Breaking Down Mike Woodson and NY Knicks' Priorities Heading into Training Camp
Training camp is on its way for the New York Knicks, and following the media day festivities, we are finally back to actual basketball.
This year's camp is the most important in a long time, as it marks the Knicks' first with Mike Woodson as head coach, and the first with their key players all completely healthy.
Critics often point to a lack of chemistry when talking about the Knicks' troubles over the past few years, but a good training camp will go a long way to solving things.
Let's run over Mike Woodson and the Knicks' main priorities over the next few weeks, as they prepare for what should be a big season in 2012-13.
Integrating the New Signings
Over the course of the summer, the Knicks have brought in a number of new faces, and Mike Woodson's first big task of camp will be to bring them all together as one.
It's rare that a team has so much turnover from one season to another, but with a total of nine new additions (along with plenty more who'll be there just for camp), this will be the case for the Knicks.
Though they won't be the stars of the show, some of these new players will be playing big roles, as the Knicks will have an entirely new starting backcourt and a revamped bench rotation come opening day.
Luckily for Woodson, the new players at his disposal have a lot to offer him, and all seem motivated to get things going and compete for a title.
Of all the problems the Knicks had last season, injury trouble was right at the top of the list.
At the start of the season, Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert were both out for extended time with injury, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were forced to play through nagging injuries as well.
This contributed greatly to their poor start to the season, and in order to avoid a repeat of their slow start in 2012-13, the Knicks will have to make sure that injury is avoided in camp.
Besides the injuries to Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer, the Knicks are fully healthy right now, but just one more injury to another key player could really hurt them.
It cannot be stressed how important training camp and the first few weeks of the season will be for the Knicks, so they'll need to make sure that as many players as possible are available to play.
Establishing a Defensive Identity
Though the team is led by two offensive-minded stars in Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, if the Knicks are to compete for a title, the foundation will have to be on the defensive end of the floor.
Last year, Mike Woodson and Tyson Chandler did a great job in moving the Knicks from the 27th best defense in the league to the 11th last season, but further improvements will need to be made for the Knicks to have a truly elite defense.
Thanks to their offseason moves, the Knicks have the personnel to develop defensively, having added Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas to go along with Chandler and Iman Shumpert.
As good defensively as the Knicks' supporting cast is, though, Coach Woodson will have a lot of work on his hands to get some of the lesser defensive players on the side (namely Anthony and Stoudemire) to contribute as well.
Considering what a great job he did improving the defensive effort of J.R. Smith last season, it shouldn't be impossible for Woodson to get this done, but considering their history, it won't be easy.
That said, if the Knicks can finally get their stars to buy into playing defense, they will be a force to be reckoned with on that end of the floor.
Developing Offensive Chemistry Through Point Guard Play
As important as defense is going to be, it shouldn't come at the expense of the offense, which also needs to be improved considerably for the Knicks to compete at a high level.
Last year, chemistry was lacking throughout the season, and the only times that the Knicks looked at all coherent was during Linsanity and Carmelo Anthony's dominant stretch in April.
Having let go of Chauncey Billups in order to bring in Tyson Chandler, it is clear to see that what the Knicks were missing is a floor general to run the offense.
The Knicks brass set out this offseason to fix this problem, and now that they've brought in three pass-first point guards in Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni, things are looking up.
It won't simply be a case of plugging the new guys in and things suddenly working, though, as work still needs to be done in camp to build chemistry.
For the most part, these players are new to each other, so there will definitely be an adjustment period over the coming weeks.
Getting STAT and Melo on the Same Page
With big money going to them until 2015, the Knicks have invested a lot in their star partnership of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.
Whilst both players are great in their own rights, they have yet to show that they can be a force together, and this will need to change if the Knicks are to reach their potential and win an NBA title.
They aren't a perfect fit with their similarities on offense and lack of awareness on defense, but there's still a chance that things could improve in training camp.
This will, after all, be the Knicks' first full camp since bringing STAT and Melo together, and one of the rare times that both are completely healthy at the same time.
If there's ever going to be a time that Stoudemire and Anthony finally click it will be now, so the results of this year's camp will be a preview of exactly what's to come over the next few seasons.