I’ve been harping on Mike Woodson’s rotations a lot recently and wanted to give it some perspective.
From January 11th (Ronnie Brewer’s removal from the rotation) through the Blazers game (March 14th) the Knicks have played 28 games. Within that stretch, New York has two line-ups barely over 100 minutes, three between 40 and 90, 13 between 39 and 20 and 11 between 19 and ten.
Woodson makes it difficult for the Knicks to build any continuity in their five man groups because of his indecisiveness.
For context, 10 of the 16 teams in the playoffs have at least one line up with 200 plus minutes between those dates and the Spurs would have two groups crossing that mark if it wasn’t for injuries. Nine of the 10 teams’ most played line ups have a positive net ORtg-DRtg with the Nets being the only exception (P.J. Carlesimo is a brilliant). The Thunder have played Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook 498 minutes and they are a net +19, while George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert have tallied 515 minutes with a +10 rating. Good teams see what works and they stick with it.
New York is the complete opposite. Woodson mixes and matches on a night-to-night basis building his rotations in a way that avoids New York playing its best statistical groups. I do need to point out because of the head coach’s inconsistent rotations the Knicks’ five man line up data can’t be taken as all encompassing.
New York’s most played group during this 28 game stretch was Ray Felton, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. They played 128 minutes together (8.5 per game) and tallied a -3 net rating. This group started off poorly, but started to show signs of life with only a -.5 in the last eight games they played together. By no means was this five spectacular, but it seemed like they were trending in the right direction. The above five has been scrapped from the rotation. They have only played 16 total minutes in the last 10 games and haven’t seen the court together once in the last five.
The Knicks third most played five (second had Amar’e Stoudemire skipping it) featured Felton, Kidd, J.R. Smith, Melo and Chandler. This five had a +21 net rating in 91 minutes (6.7 MPG), but it’s playing time decreased as the season moved along — in games 1-10 6.9 MPG, 11-20 6.4 MPG, 21-30 9 MPG, 41-50 5.8 MPG, 51-60 5.0 MPG, 61-70 3.0 MPG.
The next group hasn’t been successful together, but I believe if given time to play through some issues will end up being one of New York’s best line-ups. Felton, Iman Shumpert, J.R., Melo and Chandler have played 77 minutes together (4.8 MPG) to a -13 rating. This five has the potential to recreate what we saw from the Knicks earlier in the season and should be one of their better defensive units. Smith is shooting 66.8 aFG% and Shump 60,0 aFG% on unguarded catch and shoot situations according to Synergy Sports technology. They are both hitting open threes, but the issue is both players prefer to play from the wing and not the corner. Shump has shot 5-23 on corner threes compared to 20-39 from the wings. While J.R. has never shot a high volume of corner threes in his career, the percentages tend to be pretty solid when you go through his history. A solution to make this line up more functional would be to flip Smith and Shump’s roles, having Iman play more on the wing and moving J.R. to the corner.
This is where the real absurdness of what Woodson has been doing begins. The Knicks fifth most used line up during the past 28 games was Felton, Shump, James White, Melo and Tyson at 45 minutes. This is why when people say it doesn’t matter who starts they are wrong. Those minutes add up and the fact James White is apart of one New York’s most played groups with a -15 net rating is inexcusable. Over a recent five game stretch this five has averaged 6.6 MPG, which is essentially the exact same amount the Felton, Kidd, J.R., Melo and Tyson group averaged through the same time frame. THIS MAKES NO SENSE!!!!!
Some people will point to injuries for the inconsistencies, but it’s not an excuse. From 1/11 to 3/14 Melo has missed four games, Chandler one, Felton five, Kidd one, Shump two and J.R. zero.
Injuries also don’t explain the limited minutes per game. This is a problem that can easily corrected if Woodson stops being so stubborn.
The first step is to get rid of the token starter. Instead of giving five minutes at the beginning of the game to James White or Kurt Thomas, the head coach needs to pick a five he wants to play extended minutes together and stick with it. My preference would be to go with group one, three or four that I listed above. As I’ve stated before, I am fine with any combination of Kidd, Shump or J.R starting with Felton, Melo and Chandler. Getting rid of the token starter allows those minutes to get redistributed to players that deserve to be playing and make it easier to incorporate a more consistent second unit.
Step two is letting whatever five Woodson chooses to play 12-15 minutes together every game instead of between four and eight. This will be build continuity and a comfort level, which in theory should lead to more success.
