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Friday, October 24, 2014

Next Day Notes & Errata: Knicks v. Wizards

Before getting into the big-picture stuff, some assorted notes from last night’s game, in no particular order:

1. The Knicks underused and misused Iman Shumpert.

In the first seven minutes of the game, Shumpert scored four points on one shot, had three assists, two steals, and a rebound. He held his counterpart Bradley Beal to one basket. John Wall and he were by far the most athletic guys on the floor to start the game. Mike Woodson rewarded that efficient performance by sitting Shumpert for 12 straight minutes. Upon his return, Shump promptly hit another jumper and grabbed another steal.

Wall simply abused Beno Udrih and Pablo Prigioni all night, and started the game 7-7 with 15 points in 15 minutes. Hard to believe Woodson refused to let Shumpert, his best defender, guard him at any point.

On a related note, here’s a question: How many plus defenders do the Knicks have on their roster right now? I’d say Shumpert, Kenyon Martin, Metta World Peace and maybe Prigioni (you wouldn’t know it from last night) are the team’s only above-average defenders with Chandler out. I’ve vowed not to pre-judge any Shumpert deals, but trading him means trading away the team’s best two-way player, a 23-year-old with tremendous hands who is big and quick enough to defend three positions. OK, he gambles on defense too much. But this league has an abundance of fast and skilled and awesome point guards and wings and it’s clear that Shumpert is the only Knick who has a chance to defend them consistently. It’s very hard to see them getting fair value for Shump, and they will almost certainly suffer tremendously on the defensive side of the ball if he leaves.

Speaking of perimeter players …

2. Why is the leash so long with JR and so short with Shumpert?

His line might suggest otherwise, but JR Smith was truly awful last night. Missed free throws, bad shooting (some of those missed shots were wide open), lazy on-and-off-ball defense. Despite the loss, the Knicks actually had some nice ball movement at points, but boy does Smith slow down the offense with his ill-advised isolation plays and forced 20-footers.

I know JR is streaky, and taking the good (to a certain degree) means enduring the bad. His offensive success is important to that of the team’s. And I appreciate that playing for a looser coach has made him more comfortable.

But there’s a fine line between making someone comfortable and not holding that person accountable, and it’s obvious that Woodson and JR are on the wrong side of that line. There are far better ways to indicate one’s trust in a player than rewarding ill-advised shots and do-nothing defense. And it is particularly unfair when a very good two-way player (one that, you know, has been a part of trade rumors for 12 months and could probably use a vote of confidence from anyone in this organization) has to sit to indulge this. Last night, JR played 30 minutes and Shumpert played 27. That’s hard to justify.

3. It’s time to give Cole Aldrich a try.

The Knicks made Marcin Gortat look like a vintage Dwight Howard last night. The Washington center finished with 16 points and 17 rebounds, including 7 offensive boards. Four of those offensive rebounds came in the third quarter alone.

As Kevin so eloquently put it a few days ago, this isn’t Andrea Bargnani’s fault. He shouldn’t have to play 33 minutes at center. But four rebounds (Bargnani’s total from last night) just won’t cut it. Gortat destroyed the Knicks on the boards last night, and now the team sits 29th out of 30 teams in rebounding rate.

Aldrich averaged 11 rebounds per 36 minutes last year, and his 17.7 rebounding rate and 26.7 defensive rebounding rates last year would rank him as the best rebounder on the Knicks. This team desperately needs a rim protector and needs major rebounding help, and Aldrich is a good rim protector and rebounder. It’s that simple.

4. Silver Linings!

Amar’e: 22 minutes (!), 12 points on 5-5 from the field (!!), including a nice jumper and a transition dunk (!!!). Really pulling for you, STAT … Carmelo: Added another 12 rebounds, and is posting career-high offensive, defensive, and total rebounding rates … the Knicks again won the turnover battle. Despite a really sloppy start, the team is second in the league turnover rate.

But just to be clear: Last night was the latest indication that the Knicks are not a few more Carmelo Anthony drawn fouls away from being a good team, or even a mediocre team. This team, right now, is bad. Plainly, and at its core.

