Last night against the Rockets, the big news for the team on the court was the changing of the starting lineup. Over the last few games the Knicks have started out slowly, and Coach D’Antoni was looking to correct this flaw. So against Houston, the team benched Wilson Chandler in favor of Al Harrington.
At the start of the season, many Knick fans were hoping Chandler would win the small forward battle against Quentin Richardson. But recently Wilson’s poor play has made fans hope that he would be removed from the starting five. The youngster has shot abysmally, shooting a meager 38% eFG% over the last 6 games. He has two major flaws which hurt his scoring efficiency. The first is his poor shooting from three point range (29.4%), the second is his inability to draw fouls.
Back on January 5th, I talked about the latter. Chandler had just come off a win against Boston, where he attempted a career high 12 free throws. At the time I said:
If Chandler is able to score more from the charity stripe, it’ll make him a more efficient scorer. This helps the Knicks in the short term (as Chandler is still in the Knicks starting lineup), and the long (he’s more likely to develop and/or be valuable to other teams).
But more significantly is that perhaps this coaching staff noticed this flaw in Chandler’s game and attempted to correct it. This would be a substantial gain for the team, because it marks their ability to improve their players. Two of Isiah’s biggest acquisitions were Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford, two young players that the team hoped would turn into NBA All Stars. Unfortunately Curry & Crawford continued to commit the same mistakes over and over and never improved. If the current Knick coaching staff can identify a young player’s flaws and attempt to rectify them, then it shows the team has improved in that area as well.
Granted this doesn’t mean that the team can turn any young player into an NBA starter. Obviously credit for this change, should it be permanent, should go to Chandler for being physically and mentally able to get to the charity stripe more often. Not every NBA player will be able to correct their flaws. However during the Isiah era, it felt as if the team was stuck in the same place. Every month the Knicks suffered from the same problems and made the same mistakes, without any change. At least Knick fans can be more confident that the team probably won’t fall into the same malaise.
Now if they could just work on Chandler’s three point shooting…
Unfortunately the change was not permanent. Since that game, Chandler hasn’t attempted more than 4 free throws in a single game. However the Knick forward seemed to address the other flaw in his shooting, his inaccurate three point shooting. Against the Rockets, when the ball rotated to Chandler on the perimeter, he would take a hop-step before receiving the pass. Therefore instead of being forced to shoot a three point shot, Chandler was taking a make able 18 footer. Looking at last night’s game chart, he made 2 of the 3 he attempted.
Again I have to give credit to Chandler and the coaching staff for this adjustment. Last year he only attempted 1.6 3PA/36, but in D’Antoni’s system that number has skyrocketed to 4.2 3PA/36. For a career sub-30% shooter, this volume must be outside of Chandler’s comfort zone. This change may allow the 21 year old to be more efficient and take pressure of him to hit a shot he may be uncomfortable with. Perhaps this confidence helped Wilson last night. In the waning moments, the Rockets left him alone at the top of the key, daring him to hit a three pointer. With the Knicks down by 2 with 2:21 left, Chandler coolly drained the shot to put the Knicks up for good. It’ll be interesting to see if this time the adjustment sticks.