It’s important to remember that the only three games the New York Knicks have played this season have been meaningless preseason games. Exhibitions, practically, used to let guys get back into game shape, let teams get their reps and practice their sets. Still, it’s hard to ignore that the Knicks seem to have a problem defensively, especially without Tyson Chandler.
Through three games, the Knicks have been giving up an average of 104 points per game to two lowly teams in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics. Most recently, they allowed the Celtics to rack up 111 points in 30-point blowout. Of course, there are several exceptions: the Knicks haven’t yet been playing with a full team, they’ve allowed their rookies and training camp invites to play major minutes, and last night Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, and Beno Udrih sat out. Come regular season, these early trends could possibly disappear. However, right now, the depth of big men on the team is concerning.
Tyson Chandler is the lone center on the roster, and his back-ups haven’t been inspiring confidence. Kenyon Martin will fill in as a back-up; however, he’s been sitting out scrimmages, hasn’t played in the preseason, and isn’t a true center. He’s a reliable defender when healthy, but as of now, it doesn’t seem the Knicks can rely on him each night.
Furthermore, none of the training camp invites have performed all that admirably. Cole Aldrich has seen the bulk of the minutes, but has looked somewhat incompetent on the offensive end and slightly lost on the defensive end. In just under 40 minutes of playing time, Aldrich has nabbed 12 rebounds, but only 4 points on 2-7 shooting. In the minutes he’s seen, opposing big men have taken advantage of him down low on both sides of the court.
Josh Powell got the start in last night’s game, but in 26 minutes of playing time, he was a -41, getting abused by Boston’s big men while registering just 6 points and 3 rebounds himself.
Ike Diogu showed some promise last night, leading the way with 21 points and 8 rebounds. However, Diogu hasn’t played in the NBA in two seasons, and he’s only 6’9″, meaning he also isn’t really qualified to play back-up center.
What the Knicks will do to try to plug up the hole is another question. Jeremy Tyler is a legitimate 7-feet, but he’ll miss the beginning of the season recovering from foot surgery, and no one really knows if he’ll be able to give the Knicks what they need off the bench. Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani have the build to play back-up center, but anyone who’s ever watched either one knows that they aren’t what the Knicks need to back up Chandler.
It’s far too early to talk about trades, but if there’s one to be made during the season, it may be in search for a true center to come off the bench. Perhaps the defensive problems will take care of themselves once the Knicks get more repetitions and return to health, but it’s a situation to monitor.
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