The Knicks have been nothing short of awful the first two weeks of the season. It is at the point that few fans believe that this team is anything other than a disaster and everyone is counting the days until free agency in 2010.
However, not all is lost. While the Stephon Marbury trade continues to haunt the Knicks as Utah owns the Knicks' draft pick, the Knicks do not need to be a 20-win team. Coach Mike D'Antoni just needs to remember that when you have less talent, the only way to beat better teams is with more energy. That means, play the young guys who are still on their rookie contracts.
Sit every last veteran who has played like a dog on defense and fails to move the ball on offense. If a player has a plus/minus of -20 then he sits. Make sure that every player knows that his chance to play depends on the team success and not his numbers. With so many expiring contracts, that should get the attention of most of the team.
So, the Knicks should just start Jordan Hill at center, David Lee at power forward, Danilo Gallinari at small forward, Wilson Chandler at shooting guard and Toney Douglas at the point. Only Lee would qualify as a veteran. However, if Lee does not start playing better, Al Harrington can start in his place.
What makes this new lineup more interesting is that it is athletic and they all pass the ball well. Hill is a solid jump shooter and shot blocker. So, while he may have trouble defending the post against bigger centers, he can help the defense with some help defense and shot blocking. Lee gets to match up against power forwards instead on centers and Gallinari can become the focus of the offense.
Douglas is a very good defender at the point. The Knicks have been a disaster defensively and if Douglas can contain opposing point guards, everyone else will be better.
The big risk in this lineup is that Chandler is really a small forward. However, he can defensively match up with shooting guards. The Knicks can then use him in the post on offense against shorter guards instead of having him try to create offense from the perimeter against quicker players. The big bonus is that if he develops into a capable shooting guard, then the goal of acquiring LeBron James as a free agent is that much closer.
Everyone knows that the Knicks real goal is to sign LeBron. However, LeBron has to have a reason other than loving all things New York to sign with the Knicks. The best way to do that is to show him that the Knicks have a nice core group of young players ready to complement him as he strives to win titles.
If Gallinari and Hill show that they can be quality big men who can shoot, then LeBron will feel comfortable that his talents will not go to waste. The only way to do that is to play them.
The major benefit to these young players is that Gallinari will get used to having to score when defenses key on him and Hill will learn to play defense on the NBA level. Douglas is already showing signs that he is a quality NBA player.
Finally, this lineup might actually convince the veterans to actually play hard so that can get some minutes and actually earn their next contract.
Coach D'Antoni better do something, because trying to win after spotting your opponent a 20-point lead every night is just not going to work.