My idea here promotes stability, something the Knicks haven’t had much of recently. While some of the problems are because of circumstances, most of it has been self-induced. There is still time for it to get straightened out. My hope is when Chandler and Melo return from injuries, Woodson does a better job playing line ups with consistency as New York tries to pull out the two seed in the Eastern Conference and prepares itself for the playoffs.
Credit to NBA.com for the stats used in this story.
The Knicks could use some luck of the Irish today in Los Angeles, as they head into the home stretch of this ever lasting west coast trip. The Clippers (45-21) are currently tied up within a half game between Memphis, Denver, and the five seed. New York (38-25) still remains a half game behind Indiana and the number two seed.
The last time New York found gold at the end of the rainbow, on this day, was two years ago. Toney Douglas and company filled the garden with a barrage of three pointers and scored 120 points. Douglas set the Knick record for most three-pointers in a single game (9). This is the last I remember of Douglas before he was exiled into the doghouse.
My personal favorite St. Patty’s day memory has to be Jamal Crawford’s game winner over Detroit in 2006. I even had the green Jamal Crawford Jersey that year. Though, that was a tough year for New York, being only their 19th win of the season. Which is also ironic, because the Knicks will face the league’s leading bench scorer (16.9ppg) in Crawford today at Staples Center.
Today, the Knicks have yet another chance to get their first win of this trip, in which I’m convinced, a leprechaun has stolen New York’s lucky charms. On a day where we can all hopefully prevent ourselves from bombarding our TV’s with cabbage if the Knicks drop another game, I’m interested in knowing what your favorite memory of the Knicks on St. Patrick’s Day is. Cheers!
Over the past decade, Knicks fans have grown to expect the worst when the Knicks head West. There is no feeling more sickening than casually watching the end of a Knicks win on MSG, slowly talking yourself back into the team, and then that upcoming schedule graphic appears from the depths of hell…5 games out west. Mike Breen usually comments on how critical it will be for the team to salvage just ONE win if they can. And it seems impossible. Year after year the Knicks have had at least one west coast debacle. But this? This has been a completely different animal.
It is no surprise the Knicks are playing Portland tonight. Indeed, the road trip has quickly turned into an uncanny impression of the Oregon Trail.
Perhaps the only difference between this Knicks team and pioneers on the Oregon trail is that pioneers could travel to Portland with a family of ten, raise six generations, briefly return to east to deal with some other familial matters, before heading back to Oregon, faster than the Knicks get back on defense.
But I’m not even talking about the the 1850, Go West Young Man, Manifest Destiny Oregon Trail. No, the last two games seem to be loosely based off the 1997, third edition, Your-Entire-Family-Died-of-Dysentery, computer game The Oregon Trail.
In two 30 point losses to the Warriors and Nuggets, the Knicks missed more shots than a first time OT player on a hunting mission. The only explanation for the lack of energy these lethargic Knicks have displayed is Gatorade squeezed from poisonous berries, and the only explanation for the crap the Knicks laid all over the court these past two games is a team wide dysentery epidemic.
Oh. And in case you didn’t realize, the players are dropping like flies. Amare’s knee continues to be the root of all evil. Melo’s knee has forced him ( mercifully) off the trail and back to NY. JR’s knee is supposedly banged up as result of taking a knee (not a joke) from teammate Kenyon Martin. Of course the most recent devastation occurred late in the second quarter last night when our rock of a center crumpled to the ground clutching what else, his knee (Seriously knee gods. What did the entire city of NY ever do to you???). While it appears that Tyson’s injury is not as bad as being helped off the court by teammates often suggests, for the time being it’s a crushing blow. One cannot even fathom how an already atrocious interior defense WITH the defensive player of the year will be without him. His injury was as random and devastating as when you were informed that somehow, despite sitting in your house and doing nothing more than click your mouse, you had accidentally shot two members of your party, and your wife was somehow dying of typhoid. Oregon Trail indeed.
The New York Knicks made their way to Denver early Tuesday morning for the first time since the 2010-2011 season. Carmelo Anthony will also make his first return to the Pepsi Center tonight after forcing his way to New York in a trade two years ago. Along with Melo, there will be a plethora of ex-Knicks and Nuggets going at it. As Jonah Kaner quoted earlier, tonight is a faceoff of “the New York Nuggets vs. the Denver Knicks.” Here are five things to look for tonight when the Knicks and Nuggets face off at 10:30pm.
