By John Schmeelk
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As the Knicks continue to sputter through the regular season — and likely to another lottery season — there has been hidden progress within the losses on the offensive side of the ball.
Defense remains the team’s biggest problem, but its offense is looking much more like an NBA system, not some deformed Isosceles Bermuda Triangle, where good offense disappears forever.
The progress hasn’t been found in points scored or even things like offensive rating, mostly because Carmelo Anthony’s absence skews so many numbers. But digging slightly deeper, the team is slowly shifting away from certain tendencies that really at the beginning of the season.
Earlier, offense was slow, and though the team passed the ball often, it was very stagnant in terms of player movement, especially towards the basket. The triangle is merely a starting point for teams to score on the same plays other teams use: pick and rolls, give and gos, post-ups, catch and shoots and isolations. The first eight games this season, the Knicks averaged only 19 3-point attempts per game and played at the slowest pace in the NBA.
The Knicks have recently been able to incorporate those things into their offense. In the Knicks’ last seven games they are averaging two and half more 3-point attempts per game, 14th most in the NBA. In their last three games, they are averaging just under 24 points per game, moving them into the top 10 in 3-point attempts during that stretch. The Knicks’ bad shooting from behind the arc — 34 percent over their last seven, 24 percent in their last three) have prevented positive results from those changes.
The additional 3-point shots have coincided with five fewer shots per game from dreaded mid-range (8-24 feet) over the team’s last five games. The team is also playing slightly faster, averaging more than 1.5 more possessions per game over the its three, moving from the slowest team in the league to the 25th slowest. It’s a baby step to be sure, but better than no improvement at all.
Why? The first answer is probably Jose Calderon. The veteran point guard knows how to push the ball and run an offense much better than Shane Larkin, who has talent but far less experience and basketball acumen. Calderon initiates a lot of pick and rolls, is a very good floor spacer and 3-point shooter in his own right. He not only creates action to get easier looks for players like Amar’e Stoudemire, but he’s also a good off-the-ball player as a spot-up shooter. Despite being slower than Larkin, he will push the ball up the floor faster with passes, trying to find the team some easier shots.
The offense was always going to take some time to gel, and if the players actually begin playing better, specifically the shooting guards (more on that Tuesday), the results would be matching some of this progress.
- I had reservations about Carmelo Anthony coming back so soon after his back injury, but he looked 100 percent on Sunday night the way he moved around. You still have to wonder how wise it is to rush back a player that just signed a five-year, $125 million contract in a season where the team will be more interested in the draft lottery than the playoffs in May and June.
- I’ll write about this in more details another day, but Derek Fisher really needs to figure out a rotation, and fast. He plays too many guys and it makes it hard for anyone to find a rhythm, specifically the shooting guards.
For everything Knicks and Giants, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk
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