We’ve not only heard about it since the middle of last season, but have seen it first hand- the transition of the New York Knicks into a defensive minded team.
From the time Mike Woodson took over for Mike D’Antoni a season ago and with an offseason filled with additions to make the Knicks a better defensive team, many people expected the Knicks to be a defensive juggernaut from day one of training camp.
But that hasn’t been the case. Not at least through five preseason games.
So far, the Knicks team defense looks below average at best.
The Knicks have looked flat on defense a lot — not guarding the pick-and-roll well — and it shows in the box score. They allow plenty of room to shoot threes, and the opposition has made them for the most part. They have also allowed a ton of fastbreak points. The lackluster attitude also shows up in the offensive rebounding margin.
Looking at the Raptors game in particular, Amar’e Stoudemire really struggled staying with center Jonas Valanciunas, and that opened up second-chance opportunities for the Raptors. When Stoudemire does return, he must be better defensively or teams will exploit this and the Knicks can’t afford to allow teams second and third opportunities.
Then there’s fourth quarter execution. The Knicks have routinely broken down when trying to make stops in the fourth quarter, not getting back on defense quick enough and slipping behind the pick-and-roll, which is another issue altogether. This team is built to get stops late in games, but they seem to get lazier on the defensive end as the game goes.
The pick-and-roll defense and defensive rotations are very bad. The Sixers finished the first half Monday night shooting 59.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown. The Knicks slip a little too much on screens and sometimes get too reactive watching the ball. They are still sorely missing team chemistry and need that to execute strong team defense. You also can notice the difference when Iman Shumpert doesn’t play.
That brings me to whether or not to be concerned about the Knicks defense.
Injuries have played a huge role in that. I already mentioned Shumpert, but the likes of J.R. Smith, Marcus Camby, Ronnie Brewer, Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace and others have also been out of the lineup for most of the preseason, so it has been difficult to establish chemistry.
Everyone talked about how important a full training camp would be in establishing chemistry on the offensive end, but it is more important to establish it on the defensive end and that’s where it has shown.
However that’s no excuse for the lack of effort we’ve seen at times.
That’s a little bit disturbing, but I will wait until the regular season before coming close to pressing the panic button.
The facts are that until this team gets healthy, we really don’t know what to make of this Knicks team at both ends of the floor.
However the plan was to assemble this team with veterans and make this team very good defensively. I know Woodson feels that young players don’t win championships, but old players don’t stay with younger and more athletic ones on the defensive end of the floor.
It is something that could turn into a problem and it would be almost foolish to not pay attention to the current effort defensively.
The one thing for certain is that if the Knicks plan on contending, they must get much better on the defensive end of the floor.
Follow Matt Shetler on Twitter for news, reaction and analysis from around the NBA.