Everyone is asking where the Knicks go from here. Should they make Mike Woodson the permanent coach? Can the “Linsanity” continue? And most importantly should the Knicks look to trade Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire?
In a city that lives on making off-season moves and moving pieces as if these sports are chess pieces, it’s the Knicks that are a team that doesn’t need to be tampered with, they need to develop what they have. With Anthony at small forward, Stoudemire at power forward, Chandler at center and Lin, Shumpert (if healthy) and Fields all battling for starting guard positions, next year has the potential to be a good season. There are many factors that need to happen for the Knicks to make a serious run at next year’s championship.
To fully answer these questions you have to first assess what happened this season. They started off the year with a bang beating the Boston Celtics, who swept them in the first round of the playoffs last year, on Christmas Day. Opinions were high and with the addition of Tyson Chandler it’s hard not to give in to the hype. In that game the Knicks held a sizable lead for a majority of the game. Thanks to a stagnant offense in the second-half, the veteran Celtics chipped away at the lead to make it a close game by the end.
The Knicks pulled out the victory thanks to some last minute heroics from Anthony. Melo and Amar’e combined for 58 points in the game. To many this seemed to be a good sign for the rest of the season. However, if you watched closely at the game, almost all of the duo’s points came from isolation plays and baskets in which they were closely guarded.
This game alone paints exactly what happened the rest of the season for New York. For the next month, the Knicks went 8-15 trying to make a living on the same isolation plays. Anthony’s game is simple, iso on the wing or iso in the post and, to his credit, it’s been successful for him. The problem is Stoudemire also wants to go one-on-one with his opponents. I may not be a Suns fan, but last time I checked, that wasn’t his game when he was in Phoenix.
When Amar’e was scoring 26 a game back in the ’04-’05 season and 25 a game in his ’07-’08 campaign, he was scoring on pick and roll and cuts to the baskets. Steve Nash would have a field day hitting him for thunderous dunks every other time down the floor (Don’t believe me? Go play NBA Live ’06 and see how many dunks you get with Amar’e in a game). Stoudemire’s game, contrary to popular belief, is not taking his man to the rack with a combo move and dunk. Instead, he needs to be in the open floor, setting a pick or cutting to the basket. As soon as he realizes this, the Knicks will be much better off.
New York’s season was turned around when Jeremy Lin came into the picture and the Knicks went on a 7 game winning streak. The Knicks were not only successful during this time because of Lin’s outstanding performance, they were running a fast break offense that complimented this team’s roster. Fast forward the rest of the season and you see the resignation of Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, the addition of J.R. Smith and Amar’e and Melo in and out of the lineup. With Woodson at the helm and Melo putting the team on his back, the Knicks claimed the seventh spot in the East.
Unfortunately, for doing so well at the end the Knicks were rewarded by being matched up against the Miami Heat. Excluding their one win, where Melo went off for 41, the Knicks didn’t put up much of a fight. It didn’t help that by the end of the series, three of their point guards, Lin, Shumpert and Baron Davis, were out and Stoudemire, went and punched a fire extinguisher after the Game 2 loss. Regardless of these injuries, the Knicks were outgunned and utterly dominated in their opening round series.
Now it appears since Derrick Rose went down in the first game for the Bulls that the Knicks may have actually wanted to face Chicago as the eighth seed instead. But, it can’t be assumed that Rose would do the same thing if he played the Knicks first round.
There weren’t too many positive things to take from this series other than Melo can only function in the isolation offense. He needs to go one-on-one with his opponent; that’s his game. And for anyone who thinks they need to trade Anthony, why would you trade someone that did everything he possibly could to get this team in the playoffs and keep them alive once they got there. Going back one of my original questions, should they trade either of their stars? The answer is no, these two are signed to major contracts that don’t expire until after the ’14-’15 season. The Knicks could get some decent players for either of these superstars, but the likelihood of a trade happening is slim to none considering their reputations this season.
These two players haven’t even been given a fair shake yet. All season one of them has been out of the lineup with some type of injury thanks mostly to the shortened schedule. Neither player was able to get accustomed to playing with Lin nor was there enough time under Woodson before the postseason began.
The most important things for the Knicks are to resign players such as Lin and keep Smith. Smith is a loose cannon at times, but the guy can light up the scoreboard. Sharp shooter Steve Novak will also be a key player to keep on the bench. It will also be critical for the Knicks’ personnel to learn their roles in the offense. As Head Coach of the Atlanta Hawks, Woodson ran isolation plays for Joe Johnson, who was known as “Iso-Joe” during that time.
So naturally, that will be Melo’s role in the offense. From there, Lin is best in the open court, which will play well into shooters such as Novak and Smith. Chandler can run the pick and rolls and anchor the defense in the paint. And of course, the most important thing is that Stoudemire has his role defined. If he can go back to what made him a star in Phoenix, the Knicks can be a scary team to face.
The big three in Miami found a way to co-exist, the Knicks just need to find that solution.
One of the most overused phrases in sports is to be successful you must play within yourself. Well as much as people say it, in order for the Knicks to make a bid for the title, they need to play within themselves.