Winning in sports is often more about chemistry than talent. When the Dallas Mavericks won their championship three years ago, they displayed more chemistry than talent.
Only Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler have gone on to excel and become all-stars from that team. It was a group of talented players who came together to beat the Miami Heat. The San Antonio Spurs proved that again last year with an all-star point guard and an aging center that chemistry wins games and only a miraculous three point shot at the buzzer by Ray Allen altered their triumph.
New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson needs to not be a slave to player’s minutes, but coach the game by impulse by feel. I love Woodson, but so far this year he is watching his watch, more than the game.
Thursday night the Knicks were clearly the better team. However, down the stretch of the game, for the last three minutes, every shot was taken by Carmelo Anthony. Unfortunately, he missed every single one, not just the last one as many reporters reported. Anthony was scoreless down the stretch.
Now I don’t blame Anthony, no one else wanted to shoot. Most times the players stood around and watched their star go to work. The facts are clear Anthony could be the best 1-on-1 player in the NBA, but at the end of the game he was playing 1-on-5. There were no set plays, just isolation a formula that didn’t work last year either.
Down the stretch the Knicks needed J.R. Smith. He is great in these sequences as he has the heart of a lion. Smith attacks, penetrates and forces the defense not to go 5-on-1. With his absence no Knick wanted to shoot down the stretch, the Anthony isolation is just too predictable.
Woodson should have had Andrea Bargnani on the floor. He is a scorer. Let him live or die by the sword. He was once a weapon and still can be a proficient scorer.
The Knicks and Woodson need to both embrace and develop him, or why trade for him? Imagine he was booed in New York his first night of playing in New York. Shame on you fellow Knick fans. He is not the white hope. He has scored his entire career. He has never been a great rebounder or defender. In his first game he was relegated to the bench as a substitute and when put in the game Woodson played him at an unnatural position, center.
Bargnani showed signs of life Thursday night. He showed given the opportunity, he just maybe can be that third or fourth option the Knicks need. He got in a rhythm in the third quarter Thursday, however after his offensive outburst he saw very little light the rest of the evening. At one juncture Bargnani made four consecutive baskets, shot 1-of-2 from the three, 4-for-7 overall and stretched the floor. Thursday night was his chance for a coming out party. Woodson missed an opportunity here to build confidence in a young player and maybe win the game.
Currently the Knicks have too many players playing out of position. Despite Chandler’s 19 rebounds the Knicks were outrebounded 48-42. Woodson first mistake is playing Bargnani at center. He is tall, but he is a wing player, all posting up does is pull him out of his comfort zone. In the first half he had three offensive fouls and no points.
In the third quarter he had nine points and helped bring the Knicks back in the game. His offensive outburst made Chicago not collapse the paint and soon Anthony also went to work. Woodson has to give his $10 million a year player a chance. At games end he had Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway on the court, not Bargnani or Amar’e Stoudemire. What is that $30 million in salary cap dollars on the bench? This is an expensive chemistry lesson.
Shumpert and Hardaway are two guards, when both on the court with Anthony the Knicks were just small and only Chandler could get a rebound. The Knicks also need to develop some offensive sets and not rely on two plays-pick-and-roll and Anthony isolation.
Raymond Felton needs to pick up where Jason Kidd left off by providing leadership and defense at games end. He made chemistry, Felton needs to go back in the lab and watch some film from last year. Even when he endured the worst shooting funk of his career, if he was open he took the shot. His presence got the Knicks off to a18-5 start last year. Felton has the talent, but must stop with the faces, he must stop whining and start winning.
Woodson needs to coach again by feel, yes minutes are important, but so are wins. Kenyon Martin played four minutes, which is not enough time to break a sweat. Stoudemire’s 10 minutes were not enough time to develop a rhythm, Pablo Prigioni got only 11 minutes. Is he now on restriction?
There were two Felton’s Thursday night. The good Felton that penetrates attacks the basket and the walk it down Felton, who lulls his team to sleep as he predictably gives the ball to Anthony.
I often wonder why the medical team doesn’t sit next to the coach during games? If a player is not ready to play 20 minutes a game then don’t dress him. Play a healthy eight man rotation and play ball. This is a team yet to find its identity and Woodson needs to be more decisive in his decisions.
It is a coach’s job to develop team unity, chemistry. Woodson needs to go back into the lab and develop the winning formula.