Who will the Knicks rely on to carry the load?
According to J.R. Smith, it will be up to Amar’e Stoudemire, who is the Knicks' second-leading scorer at 11.7 PPG.
“Right now I think our mule will be STAT," Smith said. "His efficiency around the basket [has been strong]. We've got to get more penetration. If anything I think we should put that on STAT.”
Stoudemire has averaged 13.2 points on 66 percent shooting in the Knicks' past five games, while averaging 22 minutes per game in that span. But he was diplomatic when asked Wednesday about playing a bigger role.
“With the triangle offense, it allows everyone to get involved and play their game,” he said. “Everybody eats in this particular offense. I think with that being said, we’ll see how it plays out tonight.”
Derek Fisher said the Knicks are leaning toward starting Smith at small forward against Dallas, so Stoudemire will likely come off the bench.
Smith tried not to put the onus on his shoulders to carry the Knicks (4-11) on Wednesday night.
“Do I need to step my game up on offense? Yeah absolutely. But at the same time we've got Tim [Hardaway Jr.], Jose [Calderon], [Iman Shumpert], we've got a lot of pieces so we'll see,” Smith said.
Not fair to blame Tyson: Earlier this week, Tyson Chandler addressed the idea that he was made a scapegoat for the Knicks’ disastrous 37-win campaign last season.
J.R. Smith said he can see why Chandler would feel that way.
“I understand where he's coming from. At the end of the day, this is a team game. You can't just put it all on one person,” Smith said. “This is a collective group. When we won as a team it was a team thing, when we lost, it was a team thing. So I don't think it should be just on him, it should be on all of us.”
Knicks coach Derek Fisher said that he is "leaning toward" starting J.R. Smith in place of Anthony.
Fisher said Wednesday morning that Anthony was "making some progress, but not enough, I think, to be in a game, so it will be day to day."
Anthony left Monday's loss to the Houston Rockets late in the first half with back spasms and did not return. Teammates said Anthony was in severe pain after the game.
"He could barely talk, he said very few words," Smith said. "You could tell the pain he was in."
Anthony visited a doctor in Houston to obtain pain medication that wasn't available in the arena before flying with the Knicks to Dallas. He has not participated in practices or shootarounds, instead opting to receive treatment at the team hotel.
"He's not in a lot of comfort, so [he's] really just trying to rest up and get himself better. We'll be out here tonight and we'll see if we can get a game without him," Fisher said.
This is the second injury for Anthony thus far this season. He revealed last week that he is playing with discomfort in his left knee that first surfaced during the second game of the season
Anthony is leading the Knicks in scoring with 23.2 points per game. Their next-highest scorer is Amar'e Stoudemire (11.7 points per game).
"The offense is really just a format for playing basketball together. Then we try and add some layers as we go."
That quote, about the triangle offense, might have been lifted from one of the numerous volumes penned by Knicks president Phil Jackson. But that was Derek Fisher speaking, after shootaround during a recent trip to Milwaukee. Thus is the struggle as Fisher, along with his team, tries to forge a new identity while working under the man with the NBA's most sparkling pedigree.
"It's different," Fisher said. "It's not the offense itself that is difficult. It asks guys to think about the game of basketball in a little bit different way, and that's why it takes some time."
So how's it going so far? Here's a look at what's working -- and largely what's not working -- in the Knicks' new offense, along with how they project moving forward.
DALLAS -- The collision with Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker that caused Tyson Chandler so much physical pain and emotional agony could be considered a blessing in disguise for the big man.
The X-rays that early November 2013 night showed a small nondisplaced fracture in Chandler's right fibula. It took a little longer to determine, but it turned out that the New York Knicks' playoff hopes were essentially shattered when Chandler went down. And the frustration of a failed season led to cracks in Chandler's relationship with the franchise.
Chandler doesn't want to test injury karma, so he won't go so far as to say he benefited from his broken leg. But the dirty-work hero of Dallas' 2011 title run couldn't be happier that the path led back to a home he never wanted to leave in the first place and a franchise where he fits so well on and off the floor.
"I look at life as like everything happens for a reason," Chandler told ESPNDallas.com after recently handing out Thanksgiving dinners to single-parent families in need at the Vogel Alcove in south Dallas. "There's no mistakes made. At the time, [the injury] was devastating clearly, but I feel like everything happens for a reason."
