Thanks in part to the frequently injured status of Amare Stoudemire, Mike Woodson has been forced to be very creative in his approach to lineup building this season. Using the talent pool available to him, he’s completely twisted the traditional point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center lineup into something uniquely special and effective. This has been especially challenging, due to the ever changing pool of available players on the team, but by the end of the season he’d found and shaped something special. The dilemma comes from trying to find a place for Steve Novak in this new Knickerbocker vision, or for that matter, Stoudemire, if and when he makes it back from injury.
Point Guard: Raymond Felton, JR Smith. New York starts a fairly traditional point guard in Felton. His job is to run pick and rolls, drive and score, drive and kick and stick the occasional three. If he can defend one of the other team’s guards reasonably well, so much the better. For most of the season, no one on the team seemed able to duplicate this role and the team struggled when Felton was playing hurt or not playing at all. Not only is Felton healthy now, Smith seems to have figured out that he should prioritize attacking the basket. While Smith is not considered one of the team’s point guards per say, when he’s on the floor and Felton isn’t, he’s the one that has been filling Felton’s role of bringing the ball up the court and attacking the basket. While Smith is obviously more of a scorer than a passer, Woodson seems to like having his point man be one of his primary scorers supporting Carmelo Anthony.
Shooting Guard: Pablo Prigioni, Jason Kidd. Woodson prefers to have two point guards on the floor whenever possible, which may be one of the reasons that New York had the fewest turnovers in the NBA this season. Since neither Kidd nor Prigioni have the ability to attack the rim that Felton and Smith have, they’ve played the role of off guard, helping facilitate the offense with their passing from the perimeter while spreading the floor with their three-point shooting. Another benefit of having Kidd or Prigioni on the floor all the time is their defensive acumen, which leads to numerous turnovers by the opposing team, often in the form of steals.
Small Forward: Iman Shumpert, JR Smith. Another reason why the Knicks have so few turnovers is instead of playing with two forwards, they play with three guards. Shumpert is versatile enough defensively to defend forwards and he can even rebound like one on occasion. His primary roles are to defend the opposition’s best perimeter player, provide a three point threat and occasionally attack the rim. One of the reasons Smith is the Sixth Man of the Year is his ability to fill multiple roles off the bench. In the fourth quarter when Felton and Kidd are manning the backcourt, Smith plays this role. While not quite the defender that Shumpert is, he makes up for it on the offensive end and by being an even better rebounder. Ronnie Brewer started the season filling this exact role, but as his play fell off and Shumpert returned from injury, he was sent to the end of the bench.
Power Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland. Using Melo at power forward is one of the biggest keys to the Knicks’ success on the offensive end this season. By having an elite perimeter player at the four, New York has opened up the paint for their pick and roll game which is a major part of their offense. Not only do Smith and Felton have extra room to attack the basket, but Melo gets mismatches which forces double teams and opens up New York’s options further. Having Melo or Copeland on the floor at the four gives them a primary scorer and makes it almost impossible for the opposition to prevent at least one of New York’s now four shooters from getting an open look from behind the arc. Melo’s transformation into an elite three-point shooter this season while playing the four has been a major part of why New York led the league in three-point attempts and makes. Unfortunately for Woodson’s lineup preferences, after a terrific regular season, Copeland has played so poorly in the playoffs that Woody was forced to use Novak at the four in game three instead.
Center: Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin. The role of the five for the Knicks is to backstop the defense, participate in the pick and roll with Felton and grab rebounds. With only one real big man on the floor at a time for New York, it’s critical that he be able to defend the rim/paint and rebound. By having the five be the screen and roller, it gives him an important role on the offensive end, while the rest of the team can be trying to get open from behind the arc. Rasheed Wallace filled this role behind Chandler at the beginning of the season, but fortunately for New York after most of their bigs got hurt, they discovered Martin, who has done an incredible job of filling this role off the bench.
So, Woodson has found a unique combination of roles that works well with his personnel and has enabled the Knicks to become an elite team. The problem is this carefully crafted system doesn’t really have a place for two highly paid forwards: Steve Novak and Amare Stoudemire.
Novak is a good enough three-point shooter to play the three or the four, but he’s not a good enough ball handler. Not only does Woodson use the three as an extra ball handler, he frequently has Melo bring the ball up the court and he runs isolations through Melo and even on occasion, Copeland. While big enough to play the five for New York, Novak doesn’t have the necessary skill set to be the primary defender in the paint. Frankly, other than being a terrific three point shooter, Novak brings very little to the table.
