Off the Dribble: The Knicks’ New Mantra: Take it Slow

If you’re like me, your knickers are in an absolute, Möebian twist waiting on the results of the election, chain smoking like a fiend and scouring the interwebs for exit polls.

Hopefully though, you’re a far saner, less obsessive human being than I and have not been treating this entire election cycle like a four month-long basketball game, where the “scores” come via polls and pundits and tea-leaf readings.

Assuming you’re in the former category, why don’t you leisurely pass the time by reading some scribbling of mine over at the Gray Lady. There I discuss how the Knicks are dead last in pace factor and how it’s contributed to their undefeated start.

By dramatically slowing the game down, combined with the efficiency they’ve displayed on offense, the Knicks are creating the equivalent of a ball-control, run-first football team. It evokes the seasons when the New York Jets were able to “win ugly” by ramming a procession of ballcarriers into the line time and time again, keeping the chains moving and the likes of Tom Brady on the sideline. When the Knicks build a lead, because they’re milking the clock, it also reduces the number of opportunities their opponents have to score, making it more difficult to mount a comeback and sustain a run that cuts into their lead.

The full article’s here.

But if you are like me, just calm the eff down and read about some goooooooood Knick basketball and/or, follow the sage advice in this prescriptive cartoon from the New Yorker:




And get a life. Jeez!

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Robert Silverman

Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times and at ESPN, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.

10 thoughts to “Off the Dribble: The Knicks’ New Mantra: Take it Slow”

  1. Not sure I can agree that the Knicks are playing a “grind it out” style of game. I’d argue they are making the extra pass to get better shots which is leading to improved efficiency. These additional passes take up more time on the shot clock than a shoot the ball w/in the first seven seconds in which you are open philosophy. As a consequence there are less possessions, but I don’t think the intended strategy is to “grind it out”, which sounds like the opposite of SSOL. The strategy is to get a good shot, and make the extra pass. The more appropriate football analogy may be a team that makes smart, short efficient passes (e.g., the Patriots when they were dominant) versus a team that aggressively throws the ball downfield. I just can’t see calling a team with the 4th highest PPG in the league at 105 ppg as “grinding it out”.

  2. I have to say, I agree with Bob’s contention that they are playing a grinding style. Fact is, the players themselves where using that description themselves during and after the game.
    I think, johnlocke, you are making a semantics argument without much of a difference. Grinding in NBA parlance merely implies a slower, more plodding and probing offense that involves trying to push the ball into the paint, and either shooting from there or finding an open perimeter shooter. It means strong, physical play, which is what the Knicks are doing offensively and defensively.
    Defensively, they are not leaving people open: their switches are creating a lot of chaos for the opposition. They are putting bodies on people and you could see it getting into the heads of the Sixers as the game got a bit chippy. I recall one play where Turner(?) tried to split two Knicks defenders, but Brewer stepped in front of him, forcing him to try bringing the ball around his back as he split the two. Brewer put a body to him and Turner collapsed. Hard, grinding defense.
    It feels a bit like the Ewing era around here, especially when Rasheed posts up. Of course Brewer is an inch shorter and about 40 pounds lighter than Anthony Mason…lol

  3. They’re scoring that much though due to absurd 3 point shooting, which is unsustainable no matter how open guys are. The best 3 point percentage mark of all time is the 09/10 suns, who shot 40.7%. The Knicks are shooting 45.3% on 3s. For a team with only two above average shooters (admittedly well above average, but at the same time, bench players), that is completely unsustainable.

    If we drop the Knicks down to 37%, which would still require most of the team having an above average shooting year, due to the fact that they are shooting 31 threes a game on average, they’re scoring drops nearly 8 points a game.

    That scoring change doesn’t take into account the likely strategic changes that opponents will make when, for example, Ronnie Brewer is shooting 24% from 3 instead 56%. It’ll mean more doubles on Anthony, which will put Anthony’s commitment to team basketball to the test. Will he still pass out when the team starts 0/6 on threes?

