The New York Knicks have hit a huge bump in the road here after the trade deadline, and their poor performance over the last few weeks is definitely cause for concern.
After a dominant start to the season, in which they went 11-4 in November and looked convincing in the process, things have gone downhill with the turn of the new year.
Since Christmas, the Knicks are 13-12, and recently suffered a four-game losing streak—their longest since Mike Woodson took over as head coach almost a year ago.
The Knicks have still shown flashes of the team they were back at the start of the season, but for the most-part they've been playing mediocre basketball for two months now. It's a credit to the sheer amount of talent on the roster that the team has managed to stay near the top of the conference for so long.
Ironically, a lack of health could have been an excuse earlier in the season, but the team has been relatively healthy recently with Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert back in the lineup.
Even the age of the team—as much as it has been criticized—isn't an excuse. Of the Knicks' supposed old players, only Jason Kidd has played significant minutes this season. Guys like Pablo Prigioni and Kurt Thomas are much less important to what the Knicks are trying to achieve.
Their struggles have come purely from the way they are playing basketball. The offense has been stagnant, the defense has been non-existent at times, and players are struggling to stay focused and keep their cool when under pressure.
It's a positive for the Knicks, however, that the struggles are coming from the way they are playing, because it means they have the power to fix things themselves. But this has to happen soon if the team is to continue to compete with the elite teams in the East.
Offensively, the team simply needs to get back to moving the ball. Earlier in the season they were doing this almost too well, making a point to play unselfishly and find teammates in good spots.
Now, there are way too many isolation plays. STAT and Carmelo Anthony may be elite scorers, but it's much better for the Knicks when they're scoring in the flow of offense. That's why the team was so successful earlier in the year—everyone on the court was a threat and shooters were finding themselves with tons of space on the perimeter.
The Knicks have yet to prove that their early reliance on the three-ball can be sustained, and it definitely can't if the ball isn't moving. When it is, though, they will be hard to stop, because there are so many good outside shooters on the team.
On defense, the problems have really been there all season, but were hidden by the team's early offensive success.
For a defensive-minded coach, Woodson has done a frankly terrible job this season. The Knicks are an average team at best on D, but only last season finished fifth in defensive efficiency.
The constant switching on pick-and-rolls is completely unnecessary, and has allowed big plays time and time again. It doesn't take a genius to work out that Tyson Chandler is going to lose out when he's guarding smaller, faster players on the perimeter.
Speaking of the perimeter, opposing guards are finding it way too easy to penetrate, even when the correct personnel is out there.
The defense needs to be much tighter, and Woodson can start by playing Shumpert at his natural shooting guard position, moving Kidd to the bench to back up Raymond Felton. Shumpert is doesn't have the size to play the 3, and Kidd doesn't have the speed or athleticism to handle elite guards the way Shumpert can.
On the whole, these are issues that the Knicks should be able to fix, but that doesn't mean that they will. At this point in the season, it's shocking that such simple mistakes are being made by coaches and players alike.
This can't be happening with a team that wants to compete for a title, and if it continues there will be serious trouble brewing in New York.
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