New York Knicks huddle
It's getting to be that time of year again. Everyone is looking forward to the New Year and deciding what things will go differently this time around. Some want to lose weight, and some want to own more leather pants.
The same is true of NBA teams. Basketball is an imperfect game. The ball doesn't go in every time, and turnovers happen. As long as that is true, there will always be things to work on.
That's even true when you're 21-8 like the New York Knicks. The team has been outstanding and has far outperformed expectations so far this season, but there is still more to work on. There are always New Years resolutions to be made.
Through the first 29 games of the season, the Knicks have accumulated 29 technical fouls. The epitome of the issue came against the Chicago Bulls when Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Mike Woodson were all ejected.
As much as that number is worrisome, the problem actually goes further than the statistic suggests. The Knicks have consistently allowed themselves to get frustrated by both refereeing decisions and physical play of opponents. Against the Memphis Grizzlies, the team lost its momentum and flow through frustration.
Whether the problem be referees or opposing teams, the Knicks are going to have to learn to control their tempers and focus on their play instead of arguing calls. Opponents are always going to antagonize you, and refs are always going to make decisions you disagree with.
Thus far this season, the Knicks offense has primarily come down to three things: alley-oops to Chandler, isolation plays to Carmelo and three-pointers across the board.
This offense has been working, but that is in part thanks to the outstanding shooting the team has been executing. Not only have the Knicks taken more threes than anyone else in the league, but they've made more of them too. There's no guarantee that will last though.
In order to balance the offense, New York needs to increase interior presence. Being more threatening from in close will spread the floor to create open shots. Amar'e Stoudemire will certainly help with that, but the Knicks also need to make a conscious effort to post-up more often.
According to the New York Post, Iman Shumpert is getting closer to a return every day. For New York, that means yet another talented player to incorporate into the flow of the team.
It should be much easier with Shump than with Stoudemire, though. Shumpert is an excellent perimeter defender and is explosive off the dribble, so he should get his starting job back at shooting guard. As long as he can avoid taking tough shots, he should be nothing but a blessing for New York.
In a similar vein to increasing interior presence, the Knicks must balance isolation plays with ball movement in order to see consistent offense. They have been very successful doing that this year, but it is crucial that it continue.
Carmelo takes the majority of isolation shots because he may be the best pure scorer in the world, and the points guards have been doing a superb job of distributing the ball as well as penetrating before kicking the ball back out.
Mike Woodson needs only be wary of not relying too heavily on either tactic.
This is the number one concern of Knicks fans at the moment, and it is particularly applicable as Stoudemire is likely to return on New Years day.
In order for the Knicks to have continued success, they will need to balance their two stars and for that to happen the two will need to collaborate in working to the other's strengths. Stoudemire must alternate between taking mid-range shots and posting up in order to draw defenders away from Melo. Melo must in turn be willing to give Stoudemire touches while utilizing increased space to do what he does best: score and distribute.
In one-on-one, Carmelo is nearly unstoppable. If Stoudemire can put him in those positions, it will benefit the whole team and Stoudemire will find himself as the toast of the town once more.
Rasheed Wallace and Jason Kidd
Not only do the Knicks have 4 of the 6 oldest active players in the NBA, but they actually have the oldest roster in the history of the league.
So far, this aging roster has resulted in excellent leadership and experienced play down the stretch. However, it is an 82-game season and the Knicks need these guys healthy the whole way.
Mike Woodson must conserve his aging players by rationing their playing time. This task becomes more difficult with the injury to Raymond Felton, but it is an absolute necessity. A team needs a healthy roster in the playoffs.