After the Knicks defeated the Warriors on Wednesday night, Tyson Chandler, who played 42 minutes -- the most he's played since Nov. 26 against the Nets -- knew how important it was for him to be on the floor for his team.
"I really wanted to be out there," Chandler said. "It was necessary, especially this time of year. We've got to get these wins."
But Chandler's overloaded playing time represents a recent fundamental issue with the Knicks. Coach Mike Woodson has shortened his rotation from 12 -- at the start of the season -- to usually nine players these days. And that has affected the Knicks' defensive balance. While the starting five has looked sharper making stops -- outscoring the Warriors 27-18 in the first quarter, thanks to Chandler and Iman Shumpert's defense -- the bench has been exposed.
"Their second unit scares no one," a veteran NBA scout told ESPNNewYork.com. "I'm not sure why they didn't make a trade."
The Knicks' worst five-man defensive lineup -- with a minimum of 40 minutes played together -- is Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. The main problems have been Novak getting beat off the dribble by wing slashers and Stoudemire switching poorly and leaving the paint open. They are not strong defenders, and they need support around them.
Recently, Paul George, Rudy Gay and Evan Turner took advantage of the Knicks' subs and had big games. On Wednesday night in the second quarter, with some of the starters resting, Stephen Curry went off for 23 points. Not only have the Knicks struggled defending pick-and-rolls, but they have also been out of sync getting back in transition and setting up the defense quickly.
Who knows how much worse it will get? The Knicks next face explosive point guard John Wall on Friday in Washington. Then they play the Heat, with All-Stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, on Sunday at the Garden.
Even with Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace sidelined due to injuries, James White, Kenyon Martin and Kurt Thomas are available and serviceable. In addition, Woodson could balance out the point guards' minutes more to alleviate some of the pressure on Jason Kidd. While he starts off well, Kidd loses steam in the second half and opponents purposely look to attack him.
While the scout said Woodson may feel the pressure of winning in New York, he has to face this fact: Managing older players who have wear and tear means preserving them for the latter part of the season.
"He is stubborn, and that could get him the ax," the scout said. "He definitely needs to play more guys. It would be beneficial to them. It can't hurt."
A seasoned NBA agent agreed and brought up another possible reason for Woodson's shrinking substitutions. He said politics are likely involved.
"The NBA is always political in that the Knicks are not going to want to play a 30-year-old journeyman [White] over a second-year first-round pick [Shumpert] who they see as developing into part of their future," he said.
No matter how Woodson feels about things, he needs to realize what he's working with: an older roster that needs care.
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