Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: How concerned should the Knicks be about their interior defense?
While the Knicks are still in the top 10 in points in the paint allowed on the season, they've declined recently in this area.
Their last three opponents have scored at least 40 points in the paint. The Pistons had 44 on Thursday, while the Knicks finished with only 22. However, Amar'e Stoudemire was 11-for-12 from the foul line after getting hacked repeatedly in the paint, and the pick-and-roll game between Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler has yet to resume, with Felton still out due to injury.
The bigger issue -- make that the biggest issue -- concerning the team is its interior defense going forward. The Knicks now have Iman Shumpert back to further improve their perimeter defense, but Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace are two big question marks.
After the game Thursday, Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony both were asked about their lack of front-court support, but they avoided the question. They instead focused on the team's ability to hold the Pistons to 87 points. But of course, nearly half of those points came in the paint, primarily scored by Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
While Chandler is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and can change the game on his own at times, his current backup, Stoudemire, needs help around him. He's still not where Mike Woodson wants him to be defensively. There were times Thursday when Stoudemire was the main big man, and Will Bynum off the bench scored with ease in the restricted area.
Without much in the way of size, Woodson has been using smaller lineups to bolster the team's pick-and-roll defense and rotations, and that's left Chandler or Stoudemire on their own in the middle. Fortunately for them on Thursday, their perimeter teammates got the job done -- but that won't always be the case.
Last week the Knicks lost to the Celtics, Pacers and Bulls -- three physical teams who are anchored by their extensive and experienced frontlines. If the Knicks want to reach the Eastern Conference finals, they're going to have to defend against one or two of those down-low arsenals over the course of potentially seven games. And right now, they're not ready to counter them.
While the Knicks can wait on Camby and Wallace to return from injury, giving them perhaps two to three months to lock down their front-court depth, there are no guarantees when it comes to 38-year-olds. The time may be now to add another serviceable big -- Kenyon Martin? Chris Andersen? -- or get a little active before the trade deadline.
How much do you worry about the Knicks' lack of interior defense? Leave us your comments below.
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