Knicks Losing Ways May Be A Personnel Problem

Published on: 16th January, 2012

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Dwight_Howard
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New York – It is still only 13 games into the NBA season for the New York Knickerbockers so of course, there’s nothing for Knicks fans to really worry about, given their shaky 6-7 start.

Right?

After today’s Martin Luther King matinee at the Garden against the Orlando Magic, in which the Magic used a 29-18 last quarter advantage to defeat the Knicks, 102-93, it is apparent the troubling aspects surrounding the configuration of this Knicks roster in the earliest stages of the season are still very much in play, here in the middle of January.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, those troubling aspects seem to be on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court, which pretty much covers all elements of a basketball game.

Today’s defensive deficiencies allowed Ryan Anderson, who used to be a number one draft choice of the New Jersey Nets three years ago before getting traded to the Magic, to score a career-high 30 points. It was probably the easiest 30 he’s ever scored at any level of his playing career.

Hitting a career-best seven three pointers (on 13 attempts from behind the stripe), Anderson looked like he was in the gym all alone, practicing nice, easy unrushed jumpers from trey-land. The 6’10” California kid has always been a pretty good shooter but the way the Knicks were NOT guarding him, especially in the final quarter when the game was up for grabs,  makes it look like something is definitely broken in the way the Knicks are being coached to play on the defensive side. Or, the personnel mix is not quite right to develop a consistent defensive initiative.

On the offensive side, despite having a frontcourt of All-Stars in Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and newly-signed center, Tyson Chandler, the Knicks lack of a facilitator does not look to be a temporary issue. More accurately, that too, looks like a personnel issue.

With Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby, and rookie Iman Shumpert sharing the point, D’Antoni does not have a natural point guard to distribute the ball, manage the offense, get others good shots in positions where they can succeed. Bibby’s performances thus far have made it pretty clear the Knicks will be pulling the plug on the veteran in a relatively short time while Douglas has never had the instincts of a floor general or the ability to penetrate and dish to open shooters. Shumpert is talented, tall, and athletic but has never played the point. At this stage of his career, despite D’Antoni’s attempts to force-feed the kid into the lineup, he is not an NBA point guard.

That leaves all the Knicks hopes and dreams of a successful 2011-12 season resting on the shoulders and the most vulnerable back problems of one Baron Davis, the point guard in waiting who is rehabbing his not so small problem with a herniated disc in his lower back. Davis, a great offensive talent who could score and create with the best of the NBA point guards is now 32-years old and not quite as quick as he used to be. Still, if healthy, he is a significant improvement over the troika of players the Knicks are using to fill in.

“We are not making shots right now,” said Anthony after today’s game. “It seems like we can’t shoot the ball in the ocean right now. We get shots but we can’t score the basketball. I don’t know what it is. We just got to get out of this shooting slump.”

The question of whether this is a “slump,” as Anthony puts it, is up for discussion. The offensive meshing has not happened yet for this Knicks offense, and it is looking as if it may not happen because this roster is comprised of a bunch of mismatched talents. Despite the dominant names in the front court, the basketball has been like velcro, it’s sticky. There is little ball movement to finding the open man for an easy shot, always a hallmark of D’Antoni-coached teams.  The leading scorers (Anthony and Stoudemire)  are isolation-type players who get the ball and rarely pass it back. Anthony, who shot 9 of 27 today, a putrid 33% from the field, can be a veritable black hole. Once the ball sees his hands, nobody else on his team will ever touch it on any given possession.

The weakness lies in the lack of a point guard to balance Anthony from being a finisher as opposed to being a creator,taking down the efficiency of the offense several notches.

Ryan Anderson making 7 out of 13 threes. That’s a lot. When you have guys like Ryan Anderson scoring 30 points, there is no way you are going to beat them.”

It’s definitely a tough loss for us,” said Stoudemire. “Basically, it’s my fault. I’m taking all the blame for tonight’s loss. I got into foul trouble. I didn’t get many minutes in the first half. It definitely won’t happen again. I was ready to rock. In the fourth quarter, I was telling myself they can’t keep a good man down. I was amped up and ready to go in the fourth quarter. Again, it’s my fault we lost the game.”

He admired Orlando’s offense tonight after the game. He also seemed to be admiring their offense while he was on the floor, trying to guard Anderson.

“That’s how you play the game,” he said. “You move the ball the way Orlando did tonight, and you get open shots. Tonight, they did a great job of moving the ball and also knocking down open shots. You have to give those guys respect on how they played tonight. They played great.”

It ‘s not great right now, offensively. We can do a better job of playing offensively but I think it’s just a matter of us having the energy on the defensive end, really getting after it, really having confidence and it should grow offensively. We’ll figure it out.”

I’m trying to figure it out. It’s somewhat early but I’m still trying to figure out my areas on offense. It takes a little time but I’m staying with it, staying focused, staying confident and working through it even though I’m having a little bad stretch here. But I’m staying confident, and continuing to work on my game. I worked extremely hard this summer, as hard as I’ve ever worked before. I have confidence that hard work will pay off.”

On the other end, they aren’t getting stops. Stoudemire has never been a good one on one defender, not getting out to open shooters, not contesting shots at the rim except Tyson Chandler. Mike Woodson, brought in as an associate head coach in charge of defense, has not worked out, for whatever reason. Whether D’Antoni has decided to make sure only his voice, a decidedly offensive-oriented voice, is what the Knicks players will hear, the defensive effort and the lack of chemistry is still very much in evidence, 13 games into the season.

Baron Davis is getting ready to practice with the Knicks after rehabbing his herniated disk in his back. That shouldn’t give Knicks fans any hope as far as this team’s ability to stop other teams from scoring. Davis is a tremendous offensive talent but he is also a shoot first point guard who has been gifted at getting his own shot. For a team that needs to move the ball around, get people easy buckets and wide-open looks at the basket, having another mismatched player in whose hands the ball goes in but never comes back out is problematical. One gets the sense D’Antoni knows what troubles are ahead for him and his staff.

Again, it’s still early in the season but with a 66-game schedule, it’s not quite as early as it seems.

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