Knicks Slide Due to (Lack of) Interior Defense
The 2009 Knicks have been tough to watch. After a promising early start and a couple of trades, the team has been on a losing streak. New York has dropped their last 6 games and are a Jets-eque 3-10 in December. Although I’ve said many times that I don’t care how many games the Knicks win this year, it’s clear what’s causing New York’s woes: interior defense.
When you think of the Knicks in a historical context, you tend to think of good defense. Stalwart centers like Ewing and Reed first come to mind, followed by Clyde, Debusschere, Oakley, Harper, and Camby. But watching the modern day version, there are few good defensive players on the roster. It’s hard to pinpoint which is the Knicks best defensive player. Chandler? Jeffries? Duhon? Jerome James? The list of candidates is short and laughable.
It really doesn’t matter what lineup the Knicks put on the floor, because there aren’t many capable defenders on the team. New York only has one player in their rotation that averages at least one block every 36 minutes: Wilson Chandler (1.0 blk/36). Their second best rotation player is Tim Thomas (0.5 blk/36), and that speaks volumes of how bad the Knicks are in this department.
And it seems the Knicks opponents have noticed this as well. Looking over yesterday’s play-by-play, Denver was 24-32 on shots labeled “layup” or “dunk”. The Nuggets made 45 shots, which means nearly half were in the paint. That’s a staggering amount, and to make matters worse, D’Antoni decided to use a bigger starting lineup of Duhon, Chandler, Jeffries, Thomas, and Lee. Obviously that had no effect.
Unfortunately the Knicks don’t have a lot of options. The team might turn to Eddy Curry, who might be ready to play in January. Even though Curry is a weak shot blocker for a center (1.1 blk/36 career), he’d be an improvement over David Lee (0.3 blk/36 this year). They could play Jerome James, but his weaknesses in the other areas of the floor would offset any gain from the shots he would turn back. (Although for Knick fans hoping for a better draft pick this might be a win-win situation). New York could look to sign a player to a 10 day contract, which they could do starting January 5th. A player like Courtney Sims (6’11, 2.2 blk/36), Richard Hendrix (6’9, 1.7 blk/36), or Chris Hunter (6’11, 1.9 blk/36), might be able to provide some immediate help with possible upside.
Other than inserting Curry into the rotation, it’s not likely that the Knicks will improve much in this department. I don’t see D’Antoni using James on a consistent basis. Isiah tried using James as a starter next to Curry, and that experiment didn’t last long. And it’s unlikely that New York will turn to a developmental league player to solve one of their problems. So Knick fans are going to have to live with a few more months of other teams exploiting this glaring weakness.