Biggest Areas of Concern for NY Knicks in 2nd Half of Season
Concerns abound as the New York Knicks have started the second half of the season with a loss—their fifth in a row. This ongoing implosion has wiped the team’s preceding five-game win streak from memory.
The Knicks are on the outside of the playoff picture—several games off the Charlotte Bobcats’ eighth-seed pace and even further away from the Toronto Raptors and the relative safety of an Atlantic Division title. Let’s repeat: the Bobcats and the Raptors.
Forty-two games sure do go fast—and so do 27 losses.
Fifteen wins? Only four teams have fewer. Take away that streak from last week, and the Knicks would have just 10. Only the Milwaukee Bucks have fewer.
The Knicks are just one loss away from 28—last season’s total—and they’ve already dropped 15 at home, five more than last year.
When ESPN’s (subscription required) SCHOENE projection system predicted a “37-45, 2nd in Atlantic, 7th in Eastern Conference” finish for New York back in mid-October, who knew it was being so optimistic?
The Knicks may not be the worst team in the NBA, but they might as well be, given everyone’s preseason expectations—even tepid ones, like those 37 wins.
And they could be the worst by season’s end, or they at least won’t make the playoffs, if they don’t get a handle on...just about everything.
The Knicks “machine” is scoring champion Carmelo Anthony, anchor of the defense Tyson Chandler and—at least the plan was—secondary two- and three-point scorers J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani.
Go ahead and lop off that last third.
Smith is having the worst season of his career shooting 36.5 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from three.
Bargnani has been equally woeful, scoring barely a soft 13 points per game, and now, according to the New York Daily News' Peter Botte, he "is out indefinitely—which could conceivably mean the rest of the season—after he suffered a torn ligament in his left elbow" in the 110-106 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
The Knicks have only one (overworked) effective scoring option.
Anthony is raining in the buckets—or really raining shots at 21 per game. He needs all those and his 39.2 minutes (tops in the NBA) to keep up that 26-point scoring average.
As a whole, the Knicks have the fifth-worst offense in the league—both in scoring (95.2 points) and in accuracy (43.3 percent).
Dead Ball: No Ball Movement
The dead ball era is alive and well at Madison Square Garden. Only four teams move the ball around less than New York’s 20.2 assists per game.
After that 23-point whupping at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets, the New York Post’s Fred Kerber noted that the Knicks “looked about as cohesive as a gang of caffeinated preschoolers. Ball movement—especially effective ball movement—was a fantasy.”
Only four Knicks have been able to muster three assists per game, with Raymond Felton boasting a stiff, team-leading 5.5.
Couple that with nagging injuries to Felton and Pablo Prigioni, and nobody is left steering the ship.
Consistent Losing, Inconsistent Winning
The Knicks don’t just lose. They do it in bunches. And when they win, it’s just a quick break from losing.
New York has five losing streaks of two or more games (three, nine, two, three and five). It has two winning streaks of two or more (two and five).
After winning five in a row and six of seven against the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, the Knicks leaped eagerly into a five-game swoon that saw them yield more than 100 points in each contest.
Fair enough—the Knicks upped their game some for the big boys, but if they’re following that up with losses to the Charlotte Bobcats, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, it’s a wash.
Which brings us straight to the next concern—one that has everybody guessing.
The Curse of the Renovated Garden
On the morning of January 14, the Knicks must have been feeling good. They had just polished off their fifth in a row and were looking ahead to an eight-game homestand against some of the worst teams in the league.
They lost the two games on the road in between—to the Bobcats and Indiana Pacers—then dropped the next three at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks are 7-15 at home, worst in the league (c’mon, the Milwaukee Bucks don’t even count). They yielded at least 100 points 13 of those times and have lost by at least 20 five of those times (including 41, 31 and 29).
What is going on? The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) suggests the “Knicks [are] playing like they hate the new Garden.”
Complete Lack of Chemistry and Leadership
Back in December, Carmelo Anthony told ESPN New York's Ian Begley, “There's no synchronization out there on the court…we're not in sync with one another.”
The Knicks have gone 12-14 since then, so they did make some adjustments. When Anthony said that, New York was sitting at 3-13.
Still, the meshing of Anthony with Andrea Bargnani, or Raymond Felton with Pablo Prigioni, or J.R. Smith with anyone on the team makes a Knicks fan long for the simpler times of the Anthony-Amar’e Stoudemire jelling issues.
These Knicks play like a bunch of strangers meeting for the first time every night. They lost all of their veteran leadership in the offseason, which is just the kind of thing that can muddle their chemistry.
Anthony wants no part of it. He just wants to keep his head down and score points.
Where to turn? The only vocal veteran leader on the team is the cheerleader in Kenyon Martin. It’s not good enough.
Lack of Passion
Newsday’s Al Iannazzone noted how “little resistance” the Knicks put up against the Brooklyn Nets in a 103-80 drubbing, mimicking Carmelo Anthony’s sentiments. “We didn’t even fight,” said the now-selected 2014 All-Star starter.
Yahoo’s Brian Sausa had much more to say, and he’s dead-on:
[New York] lacks the passion or competitiveness to keep itself afloat. They play soft, afraid and selfish in a league where physicality, confidence and teamwork are the recipe for success. The most unforgivable brand of basketball is one that shows no will to win or desire to compete.
The Knicks give up early. At least one quarter of every game gets way away from them, and they have mailed in whole games, such as that one against the Nets, the 41-point slaughter at the hands of the Boston Celtics and their foolish loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Untimely Defense, No Rebounding
It’s not that the Knicks have the worst defense around. They’re actually 10th in the league, giving up 99.3 points per game.
The blowouts are blowouts. But New York has lost more than half its games (14) by nine points or less—and there’s the rub.
The Knicks’ D lies down at the worst times.
When the Washington Wizards stole one in the final seconds in mid-December, game-winner Bradley Beal told The Washington Post’s Michael Lee, “There was absolutely nobody paying attention. A lot of commotion, guys were trying to switch. They had no idea where the ball was going.”
Marcin Gortat added, “I don’t think they were on the same page defensively. I don’t know what they were trying to do.”
Meanwhile, the Knicks hit the boards to the tune of about 40 a game, 27th in the league. Tyson Chandler’s game is so off, he’s not even the team leader. Anthony is. After that, no one is hitting the glass.
When an owner has to repeatedly reassure the universe that the coach will not be fired, the coach usually is dismissed.
Even Carmelo Anthony seems flippant lately about his attachment to both New York and Woodson, too, jumping on the criticism bandwagon.
The New York Post's Mike Vaccaro called the Knicks:
(A) team that is inching toward outright, open rebellion. A couple of nights ago it was Anthony talking about the lack of adjustments the Knicks make. This time it was the Knicks’ other veteran spokesman, Tyson Chandler, who decided that the time is long passed for subtlety and tact. 'They out-schemed us,' Chandler said.
There's no way a new midseason coach can raise this Titanic.
Of course, the Knicks have to deal with injuries, too. Andrea Bargnani, Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin are all out at the same time now. This isn't fixable without some kind of transaction or a suddenly transcendent Metta World Peace or Jeremy Tyler.
New York could have hobbled through missing one but all three together? And with Tyson Chandler having a down year?
It would be nice to suggest corrections for all of the Knicks’ fundamental woes.
New coach? Trade for a player? Trade for a draft pick? It’s too late this season for any of that to make a significant difference, and they have minimal trade bait to offer in the first place.
The fact is, individually, no one on the team is playing up to his potential. We keep hearing about the team working together.
How about getting their own games up to par first?
There is only one solution. It might be time to completely rebuild, with or without Carmelo Anthony.
That, or an exorcism.