You can't just point the finger at Iman Shumpert for the New York Knicks' disappointing season so far.
The 2013-14 New York Knicks are oozing disappointment from every pore, boasting the third-worst record in the league, an anemic offense, soft play on the glass and that old, penetrable, Swiss-cheese defense.
It’s been a collective effort. Other than Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, every single player on the roster has underachieved so far.
At least Mike Woodson, who’s underachieving as well, knows it. He told the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola, “Melo’s having another solid season. Melo’s doing what he’s supposed to do. Everybody else has got to do what they need to do as well. Nobody’s shooting the ball extremely well. Everybody’s getting shots.”
The Knicks are the 14th seed in the Eastern Conference right now. They have the 25th best offense, are 28th in rebounds and—with regard to the “ball movement” problem Amar’e Stoudemire recently griped about—are 23rd in assists.
Lucky for the Knicks, though, they play in the Atlantic Division and, despite the free fall, are still well within striking distance of at least the No. 4 seed.
The way things are looking, it might be fourth seed or bust.
There’s plenty of blame to go around—and of course the Chandler injury was a killer—but these most disappointing players need to step up if New York has plans on making the postseason—what was not long ago considered a given.
Pablo Prigioni, who paired with Raymond Felton in a highly-successful backcourt last season, has not stepped up.
His numbers, and typical conservative ball-control play, are on par with 2012-13—but he’s been getting more minutes without any accompanying uptick in performance and contribution.
Given the Knicks’ dire circumstances, compounded at guard with Raymond Felton’s tweaked hamstring, New York needs Prigioni to take it up a notch. He hasn’t.
It could have something to do with coach Woodson’s game plan. Prigioni is sizzling from the field (51 percent) and from three (46 percent), but he hardly takes any shots (2.8 and 2.2 per game respectively in over 18 minutes).
Four points an outing is not going to help the Knicks’ offense.
Neither will a drop in assists. The ball-movement ailment has infected Prigioni, a point guard with barely over two dishes a game—and it’s clear he’s not scrambling enough or aggressive enough in getting the ball back.
At least he’s one of the few Knicks who takes defense seriously.
Still, what once seemed like a deep position at the 1 looks more like a puddle with Felton’s and Prigioni’s woes and Beno Udrih’s lack of playing time to prove anything.
How will he play when he returns, and how much longer before he gets hurt again?
In both those cases above, Stoudemire returned well—certainly not close to his old self, but nobody expected that.
Though a brief stint, Stoudemire came back at the end of 2011-12 to score double figures in seven of his eight games and added two double-doubles, seven steals and eight blocks to his line.
After offseason surgery, he returned in January of 2013 and, despite minutes limits, still averaged 21.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Those days are over. Stoudemire was already on the way out by the time last year’s postseason rolled around—and that was before yet another surgery.
The problem is, he has gotten hurt anew (and quicker) each time—and this time, it looks (literally in appearance and statistically), that there will be no, even minor, comeback.
If the Knicks could have just gotten 10-15 points a game and some coverage in the paint on 15-20 minutes out of Amar’e, it would have been enough to stave off some of these losses, especially with Tyson Chandler out.
Something’s got to give—either Stoudemire’s knees or the minutes restrictions.
Kenyon Martin is hampered by time limitations as well—but it’s obvious that’s not the whole story. He’s a physical shadow of himself from last year and a quiet veteran now, unless he’s complaining about said restrictions.
Martin’s popping not even four points a game—less than Prigioni in the same amount of minutes—and that stalwart physical and vocal leadership is gone.
These two players, Stoudemire and Martin, are really one very expensive player—and not a good one at that—taking up two roster spots.
Where have you gone Raymond Felton? Back to the land of the average, cookie cut-out point guards. It happened a few years ago, actually, and the Knicks are just getting up to speed on the decline of Felton.
Felton never did nor ever would play as well as he did during his first run in the Big Apple when he made a small name for himself.
The Knicks (and their fans) remembered this fondly after Jeremy Lin flew the coop and scooped up Felton as a replacement, one of few point guards available anyway.
He’s just not that good, and he is often sloppy and reckless.
Felton sat out his return to Portland with a bruised ego, and he’s been dealing with a (let’s hope it’s not all season long) nagging hamstring that’s kept him out of a third of the Knicks’ games already.
With a team heavy on shooting, especially with the addition of Andrea Bargnani, a strong, consistent, occasionally-scoring, ball-tending distributor is essential—and it’s just not there.
Felton was always the weak link on the initially-planned five of Chandler-Anthony-Stoudemire-Shumpert-Felton.
Now, he’s literally having the worst season of his career—when he plays, that is.
In late October, the Knicks knew what they had with Carmelo Anthony. They knew what they had with Tyson Chandler. For better or worse, they knew what they had with J.R. Smith.
The Knicks had hope for an Andrea Bargnani resurgence and a stronger bench with Metta World Peace. Both have fallen short of the bar but have exceeded the direst concerns.
They expected Raymond Felton to play a sufficient role and Pablo Prigioni to keep games under control.
They also expected Iman Shumpert to take his game to another level. By this sequence of hopes and expectations, that would have made Shumpert the difference maker—the season changer—on this roster.
Given everything else, the Knicks were still a postseason also-ran. A gaming Shumpert would have legitimized Eastern Conference title contention.
We’re way off from that scenario at the moment.
Shump was on fire in the 2012-13 playoffs, sporting the best play of his short career—adding a punishing offense to an already slashing defense and crashing the boards to boot.
If only that continued. It hasn’t.
Shumpert is “imploding” according to rotoworld.com, culminating in a historically disastrous game against the Portland Trail Blazers where he “became the first Knick in over 30 years to log 20+ minutes, yet fail to record a single point, rebound, or assist.” [via Tommy Beer at hoopsworld.com]
There are three players the Knicks go nowhere without. Tyson Chandler, clearly. Carmelo Anthony, obviously. And J.R. Smith, sadly.
New York needs that second scorer and has placed its (unrewarded, so far) faith in Smith.
Smith has been nothing short of horrible, shooting 32 percent from the field and 30 percent from long distance, for a 12.4 points-per-game average—well short of his 18.1 in 2012-13 and what the Knicks absolutely need to contend in the East.
Even worse—no, abominably—he is 13-of-22 from the line for a Shaquille O'Neal-like 59 percent free-throw percentage.
“’Excuse my language, but I was playing like [garbage],’” Smith told the New York Post’s Fred Kerber after the 20-point home loss to the Atlanta Hawks, “a 3-of-18 horror that left his season shooting percentage at 22.6 percent. ‘I played terrible. I’ve been playing terrible since I got back and I wasn’t happy about it.’”
There is some hope. Smith bounced back to look a bit like his old (good) self in the next three games. Then, however, he looked again like his old (bad) self against the Portland Trail Blazers.
It's going to be a long season if Smith, and the rest of this team, continues to disappoint.