Consider the honeymoon phase between the Knicks and the city of New York officially over. The Knicks are 1-2, including two straight ugly losses out west. On the road, the Knicks have lacked the energy that guided the team to a Christmas day win over Boston at MSG. Things will not get any easier for the suddenly injury-prone Knicks. Amare Stoudemire is day-to-day with a sprained ankle, joining Iman Shumpert who is already out two weeks with a knee injury and Baron Davis.
Offensively, the Knicks are at their best when Carmelo is playing within the fast-paced flow of the offense and Amare’s jumper is dropping, opening up opportunities for him to attack the rim. Chandler’s role is to simply clean up the trash. But when one of those things goes wrong, the Knicks have yet to figure out a way to recover. They are only averaging 88.7 points a game and currently rank 23rd in offensive efficiency, according to hoopdata.com.
Stoudemire and Chandler are not post-up players. Amare is more comfortable facing the basket while Chandler relies on his length and energy for put back layups and lob dunks. This means Carmelo will have to let go of the point-forward role and bang bodies on the wing or in the paint — something he is not only capable of doing but is really good at it. Instead, Melo has relied on isolation possessions and mid-to long range jumpshots. According to mySynergySports.com, the Warriors held the Knicks to .63 points per possession on 40 isolation and spot up possessions Wednesday night.
Not surprisingly, another culprit of the slow start is the Knicks backcourt. The weakness of the team following the amnesty of Chauncey Billups, the backcourt currently consists of the defensively challenged Toney Douglas, ancient Mike Bibby, and little-used, Jeremy Lin. Baron Davis is weeks away from joining the team and no one is quite sure what kind of shape he is in. (From his track record, I’d say… not good). If he somehow does appear to be in decent shape, it will still take him a week or two to get acclimated with his new teammates on the court. (Note: back issues is code for coming into camp out of shape. How do I know this? Ask any fat dude on the street if their back hurts. The answer is yes. It is always yes).
Defensively, Tyson Chandler has struggled in three games averaging only 5.6 boards and 2.6 blks in 29 minutes of action. I appreciate the blocks, but digging slightly deeper, Knicks opponents are shooting 64.7% from shots 9 feet and in so far this season. Knicks bigs are doing little to deter teams from driving to the basket (This has a lot to do with the open door policy of the Knicks backcourt).
In fact, the onus should not be put squarely on Tyson Chandler’s shoulders. The Knicks backcourt can’t stop penetration from opposing guards allowing them to penetrate the paint, forcing Chandler to step up and defend a smaller, quicker man. This leads to wide open passing lanes, often leading to slow rotations since the Knicks rarely play D on a string. This leads to easy hoops, fouls and frustration. Chandler has been given a tech in each of his first three games. Last night, all three (Melo, Amare, Tyson) received techs.
Many will look to Chandler’s 13 point, 11 rebound performance last night against the Lakers as a sign that things are slowly improving for the man in the middle. Not so. The Lakers as a team shot 52% from the field, including 71% in the first half. Chandler posted -16 in 35 minutes of action, Mike Bibby led the team with a -19. Not surprisingly, this all leads to the Knicks ranking in the bottom third (23) in defensive efficiency with 104.7 pts allowed per 100 possessions.
Three games and Mike D’Antoni has season-defining issues to address. The Knicks hired former Atlanta Hawks head coach, Mike Woodson as an assistant coach, but really he is their de facto defensive coordinator. He can’t like what he is seeing thus far. Hell, no one in NYC can.