Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: Does Chris Copeland deserve consistent minutes in the playoffs?
After Game 4, there was some surprise among the team as to why Copeland didn't play, especially with J.R. Smith sidelined due to a one-game suspension. Two Knicks didn't have a reason and neither did Copeland, who said he was healthy enough to get minutes.
Instead, when Carmelo Anthony rested at the start of the second quarter, Quentin Richardson, who was out of the NBA the entire season except for the Knicks' final regular-season game, got playing time over Copeland.
Why? Most likely because Mike Woodson wanted to maintain his smaller lineup (Richardson is 6-foot-6 and Copeland is 6-foot-8), and in general, the coach favors seasoned veterans.
With Smith returning for Game 5, Copeland won't be as much of a topic of discussion, but he should be. Based on how he closed the regular season, scoring in double figures, racking up rebounds and forcing turnovers over the last seven games -- including in wins over the Thunder and Pacers -- the 29-year-old rookie can be an asset to the Knicks' playoff run.
But because he's a rhythm player, due to his offensive focus, he needs some consistent minutes to find his touch, and then carry that confidence and effort over to defense. His mindset is similar to Anthony's in a sense that when the Knicks' star scores, it fuels him even more on the other end. Sometimes when Melo misses a shot, having the mentality that every one of his attempts should go in, he dogs it defensively.
Because of their somewhat similar offensive gifts -- the quick release and post-up ability -- Copeland could act as Anthony's backup, and the team could go to him in certain sets. With Amar'e Stoudemire out for who knows how long, Copeland could be the second unit's low-post threat. Copeland's scoring versatility allows him to adapt as well. Because of his 3-point shooting, he can change his role to being a kick-out recipient, playing off of Melo.
It appears, however, that for Copeland and Steve Novak, two players who slow the Knicks' pace down to half-court sets and still struggle defensively, they'll be X-factors in the rotation. Woodson has preferred to up his guards' minutes to maintain an uptempo pace in transition, and that philosophy has worked well against the Celtics.
But things will get more challenging for the Knicks as they forge ahead, and key adjustments will need to be made. Coaches earn their money in the postseason by thinking outside of the box, and Woodson, at some point, will realize that Copeland has an important value to the Knicks. He's already proven himself on the court. Now, he just needs to get on it.
Do you think Copeland should be an active member of the rotation? Leave us your comments below.
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