Knicks Having Chemistry Issues Doesn’t Add Up

On Valentines Day, Jared Zwerling wrote a piece giving the impression the New York Knicks are undergoing some behind the scenes chemistry issues. The title of the story is, “Scout Melo’s Act Gets Old Fast.” I’m not going to even address that because he probably wasn’t the one who wrote it.

Some of the points he makes are 100 percent accurate, but the overall premise of the story isn’t as smooth as 2 + 2 = 4.

Lets take a look…

The Knicks started the season on fire, jumping out to an 8-1 record and then 20-8, fueled by their hot 3-point shooting and perimeter defense.

From there, they’ve continued to build wins, but on an inconsistent basis — and now they enter the All-Star break with losses in three of their past four games.

Agree mostly with what was written here. New York started off fast and has now tailed off. In their last 27 games the Knicks are 14-13, that’s not good.

While injuries and players returning to the lineup have delayed their development somewhat, this can’t be ignored: The Knicks’ offense is too simplistic right now. Mike Woodson continues to allow Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith to dominate the ball and the rest seems to be mostly freelance, with role players positioned beyond the arc for hopeful 3-pointers.

What would you like Mike Woodson to do? Melo, Felton and Smith are the only New York players who play significant minutes that are capable of initiating the offense. Pablo Prigioni can when he gets the opportunity, but his minutes aren’t consistent. Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert can be relied upon in small dozes, but if you ask them to for long stretches, you better be ready to deal with a bump up in turnovers. It makes zero sense to put the ball in Tyson Chandler’s hands more. When Amar’e Stoudemire is on the court, the offense is run through him plenty – he has a usage rate of 25.5%.

That has made some of Knicks feel under-utilized, one source close to the team said, because now they’re just stand-and-wait-for-the-ball shooters.

For people on this Knicks roster to be complaining about their role they would have to have a disconnect with the reality of what they are capable of doing as a basketball player. I could somewhat understand if it’s Shumpert whining, and from other stories that can’t be ruled out. The only other player it makes sense with would be Amar’e. But if STAT slightly grasps the concept of trying to extend his career, you would think he would be on board with how he is currently being used. I don’t see anyone on this roster that is in a situation that they should be upset with.

“The offense is too basic and it needs some tweaking. Watching Melo do his thing gets old fast,” one NBA scout said. “I think the offense needs more motion in it, so that guys’ talents can be used more. I think the early success hurt them because now opponents know what they are doing and how to defend it. They truly are a 3-point shooting team, and you can’t win in the long run that way. Nellie’s (Don Nelson’s) Mavericks teams went through that.”

Ahhhh one of my favorites, the notion that you can’t win basketball games shooting three pointers. Some teams win games by shooting threes, other win with it being a lesser part of their offense. In 2010-2011 the Mavericks won the NBA Championship and shot the fifth most threes in the NBA. The Nellie ball Mavericks won over 50 games in four of his six full seasons as head coach and one of those four was a 60 win campaign. How is that not winning in the long run? The bigger reason Dallas didn’t make it to the Finals during that stretch was the simple fact they in an absolutely loaded Western Conference. Their playoff defeats came at the hands of the Spurs – 58 wins, Kings – 61 wins, Spurs – 60 wins and Kings – 55 wins. If the Mavericks magically got moved to the Eastern Conference during that stretch they would have made the NBA Finals at least once, maybe multiple times.

The other part about the Knicks offense being too basic is definitely a possibility. I’m not a basketball coach nor a true X’s and O’s guy, but when you read about some of the other concepts teams use it seems there are some things Coach Woodson could incorporate to try and create a better flow with easier opportunities.

This season, Woodson has repeatedly said he needs to help certain role players — notably Steve Novak, Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert — and that has to happen after the All-Star break. More of a team approach is necessary. Before the season, Melo spoke about sacrificing points for the greater good of the team. But he’s now the league’s second-leading scorer (28.6 points per game), and recently he hasn’t had much help from his supporting cast.

New York does need to do a better job finding Steve Novak shots and helping Iman Shumpert get more comfortable. I don’t see how Brewer’s role would change much from what it was before – standing in the corner and the occasional cut is what he does. A lot of the success these players should have is playing off Melo and the Felton/Chandler pick and roll.

The Knicks also need to come together on defense, and it starts with how they get back into formation in transition and rotate while guarding pick and rolls. Too many times recently, opponents have scored easily off screens because the Knicks’ switches are off. That leads to a personnel question: Does Woodson need to juggle the starting five to include defensive specialist Brewer or James White? Brewer would likely get the nod because he played well at the beginning of the season when the Knicks went 11-4 in November.

There is no debate the Knicks need to improve on the defensive end of the court. In their 18 losses this season NY’s DRtg is a 109.9 and in their wins it’s a 99.9. That is way too many games of playing porous defense. In the last five games the DRtg has jumped to 107.2 up, just over four points on the Knicks’ season average. Side note –I like James White, if he got 7-10 minutes a night for a little bit to see if he could contribute I would have no problem with it, but calling White a defensive specialist is a little much for me.

The rest of the story begins a discussion on what line-ups the Knicks should use, which is an entirely different column in itself.

Jared brings up some fair points, but there were some angles that made me think twice.