Late last night I was called by AM New York’s Tim Herrera and asked some questions about the Knicks. Even though I’m not mentioned anywhere in his article, he does quote some other Knick bloggers:
The experts agree: It’s all about the chemistry.
“The team just doesn’t know who they are at this point,” said Tommy Dee of theknicksblog.com. “They’re not clicking game-in game-out. When they sort that out, they’ll do some damage.”
Wayne McDonnell, sports management professor at NYU, agreed, adding, “When you make a move of this magnitude in such a short period of time, chemistry is key.”
Seth Rosenthal of Knicks blog postingandtoasting.com said expectations after the trade were unrealistically high.
“You can’t expect a guy who spent seven years at another team with another style to mesh with another star scorer and immediately figure things out,” he said.
But don’t panic, Dee said. “They’re still gonna be a tough team to deal with in the first round of the playoffs,” he said.
If you’ve been following my blog since the trade, you can see why my remarks didn’t make print. Either he didn’t understand what I was saying over the phone, or he doesn’t consider me an expert. Nonetheless I don’t think it’s all about chemistry, rather it’s all about the roster.
New York has a couple of holes in their roster. The first is a big man that could defend the paint and rebound with a modicum of outside shooting to keep the lane free. In other words, they need someone to compliment Amar’e Stoudemire. Turiaf has been useful in stretches, but his rebounding is subpar, and his body doesn’t seem to be up to the task of more than 20 minutes per game. Considering that the Knicks best rebounder, Landry Fields, has seen his court time diminish recently (less than 32 minutes in 7 of the last 8 games), glasswork has been a glaring weakness. D’Antoni tried to address it by starting Sheldon Williams. Despite being only 6-9, Williams is a good rebounder and decent defender. Although he was active on the glass, Sheldon missed an open 12 foot jumper and a contested layup. Unfortunately the Bucks teed off on New York to the tune of 32-9 first quarter, and Williams was yanked just 6 minutes into the game. Hence, I’m not sure if D’Antoni will give Sheldon another try.
The second big need is a true point guard that fits D’Antoni’s system. This year the Knicks have used five point guards. Felton could run the offense, but his shooting was woeful and his defense was worse than advertised. Toney Douglas is a fine defender, but he struggles distributing the ball and he’s a streaky shooter. Chauncey Billups can score efficiently, but at his age (34 yrs old) has trouble staying in front of quicker guards. Roger Mason’s shot is starting to fall, but he makes Billups look like Jason Kidd on defense. Finally Anthony Carter can defend, and that’s about it. Billups is obviously the best of this group, but New York needs a competent backup who can eat major minutes or spot start when Chauncey gets hurt.
The third thing New York lacks is a swingman defender. Chandler and Gallinari were both underrated defenders, and I’d rate the pair above average. However with the duo taking their talents to the Queen City of the Plains, the Knicks are hurting for a guard-forward that can clamp down on an opponent. Witness yesterday’s game when Carlos Delfino dropped 30 points on just 13 shots. Unfortunately there is no one in the rotation that could fit this role, and apparently the bench guys aren’t good enough (or trying hard enough in practice) to see court time.
In any case these aren’t chemistry problems. No amount of practice or game cohesion will fix these issues, because there are fundamental flaws in the roster. In the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Knicks traded away its depth and became more top heavy. New York saw three of their top minute-getters depart, and only received two starters in return. None of the other players the Knicks received are in the rotation. The team was built around the players they had in the offseason, and wasn’t meant to compliment the duo of Amar’e & ‘Melo. Since the trade the Knicks bench is an amalgamation of what other teams were willing to jettison, and what other teams deemed unworthy as filler.
Yesterday I was asked if New Yorkers were too optimistic about the team’s chances in the playoffs. I said that depended on the expectations. If they expected the team to a game or two in the first round, then they were being perfectly reasonable. Anything beyond that is hopeful optimism, because New York doesn’t have the horses to take them into the second round. Knick fans will have to wait until the summer and trust in Donnie Walsh to address the team’s needs.