The Knicks rank 28th (out of 30 NBA teams) in defensive efficiency. They rank 23rd in offensive efficiency. They rank 27th in true shooting percentage. They rank 28th in free throw attempts per game. They are tied for 22nd in 3-point shooting percentage, down nearly five percentage points from last year. As mentioned above, they are 29th in rebounding rate. They are 25th in assist percentage.

They struggled all night (and have struggled all season) to defend basic pick-and-rolls. They can’t stay in front of point guards. They are shooting an unfathomable 21% on corner 3s. They don’t rebound and struggle tremendously on transition defense.

Last night’s dispiriting loss was neither unlucky nor unsurprising. This is who the Knicks are right now.

23 comments on “Next Day Notes & Errata: Knicks v. Wizards

  1. Jackaroe

    Logging in to commend this piece. It is exactly right. I know that the cancer starts at the top with Dolan, and I can’t think of a good coach who would willingly step into this disaster of an organization, but Woodson is not cutting it. He is demonstrably making this team worse than it needs to be. Would much rather get rid of him than Shumpert.

  2. Owen

    Yeah, reading that USA Today piece on the rise of the Pacers, it brings home the way coaches do matter. Bird fired Jim O’Brien because he refused to play George and was highly critical of Hibbert.

    Sometimes you just have to play your best guys. Woodson isn’t doing it.

    And while our record is terrible, we have had a lot of games that could have swung with a few personnel changes.

    Very good post btw…..

  3. coyle022

    No matter how bad it gets, the Brooklyn Nets are still worse. At least the Knicks have been semi-competitive, while the Nets have just been downright awful. All it takes is 3-4 wins in a row and the Knicks are right back in the thick of the Division race, with at least a competent coach in Woodson. Jason Kidd looks lost and the Nets mortgaged their entire future on a washed up Pierce/Garnett.

  4. coyle022

    After reading the article, I would like to change “semi-competent” coach to downright moron of a coach. Agree 100% on giving Country Cole a try, why even give him a roster spot just to have him rot on the bench? Has size, can rebound, block shots. Woodson must see something in practice that suggests otherwise, but when your starting C goes down, doesn’t it make sense to at least give your 2nd/3rd/end of the bench Center some burn and see if he’s the answer?

  5. Nick C.

    Well said all around. You have to feel a bit sorry for Melo. Maybe he can nudge some sense into JR and Woodson. I don’t know that that is part of his personality, being just a guy with a keyboard.

  6. ephus

    Very well said.

    The overlooked key moment came with the Knicks down four and JR Smith with the ball in transition. He challenged Gortat, missed badly and Washington converted. The Knicks fell apart after that.

  7. BigBlueAL

    Would be surprised if the Knicks win a game on the west coast trip. Only bright side is the schedule looks pretty favorable in December so hopefully with Chandler and Felton back they can right the ship by the end of the year. Problem is digging out of a potential 3-12 hole is alot to ask for.

  8. Brian Cronin

    Would be surprised if the Knicks win a game on the west coast trip. Only bright side is the schedule looks pretty favorable in December so hopefully with Chandler and Felton back they can right the ship by the end of the year. Problem is digging out of a potential 3-12 hole is alot to ask for.

    I think they get at least one of the games.

  9. slovene knick

    Brian:If the Knicks are ever going to win a game, it really has to be tonight.( from WAS Game recap intro). To be fair…I shared that opinion.

    Unjinx them please and say they won’t get a single game/no way they can win….
    It might help them win at least one.

    And a jinx from me: Who is going to pull a “Kurt” on this road trip? Amar’e or K-mart? I hope it’s K Mart.

  10. george from brooklyn

    Dear Jonathan, Extremely well done ! Congrats ! Surprising, Woody appears to have a ‘disconnect” with Shump, who seems to be most representative of the current generation.It appears from the outside that Woody holds him to a significantly higher standard than anyone else on the K’s. Woody should actually run the offense through Shump. The Aldrich “nonplay” is also curious. Bargnani, normally debased for his defense, has actually played very well, when he remembers to stay inside and Aldrich would provide the same defense and is a better rebounder. I think, Aldrich should be playing regular minutes (10-15) even when TC comes back, as the backup Center. Would also like to see Murry for a few minutes every game. Woody still has time to set definitive rotations but I don’t think they should include Amar e, which could be tough ! Again, well done !!

