What Tyson Chandler Knows That Mike Woodson Doesn't

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What Tyson Chandler Knows That Mike Woodson Doesn't
Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Tyson Chandler, unlike New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, isn't allergic to the obvious.

Bearing heavy doses of truth, Chandler spoke to reporters following New York's 103-80 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day about his team's ineffective defensive schemes, per Newsday's Al Iannazzone:

Disagreeing with Woodson's defensive system is apparently a huge no-no. According to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola, Chandler's comments led to a confrontation with his head coach:

According to a team source, Woodson recently confronted Chandler about comments the veteran center made that could be interpreted as undermining the coach’s authority. It is unclear when that conversation took place, but it could have happened last week following a loss to the Indiana Pacers, when Chandler said “we didn’t make adjustments.”

That answer was in response to reporters asking Chandler to comment on Woodson’s claim that the Pacers simply outworked the Knicks. It was erroneously reported that Carmelo Anthony was criticizing Woodson when in fact Chandler took a subtle shot.

On top of all that, Woodson provided the media with his own two cents one day after New York's lopsided loss.

"I talk about it. I don’t think it’s something you air in the paper," Woodson said of Chandler's pointed criticism, per the New York Post's Fred Kerber. "You got issues, you hold your coach and your teammates accountable and you air it out amongst yourself."

In other words "Text me next time, Tyson." Or something like that.

Delivery method notwithstanding, Chandler isn't wrong. The Knicks are a switch-heavy defensive disaster. That's a fact. Woodson, unless he's oblivious to ubiquitous numbers, knows this. That's also a fact. Yet have any changes been made? Nope.

Woodson continues to allow the Knicks to live and die by a defensive system that's slowly, surely killing their season.

 

Numbers Don't Lie, But They Do Hurt

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Picture, if you will, a distraught Woodson pacing up and down the Knicks locker room, quietly trying to figure out how his team keeps being blown away by supposed peers.

After a few minutes, he stops in his tracks, turning to anxious reporters and a seething Chandler.

"What are these statistics y'all keep blathering on about?"

That's how ignorant you must be if you cannot pinpoint the source of New York's defensive woes. Though we would like to believe Woodson's not that daft, what gives? Why have no changes been made? Because the numbers are scary.

Really, really Sacha-Baron-Cohen-skinny-dipping frightening.

New York ranks 27th in defensive efficiency, ahead of only the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz. More specifically, the Knicks are having trouble defending any kind of ball movement, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required):

Knicks Points Allowed Per Possession Rank
Iso PnR Handler Post-Up PnR Roller Spot-Up Screen Hand Off Cut Transition
Rank 8 30 4 30 21 29 4 30 28

Synergy Sports

Notice the Knicks aren't doing terribly when possessions don't require them to defend more complex kinds of ball movement. Their isolation and post-up defense has been superb. Almost everything else? Awful. Hideous.

Horrific.

To ask the Knicks to close out spot-up shooters or disrupt pick-and-rolls is too much. They rank dead last in pick-and-roll prevention, both on the ball-handler and roller.

But yeah, don't change anything, Woody. Keep parroting Bruno Mars, telling yourself "you're amazing just the way you are," when nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Pick-and-Roll Confusion

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Listing all of New York's defensive flaws would take forever, eating up time people just don't have.

Fortunately, Chandler wasn't criticizing everything, just the switching and perils it brings. So, almost everything.

Let's start with the now-infamous fourth-quarter pick-and-roll collapse against Brooklyn.

Deron Williams crosses the timeline rather innocently, at which point Mirza Teletovic comes to set a screen on Pablo Prigioni:

Synergy Sports.

This is a pick Prigioni can run through. Teletovic's feet, while wide, aren't set and his body is facing a different direction. 

As we know, the Knicks don't fight over screens well, in part because their defense calls for them to switch. So even though Prig gets around Teletovic, he's forced to retreat.

Half-fighting over that pick put Prig in a difficult spot, nowhere near Teletovic. Recognizing this, Chandler starts directing Prig to switch again, this time onto Andray Blatche.

You can actually see Chandler's hand in the air:

Synergy Sports.

Andrea Bargnani still has his sights set on Teletovic. Perhaps confused by Chandler's guidance, he also turns to Blatche.

By the time he realizes he's supposed to be on D-Will, it's way too late:

Synergy Sports.

Don't worry, though, because the real-time version shows Bargs backpedaling while sticking his hands out just inside the three-point line, as if to say, "I dare Blatche to out-rebound me from here if he misses."

Related: Williams didn't miss.

Also, related: Blatche could definitely outwork Bargs from that distance.

Because I want your eyes to burn even more, we're going to journey back to New York's recent loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, when pick-and-rolls destroyed the Knicks once again.

Ryan Hollins sets a pick on Iman Shumpert:

Synergy Sports.