    The defense, however, seems for real to me, at least until Stoudemire comes back. The rotations are great, forcing teams to take guarded 3s or off balance midrange shots. Again though good offense tends to hype guys up. Will guys like Anthony and Smith keep up their intensity when the shots aren’t falling?

  4. IMHO the slow pace at which the Knicks are playing is probably more an result of how well the team is playing as opposed to any specific philosophy. Whereas in SSOL the pace is fast because you’re supposed to take the first good shot you see, what we’re doing now (as johnlocke wrote above) is passing up good shots so we take great shots. That’s why we are shooting so much better than anyone expected — so many of these shots are just so freaking wide open.

    But pace is a 2 way street – SSOL had a super-high pace because the other team ran and scored at will also. But Miami and Philly couldn’t get good shots until late in the clock because of how good our rotations were. So it’s a combination of us passing more to get great shots and our opponents flailing around to get any shot that is making the pace look so slow. The sets we are running seem to be more intricate than your usual high PNR that every team runs also. But the pace issue is not just due to us walking the ball up the court.

  5. FYI — had a whole paragraph explaining this: that I didn’t mean they were playing “ugly basketball”, just the opposite — that their rotations were extending possessions on D and their willingness to hit the open man was doing the same on O. Alas, it fell victim to the editor’s knife.

  6. Ball control???—the Jets, not so much, but really Bill Parcels, 1989-90 Giants made a living on it. Anyway, I like the idea you are pushing. I also like the style of basketball. If we can add rebounding, then the shot that misses at the end of the clock yields another, like a back breaking first down late in the game. This is one of the problems with our Giant team. Small rushing first downs, tick, tick, tick…BTW, who is that in the picture?

  7. Sorry to double post and kind of change the topic, but any ideas about an awesome second unit when Stat returns? What about Stat (5), Camby/Sheed/Thomas (4), Novak (3), Brewer/JR and Kidd/Prigs (2/1), for 16 minutes. WOW—Don’t you think it would blow away most (all) second units? We are deep and I’m getting psyched. Leave out Shump for now, because he’s out for long, long while—bummer. I call this line up, “Hot n’Nasty”, for the old fresh Humble Pie song. None of you old school folks remember that, right?

  8. I agree with Bob 100 pct. Remember Dantoni when asked the major reason for an inferior defense even though he had such an incredible offense, he mentioned pace. He said his offense was based on running, which created flow and rhythm. The problem with this was that the other team also ended up running and getting into rhythm also. This was and has also been the problem of the Denver Nuggets for a long while. Ruru im sure will attest to the fact Denver has had a top 5 offense while having a bottom defense in recent years. So did Dantoni’s Suns. At least Denver could count on the altitude kicking in so they could steal it at the end. No surprise that Melo had so many game winners. But I digress, BOB is right Pace plays a big factor in the Knicks resurgence. And now that I think about it, I dont remember Miami getting a lot of their patented Lebron to Wade and vis a vis fast break dunks/ Oregon ducks speed demon offense. And that was due to the grind it out style. I mean Boston does the same thing. Why do u think Miami has always has a bit of a wrestling match with them each time they played. I cant wait for us to play Boston. Its going to be ugly.

  9. So I’ve been watching most of the Pistons games for random reasons, and Rodney Stuckey is in dead heat with Toney Douglas for worst player in the NBA. He’s shooting 4% on field goals. That is not a typo, he has made like 5 field goals in 4 games (4 against the Nuggets lmao) Only Toney Douglas manages to be anywhere near as spectacularly awful, a little like how you’d imagine some guy in a rec league would play if you gave him an NBA caliber body and just told him to play point guard. It’s incredible that coaches allow this to happen

  10. I just love how things are working out, luck-wise, with the schedule. The Knicks had what looked to be a tough opening month or so, but now with the Bynum and Richardson injuries and then the Dirk and Marion injuries and suddenly scary games no longer look scary at all. Which is awesome. It is great to see the Knicks having good luck for a change.

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