Six losses in a row.
A 2-8 record since Carmelo Anthony's return.
Allowing 109.5 points per game over the last six games.
You know the drill: 'Melo can't play with Lin, D'Antoni can't make it work.
Rather than regurgitate the many problems that are currently ailing the Knicks, let's offer up some solutions that don't involve trades or a firing of the head coach.
Safe to say, that with only 24 games remaining (and the Knicks currently positioned as the ninth seed in the East), it's now or never for this current group that Mike D'Antoni has at his disposal.
It's time for him to man-up, for lack of a better phrase.
Over the course of NBA history, head coaches have often been wary of criticizing their star players and/or questioning their leadership, work ethic, shot selection, etc. For Carmelo, each of these criteria are under intense scrutiny at the moment. The problem, however, is that the scrutiny should be coming from within the organization, rather than the media.
Problem: Over the past two weeks, Anthony has talked endlessly about sharing the ball, fitting in with the offense, and making his teammates better. If simply talking about these things could impact the standings, the Knicks would be headed for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Alas, you actually have to practice what you preach. 'Melo doesn't make his teammates better, he still jacks up contested threes despite his horrendous three-point shooting percentage (30.8), and he refuses to hustle for loose balls and rebounds. When watching Carmelo Anthony play basketball, you sometimes question whether he actually cares about winning the game; a stark contrast to the successful superstars in the league (see: Rose, James, Durant, Bryant, etc.)
Solution: Cut the crap. D'Antoni and the rest of the Knicks' coaching staff need to stop worrying about pampering their so-called 'stars' egos and begin to correct the problem. One way to do this would be to hold a one-on-one film session with Anthony, in which contrasting game clips would be brought to his attention:
1) Iman Shumpert's tenacious on-the-ball defense vs. Melo's lackluster efforts.
2) Jared Jeffries' help defense vs. 'Melo's lack thereof.
3) Clips of everyone else on the team diving for loose balls vs. The ONE time 'Melo dove for a loose ball.*
*To be clear, I'm not actually sure that he has even dove for one loose ball all year.
These are just some of the things that could be brought up in the film session. Also, note that they only deal with defense. For all the talk of 'Melo's offensive woes, the defensive end of the floor is where the Knicks have been hurting the most since his return. During the height of Linsanity, the Knicks only gave up 90.4ppg over the course of 9 games; granted they were playing inferior opponents, but that's still 19.1 points less than they've given up with Anthony back in the lineup.
The main reason for this is that defense is known to be infectious. When the supposed leader of your team (in addition to Amar'e Stoudemire) is playing porous defense, it rubs off on everyone else - except Tyson Chandler, of course, he's immune to bad defense. Speaking of Tyson, sticking him in that film session wouldn't be a bad idea either, seeing as Mike D'Antoni isn't exactly renowned for single-handedly instilling a defensive attitude in players.
Once the defensive intensity returns for the team, so will the fast-break points, which we know to be one of the keys to a successful D'Antoni offense.
Problem: Over the past six games, Steve Novak has played 59 minutes and has attempted 13 shots from downtown. Given the Knicks' recent pace of 100.8 possessions per game, this means that Novak is shooting a three on roughly 1 out of every 10 possessions when he's on the floor.
For someone who has been shooting 48.3% from three-point range since the dawn of Linsanity, that's wholly unacceptable.
Solution: Would any New Yorker have a problem if Mike 'The Offensive Genius' D'Antoni found a way for Novak to get one open look, say, every five trips down the floor? I certainly wouldn't. Given his incredible accuracy from long range, this would likely result in six or nine more points for the Knicks per game.
I'm not advocating making Steve Novak the focal point of the offense. Just get him one shot for every five possessions that he's out there. Otherwise, why have him out there at all if you're not going to use his singular, deadly skill?
Problem: The Knicks can't get stops down the stretch of games.
Solution: This one's a no-brainer.
As a rookie, Iman Shumpert is one of the top perimeter defenders in the league. Per 48 minutes, he averages 3.17 steals, ranking him 3rd in the NBA behind Mike Conley Jr. and Tony Allen. He's proven that he is capable of guarding the opponent's best perimeter player tightly in crunch time, forcing them to give up the ball.
We all know that his offensive decision making needs work, but you would have a hard time making the case that Davis, Smith, or Fields is more of a scoring threat at the end of games currently.
The Lin/Davis combination at the end of games is too much of a defensive liability in the fourth quarter. Lin's defensive shortcomings, while overstated, have been well documented, and Baron Davis would have a hard time keeping in front of Derrick Rose's grandmother, nevermind Derrick Rose himself.
Also, when has a team been successful in the past with a two point guard lineup? The backcourt positions have different names for a reason. Let's keep it that way.
So, put Iman Shumpert in for the last 8 minutes of every game (when the starting guards usually check back in), and have him guard the other team's best perimeter player. This will put more pressure on the ball-handler of the opposition, while allowing Lin to take advantage of a more favorable match-up.
*It should also be noted that the imminent return of Jared Jeffries will also help the Knicks' defense regain its short-lived success.