Nothing out of the ordinary here. Business as usual. 

Or maybe not.

Our good friend Bargs is supposed to switch off Hollins in this situation and cover Jamal Crafword. Shumpert, meanwhile, should pickup Crawford.

Shumpert does his job; Bargs doesn't:

Synergy Sports.

Now the Knicks have a nice double-team going on Hollins, an offensive juggernaut if we never saw one.

Seeing that Bargs hasn't defended properly, Shumpert tries to close out on Crawford, but cannot get there in time:

Synergy Sports.

Bang. Again.

Singling out Bargs seems unfair, but this is what Chandler was talking about. The Knicks don't have the "personnel" to switch so often, because players like Bargs simply can't.

 

Movement Sparks Chaos

All that we looked at previously saw the Knicks get killed while the rock never left the ball-handler. Think of what would happen if teams (gasp) (fake choking sound) (furiously start shaking head) decided to pass.

Actually, we don't have to. 

Failure to stop spot-up opportunities killed the Knicks against the Nets. More than a third of Brooklyn's offensive plays came off standstill heaves in that game, and it shot 53.3 percent in those situations. The Nets also nailed 10-of-23 spot-up threes.

Seriously.

Following passes or dribble-drives, the Knicks tend to double- or triple-team on-ball, putting them at the mercy of their rotations, which aren't good. Why do they double-team, you ask? Partially because they're an awful defensive team, mostly because opposing outfits understand how to create mismatches.

If you and your bleeding eyes could please follow me, I'll explain.

This particular play, which begins with Paul Pierce setting a screen on Raymond Felton, is a perfect example:

Synergy Sports.

Unless you're blind, or averse to staring at Felton for extended periods of time (I feel you), you probably notice Felton can easily get around Pierce. But that's not how the Knicks defend. They switch. 

Carmelo Anthony isn't even pretending he's going to stay on Pierce. In most systems, we would call this "lazy" or "confused" or "Bargnani-ing." For the Knicks, it's by design.

And here's what it does:

Synergy Sports.

Anthony is on Williams, an unsavory matchup in itself. While quick, Anthony isn't particularly adept at cutting off dribble penetration. He has this half-baked tendency to let players scoot by him before winding up and karate-chopping air somewhere between the ball and rim, hoping for a block. Sometimes it's works, most of the time it doesn't.

But I digress.

Williams doesn't take 'Melo off the dribble, opting to hit Pierce who is being "guarded" by Felton:

Synergy Sports.

Pierce decides to attack this time, facing little resistance from Felton. Look at how deep in the post he gets:

Synergy Sports.

Sigh. 

Felton's inability to keep Pierce in front of him forces Chandler and Shumpert to converge, leaving both Joe "Jesus" Johnson and Blatche open. 

The only line of defense New York now has on the strong-side perimeter is J.R. Smith. He is only staring at the play and watching it unfold. Even if he did his job he would be tasked with rotating onto two different players.

Assuming Smith hasn't successfully cloned an army of Swishes—please, no—that's impossible, and it means this isn't going to end well.

Which it doesn't:

Synergy Sports.

Three or four Feltons could fit between Shumpert and Johnson, who buries the super-duper-wide-open corner three. 

Those inclined to blame Felton, you're not wrong. But you're not right, either.

Felton should have never been defending Pierce. The initial switch was completely unnecessary—superfluous at best. Had 'Melo stuck with Pierce, maybe this play ends differently. Maybe the rest of these plays end differently.

Oh yes, there were more of these.

Of the 10 spot-up bombs Brooklyn hit, four came from the corner and almost all of them were the product of blown rotations preceded by unnecessary switches.

See for yourself:

The Knicks aren't good three-point defenders to begin with. Opponents put in 35.9 percent of their long balls against them, which ranks 16th in the league.

Corner threes especially kill New York. Teams are hitting at least 39 percent of their triples from either corner. If we applied that number to every spot, the Knicks would have the league's worst three-point defense.

Opponent's three-point percentage against Knicks via NBA.com.

Food for thought as you continue watching the Knicks switch and (not) rotate their way to defensive implosion.

 

Must Change; Won't Change

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Hindsight is 20/20—unless your name is Mike Woodson. Then, past mistakes are shrouded in cotton candy-smelling haze. 

Per The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring, Woodson doesn't plan on making any changes:

That's selfish. And stubborn. And wrong.  

"I don’t want to switch," Chandler said, per Isola. "I personally don’t like it. You come with a defensive plan and then every guy kind of mans up and takes his responsibility. I think switching should always be your last resort."

Switching is a last resort, one that Woodson seems prepared to ride to the bottom of the standings, or to the unemployment line.

Or both.

 

*Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports (subscription required) and NBA.com (subscription required) unless otherwise noted.


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