No mistakes made? Well, plenty of Mavs fans would argue otherwise, pointing to owner Mark Cuban's calculated risk to value salary-cap space over keeping Chandler and other core members of that title team after the 2011 lockout.
The plan didn't work out how the Mavs' front office hoped. Dallas failed to land one of its targeted big fish in free agency, swinging and missing on Deron Williams (kind of a check swing, actually) and Dwight Howard and never even getting a chance to throw a pitch to Chris Paul.
The debate will always rage in Dallas about whether that team full of high-mileage veterans would have had a legitimate chance to repeat in a lockout-condensed season. But there should be no doubt that the Mavs are better off this season because of that decision.
If Chandler's contract was on the books in the summer of 2013, the Mavs wouldn't have had cap room for Monta Ellis. Dallas can't claim that Ellis was a Plan A target, but the Mavs are certainly glad they got him, as he immediately clicked as a pick-and-pop partner with Dirk Nowitzki last year and now leads the 10-5 Mavs in scoring.
“With Ellis and Nowitzki as co-stars, the Mavs made the playoffs last season after a one-year absence, pushing the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round. Their hopes are much higher this season thanks in large part to the presence of a springy center who meshes with the Mavs just as phenomenally well as he did during his first, too-brief stint in Dallas.
What he brings to us with his enthusiasm, with his wanting to be held accountable, holding his teammates accountable, general overall energy -- there aren't many guys that bring that on a consistent basis the way he does. He's hugely important to us on the floor, in the locker room, you name it.” -- Mavs coach Rick Carlisle on Tyson Chandler
"What he brings to us with his enthusiasm, with his wanting to be held accountable, holding his teammates accountable, general overall energy -- there aren't many guys that bring that on a consistent basis the way he does," coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's hugely important to us on the floor, in the locker room, you name it."
On the floor, the 32-year-old Chandler has answered any lingering questions about his health as emphatically as he throws down alley-oops, of which there have been plenty. He's averaging 10.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game and ranks third in the NBA in field-goal percentage (69.7).
The fiery, 7-foot-1 Chandler provides Dallas the interior defensive presence this offense-intensive roster so desperately needs. He's arguably as valuable on the offensive end. His pick-setting and rebounding create increased and improved looks for the Mavs' scorers, and Chandler's ability to catch and finish high above the rim puts opposing defenses in a bind with Nowitzki's shooting and Ellis' penetration requiring so much attention.
In short, he fills a long list of holes the Mavs had during his three seasons in New York, when their Howard hopes turned into the harsh reality of a revolving door at center, with Brendan Haywood, Chris Kaman and Samuel Dalembert taking turns as the primary starters.
No wonder the Mavs are still searching for their first playoff series win since sipping Champagne in South Beach, huh?
In the locker room, Chandler stepped right back into the role of spiritual leader he had on the championship team. He typically addresses the team before each game, at halftime and often after the game.
If a Dallas player has done something wrong, Chandler will tell him about it if he determines it necessary, a no-bull approach embraced by the Mavs. He expects his teammates to hold him to the same standard of accountability.
That opinion apparently isn't shared in the Knicks' locker room. Jackson's chemistry jabs were followed up by star Carmelo Anthony and other Knicks making comments about the lack of finger pointing in New York this season, which could be perceived as passive-aggressive pokes at Chandler.
How can Chandler be considered a great leader by one team and an outcast by another?
"It made perfect sense," said Cuban, who hopes to keep Chandler when his contract expires this summer. "If there's organizational issues or whatever was happening, then somebody who's trying to rally the guys, if the guys aren't buying it, it's going to be disruptive. Everybody's got to buy it for it to work."
Or, as Chandler put it: "I think people can take it differently and make it what they want to make it. It also depends on where your mind is. If everybody is locked in and they want to win and they know I'm in it 100 percent and they're in it 100 percent, nobody's sensitive. But if there's other agendas, it's going to make things sensitive."
Chandler might still be a bit of a sensitive subject for the Knicks. But a quick glance at the standings -- the 10-5 Mavs fighting for playoff position in the loaded West, the 4-11 Knicks destined to play for pingpong balls in the weak East -- suggests that Chandler probably wasn't the problem in New York last season.
The Knicks' eagerness to get rid of Chandler was a great break for the Mavs.
