More Knick Defense

Although the pundits, and even some of the players, have focused on the brawl’s aftermath as the catalyst for the team’s recent surge I want to focus on the team’s defensive improvements over the past few games. I suppose, if anything, the brawl may have marked the team’s symbolic “rock bottom,” that moment many recovering substance abusers point to as the catharsis that precedes real change.

In a recent post KB points out that the Knicks have been an atrocious defensive team. Without question this is true. The Knicks routinely hang their heads and jettison any pretense of defensive intensity when struggling offensively or once an opponent knocks down a couple of contested shots. Still, the Knicks show flashes of being at least a decent defensive team. They are 8-2 this season, including their three most recent wins (over Utah, Charlotte, and Chicago) and their two most impressive wins (back to back wins over Miami and Washington in November), when holding their opponent to under 46% eFG shooting. In the other 18 games they are a ghastly 4-15, yielding an embarrassing 53.7 eFG from the floor.

The difference between the “good” Knicks, who defend, and the “bad” Knicks, who don’t is almost exclusively effort. The Knicks don’t have a real shot-blocker that can erase poor perimeter defense. In order for the Knicks to turn in a solid defensive performance everyone must defend. The dramatic endings involved in two of the past three games have obscured the three best defensive efforts of the season, and possibly of the the past two seasons when considering the diminished bench. (Something else that has been obscured has been the seamless return of the “old” Channing Frye. I’ll leave that for another post but welcome back Channing.) The Knicks held Utah to 40.6% eFG shooting, Charlotte to 45.3%, including two overtime periods, and a surging Chicago team to 42.7%. Those three teams shoot, respectively, 50.9%, 45.6%, and 49.8% eFG on the season. The Chicago effort was especially impressive considering that the Knicks played the Bulls in back-to-back games roughly one month ago, giving up 48.2% eFG shooting in both games. In the interim New York has (hopefully) hit rock bottom while the Bulls have managed to right their ship. So to hold Chicago in the low 40’s is a good all around effort considering how well they have played in December.

Last season, the Knicks went on a winning streak to start the 2006 calendar year, injecting a little hope into the Knick faithful; hope that was quickly dashed. Antonio Davis warned at the time that the wins were “fool’s gold,” based almost exclusively on a run of hot-shooting. If anything is heartening about the past three wins it is that the Knicks are doing it on D, all while missing some of their better defensive players in Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, and Nate Robinson.

Oh, and one last thing. Happy Holidays

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at and Seahawks at In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

22 thoughts to “More Knick Defense”

  1. I wouldnt call Nate Robinson A good defensive Player. An actually I think the knicks are doing better becuase hes not there taking those Silly Jamal Crawford like shots.(trying to dunk in the lane around 3 defenders instead of passing)Plus I think you underestimate how good of a defensive player Balkman and lee are. Channing has shown lately he can also defend. If only this would rub off on Curry

  2. I totally agree that the one most important aspect the Knicks must improve to become a playoff caliber team is their team defense. However, I would not say their at time atrocious defense is solely due to lack of effort. At times this is true, but overall the Knicks are a very young team, and I do believe that one major aspect of their weakness on D is recognition. I think there are times when Eddy Curry actually does put in an effort to block a shot, or shut down a penetrator in the lane, but he either recognizes it too late, or makes the wrong kind of attempt (e.g. swiping at the ball rather than moving his feet with his hands up). Players like Lee and Balkman not only give relentless effort, but they have a better knowledge of how to defend, which I think players like Curry, Crawford at times, and even the collegiate veteran Channing Frye do not have. I think that the recent improved defense may possibly be due to a better understanding of the team strategy on defense, as well as better recognition of when that strategy may be failing, and help is needed. Also, Nate Robinson is a terrible defender if you are talking about anything other than effort. He consistently wanders around gambling on defense, and his man often is the penetrator that ends up collapsing the rest of the defense, opening the lane for lay-ups and dunks. Getting Q back will help, because his toughness is needed at the 3, and sometimes even the 2. Finally, I hope Jamal Crawford dedicated his 30 points on 8-16 shooting last nihgt to all you Jamal haters. Who would rather be shooting on offense? Curry is still getting his, Crawford loves setting up the big man. This is a one-two guard-center punch that could be very productive for a lot of years, and I think it would be to our benefit to recognize that.

  3. The d has improved, but not enough. The knicks need to play team defense, with steph and franchise gaurding outside with lock up d, and if someone comes past them, curry, jeffries, and q-rich need to contest the shots. its not our individual defenze that is bad, its the team. nobody helps on people going to the hoop, nobody wants to help each other on the fast breaks, and as far as nate, lee and frye go, they should be the ones playing the most defense and let players like stevie and steph and curry do the scoring, which they are great at doing.
    the knicks r improvin, but the east as a conference is also getting filled with teams who have incredibbly talented players, and the knicks wont have enough to make the playoffs.
    but the are a team to look forward to in the future.

    take care everyone and have a good christmas!

  4. “Finally, I hope Jamal Crawford dedicated his 30 points on 8-16 shooting last nihgt to all you Jamal haters. Who would rather be shooting on offense?”

