By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks have hit a small speed bump in what has otherwise been a spectacular start to their season.
As we’ve detailed here, a huge reason for that success has been the play at the point guard position by Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni. On December 2, Felton bruised his left hand against the Suns. Then, on December 13, he bruised his right hand against the Lakers. His Christmas gift from Santa on Tuesday was a sprained ligament on the pinky finger of his shooting hand.
He’s a mess.
In his last 12 games since the initial injury, Felton has shot 36 percent from the field and 27 percent from behind the arc. Yet he is still averaging 16.8 points per game because he is shooting an insane 19.2 shots per game. In that same stretch he is only averaging two free throws per game. The high FGA numbers are slightly skewed since he had to pick up some of the offensive slack while Carmelo Anthony was hurt, but there’s a bigger problem than that.
Teams have noticed Felton’s lack of shooting and are playing the pick-and-roll completely differently. Teams are simply going underneath the pick and backing off, forcing Felton to become a shooter. No help defenders are coming over, making Felton score in order for those plays to be effective. He has been woefully inefficient in trying to take advantage of those defensive strategies. It’s also the reason that during that 12-game stretch, Felton is averaging fewer than six assists per game.
The pick-and-roll is too big a part of the Knicks’ offense to take Felton out of those situations, and as long as he is tossing up bricks, teams will continue to defend it the same way. Felton will continue to brick jumpers or drive into a prepared defender, and the Knicks’ offense will look stagnant. For the most part he is taking decent shots, but they just aren’t going in. Even short jumpers from the free-throw line area are barely a 50/50 proposition. Felton has either been unable or unwilling to get to the rim consistently.
After his hot early-season shooting, Felton was bound to start bricking, but the current pace is not palatable. It’s been so bad that logic dictates it must have something to do with his hand injuries. He needs to sit down, get them healed and come back when he is healthy. Once he returns and proves himself an offensive threat once again, the Knicks pick-and-roll offensive attack will be back and the ball movement will improve.
Until then, Prigioni and Kidd can split the point-guard minutes, while Ronnie Brewer and James White take some of those shooting-guard minutes away from Kidd. This is one of those situations in which the Knicks need to take advantage of their depth. Felton’s toughness and willingness to play through the injuries is laudable, but at this point it seems more like stubbornness that is hurting the team.
The Knicks need Felton playing reasonably well if they want to win big this season. Taking a hit now for future payback is the way to go.
– Marcus Camby looked healthy against the Lakers. He had some spring in his legs and was a factor defensively when Tyson Chandler was off the floor. It was exactly what the Knicks had in mind when they brought him in during the offseason.
– With Brewer struggling so much, I wonder how much Mike Woodson is willing to give White some more time. This point will become moot when Iman Shumpert gets back, but White has shown the willingness to defend and some good athleticism on offense.
– Dwight Howard was the first player all year that I saw slow down Chandler around the basket. Chandler had one of his worst games catching and finishing, but it had plenty to do with Howard’s presence. Alley-oops were at a minimum.
– You can’t do it now with Felton hurt, but when he gets back, Kidd can’t be playing all these minutes. It will do nothing but hurt the team in the long run.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.
Do the Knicks need to sit Felton now so they have him fresh and ready to go later in the season? Sound off with your reasoning below…