The Knicks entered the season with high expectations coming off a trip to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs but ended with a 37-45 record and the firing of coach Mike Woodson. Chandler was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks in a six-player deal in June when new Knicks president Phil Jackson cited a desire to change the chemistry of the franchise. Those comments offended the big man, who prides himself on professionalism and leadership.
Chandler missed 20 games early last season because of a nondisplaced fracture of his right fibula, with the Knicks falling to 10 games under .500 in his absence. With a pained grin on his face, he said he believed he occasionally received too much blame for the Knicks' disappointing performance last season.
"At times, at times, at times," Chandler told ESPNDallas.com. "But I feel like New York made me a lot stronger, a lot stronger of a person going through trials and tribulations there. But that's life."
Chandler will face the Knicks on Wednesday night for the first time since the trade to Dallas. Chandler, considered a leader in the Mavericks' locker room and a negative influence in the Knicks', thinks the difference is his teammates' tolerance for his attempts to hold them accountable.
"I think people can take it differently and make it what they want to make it," Chandler said when asked whether his leadership attempts were lost in translation in New York. "It also depends on where your mind is. If everybody is locked in and they want to win and they know I'm in it 100 percent and they're in it 100 percent, nobody's sensitive. But if there's other agendas, it's going to make things sensitive."
Knicks players, including star Carmelo Anthony
Without Anthony, the Knicks fell to the Rockets 91-86.
Anthony appeared to land awkwardly after attempting a jump shot with two minutes to play in the second quarter.
He tried to play through the injury but asked to be taken out of the game on the next possession.
After the game, Anthony went to a doctor in Houston to receive pain medication for the spasms that was not available at the arena, a team official said.
Anthony flew with the Knicks to Dallas for Wednesday night's game against the Mavericks but is listed as doubtful to play.
Teammate J.R. Smith said Anthony was in significant pain Monday night.
"He could barely talk, he said very few words," Smith said. "You could tell the pain he was in."
Head coach Derek Fisher was unsure of the condition of Anthony's back on Tuesday but said the Knicks would be patient with their star.
"As far as I'm aware, back spasms isn't really something that you can push or rush," Fisher said. "Until you can actually play without being in spasm, there isn't anything you can really do. Hopefully that will be soon. His back will be the only indicator of how soon that can be. I don't think there's anything we can necessarily do to rush that right now."
Houston (11-3) played without center Dwight Howard (knee) and point guard Patrick Beverley (hamstring), but Harden had half of the Rockets' 14 3-pointers to overwhelm the Knicks, who played the second half without star forward Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony left the game with less than two minutes remaining in the first half and did not return, suffering from back spasms, the team said. Anthony had 14 points.
Jose Calderon and Travis Wear both had 9 points for the Knicks (4-11), who fell to 1-6 on the road and suffered their 10th loss in the last 12 games. Despite leaving so early in the game, Anthony led Knicks scorers, and none of his teammates scored double figures.
Six other players scored at least 8 points, including five bench players.
The Knicks couldn't comply in Houston.
With Carmelo Anthony unavailable in the second half, New York fell to the Houston Rockets 91-86.
Not much punch on offense: Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks in scoring with just 14 points. He sat out the final 25 minutes due to back spasms. New York was hurt by a lack of offensive punch without Anthony. The Knicks had a six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Houston outscored them 17-6 over a long stretch of the fourth. James Harden led Houston with 36 points on 11-for-22 shooting.
Concern for Carmelo: The Knicks fell to 4-11 and have lost 10 of 12. They have also dropped five straight on the road. Things will get only more dire for this team if Anthony is out for an extended period of time. Anthony appeared to be in significant pain late in the first half. He landed awkwardly after a jump shot and had to leave the game with 1:45 left in the second quarter. He did not return.
Torched from beyond the arc: The Knicks have allowed the highest opponent field goal percentage in the NBA. The Rockets have taken the most 3s in the NBA. This was not a recipe for success for New York. Houston hit 14 of 36 3s (39 percent) on Monday. The Knicks missed 16 of their 22 attempts.
Question: Will the Knicks be able to rebound from their 4-11 start or is the season a lost cause already?
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The veteran has recovered from a high-ankle sprain suffered Oct. 10. Felton has served his four-game suspension stemming from his guilty plea to gun charges, a part of his nightmare campaign with the New York Knicks last season.
