What New York Knicks Can Learn from Remaining Regular Season Games
With a dozen games left in the regular season, the Knicks are on a roll again and looking to secure the second seed for the playoffs. With their recent injuries to Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomas, however, they're still learning what they have with their remaining players.
Besides looking to win as many games as possible before the season ends, New York also has to figure out their best options on the court looking forward. Who knows when the sidelined big men will return? And even if they're back in time for the playoffs, the remaining regular season games can provide useful information for the rest of the spring.
1. What to Expect from Kenyon Martin
When Kenyon Martin joined the Knicks after signing a 10-day contract in late February, he played in just one of his first six games, and even then, he recorded just five minutes. Luckily, he got another chance and ended up with a guaranteed spot for the rest of the season.
K-Mart started out slowly, but he has shown promise. While he scored five points or less in the five games since he started getting regular minutes, he's been improving.
Martin owned the Raptors in the back-to-back, home-and-home games on March 22 and 23, putting up 19 points and 11 boards, and 18 and 7, respectively.
Unfortunately, he had just four points and three rebounds on March 27 against Memphis.
As the season comes to a close, the Knicks will see if Martin can consistently put up solid numbers.
Can J.R. Smith Be Trusted?
J.R. Smith has had four 30-point games in the month of March. He also had a sub-.400 field-goal percentage in seven games in the same month. This kind of inconsistent play makes it hard to feature Smith in any kind of solid game plan.
Smith has proven that when he's hot, he can score at will, getting himself open or creating his own shot. He's also shown that when he's cold, he'll keep shooting anyway. Great players will do that, but Smith is not a great player. He needs to recognize when he's having an off night and play accordingly.
That's not to say he should pass up on open looks, but it does mean that if the opposing guard is draped all over him, he should let someone else shoot instead of settling for an off-balance, low-percentage jumper.
Is Chris Copeland a Rotation Guy?
I'll answer the question right now: yes. The real question is: Will Mike Woodson realize that Copeland is a rotation guy?
He scores, he plays hard and he's young enough to play significant minutes without getting worn out. The Knicks need him, especially with Stoudemire on the sidelines.
Copeland finally started getting solid playing time on a regular basis in March, but he only got five minutes against Toronto on March 22 and six against Memphis on March 27. Despite irregular minutes, he's made the most out of the opportunities he's had, scoring 12 points in seven minutes against Utah.
If Woodson puts more trust in this young gun, he'll be happy he did.
Can Novak Get His Groove Back?
Last year, Steve Novak was one of the league's premier long-distance shooters, shooting .472 from downtown. This season, however, his percentage is 50 points lower.
It's not hard to guess why. The guy hangs out behind the arc waiting for the ball, then shoots. It wasn't hard for other teams to figure him out this year.
While still a deadly shooter when he has on open look, Novak has to mix up his approach. If he wants to remain effective, he has to do a better job of running without the ball to lose his defender.
When Novak is on his game, he's a difference maker that can push the Knicks over the top. Like most of his teammates, he needs to improve his consistency.
How to Move the Ball Again
When Mike Woodson first took over the Knicks in the middle of last season, the team looked lost on the offensive end. Woodson was known for his defense, and it showed. The Knicks played without a plan with the ball, relying mainly on isolation plays.
At the beginning of this season, the Knicks looked like a new team. They moved without the ball and passed around the floor to find the open man and keep their opponents scrambling. As a result, they dominated the league in the opening months.
Then they stopped.
Once again, the isolation plays returned, and when Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith got the ball, you knew they were keeping it. No matter how much time was left on the shot clock or what kind of look they had at the basket, they were going to shoot. The result? They started losing.
Even the Knicks' recent success shows cause for alarm. In their win against Memphis, New York nearly blew a 30-point lead. Anthony went 8-of-20 in that game, making some poor shooting choices along the way.
The Knicks need to go with what got them here if they want to stick around.