By John Schmeelk
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This isn’t on Mike Woodson any longer.
Sure, there are things that can be nit-picked, like the stubborn use of Jason Kidd, even though he hasn’t scored a point in what seems like a month. Then you have the removal of Chris Copeland and Steve Novak from the rotation, even though the team can’t get their three-point attack going.
But here’s the deal: unless the Knicks’ best players get going, they aren’t going to win anything.
New York only managed to get through the Celtics series because Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert played out of their heads. Felton finally had his first really bad game of the playoffs in Game 3 against Indiana.
Carmelo Anthony has played only four good games out of nine during the playoffs, and just one out of his last six. J.R. Smith hasn’t shot more than 40 percent since Game 3 against Boston. Tyson Chandler hasn’t scored yet in double digits and has only three games with at least 10 rebounds. Roy Hibbert has dominated Chandler game in, game out.
If those three don’t play better, nothing else is going to matter. Their production can’t be blamed on Woodson, either. Since the end of the Celtics series, the Knicks have run fewer isolation plays. Woodson has been saying all the right things: push the tempo, move the ball and take the three-point shot. He knows the problems and the solutions, but his players aren’t carrying it onto the floor.
These are veteran guys.
It’s on them.
The biggest problem in Game 3 — besides missed shots — was a lack of effort. Somehow the Knicks managed to look tired, lackadaisical and uninspired (in the middle of a playoff series) after having three full days off. Motivation falls into the realm of coaching in the dog days of the regular season, when a team might lose interest, but a group of players shouldn’t need an extra push for a crucial playoff game. To come out and play like they are running in quicksand with weights strapped on is totally unacceptable and completely on the players. The Knicks were out-rebounded by 13 total and eight on the offensive glass on Saturday.
That’s not coaching. That’s effort. Its absence was baffling.
Those rebounding numbers made Chandler’s comments about the team’s lack of offensive ball movement even more disturbing. Even though there’s some truth to it, he’s no position to criticize anyone on the Knicks not named Tyson Chandler.
Chandler has made a player that averaged under 12 points per game, shot under 45 percent and averaged fewer than nine rebounds a game look like an All-Star. Hibbert is an average offensive player at best. Chandler, an All-NBA first team defensive player (which was a joke by the way) — and a former Defensive Player of the Year — should be able to slow him on his own. It’s clear he’s not right physically, but he needs to play Hibbert to a draw.
The need to pick up the tempo and run on offense. In transition, they can get some of the three-point game going again. But in order to run, the Knicks have to grab defensive rebounds to start the break. It’s something they were not able to do in Games 1 and 3 of this series. Chandler needs to do better, but the Knicks have to rebound as a team as well. The guards and forwards need to chip in. When in the half-court, Anthony and Smith have to flat-out make shots that they’ve been missing.
These are all player problems, not coaching problems. It’s time for this group to step up and get it done. Since the playoffs started, we’ve only seen one truly good game from New York.
The Knicks much match the Pacers’ effort, something that didn’t happen on Saturday. That has to change.
The players have to play to the back of their basketball card. They haven’t been.
The Knicks aren’t going to win anything if they don’t — no matter the coach.
– I get that Kidd does a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score, but maybe he should consider throwing up a stat from time to time? And, no, turnovers don’t count. Why he’s getting as many minutes as Pablo Prigioni, I have no idea.
– If the Knicks continue to rebound poorly with their big lineup, it might be time to go extremely small with the second unit, playing either Stoudemire or Copeland at center. They can stretch the floor and get the three-point game going.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and New York sports.
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