Last season, that was enough. Last season, Novak led the league shooting 47% from deep, while no one else on the team shot even 35% from three. Novak provided the team with essential and amazingly accurate three-point shooting. This season is much different. This season, Novak’s long range shooting is down to 42% and he’s one of eight Knickerbockers shooting 35% or better. While 42% is still quite good, Novak’s lone skill set is now being duplicated by several other players, all of whom bring lots of other things to the table. While the threat of Novak’s shooting helps spread the floor when he’s on the court, so does the threat provided by the Knicks’ other fours: Melo (38%) and Copeland (42%). If Copeland continues to be unable to work through the playoff jitters Novak may get some minutes this post-season, but his role with the team going forward is definitely in question.
This brings us to Stoudemire. Amare has a skill set that no one else on the team has: the ability to be a superior low post scorer. Unfortunately, Woodson has been forced to design an offense that not only doesn’t need a low post scorer, it may operate better without one. Woodson’s system requires the four to be a three-point shooter and the five to be a superior defender and rebounder. None of these things describe Stoudemire. Given STAT’s overall talent level and the team’s investment in him, I’m sure Woody will make some use of him when he gets healthy. I’m just not sure if that will be in the best interests of the team’s success, based on their performances this season.
When the New York Knicks acquired Rasheed Wallace this season, I got goosebumps. For years, I longed for the return of the era when real bruisers played for the Knicks. I’m talking like the real bad boys of the NBA I grew up liking: Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, Latrell Sprewell, Marcus Camby. These are the types that made the games chippy between their opponents. Add a rivalry to the equation, and you’ve got yourself a boiler maker. Wallace helped bring along his “take-no-shit” attitude, which is what the Knicks needed this season to bully their way beyond the regular season. Right now, with New York basketball bogarting the spotlight from that other transplant team, of course, it would have to be reflected in its players, namely Rasheed Abdul Wallace.
Sheed is versatile; able to bang in the paint, post up, and make critical three-point shots. His reputation exceeds him as being vocal and brash with other players and referees, but he’s as physical too. His career reached its apex when he won a championship as a Detroit Piston in 2004. This year, when Sheed played against his former team as a Knick, he hung his warmup jacket on his chair in the locker room. It was a reminder of his achievement. For other players who had yet to taste the ecstasy of victory, this was a glimmer of the promised land he still would pursue now in the twilight of his career.
Aside from the tender moment of the jacket, Sheed’s loyalty to the Nike Air Force 1 High has underscored his fashion sense on the court. The Air Force 1, it’s the shoe that’s woven into the culture of sneakers in the Mecca of basketball. To see Wallace retire yesterday in the city that called the Air Force 1 “Uptowns” was a storybook ending the way I hoped it would. He’s come full circle with the 1982 classic sneaker he has become synonymous with. The only other player I could compare Sheed to is Penny Hardaway who came to the Knicks in ’04, also past his prime. All editions of the Penny were timeless, the same way Sheed’s AF1′s were. Although Sheed would see more player exclusives with more teams than Penny, that actually gives him the advantage. Although versions of the Air Penny would become fashionable on and off the court, the Nike Air Force 1 one of Nike’s silhouettes has universal appeal that has crossed over into mainstream, like a pair of Converse All-Star, shell toe adidas, or Reebok pumps. Sheed soldiered this season in his player exclusives. Nicekicks.com highlighted his three pairs of Player Exclusives he wore this season. He’s now hanging up those AF1′s for the second time, since retiring as a Celtic in 2010. You gotta give him credit though, the dude actually came back and gave it a go for one game ahead of schedule. Derrick Rose hasn’t even done that much. Sorry, I won’t touch that one. But, real talk, ball don’t lie.
Well, they’ve done it. The Knicks have clinched a playoff spot. Now I can finally stop holding my breath, I can shave my “they’re-not-in-the-playoffs-yet” beard and I can dump my girlfriend. That last one might not have much to do with the Knicks, but I like to share. Speaking of sharing, now that the boys are officially in the playoffs, I’ve decided to get some other things off my chest, too. I’m sure the Knicks know and care that I think they’re all heroes for getting us to the promised land, but there is still lots of work to do. While each of the Knicks seems to have found a way to contribute something positive this season, each of them also seems to have a fatal flaw which has hurt the team on occasion. So, I’ve decided to make a Knicks wish list, wherein I list the one thing I would wish for/from each member of the team to give us the best chance of success in the postseason.
