The New York Knicks look eerily like another team that head coach Mike D’Antoni has coached. One thing that coach D can do is put a team on the floor that produces points. That being said, for all of the offensive production he gets out of his teams, neither the Knicks nor his former team, the Phoenix Suns, plays or played any defense.
Amar’e Stoudamire was a much needed super star and an important piece to revive the Knickerbockers legacy. Carmelo Anthony was a great addition given the path that NBA free agency is headed. But neither of these players are defensive juggernauts. For all that the Knicks gave up to get Melo, the trade has set the team back in regards to depth and overall talent.
Chauncy Billups is a formidable point guard and floor general, but beyond these three, the Knicks have little else and Billups is certainly on the down side of a great career.
Like the D’Antoni coached Suns, when I look at the athleticism of the Knicks, I have to wonder why it is such a monumental undertaking for either of these teams to play or have played defense. Like the Suns of old, the Knicks rank among the league worst in defense, ranking 28th out of 30 teams.
Defense is “attitude and want to” more than anything else, without it teams have no chance at securing a place among the league’s elite in wins and losses. The Knicks rank among the league leaders in scoring (3rd) at 105.9 per game, but can’t stop opponents from averaging 105.7 per game. They don’t have a defensive presence like a Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, or as a team for that matter.
Their games turn into offensive shot outs and if they happen to have an off offensive night or are out of sync offensively, the percentages of winning go way down. Right now they are completely out of sync, given the fact that they’ve only been playing together for the last 19 games, of which they are 7-12, and 1-9 over the last 10 games, losers of the last 6 in a row.
This team may need another off-season to put together and replace the players they traded away in the Melo deal. But even if they can upgrade their team for next year, defense will remain a focal point, because if you can’t get your superstars to buy into defending, how will D’Antoni get the role players to buy in?
It’s a prevalent problem that has plagued a great offensive minded coach, and conventional wisdom says, if the Knicks don’t come to the understanding that they need to put as much effort in on the defensive end as they do on the offensive end, next season will look much like this one.
Melo is talking must win with 10 games remaining, D’Antoni has said,” They need to play harder.” The reality is, until they embrace a defense first mentality, knowing that they can put point up on the other end, they simply won’t get out of the funk they’re in right now. Next year will be a replay of this season, and D’Antoni will continue to be known as a offensive guru with no clue or concern about defensive basketball.
Within two years, the Knicks will be the same old Knicks, fans will be calling for a new head coach, and the Knicks organization will be left to ponder what to do next, with big salaries locked up in Melo and Amar’e and nothing to show for it.