Biggest Reasons Why NY Knicks Are Struggling to Start 2013-14
With Tyson Chandler out 4-6 weeks, December isn’t looking much better.
Clearly, this is the biggest reason the Knicks are struggling at this moment, and will struggle in the near future—but the fact is they weren’t looking too good before their critical big man went down with a broken leg.
The Knicks offense is 25th at 93.0 points a game. They are ranked 24th in assists. They are the fourth-worst rebounding team in the league.
Every player is playing below his potential, from Carmelo Anthony, through Iman Shumpert, to Raymond Felton.
Anthony’s sporting the worst accuracy of his career. Shumpert’s oft-praised defensive ferocity is tame of late (see: San Antonio Spurs).
Felton’s been nursing a hamstring injury since the preseason. His shooting and shot selection have been horrendous.
Andrea Bargnani isn’t half the addition the Knicks needed. Amar’e Stoudemire is a statue. Kenyon Martin is not allowed to play more than 10 minutes at a clip.
Metta World Peace is quietly having a good season, but his game-effecting impact has been nil.
And J.R Smith has barely played yet, preseason and regular season.
There’s a handful of other guys on the team barely making a dent in the box score.
There are so many reasons the Knicks are struggling to start 2013-14, but these are the biggest.
Lack of Depth at Center
It’s not just that the Knicks will miss Tyson Chandler’s defense and presence, it’s that there is absolutely no one to fill the void. Herb Williams is probably the best New York has on its bench.
In reality, Chandler’s by-the-chart backup is supposedly Cole Aldrich, but he is so uninspired and unproductive—and deep in Mike Woodson’s doghouse—that he’s managed all of 10 of the newly-available 137 minutes available since Tyson split (seven percent).
Woodson has turned to Andrea Bargnani for size and resurrected last season’s small, successful lineup with Carmelo Anthony at the 4 and the dual-PG backcourt of Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni.
That’s left Iman Shumpert as the starting small forward backed up by Metta World Peace.
It just hasn’t worked without their defensive and rebounding anchor in the paint—and with everyone else faltering in unison.
Understandably, the Tyson Chandler injury puts a wrench in the Knicks’ lineup stability, but Coach Woodson has been wishy-washy on his starters from day one.
After seeming determined throughout the preseason to start Andrea Bargnani at power forward straight from the opener, Woodson changed his mind the night before and gave the nod to Carmelo Anthony. Bargnani came off the bench. The Knicks won.
But the next game, the Knicks went big against the Chicago Bulls with Bargnani getting the start and Pablo Prigioni back on the bench. They lost.
Bargnani has been starting since then, not just since Chandler’s been hurt, and the Knicks, well, have stunk.
Mike Woodson is expected to change the starting lineup for Wednesday’s game in Atlanta and said J.R. Smith is a candidate. Asked about Metta World Peace joining the starting fray, Woodson didn’t rule it out.
It has to be hard for this team to jell given these circumstances.
It’s not a good locker room right now at the Garden. The Knicks are strangers on their own turf, 1-3 at home, including two ugly losses—one to the Charlotte Bobcats of all teams and the other a trouncing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, who New York beat in the same setting last year.
James Dolan started the season off on a sour note, swapping out GM Glen Grunwald for Isiah Thomas-man Steve Mills.
Now he’s twisting Mike Woodson’s screws.
Woodson is officially an entrenched, embattled coach now, deflecting criticism from all sides—the fans, who chanted “Fire Woodson” at the end of the Spurs game; the media, who want to know what was said behind closed doors with Dolan; the players, led by Carmelo Anthony, who was irked by Woodson’s comments following the blowout; and the top of the food chain itself, JD...and his band.
Iman Shumpert has been increasingly aloof and subpar on both sides of the ball—a reaction to his possible demotion to the bench?
Meanwhile, Kenyon Martin is vocally unhappy about his limited schedule, per the Post’s Marc Berman:
Martin had to watch the entire 120-89 Spurs’ nightmare from the bench. He was shackled by the Knicks medical staff’s new platoon system with Amar’e Stoudemire. On Tuesday, [he] was snappish about the whole subject—another sign of the team unrest.
The Knicks need to settle down internally before they can get it together on the court.
No Offense/No Second Option
Outside of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks have practically no offense. No wonder they currently have one of the worst in the whole NBA.
The J.R. Smith suspension, and his awful return against the Spurs, has hurt here most of all. If Smith does not put up near 20 points a game, as he did last year (18.1), the Knicks are finished.
Behind Anthony’s 23.2 points a game is Andrea Bargnani…with 12.7 a game.
Bargnani can not be the Knicks’ second scoring option. Makes you almost wish Steve Novak was still on the team.
Raymond Felton’s production is down. Metta World Peace’s contributions have been minimal. Iman Shumpert’s offensive development seems to have slowed.
Amar’e Stoudemire’s career seems to be over. Sometimes you just hold your breath hoping he doesn’t suddenly break in half out there.
It’s J.R. Smith or bust. He has become as critical to this team as Tyson Chandler and Anthony himself. Subtract any one of the three and look what happens—last place in the Atlantic Division.
We won’t exactly know what Smith—after the postseason slump, erratic shooting, surgery, suspension and lack of camp—will bring to the table in 2013-14 until he gets his feet under him.
Hold your breath again.
Poor Defense: The Blowout Quarter
In the four non-Bobcats games the Knicks have played (those don’t really count yet), win or lose, they have been blown out of the water in at least one quarter.
After taking a 25-point, 56-31 halftime lead against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bucks roared back for a 33-18 third period. In the end, they cut the lead 18 points in a soft (for New York) second half.
The Knicks’ 20-11 fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls came four quarters too late. The Bulls finished the first period up by 10.
A game later, the Knicks had not learned their lesson. In fact, they regressed, allowing the Minnesota Timberwolves to score 40 points in the first 12 minutes, ending the game before it began.
The San Antonio Spurs put up 35 in the first period of their 31-point drubbing.
The problem right now for the Knicks, though, is lack of a remedy without Tyson Chandler playing stopper. Iman Shumpert is not enough on his own.
Here’s an idea: Hold the ball every now and then when things start slipping. Work the shot clock. Slow the game down before a single quarter decides it.
Excepting the Spurs loss, the other three Knicks defeats were only by an average of five points.
What a difference a quarter makes.
Maybe the Knicks are closer than we think, but they have to put a lid on these runs.