What problems still plague Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks?
Every team in the NBA has its flaws—every single one of them.
For a team like the New York Knicks, their problems might prove more troublesome than most.
With title aspirations and the pressure of one of the world's biggest sports markets on their shoulders, the Knicks don't have the luxury of complacency.
They need to address their flaws and do it quickly. The "real" season begins in about a month-and-a-half, and nobody likes a team full of pretenders.
So what nagging issues do the Knicks need to solve?
The NBA season is as exhilarating as it is painful.
The nicks and bruises that come with basketball are inevitable, and at times, they can prove detrimental to depth and chemistry. The Knicks are undoubtedly a veteran squad—Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd are all examples of guys whose better days are behind them.
Of the two aforementioned players, Camby and Wallace have been felled by injuries as of late. Although Camby might return in the Knicks' upcoming bout with the Miami Heat, his tendency for being injury prone is unfortunate for a team that needs as much depth as it can going into the postseason. Similarly, Wallace is out after having surgery to repair a foot fracture.
Although they are both older vets, their presence on the court is as valuable as it is in the locker room. Both are quality glue guys at this stage in their careers, and they can help add toughness and experience for a team that collectively needs it to keep a level head.
Facing battle-hardened units like the Miami Heat requires a certain edge that only the likes of a Camby or Wallace can bring. Although their losses don't seem significant on the stat sheet, the Knicks will miss the intangibles they provide.
Throughout the season, the likes of Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony were also absent at times. There's no way the Knicks can afford to have key pieces absent at the most important time of the year.
With the postseason right around the corner, this is a team that definitely needs to ensure it can withstand any more untimely injuries.
At this stage in the season, momentum means everything. Having a full squad helps sustain the good rhythm.
While it sounds like a positive term, the reality is it can be one of the biggest culprits as far as causing offensive stagnancy.
Carmelo is arguably one of the game's most versatile scorers. His deadly combination of mobility, strength and shooting touch make him virtually unguardable. Considering his incredible scoring prowess, it's no surprise he's looking to get his shots and get a lot of them.
When Melo catches on the wing or off a post up, he isn't passing, he's looking to shoot. While this type of offense works at times for New York, other times it doesn't. In close situations when the team trails, the pressure of Carmelo or another gunner-type player like JR Smith to generate quick offense is even greater.
As a result, when misses pile up and no one snatches rebounds, stagnancy generates. One man attempting to outscore the opposing team rarely works in the long run, and it's the type of offense the Knicks need to avoid. Some of the best possessions the Knicks get are pick-and-roll looks. These possessions, in effect, are triple threats for opposing defenses.
Will they get a Felton pullup if they go under the screen, will Chandler catch a lob or will the denial allow a man in the corner to get free? Of course, these possessions don't work with 100 percent efficiency either.
This is basketball, it's about maximizing your opportunities when you can.
The Knicks were at their best early on in the season when they shared the ball and played with movement. If they get in the habit of running too many isos, it will perpetuate their unfortunate penchant for stagnant possessions.
For their sake, they're lucky these problems can be easily fixed. They just need to take what the defense gives them. Of course, they have to be willing passers. Thankfully, most tend to be despite often looking to score first.
Statistically, the Knicks aren't a "bad" defensive team. In a nutshell, the Knicks usually do their work by limiting teams to single possessions and being tough in the paint.
While anyone can feasibly take certain stats out of context and spin them in their favor, nothing is better than watching the games and seeing team defense for yourself. When the Knicks want to, they rotate and play defense with the best of them.
They play screens properly, guys like Tyson Chandler are loud and communicative, and overall, when they want to, they put effort on the defensive side of the ball.
The key words being, "when they want to." This is a team that needs to prove they can consistently defend and defend with effort.
In a few of their recent losses they allowed their opponents to score in the triple digits—a margin slightly above their scoring average. While the stats don't exactly scream, "porous defense," it isn't a coincidence they lost some of these recent high-scoring games.
They dominated early on in the season with crippling team defense. Statement wins against the likes of Miami and San Antonio were predicated on team defense and competing throughout the ballgame.
In many of their losses, they have come out languid and lackadaisical, allowing squads to jump on them early. These lapses at the wrong time can be backbreaking for momentum, If they let it happen in a key playoff game, it could spell doom for their title hopes.
They have the talent, they have the ability, but do they have the heart?
They've shown they do indeed, but they need to prove it consistently if they are to have success going into the playoffs.
There is perhaps no greater equalizer in the game of basketball than the three-point field goal.
Speed, athleticism and talent can often times be bested by the flick of a wrist. For the New York Knicks, they possess some of the game's greatest practitioners of this powerful equalizer. Steve Novak, J.R. Smith and even versatile scoring forward Carmelo Anthony are all deadly shooters, and it's no surprise that they make up the bulk of the Knicks' offense.
In the entire NBA, no team generates a higher percentage of offense from three-pointers than the New York Knicks. The Knicks, at times, live and die by the three. If they are to beat the likes of a Miami Heat, they will need to make use of it.
Further examining the potential Miami Heat matchup, the Knicks are at a tremendous disadvantage from a physicality standpoint. Sure, Carmelo is great, but there is no way they can athletically matchup in a seven-game series with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade—they just can't.
However, they do possess a lethal three-point attack. If the Knicks were to get hot, there's no telling how far they could go if they can sustain their shooting. The Knicks need to prevent stretches of cold shooting from behind the arc, because it truly is their equalizer against more athletic squads.
Making heavy use of the long ball could ensure a long playoff run for New York, but it's on them to make sure they can make timely shots when it matters.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is a brilliant piece of writing full of succinct yet profound maxims.
Of the 48 brief sayings, the Knicks should really pay attention to one of them in particular—well, two of them, really.
"Master the art of timing," and "Crush your enemy totally."
Timing is everything, especially now more than ever. The postseason is right around the corner and the Knicks have a problem—their timing is a bit off. After a four-game slide, they are currently riding a three-game winning streak, but against the lackluster likes of the Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers.
Sure, the Warriors are a decent team, but these are hardly the cream of the NBA crop. It is time the Knicks utilize the opportunity and seize the moment. On March 3, the Knicks will face the Miami Heat. This presents the Knicks with a key opportunity to get back on the track from their early season dominance.
Another crushing win over the Heat would be great. After two double-digit victories this season, the Knicks could really use another big-time win.
If the Knicks are to truly convince themselves, and the NBA world, they are serious contenders, it's time to make a statement.
Master the pre-postseason schedule and totally crush the proverbial juggernaut that is the Miami Heat—eh, easier said than done.
Despite the difficult task that lies before them, there is no doubt they're capable of getting it done. Like with most of their problems, the Knicks just need to step up and execute.