Three games into the season the Knicks are 1-2. As Alan Hahn said last night “this team has yet to find an identity”. If the Knicks continue with this brand of basketball, Coach Mike Woodson will soon be on the hot seat, if he isn’t already. Carmelo Anthony is off to a poor start and someone needs to be held accountable. For now, today, it is Woodson.
This team from the preseason came out flat. They talked acted and reacted like they were champions living off their 54-win season a year ago. How quickly they forgot they just squeezed past Boston and lost to Indiana. It was a season with merit, but no banner.
Coach Woodson was originally brought to New York to be the defensive coach for Mike D’Antoni. I don’t think that D’Antoni’s Lakers, minus Kobe Bryant, have given up 40 points in a first quarter, or any quarter for that matter. This is not a defensive team, but the Knicks are yet to find a rotation that maximizes what defensive potential they have.
A defensive team comes out with a defensive presence. The Knicks started with an 11-2 lead last night before Minnesota ran them off the court. Much of this was due to sloppy play and turnover that allowed Minnesota continuous fast break points. Felton and Prigioni scored a combined 13 points, 8-3 respectively, whereas Kevin Martin scored 30 by himself. The Timberwolves backcourt controlled this game as Rubio and Martin were a plus39 — +13 and +26, respectively, versus the Knicks small ball lineup of Prigioni and Felton a minus-17. Now for more bad news, the minus-17 all belonged to Felton as Prigioni was a 0 in the plus-minus category. The Knicks must establish a backcourt. If it means J.R.Smith starting, so be it.
If I am Steve Mills, I am on the phone today. This team needs to tighten its backcourt and boost it offensive presence. Small-ball, Melo-ball will not win 54 games — team ball will.
This was not a strong defensive team without Metta World Peace on the floor. World Peace was a plus-17, the highest amongst the Knicks. The only other Knick to display a positive plus-minus, was Anthony with a + 7. Anthony, who did not shoot well, butwas the glue for New York and led all rebounders with 17 boards. Anthony showed grit; his teammates did not step up.
This is not the same team as last year, which excelled in the preseason and started the season on fire with an 18-5 record. Early last year, the Knicks knew their identity, played tough defense, shot the three ball, and didn’t turn the ball over. This team plays porous defense, doesn’t shoot the three well, and turns the ball over too often.
Woodson needs to substitute better and find a winning combination quickly. Although he needs to respect his medical staff, he may respect them out of his own job. Why was Stoudemire not allowed to play last night after a few days rest? Why did he not find a way to bring Bargnani back in the game after another hot third quarter? Yes, Bargnani was a minus-11, but Chandler was a minus-17. Bargnani scored 14 points in 19 minutes on 2-4 shooting from the three point line and 6-10, for the game, with 3 rebounds. That is almost a point a minute and as the small ball team started to tire, Bargnani would have been a better option than Hardaway who was 0-7 from the three point line. Now I love the rookie, but there is a time and a place. Martin torched Hardaway Jr., which wouldn’t have happened because Shumpert should’ve been guarding Martin. The Knicks switch too often as the guards continually allow people to pass them by. This puts pressure on the Knicks front court and allows easy assists and rebounds for the opposition.
The Knicks are not the same team as last year. Gone are Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland. Kidd started the year on fire from the three point line; he and Novak opened the floor for Anthony. This is not a great three point shooting team. There are many scorers, but Novak is a marksman, a sniper, and this team lacks that. Anthony was doubled and even triple teamed last night and no one except Bargnani and Peace showed a consistent game. Coach must stay with Bargnani as 19 minutes is not acceptable for your major off season addition. Last year in the playoffs he went without Novak and Copeland and it cost him. Coach must decide are we a defensive team, a three point shooting team. He must decide quickly as his job will depend on it.