This should be pretty interesting to watch play out. Anthony’s knee was obviously bothering him Monday night against the Warriors, and still trotted out for 33 minutes of play. Shooting only 26% from the field was really the barometer for Melo’s decision to play instead of rest. It was reiterated after the Knicks’ loss, that Melo wanted to play in Denver. Woodson will definitely need to be aware of Anthony’s minutes, along with his effort and making sure he is not risking further injury.
2: Does Chris Copeland regain a spot in Woodson’s rotation?
The Knicks looked completely gassed against Golden State, and did not have the ideal start to their five game west-coast swing. Scoring only 63 points, probably the brightest spot throughout the whole game for the Knicks was Copeland’s resurgence off the bench long after the game was settled. Though, it was fun seeing Copeland’s sweet stroke, scoring 15 points in 18 minutes. Woodson said after the loss he will see to getting Cope more minutes on this trip, which fans have been vying for watching the team struggle to score at times. It can’t hurt the Knicks current state; both the starting five and bench could use a boost. Copeland’s defense is manageable providing he is putting the ball in the basket, just like Steve Novak.
3: Can the Knicks produce points early?
Heading into the half against Golden State the Knicks trailed by 15, being outscored by 12 points in the second quarter. First half play has been suspect for the Knicks’ all year, especially their starting lineup. James White and Kurt Thomas being inserted into the starting five for the first four minutes of games has proved to be uneventful, and spotty. Besides James White hitting an occasional three, and usually a few fouls, the Knicks rely heavily on Anthony early for points when the rest of the first unit is not in unison. Filling up the scoreboard will be crucial against a tough, fast-paced Nuggets team who is looking for their 10th straight against their former superstar Carmelo Anthony.
4: JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and Raymond Felton.
Besides the prime focus being on Carmelo Anthony, four other Knicks will be making returns to Denver after stints with the ball club. The one that interests me the most will be JR Smith. After deciding not to sign back with Denver post-lockout, JR signed in New York and left Denver hanging. Although there was not a beat missed losing their sixth man, Smith also had some soreness in his knee after winning against Utah. Along with Anthony, he claimed there was “no way” he would be missing his return to Denver. Big night tonight for Smith? Raymond Felton is another player who brings an interesting past to the table tonight. After being traded away from New York (where he preferred playing) in the Anthony blockbuster, Felton has a chance to show the Denver fans why he was upset with being shipped off from the Knicks two years ago which led to Felton falling out of shape and a sub par performance in Portland before returning to New York. For the rest of the returning Knicks, I’m hoping for another Kenyon Martin sighting, and the amount of energy he brings to the team.
5: Denver looks to make it 10 straight against New York
The Denver Nuggets boast the best home record in the NBA, at 28-3. The arena gets loud, and Denver easily gains momentum with their acrobatic, athletic squad. The Knicks need to make a splash early, and get off to a good start. Falling behind early will not make the game, or the rest of the road trip any easier. With one chance at snapping an opponents win streak (Miami) don’t look for the Knicks to be just a number again. I think the Knicks will be focused in tonight, on national television.
I, for one, love staying up to watch the Knicks’ west coast swings here on the east coast. Tonight is sure to be an interesting game throughout. More important than the game, though, is Anthony’s health in the long run. Will he be able to pull himself out if he knows he’s hurting? I at least hope Woodson does.
Carmelo Anthony is the center of the NBA universe tonight. He is the biggest story, like Dwight Howard was on Tuesday, as he led the Lakers to a thumping of his former team, the Magic.. Despite Melo trying to play off that playing the Nuggets is just another game, deep down he wants to put forth a performance like Howard.
It’s time for Melo to set aside his ego and use his brain. He has no business being on the court against his former team.
Melo looked the worst I have ever seen him in a New York uniform against the Warriors. Not everything has been pretty with Anthony since the Knicks have traded for him. Across his time in New York, fans have witnessed some embarrassing performances. This beat them all and it wasn’t remotely close.
The only logical explanation (nothing was logical about it, actually, pretend I used a different word) for the way head coach Mike Woodson handled Anthony’s minutes against Golden State is he was trying to let his best player get through the rust before the return to his original team.
Time to take a step back, this is completely insane.
If Melo isn’t going to recognize that he needs to sit on his own, Woodson and the training staff need to tell him he can’t play. Since it appears Woodson isn’t willing to take that stand, it’s on Glen Grunwald, the General Manager, to step in. If Grunwald isn’t going to speak up, Knicks owner James Dolan needs to get on a plane to Denver and order Carmelo Anthony doesn’t touch the floor tonight.