  11. Hubert

    Great ideas but the coach won’t consider any of them.

    We’re going down with JR taking as many step back 20 footers as he wants, Shumpert getting scapegoated, and Aldrich glued to the bench and we all know it.

    We’ll suck with the new coach, too. But at least we’ll have something new to discuss. This guy is a broken record.

  12. KnickfaninNJ

    Woody should actually run the offense through Shump.

    The team tried this for the one summer league game Shump was in this year. He looked terrible. I wouldn’t be surprised if he still looks terrible at it.

  13. thenamestsam

    Agree 100% on giving Country Cole a try, why even give him a roster spot just to have him rot on the bench?

    I’m seriously floored by the Aldrich situation at this point. I understood why he wasn’t playing when Tyson was healthy even if I thought he should be getting a look on nights when KMart was out, but at this point it’s beyond comprehension. The whole point in having a 3rd string center is so that if your starter gets hurt, your backup becomes the starter and your 3rd stringer becomes the backup, right? I mean if not that, then what?

    If Woody really doesn’t think Aldrich is good enough to play even now, with Tyson out and the team dying for a guy who can rebound and be a big body on D, then why the hell did he give him a roster spot instead of saying to Mills during camp, “Hey, this Cole guy isn’t going to cut it. Can we grab another backup big?” It just makes no sense.

  14. stratomatic

    “Part” of the reason Melo is rebounding so well is that Bargnani rebounds so poorly relative to the typical C. I don’t mean to diminish Melo’s effort (which has been outstanding at times), but I think if Chandler was playing he would be averaging 1 or 2 boards less.

  15. ephus

    When Tyson Chandler went down, I wrote that I feared the Knicks would go 6 – 12 in his absence. I would sign up for that right now.

  16. Donnie Walsh

    I think Aldrich was kept on the roster to play big minutes in practice. (…And I’m not bring sarcastic here. I really think this is the reason. They wanted a big guy to run practice sets against).

  17. KnickfaninNJ

    I think Aldrich was kept on the roster to play big minutes in practice. (…And I’m not bring sarcastic here. I really think this is the reason. They wanted a big guy to run practice sets against).

    That sounds very true to me. And I have to say that in the few garbage time minutes Aldrich played, he didn’t look very good. That said, I think there might be some defense first five man Knick units Aldrich could play on that might hold the fort while the starters get a rest

  18. thenamestsam

    I think Aldrich was kept on the roster to play big minutes in practice. (…And I’m not bring sarcastic here. I really think this is the reason. They wanted a big guy to run practice sets against).

    But any backup big can do that right? That doesn’t explain why they kept a guy who they (obviously) had zero faith in unless there really just wasn’t anybody out there who they felt could be trusted to be a real third string center.

  19. KnickfaninNJ

    But any backup big can do that right? That doesn’t explain why they kept a guy who they (obviously) had zero faith in unless there really just wasn’t anybody out there who they felt could be trusted to be a real third string center.

    I don’t think there was anyone out there except maybe Tyler. And he was hurt.

  20. thenamestsam

    I don’t think there was anyone out there except maybe Tyler. And he was hurt.

    Lou Amundson? Jason Collins? Hell, Earl Barron? I’m not holding these guys to a high standard. They just have to be someone who Woodson would trust to play 10 minutes off the bench in a situation exactly like the one we currently find ourselves in – Tyson injured and the team in desperate need of someone who can get a rebound, play a little D and maybe set a pick or two. We all assumed Aldrich was that guy, but he clearly failed the “Woodson trust” section of the exam.

  21. KnickfaninNJ

    I honestly think that Woodson doesn’t consider any of those options better than Bargnani/Martin/Stoudemire as a center rotation.

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