Last month, I posted an exhaustive piece that took me eight hours to complete on the state of the Knicks and their potential options moving forward. I decided to go with the prism analogy because there were many ways to look at this team given their player personnel, coach, and that the team was struggling with their offensive identity.
Obviously, a lot has changed in a little over a month. D’Antoni is long gone, and Mike Woodson has taken over the head coaching reigns. Carmelo Anthony has been more himself offensively and has given more than a damn defensively. And the team has needed it, with the injuries to Amaré Stoudamire and Jeremy Lin limiting offensive firepower. Still, Anthony and the Knicks have responded, going 13-5 over the last 18 games. Their only home loss was today to the Miami Heat – more on them in a bit.
I stated in the earlier version of this post that there were a lot of new ingredients thrown – or fallen in the case of Lin – into the pot, and in a lockout-truncated season and only a week’s worth of training camp, perhaps there will not be enough time realistically for this meal of basketball talents to come together this season. With STAT and Lin sidelined (plus an injury spell to Jared Jeffries), the team has had little choice but to run the offense through Melo. Again, he’s responded on both ends of the court for Mike Woodson, but this team is not whole. STAT may come back this week, but Lin is still charted to return if the team makes it to the second round of the playoffs. That’s a pretty big “if” with the very real threat of facing the Heat, the Chicago Bulls, or even the surging Boston Celtics (who’s had the Knicks number) in the first round.
So for fun, let’s revisit the prisms (that are still relevant) I introduced the last month with an updated quickie version. Here goes nuffin:
- Current Prism: Amar’e/Melo; The “Elite-Scoring” Forwards
There still isn’t enough evidence to show that the two can play well off each other in the long run. In the original post, I gave three reasons Amar’e has (or had) more goodwill built up than Melo. I believe those reasons can be tossed aside now with Melo’s current level of play. And with Woodson incorporating more isolation sets for Melo and putting him down in the post, he’s made better use of the forward’s offensive talents. Let’s also remember that STAT had picked up his play as well on both ends of the court before he went down with that bulge in his
- JLin/Chandler – Shifting to The Point Guard/Center Prism
This was my original comment:
You’ve seen how effective the Lin/Chandler pick’n’roll is. You seen how Chandler brings it every night and is the heart of the team’s D. You believe not just what you’ve seen out of Lin, but that he will get better and you know that he is, as Bill Simmons put it, a de-facto rookie point guard in a league filled with talented PG’s. So you say, “you know what, let’s scrap the current “star” plan and build a team around our newfound PG and defensive stud C. Let’s find a PF who can help Chandler on the boards, D his man effectively and hit a 15-18ft J. Let me find a versatile SF who’s athletic, can defend and hit the 3-ball above say 35%. Let’s see if Shumpert can work on his outside shot during the summer and improve on the makings of an elite perimeter defender.”
When Woodson took over as head coach, he kinda-sorta axed this prism by emphasizing Melo and STAT more on offense and Lin a bit less. There were signs that this began to work before Stoudamire and Lin got hurt.
Speaking of Coach Woodson:
- The new coach prism – Mike Woodson
Today’s loss to Miami marked the first home “L” for Woodson as the head coach of this squad (Knicks are now 9-1 at home under Woodson). Melo’s improvement under him has been well chronicled, which as I stated earlier has been vital since Amaré and JLin have been out. In this 13-5 stretch, the Knicks have beaten playoff-bound teams like Indiana, Chicago and Orlando. They’ve also firmly entrenched themselves in the dogfight for the seventh and eight seeds for the playoffs by beating Milwaukee and Philadelphia, and they are three-and-a-half games behind an Orlando Magic team that just lost center Dwight Howard to the same ailment that befell Stoudamire. This is important, because if they can catch the Magic and steal the sixth seed from them, the ‘Bockers will face Indiana in the first round – a much more desirable matchup.
In the NBA, the stars set the tone for their teams. Because of the coaching change, and that Mike Woodson is holding everyone accountable (something many will argue that D’Antoni did not), Anthony and his teammates know it is clearly on them to perform. Carmelo (as well as Stoudamire before he got hurt) has responded, and his teammates have keyed in on that.
The performance of this team through the end of the season, and especially the playoffs, will likely determine whether Woodson has his “interim” tag removed – although Phil Jackson is still out there. Because of the late-season injuries to the aforementioned players, it’s unlikely we will see the Knicks at full strength unless they do make the second round. And even so, incorporating key players back into the lineup after a lengthy absence is difficult enough in the regular season, let alone the playoffs.
What the injuries also mean is that it will be hard to truly gauge if the current prism of our scoring forwards will work this season. Therefore, the following is still in play (taken from my last post):
…take the summer for Shump Shump to get a better clue on offense (improve on finishing around the rim, work on that J), Lin to tighten his handle and react to double-teams as well as working to stay in front of his man, Landry to revive his outside J (esp from deep), and Amar’e to get his back in order and find that missing lift. A full summer, a full training camp. Then let it rip and use the first half of next season to decide if the pieces can once-and-for-all fit. And that’s even if there’s a coaching change.”
[Whew, that did not take forever to write this time]