Reading through the stories from the beat writers, it seems likely Melo is going to get shut down or at least miss the Blazers game on Thursday night after he plays against the Nuggets.
It is completely unacceptable to risk your franchise player, who is clearly hampered by an injury and has already been overworked because the head coach has been coaching with a short sited view.
On Monday night, Anthony was clearly not comfortable enough to push his knee to the limit. Against the Nuggets, in a game Melo so desperately wants to play well in, I doubt the effort level comes in as low. This is what has me worried.
The Nuggets aren’t moving away from Denver. This game will be there again next year. A chance to get to the Eastern Conference Finals in a wide open East, outside of Miami, might not be.
That opportunity disappears if Anthony goes down. Plain and simple — it’s not worth the risk and someone has to do something about it
Tomorrow night, the New York Knicks will face off against the Denver Nuggets, in Denver. It will be the first time that Melo has returned to Denver since the trade two seasons ago. As J.R. Smith reminded us through Instagram, it will also be a trip down memory lane for several others.
On the Nuggets’ side, Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and Anthony Randolph will all be reminded of their time in New York.
Given the size of NBA rosters, it’s not that uncommon for a team to have a player languishing at the end of the bench, basically playing the part of a human victory cigar. For the 2004 Champion Detroit Pistons, it was Darko Milicic, who averaged less than five minutes a game, while only getting into 34 of them. For the 2008 champion Boston Celtics, it was Brian Scalabrine, who averaged ten minutes a game and only appeared in 48. These bench anchors generally only got into games that were clearly decided, with their team on one side or the other of a total blowout. For this year’s Knicks it’s suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly starting to look like that role is being filled by rookie forward Chris Copeland.
This was never more obvious than this week, with the Knicks playing in back to back games without injured star Carmelo Anthony. Over the course of the two nights, every healthy Knick got to play at least six minutes, except for Copeland, who remained glued to the end of the bench for the entire 96 minutes. Cope has only made one appearance in the Knicks’ last ten games, but the injury to Melo seemed like just the sort of the thing that would lead to him getting some minutes, especially with NY playing four games in five nights. Adding insult to injury for Chris was getting to see the two players normally sitting beside him at the end of the bench, James White and Kurt Thomas, suddenly inserted into the starting lineup, where they’ve both been less than impressive.
It hasn’t always been this way for Chris this season. There have been eleven games this season where he’s played 15 minutes or more and even six where he was in the starting lineup. He seems to respond well to big minutes too. In the four games where he’s played 28 or more minutes, he’s gone 11-19, 6-12, 8-16 and 9-15 from the field. That kind of offensive production can make up for lots of lapses on the defensive end, the type of trade off the Knicks make on a regular basis with Steve Novak, Amare Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, etc. Cope’s 48% from the field is surpassed only by Tyson Chandler, Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas, all of whom do their work closer to the basket than Cope. Those three players have attempted exactly one three pointer on the season (who can forget Kurt’s amazing bomb?), while Copeland has launched 64, connecting a respectable 36% of the time, also among the team leaders. Only Melo and STAT produce more points per 36 minutes than Copeland’s 20 per.
Obviously if offensive production was the only thing that mattered, one assumes Copeland would be getting big minutes every night. The biggest problem comes on the defensive end, where Cope joins Novak on the bottom of the NY heap with a 110 defensive rating. This also leads to the other problem with finding minutes for Cope: Steve Novak. Mike Woodson feels that Novak and Copeland fill the same role and he’s committed to giving those minutes to Novak. Joe Flynn had a great discussion comparing these two back in January. I agree with Flynn that it’s not clear that Novak is more worthy of minutes than Copeland.
Yet the Knicks shouldn’t have to choose between these two. If the Knicks can find minutes for five guards: Pablo Prigioni, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith and Felton, why is it so hard to find minutes for at least that many frontcourt players? Could playing Cope really be as bad as starting White and Thomas? Mike Woodson has bought himself a ton of slack from Knicks’ fans like me with the results he’s gotten from the Knickerbockers during his tenure, but it would be nice to see Cope getting some spin while Melo takes all the time he needs to recover from his injury.
Another look, from above:
Thanks to J.R. Smith, we have an early look at the Knicks’ Nueva York jerseys for tonight. The Knicks have worn a variation of these for years, but this is the first Nueva York variation for the new jerseys.