The Knicks are 3-0 to start the season, and naturally, fans are going nuts. After years of underachieving, the team looks like a solid, cohesive unit with the ability to legitimately contend for a championship and play extremely tough defense against any opponent.
Yet while coach Mike Woodson is indeed doing a great job, there is one thing he has NOT done that is just puzzling.
You see, the Knicks' best player during the preseason was Chris Copeland, a 28-year-old rookie who went to play in Europe for six years after going undrafted out of Colorado in 2006. Copeland only averaged 7.3 points per game in four years with the Buffaloes, but established himself as a solid shooter, making a respectable 34 percent of his shots from long range.
While in Europe, however, he improved his scoring abilities immensely. Playing for the Belgian team Okapi Aalstar in 2011, he averaged 20.1 points per game. At long last, he was ready for the NBA and signed a contract with the Knicks in July, averaging 13.8 points in the Summer League.
As a result, he got a good chunk of playing time in the preseason and averaged 15.5 points en route to earning a roster spot. However, now that the regular season has begun, Copeland has become a non-factor.
While he has played in each of the Knicks' three games, Copeland has only been able to log minutes in garbage time, when the Knicks have essentially sealed the win. Woodson has given him just 2.3 minutes per game, and Copeland has posted the same in points.
He's even gotten less playing time than the aging Rasheed Wallace, who was out of the league for two years before making a comeback with New York. The fact is that Copeland is a natural scorer with good size at 6'8", 225 pounds, and he's wasting away on the end of the bench. He worked so hard both in the Summer League and preseason to earn a roster spot, so why let him have it at all if his talents aren't going to be utilized?
On top of that, with the only consistent scorer on the team being Carmelo Anthony, at least until Amar'e Stoudemire comes back, what's the harm in giving Copeland about 12-15 minutes of playing time? Nothing against J.R. Smith or Steve Novak, but most of their work comes from behind the three-point line, and if just one of them is having an off-night, winning becomes a lot harder for the Knicks.
Unlike them, Copeland can drive to the basket as well as make jumpers from mid to long range. He may not be as strong an athlete as Anthony, but he has more determination than some players have in an entire career, and that counts for something.
More importantly, giving him more minutes would give Woodson a chance to see how far he can stretch the depth of his team. How many teams can say that they have three players on the bench who can check in and immediately start putting points on the board? Not many, last I checked.
Thus, while the Knicks' current formula is working fine and there is no real need to make any tweaks, it's still worth giving Copeland some extra playing time just to see if he was the real deal. Worst-case scenario, he doesn't adapt well to teams' top units and he either gets released or sent to the D-League.
Best case, however, he becomes one of the Knicks' secret weapons off the bench and plays an integral role in their return to prosperity.
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