Carmelo Anthony - Don’t be a hero. Melo has become a surprisingly complete player this season, but even he has a fatal flaw. He wants to win so badly and he wants to be the hero so badly that he will sometimes make bad choices that end up hurting the Knicks. So no more playing hurt when he should be resting up and no more forcing tough contested shots when things aren’t clicking for the team on offense. We need a healthy Melo that trusts his teammates and sticks to the plan on offense even when things aren’t going great.
Tyson Chandler - Stay on the court. By which I mean get/stay healthy and stay out of fights and foul trouble. I love that you’re such a rambunctious tough guy Tyson, but we really need you to keep out of trouble.
Raymond Felton - Pass first, attack the rim second and shoot jumpers last. This may seem like pretty obvious stuff for a point guard, but Ray’s shooting under 42% from the field and it’s due largely to him taking difficult two point shots when he should be finding a way to dish or get to the rack.
Iman Shumpert - Be aggressive. Alright Shump, you seem to have fixed your three point shot as you’re now hitting on close to 40% of them after only hitting around 30% last year, nice work. So why is your overall field goal percentage down to just 36%? It seems like you need to attack the rim more, like you did last year. While you’re at it, let’s see more attack mode on D as well. Last season you were someone we counted on to shut down the opposing team’s best perimeter player and we need to see more of that kind of defense this season.
Jason Kidd - Find your shot again. Look Jason, we all lose things, so let’s think about this: where were you standing the last time you remember having your shot? The good news here is that after an epic slump from three-point land, Jason has recently been showing signs that he’s over it. At this point in his career, Kidd’s game actually has quite a few flaws, but he finds lots of ways to compensate and cover for most of them. Being able to reliably nail open threes is a crucial part of old man Kidd’s game now though and if the Knicks are going to make noise in the playoffs, he needs to keep working with shooting guru Dave Hopla and making sure he doesn’t misplace his three point shot again.
Amare Stoudemire - Get back in shape in time. STAT is the Knicks’ X-factor for the playoffs. If he’s healthy and in playing shape like he was right before he got injured, then suddenly anything’s possible come playoff time. Remember the way he dominated the beginning of the fourth quarter against the Heat before Woody inexplicably benched him? Yeah, we need that.
JR Smith - Play intelligent, fully engaged basketball. At this point, nobody can really question Smith’s talent. The question is his focus and judgment. When JR is focused on the defensive end, he can give the Knicks a real perimeter stopper. On the offensive end, he needs to stop forsaking team offense so frequently in favor of crazy, low percentage, step back, two-point jumpers. When Smith is taking open jumpers off the catch or attacking the rim, he’s an incredible weapon, but when he’s constantly freelancing, he frequently digs big holes for the Knicks.
Steve Novak -Find a second skill set. Not only is Novak the Knicks’ best three-point shooter, but he’s one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. That’s why he has a job in the NBA and he averages 20 minutes a game. He may be one the ten best shooters in the entire galaxy, but he really needs to find a second skill set. I realize it might be asking too much for Steve to become an elite or even solid defender, but what about developing a two-point game to compliment his three-point game? Like Shump, Steve actually has a higher percentage from three than he does overall. This means that teams only need to guard him at the arc and can and often do otherwise ignore him. Get on that Steve!
Pablo Prigioni - Just shoot already! At close to 39%, Pablo is one the Knicks’ best three-point shooters. Someone needs to inform Pablo of this though. No more looking left, right, up and down before deciding it’s safe to shoot. You’re not crossing the street Pablo and you don’t need to check with anyone when you’re wide open, just shoot like you’re confident that it will go in and things will be great.
Kenyon Martin - Keep up the good work. Kenyon is playing so far beyond reasonable expectations, that I feel that it would be absurd to ask for anything else but more of the same at this point.
Chris Copeland - Work on your defense. Cope is a special talent on offense, able to score and score efficiently in a variety of ways. Yet he doesn’t get much playing time, because coach Woody considers him a liability on defense. Cope realized that being a great offensive player will get you a job in the NBA, now he needs to realize that being at least a decent defender is what’s required to get him more playing time.
