Originally written on Knicks Journal  |  Last updated 11/20/14

As the Knicks continue to learn, being able to secure victories against contending teams will come down to how well they matchup to the different arrays of talent.

Being able to exploit the different mismatches in their favor, as well as cope with the ones against them, will only benefit the Knicks as they adjust lineups accordingly.

The Knicks’ coaching staff certainly has the power, and lucky for them, the team appears more versatile than ever. There should no longer be one set group in, and another set group out of the game. With so many different options now a part of the rotation, the staff can mix and match its players to create the utmost balanced and ideal attacks.

Showing his support while appearing at the John Starks Foundation’s annual charity bowling tournament last week, long time Knick and current assistant coach Herb Williams talked about the coaching staff’s strategy going into the second half of the season.

“The time is now for us, because this is when we’re not only jockeying for playoff position, but trying to secure home court advantage,” Williams said. “Everyone needs to be on the same page offensively and defensively, and that’s tough because we don’t have a lot of time to practice. That just means we have to set the expectation that everyone on this team be prepared mentally each and every night.”

With so many games packed into a short amount of time this season due to the lockout, Williams asserted the coaching staff has been doing things a bit differently. He went on to say, “We’ve actually been doing a lot of coaching through film, since we don’t always have the opportunity to go out and run different drills. The staff just wants the players to watch and take note of different situations in order to get an idea of what we want to accomplishment on both ends of the court. It’s our job to help them be ready at all times and keep their spirits up.”

One player who has kept a positive attitude throughout the season has been rookie Josh Harrellson, who was recently cleared to return to play after being sidelined with a fractured wrist. Proving he wasn’t simply an energy guy, Harrellson used his time on the court earlier this season to not only display his defensive prowess, but also show a long-range shooting touch good enough to help the Knicks spread the floor effectively.

Williams said despite all of the newfound depth the Knicks have been granted over the last few weeks, time needs to be found on the court for Harrellson regardless.

“Josh is a very good player,” Williams insisted. “He has great defensive footwork and rebounds the ball real well. He spaces the floor out for us too. He pretty much does everything we like. I think we were extremely lucky to draft him where we did. He played a big role for Kentucky last season and was an even bigger part of why they went as far as they did.”

Though the Knicks originally were attracted to Harrellson largely in part due to his defense, his offense and shooting from deep makes him a versatile option off the bench.

Recognizing Harrellson’s previously uncovered talents, the assistant coach noted, “Well, Josh is a better shooter from far than I was in my career. A team never really knows all the different things a player can do until they put him to the test, though. Big men sometimes unfortunately get pigeonholed in college, and maybe that’s what happened with Josh because he was expected to play a defensive role. We brought him in and found out he shoots the long ball well and can help us in that regard. We’re just fortunate he can play the way we want.”

Though he does work with Harrellson, Williams quickly dismissed the notion he is simply a “big man coach” because of the position he played in his career. “People forget I’ve done the head-coaching thing before. I was head coach of the Knicks. I’m certainly no point guard coach, but I like to do a little of everything. Wherever I can step in and add my knowledge of the game, I’ll do it. I like talking to the guards, our big men—everybody.”

Williams, who also spoke glowingly about Iman Shumpert’s defensive presence, has sat on the Board of Directors of the JSF for years. Showing up to support former teammate Starks on such a charitable night, the former Knicks big man indulged in some bowling fun throughout the night, celebrating his skills on the lanes by high-fiving friends and fans alike.

The John Starks Foundation, established in 1994, raises money to award deserving teens from the tri-state and Tulsa, Oklahoma areas with scholarships in hopes of elevating their educational, recreational, and career development.

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