlies on Friday night, and against bigger teams in the future.
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