Rasheed Wallace - More healthiness, less three-point shooting. Given how long Sheed has been out of the lineup, getting healthy is a given, so I’m adding a second wish: stop shooting so many threes. Sheed is a stopper on defense and he has the skills to be a post threat, but he wastes too many offensive possessions with his love of the three ball, which wouldn’t be quite so bad if his shot wasn’t so bad (32%).
Marcus Camby - Find your game. So far this has been a lost season for the former defensive player of the year. When he’s gotten onto the court his offense has been completely missing: 31% FG%, down from 48% last season and he hasn’t established enough dominance on defense or on the boards to maintain a spot in the rotation, even with the Knicks seriously hurting for bigs.
James White - Recover your swagger. While White is far from an accomplished NBA player, we could always depend on him for self-confidence and swagger. Who can forget his epic trash talk leading up to the Slam Dunk contest? Unfortunately, the dunk contest seems to have been overly humbling for White. Ever since his ignominious performance (or lack of performance) at the dunk competition, Flight White has been grounded. In the starting lineup against Miami to help defend against the Heat’s elite wings, he looked lost and desperate, seemingly always a step behind the game. It didn’t take long after that for him to fade from the starting lineup all the way to very end of the bench where Sheed leaves his used chewing gum. He’s recently shown a little bit of life in garbage time and if he can learn to shine during meaningful minutes, he may yet have a shot to stay in the NBA after this season.
Kurt Thomas - Rehab, rehab, rehab. While Kurt hasn’t seen many minutes this season, he’s delivered when called upon. The defense is still there and though his offensive is somewhat one dimensional, at least it’s consistent. Thus I can only ask/hope/wish that he gets better soon.
Mike Woodson - Manage those minutes. Based on his short tenure in NY, Woody is a sensational coach who deserves to be part of the coach of the year conversation. I just ask that he find more rest for his older players and his overworked stars. JR, Tyson and Carmelo have all played over 2000 minutes this season, despite the fact that JR is a reserve, Chandler has missed five games and Melo 13. You’ve clinched the playoffs coach, as much as playoff seeding matters, it won’t matter at all if the Knicks’ key players have all broken down.
There’s been some speculation the past few days about the Knicks’ front office pondering a move, but Mike Woodson, to this point, has been reluctant to cut anyone from this team. With the Knicks’ frontcourt completely battered and tattered, it would seem feasible that New York picks up a decent big to fill a void for a few weeks. However, there is also a gap in the backcourt, although not as big, that needs to be filled. We know New York has been monitoring Delonte West’s performance in the D-League the past two weeks. I have also seen a few sources linking the Knicks to the 30-year-old Josh Powell, who is currently playing in Greece, to help the Knicks under the basket.
There are already currently 15 players under contract, which means there would need to be a cut made in order to bring in some reinforcement along the lines of either defense, or rebounding. The problem is, Mike Woodson is optimistic that Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas could be healthy by the time April rolls around. I believe it is more of a respect issue, and not wanting to cut one of these veterans who believe it or not, still want to play. The chance of Wallace making a significant impact after missing about two-thirds of the year, coming off a foot injury, and a mini two-year retirement is slim to none. Kurt Thomas probably won’t get cut because of the respect the franchise has for him, although he is an expiring contract.
So, that leaves James White. White has bounced around the rotation routinely throughout the year, but has never played any noteworthy minutes that would build a case for him to remain on the roster, if a better option came along. If Grunwald and company were to come to a decision to make another signing, White would be the likely candidate to be let loose from the KnicksTape.
With that being said, does this make sense at this point in the season, with less than a month of regular season left? White, most likely, will not make any impact on this team from now through the playoffs. But I am against letting him go IF New York decides to bring in someone over the age of 35 who hasn’t played basketball all year (no disrespect to K-Mart). West has been playing all year, and so has Josh Powell. Two players who are both, at least capable of coming in and helping the Knicks to keep their division lead and maybe even moving back into second place in the conference. Delonte West’s only issue is his maturity level; there are already a few players on this team who have a reputation of being a misfit. But to Woodson’s credit, there have not been any outbursts this year, and maybe he can keep West under control? If so, West has a pretty sweet stroke from three, and can create for others off the dribble. He would be brought in, though, for sure on his defensive mentality and his ability to guard multiple positions. As we’ve been watching Felton and Kidd this season get burned on a regular basis, while Shumpert is stuck guarding small forwards, out of his natural position.