    In all seriousness I hope you’re not labelling me as a Jamal hater. Crawford does some fabulous things. He’s the best at getting the ball to Curry in the post. And Crawford can be pretty good when he penetrates (especially with that handle). But his shot selection leaves a lot to be desired, especially near the end of games. That 8-16 shooting night was great, but he sandwiched that between two nights with identical 9-23 nights. Just look at Jamal’s shooting percentages, 42.3% eFG and 48.8% TS%, both well below the league average. Last year Crawford’s TS% (a measure of how much you score *including* hitting free throws) was 54.4 which means he was going to the hoop more often. To compound matters Crawford has the highest usage rate (just ahead of Curry). Add it all together, and well that’s just a lot of inefficient offense.

    I’d absolutely love Jamal if he played smarter on offense. I think it was yesterday’s game (or maybe against the Bulls), with the clock running down in the first quarter, Jamal held the ball for the last shot, and instead of taking that long jumper he drove to the hoop and drew a foul. On those plays I’m the biggest Jamal fan. It’s the other stuff that drives me crazy.

  5. “actually I think the knicks are doing better becuase hes not there taking those Silly Jamal Crawford like shots.”

    Sean, you’re entering Nate-hating territory. To say that Nate takes wild shots compared to Jamal is just factually incorrect, unless you’re implying that Nate is hitting the shots that Jamal would be missing. Nate’s shooting percentages are well ahead of Jamal’s, and as I said earlier Jamal has the highest Usage Rate on the team. Nate has the second best eFG% & TS% on the team, only behind Eddy Curry.

    Nate:  51.8 eFG, 56.9 TS%, 20.7 USG
    Jamal: 43.2 eFG, 48.8 TS%, 23.5 USG
  6. Now to be fair, Jamal has been put in a very tough position with Q-Rich and Nate out – that of “zone buster.” As the Sixers last night demonstrated, in order to break through a zone defense you need guys who are unafraid to take and make perimeter shots. Normally Q-Rich and Nate, with their considerable talent for spot-up 3 point shooting, are the ones to turn to in this situation, but with them out Jamal has been stuck carrying the burden. This doesn’t excuse his ridiculous last second chucks from three point range, but it would lower his field goal percentage in recent games since the defense knows that the Knicks can’t turn to anyone else to shoot the ball.

  7. Statistically Nate looks better than Jamal on offense, but who do Defenses key in on? Stephon and Jamal are the focus of the perimeter defense when they are on the floor. They set Nate up with either an opportunity to take a catch and shoot jumper or with a 1-1 opportunity. In this situation Nate is very valueable, but when the ball is in his hands the offense stops and players wait for the play to be reset or Nate to shoot. When Nate is put in a 1-1 situation he is nearly impossible to guard, sometimes even making a very good pass to a big man or shooter, but on the other end he can’t stop any half decent player. Jamal is a better defender and keeps the entire team more involved better than anybody on the team except Stephon. It cannot be overstated how important the Jamal-Curry connection is, that combination could lead to many solid seasons, espiceally because they are so young.

  8. Nate Robinson is a circus act and should be traded. There is no “team” in his game. It’s all about Nate. On offense, he often has absolutley no intention of passing. He just looks to showboat and score. The team is secondary consideration. Regarding his defense, I agree with Sean, he’s always roaming around the court looking to gamble on a steal while his own man penetrates and breaks down the defense.

    On top of that, he never stops trash talking and is always ready for a fight, as was proven this week against Denver. He was the one that incited the brawl.

    This is not winning style basketball, and is destructive to good team chemistry.

    Trade Nate.

  9. Maybe we can bring back LB to be the defensive coordinator and Isiah can take care of not alienating the players

  10. I think that as soon as Eddy Curry had that little scoring streak, the knicks should hae put him on the block. Minimum asking price, a bag of Doritos…

  11. Ron Downs –

    A Bag of Doritos will unfortunately not come within 15% of Eddy’s cap value.

  12. Very true, but can someone please explain to me why the knicks always trade away their expiring contracts?

  13. because they want to get “something” for them

    and by “something” i mean an overpaid selfish cancer

  14. That was a calculated ploy to gain talent and draft picks in past seasons. This year they bought out Jalen Rose & Mo Taylor – which probably cost them a shot at an overpaid selfish cancer (like Allen Iverson, for instance?)

  15. Great win tonight. Mike Breen is as good as there is, but I hope I never hear him say “They don’t have to go for three” again. We get it Mike.

    Sorry for the non sequitur.

  16. Holy crap, I’m so exhausted from that game I can barely stand. Do we have to win EVERY game like this now? Can’t we just give my heart a rest and have some nice easy breezy 4 quarter wins like in Chicago?

    We learned something really really important from this game that we had no evidence to judge on before:

    Channing Frye is CLUTCH.

  17. WHY WAS ISIAH THOMAS NOT PLAYING DAVID LEE FOR THE ENTIRE SESSIONS OF OVERTIME. He was on the bench almost the entire second overtime. He was on the bench for good chunks of the first and third also. Everytime the Pistons got tripple offensive rebound tip-ins with Nazr Mohommad because David Lee wasn’t in there vacuuming the glass, I wanted to shoot reeds up Isiah Thomas’s finger nails. You cannot have Channing Frye, Jared Jeffries and Eddy Curry in the game as the front court all at the same time, you have NO rebounding. And it almost cost us the game.

  18. Can Eddie Curry at least box out someone? Nazr if he could hit a lay up would have beaten the Knicks at least 3 times. Each time Eddie Curry watched, at least jump Man!

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