Now Felton, who looked forward to a fresh start after arriving in Dallas with center Tyson Chandler in a June trade, can finally focus on basketball again.
“It’s been a long time,” said Felton, who is available for Monday night's home game against the Indiana Pacers. “I’ve put everything behind me and now it’s time to get back on the court and start business now.”
However, it’s hard to say exactly when Felton will actually get back on the court. Or how Felton will fit in a crowded backcourt rotation.
Four veteran guards have played significant roles during Dallas’ 10-4 start. Monta Ellis leads the Mavs in scoring at 19.6 points per game and is tied for the team lead in assists (4.6), getting the vast majority of the minutes at shooting guard. Jameer Nelson, who is averaging 7.4 points and 4.6 assists, has started every game at point guard. Devin Harris (8.7 points, 4.4 assists) and J.J. Barea (8.4 points, 4.4 assists) have been dual spark plugs off the bench.
“We’ll just have to see,” coach Rick Carlisle said on Felton’s role. “There’s nothing definite at this point in time.
“We got a lot of point guards. We got to give them all a lot of love. It’s really a great situation for us. You look around the league, Indiana’s got two point guards out. We’re very fortunate. Are there enough minutes for all of them? No. But they’re all professionals and they’re all going to stay ready. I feel it’s a very good position to be in.”
Felton, who can play either guard position, has averages of 13.1 points and 6.5 assists per game in nine NBA seasons. He has started all but 55 of his 667 career appearances but understands he’ll have to adapt to a different role in Dallas.
At this point, Felton isn’t certain what that role will be. He hasn’t had any discussions with Carlisle about it.
“That’s not my decision to make,” Felton said. “I’ve worked hard through training camp and I’ve worked hard ever since I’ve been injured, so the biggest thing is whatever Coach and this staff needs me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”
Point guard Patrick Beverley, who has a strained left hamstring, also will miss the game, the team announced.
The Rockets announced last week that there was no timetable for Howard's return. He had initially been listed as questionable for Monday's game.
Howard underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy last Thursday to treat his injury.
PRP therapy places a patient's blood in a centrifuge and spins it to separate the platelet-rich plasma, which is then injected back into the injured tissue. It is generally used for long-term treatment, although Howard expressed hope that he wouldn't be sidelined for an extended period.
Information from ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon is included in this report.
In his past three games, Stoudemire has shown flashes of vintage Amar’e, averaging 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and shooting 17-of-21.
During Saturday’s much-needed 91-83 win over the lowly Sixers, Stoudemire made 5 of 6 shots and had 16 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.
Perhaps he found the Fountain of Youth in those red wine baths he’s been taking.
“I feel great,” Stoudemire said after the win over the Sixers. “To feel this explosive and energetic and quick, everything is back. I feel blessed to be able to say that once again.”
It’s been a long road back for Stoudemire, who has done all he can to return from surgeries on both knees. This season, Stoudemire is averaging 12 points, 7.4 rebounds and 54.8 percent shooting in 22.8 minutes per game.
With the Knicks monitoring his health and minutes, Stoudemire has sat out just one of the Knicks’ first 14 games.
Last season, Stoudemire played in 65 games, averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. But Stoudemire came on strong at the end, averaging 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in March.
He looks like he is picking up where he left off last season.
Knicks coach Derek Fisher says his big man has been able to adapt to the triangle pretty well so far.
“I think Amar'e has been effective all season long, in a sense, but I think he understands where his opportunities come from within the system,” Fisher said. “He is taking advantage of those, being aggressive and rebounding the ball.”
Carmelo Anthony is certainly appreciative of Stoudemire’s efforts to regain his old form.
“I think he’s getting more comfortable with himself, his body, knowing what he can do out there on the basketball court and taking advantage of the mismatches and the situations,” Anthony said. “He’s our go-to post player. We need a bucket at times, we’re definitely going to him.”
There’s a lot of season left to play, but Stoudemire’s contract year is off to a good start.
“It took me a little longer [than expected],” Stoudemire told reporters when asked how long he thought it would take to get back to feeling healthy and playing his game again.
“Those two years previously were extremely tough to go through. But I knew hard work and dedication to the game of basketball -- staying focused, it’ll all pan out.
"So far, feeling great. Going to do everything I can to keep that feeling.”