A few other notable names that deserve a mention, are Hakeem Warrick, Hassan Whiteside, Ben Wallace, and most recently Brooklyn (New Jersey) Net, Sundiata Gaines who’s name has been whispered a few times as a dark horse signing, if there is to be a signing. Again, I would stray away from the likes of players like Ben Wallace, who is aged. Any signing made would have to be one with an instant impact, not someone who needs two weeks to get in shape and be effective. If the right players available at the right time, I would go for it.
With voting to replace Pope Benedict XVI taking place, it’s only right to endorse Rasheed Wallace as the succeeding Pope. Requested by C.J. Fogler, and thanks to Bobby Bernethy (again!), I present to you “Both Teams Prayed Hard.”
T-shirts can be purchased in two variations:
Also, I made the image above in a square, so you can download for social media profile images, if that interests you.
Today, the New York Knicks announced that Rasheed Wallace will undergo surgery to repair his injured left foot. The recovery time for the surgery is 8-weeks, but the Knicks hope he will be able to play in the playoffs.
Rasheed Wallace has not suited up for the Knicks since December 12th, and the Knicks kept a loose-timeline for his return. Now we now that he’ll need surgery before returning to the court. Some might ask, “why didn’t Sheed opt for surgery sooner?” Well, the Knicks were under the assumption that the injury would heal on its own. Obviously, that wasn’t the case.
The New York Knicks plan on keeping Rasheed Wallace on their roster, hoping that Sheed will be ready to go in time for the playoffs.
Round Two in the heavyweight rivalry that is the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets goes the the ‘Bockers. After being down by as much as 17 in the first half, the Knicks clawed their way back and pulled out an improbable 100-97 victory. Carmelo Anthony scored a season and Knicks career high 45 points. Jason Kidd, who hit the game-winning three-pointer, had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists in his first game against his former team as a member of the Knicks. Andray Blatche led Brooklyn with 23 points while Deron Williams had a double double with 18 points and 10 assists.
After back-to-back tough losses on the road, the Knicks were in need of a win. What better than having the 3-10 Detroit Pistons up next on your schedule? The Knicks defeated the Pistons in today’s matinee game at Madison Square Garden by a score of 121-100. The Knicks scoring was led by Carmelo Anthony’s 29 points. The Knicks got double-doubles from Raymond Felton (14 points, 10 assists) and J.R. Smith (15 points, 10 rebounds). The Garden crowd was also treated to the return of Steve Novak’s “Discount Double Check” celebration as he poured in 18 points, going 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. The Pistons were led by Brandon Knight’s 21 point, five assist performance.
Hopefully the Knicks had a great Thanksgiving dinner, because they’re Thanksgiving Eve and Black Friday were absolutely horrendous. Following their late game loss to the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, the Knicks put up a pitiful performance tonight against the Houston Rockets, losing by a score of 131-103. The Rockets were led by the duo of James Harden (33 points) and Chandler Parsons (31 points). The two combined to shoot 20-for-32 from the field (7-of-12 from beyond the arc) and 17-of-18 from the free throw line, with Harden alone shooting a perfect 16-for-16 from the charity stripe. The Knicks were led by the hot hand of Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 37 points on 14-for-24 shooting (7-for-12 from beyond the arc).
The Knicks take their 5-0 record into the Home of the Alamo to take on the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. The Spurs come into tonight’s game with a 7-1 record, tops in the Southwest division and Western Conference. They have won three straight ballgames and are coming off a close, two-point victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center this past Tuesday.
It took a little longer than expected, but Rasheed Wallace has officially come out of retirement to join the New York Knicks.
Wallace, 6-11, 230-pounds, holds career averages of 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.33 blocks over 33.0 minutes in 1,088 games (956 starts) over 15 seasons with Washington, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit and Boston. He is a four-time NBA All Star (2000, 2001, 2006, 2008), who won an NBA Championship with Detroit in 2004, alongside then-assistant coach Mike Woodson.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to media day today, due to some prior commitments, but thanks to a press conference style Q&A session, I was able to follow along on twitter. Here are some tidbits that are worth mentioning: