It's no secret that the New York Knicks would've flunked a high school chemistry class during the 2013-14 season.
Throughout the campaign, one that ended before the playoffs began, the primary storylines all revolved around stupidity. Silly plays on the court, antics like untying shoelaces, poor decisions off the court, internal clashes...you name it.
And apparently, that's one of the reasons Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton were shipped off to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Samuel Dalembert, Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and the Mavs' two second-round draft picks. Phil Jackson's stated rationale for the swap was to "change some of the chemistry" of the team he inherited during the stretch run of the 2013-14 go-round, per ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley.
"Watching them play I saw guys that looked at each other like, 'You didn't back me up, you weren't here when I needed help,'" explained the Zen Master. "There just wasn't the right combination or feel (where) it felt like everybody was in sync all the time."
And is he done yet? Maybe not if this next quote is any indication:
Well, we want to send a message to all of our players that we are on the move and we are making changes and we are making changes to move forward in the direction that we want to go. We want to be more aggressive defensively, we want to have a certain sense of offensive alacrity, getting up and down the court and challenging defenses to get back and protect the basket.
I don't want to name any names (cough, Andrea Bargnani, cough), but the Knicks as a whole need to be far more committed to the defensive end. Playing like a blindfolded three-year-old who has gained control of an Xbox controller during a lively NBA 2K14 session is not exactly a recipe for success when facing off against NBA competition.
"There's no synchronization out there on the court," Carmelo Anthony explained to Begley after a practice back in early December long before we knew the full extent of the New York blues. "Off the court, we talk to each other, we hang out with each other. We have fun with one another. But once we get on the court, it seems we're not in sync with one another right now. We've got to figure out ways to get that done and make it happen."
It's not hard to connect the dots.
The theme of this offseason is keeping Anthony in a blue and orange uniform, and addressing the chemistry concerns is one of the few ways Jackson can actually appeal to his star player. He nailed the draft on Thursday night, but—barring more trades—that'll be the extent of the roster changes for this capped-out franchise.
"Jackson is far from done. You can hear it in his voice. When he talks about the type of team and players he wants, he sounds like he’s looking at the roster from his championship team with the Knicks," writes George Willis for the New York Post.
The first trade certainly came out of left field. Perhaps the next one will as well.
Even if the roster composition for 2014-15 is rather unknown at this stage of the offseason, strange as that may be for a team with no financial flexibility and few trade assets, one thing is certain. Jackson won't rest until he's shaped this roster in his vision.
The failed chemistry experiments of the past are going to be kept exactly there—in the past.
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