One term that is frequently used during the Knicks telecast is consistency. Mike Breen often questions why the Knicks aren’t more consistent. In Breen’s mind, New York’s main problem is their inability to “get the job done night in & night out.” However from what I’ve seen, New York has been very consistent. In their first 16 games, they’ve only held their opponent under the league shooting average (49.1% eFG) 3 times. And they’ve only managed to be over that mark 6 times on offense. They own the league’s second worst defense (112.3 pts/100 poss), and to accomplish that dubious goal you have to be remarkably consistent.
Breen’s words make it seem as if the Knicks have the ability to be better, but some inexplicable force keeps them from jelling in a way as to produce wins. But my response is that New York has been consistent, just consistently bad. The nights they play good defense are the outliers, not the expected.
There have been a lot of discussions both here and around the internet on how valuable a Curry/Randolph frontcourt can be. While their combined production in key categories is tantalizing, there are those who think they are less valuable than their scoring numbers would indicate. A pair of losses this weekend seem to punctuate the idea that the Knicks aren’t getting the production from the duo that they expected.
On Friday night, New York’s frontcourt was man-handled by Philadelphia’s. Friday night Evans & Dalembert combined for 31 points on 14-20 shooting with 20 rebounds, while the Knicks’ Randolph & Curry managed only 16 points on 7-20 shoooting with 10 rebounds. On Saturday night, New York suffered a humiliating 28 point loss on their home court. Randolph & Curry watched most of that game from the bench due to their ineffectiveness.
I think these games highlight a key problem with the Knicks: team building. When people talk about chemistry in sports, they usually refer to off the court personality issues. However in basketball there is a meaningful on the court chemistry. Unlike baseball where a player’s value is largely unrelated to anything other than his own ability, a basketball player’s value is partially tied to his teammates.
Looking at their ability with the basketball, most people would laugh if you said Dalembert and Evans were better than their New York counterparts. You certainly wouldn’t want either to put the ball on the floor or have possession more than 6 feet from the rim. However they are both very capable players without the ball, and in those respects they are head and shoulders above the Knicks pair. Philadelphia’s duo are very good rebounders, with Evans being one of the best in the NBA. While Evans doesn’t block many (any?) shots and he’ll never be thought of as a great defensive player, his defense on Randolph was fantastic for the two games. Zach was held to 6 points on 14 shots in the two games. Evans inability to alter shots is complemented by Dalembert who is usually among the league’s best. He was 11th in blocked shots per minute among players with 1400+ minutes last year.
This weekend I witnessed a Philadelphia team, that when compared player to player should not have swept the Knicks. What I took from these games is that the Sixers are a better built team. While they have a lot of holes on offense (Willie Green being one of them), Philadelphia played solid defense. Although I already mentioned Evans & Dalembert’s contributions, the Sixers defense went beyond the pair. Philly was able to use Iguodala as their defensive stopper, and featured a press/trap that led to some easy buckets and disrupted the New York offense.
In essence the combination of players on the floor and the defensive plans gave the Sixers a synergy in which allowed their team to be worth more than the talent level of their individual players. It’s ironic that in the two wins Evans and Dalembert put up the offensive numbers that you would have expected from Randolph & Curry. But the results show how in basketball it’s more important for teammates to be complimentary to each other than be able to score with the ball in their hands.