Dec 1, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New Orleans Pelicans point guard Tyreke Evans (1) shoots as New York Knicks power forward Andrea Bargnani (77) defends during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. New Orleans Pelicans won 103-99. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks: Time to Man Up

No one imagined the New York Knicks would be this bad this season, or did they?  Fans should ask themselves this question: if management was so happy with this team — as James Dolan stated in an interview — why was Glen Grunwald fired? 

Sunday night, without their opponent’s best player on the floor,the Knicks lost again at home to the New Orleans Pelicans in a 103-99 defeat.  

The Knicks, now a horrible 3-13, suffered as heartbreaking a loss as they have experienced all season, New Orleans (8-8) played most of the game without its best player, Anthony Davis, who left with 1:33 remaining in the first quarter after breaking a bone in his left hand.  It was a non-displaced fracture, which thankfully for Davis will have a quicker turnaround time.

This was a bad loss as it was echoed by Carmelo Anthony, who said, “I think we’re playing to lose rather than playing to win right now. When you lose games the way we’ve been losing them, at home, on the road, you start playing tense.”

This is a flawed team, coached by a coach who last year implemented Mike D’Antoni’s three-point, spread offense with a twist.  The twist was ‘Melo-ball, designed for Carmelo Anthony. This year, without many of last year’s key three-point shooters, the Knicks have looked stale and displaced on offense.However, Sunday night, a shining star stood out: Tim Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway was great as he finished with a 21-point night in which he made 5 of 8 three-pointers, including three straight early in the fourth quarter. Humbly, when interviewed Hardaway said, “It was an energy game but on top of that, I don’t think I played very well,’’ Hardaway said. “I’ve got a long way to go on the defensive end and I really want to focus on that.’’

The key word is defense, the same defense Woodson forgot to coach that night in the fourth quarter. If I graded last night game, I would have given Woodson an F.  With Pablo Prigioni on the floor, the Knicks showed energy and built a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, after trailing by two after three quarters.

This is when the game literally changed.New Orleans called time out. After the time out, New Orleans sharp shooter Ryan Anderson, who shot 7-11 from the 3 point line, once again left alone, drilled a three.No one covered Anderson, despite his hot shootingl he was left alone in the corner as the Knicks’ flawed defensive strategy of switching got them in trouble again.  Prigioni was pulled from the game, and Raymond Felton, who played a good overall game, could do nothing down the stretch. Prigioni played only 10 minutes last night and was pulled too quickly in the fourth quarter.

Coach Woodson stayed loyal to Felton and Smith down the end, and again, his loyalty to those two may have cost him the game.  Coach stated when interviewed,“I’ve got to find some identity with this team.” He continued, “It’s my job to figure it out. It’s my job to get these guys committed for 48 minutes.”

Well, one month of the season is already over, and the Knicks rank almost last in every category.  Last night, a rookie who has sat most of the season showed the spark that Smith has not provided. Smith is a good player, but he is not a starter, not a guy to always be on the floor at the end of games. When he is hot, he is great, but he is still healing as is obvious in his labored movements around the floor.

The Knicks become too predictable late in games.Felton, amongst others, kept forcing the ball into Anthony, which often resulted in double teams on Anthony or turnover which were costly to the Knicks. Give the ball to Carmelo Anthony, every time is not a good late game program as illustrated by Anthony now being only 1 for 16, in late game situations when shootingfor a tie or win.

This is a troubled Knick team.Smith is not the same as he still is recovering from off season knee surgery. Felton has been hampered by a hamstring injury and is often too slow and liable on defense.  Amar’e Stoudemire might never come close to being what he once was. Iman Shumpert played a good game; he shot 3-5 with 7 rebounds in only 21 minutes and was a plus 1. At games’ end, the Knicks could not get a rebound.  Where was Kenyon Martin, who only played 17 minutes?

Small ball has its place and can help at certain points of the game, but it is not and should not be a full time game plan.  When the Knicks needed rebounds, they could not get them.  Down the stretch, Felton was putrid turning the ball over on consecutive possessions. It was defense that cost the Knicks this game.

This is also the same coach that was originally brought in by D’Antoni to add defense to this Knick team.  This is the same coach that continually picks on Iman Shumpert, who outside of Tyson Chandler, is the best defensive player on this team.  When Shumpert is on the floor, the Knicks defense improves by 7.1 per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com.Shumpert has struggled on offense this year, but which Knick hasn’t?He played with heart last night and yelled at Anthony for missing a defensive assignment.  I applaud his ability to stand up to Anthony. How was Shumpert rewarded? Coach gave him the bench.  He should have given him minutes and rested Smith.

This team must stop switching on every play.Every team gets too many open shots.  If it isn’t working, fix it.  The key to defense is staying in front of your man. This switch on every occasion only brings confusion to the Knicks and allows open shot for the opposition.  The pick and roll is the downfall of this defensive strategy and simply does not work as it allows defenders like Felton to be lazy, versus taking responsibility for his man. The Knicks need to man up and cover their man. Allowing Anderson so many open threes was inexcusable.

The Knicks defense is lacking, offense is erratic, and attitude is fading.  This team is as broken as Tyson Chandler’s leg.  They need quick repairs.

I see four options.

1. Fire Woodson- he seems to have lost this team, which is a shame.

2. Trade Shumpert- This would make sense as his value is high and Hardaway could step in offensively.If the Knicks can package Shumpert as part of blockbuster trade for another star—a real star—then they have to. They have no other choice.

3. Trade Amar’e Stoudemire- Bleachers Report’s Jared Zwerling outlined a potential trade for the Knicks, which included Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries.  In that scenario, according to the source, the Knicks would acquire Humphries and Wallace, while the Celtics would lose two massive salaries for one, Stoudemire, who the Celtics would have to retain only until 2015 (Wallace is through 2016).

The Knicks may be able to package this with another team but once Chandler returns, they will still need a point guard.

4. All of the above- This is a tough time for a weak team; moves have to be made, stay tuned.  Dolan hates losing but a loss to the also struggling Nets on Thursday may be too hard for Dolan to tolerate.

Tags: J.R. Smith Knicks Losing Streak Mike Woodson New York Knicks Raymond Felton

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