- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
So far, Debbie Gibson has had a better performance at Madison Square Garden than the home team. Let's sift through the mess and look at five things holding the Knicks back:
No Tyson, no defense: Mike Woodson says his team isn't being competitive or showing any effort on defense. He has to find a way to get his players to play defense because the Knicks can't rely on their offense or Carmelo Anthony to bail them out.
The Knicks miss Tyson Chandler badly. They could rely on him to be that last line of defense. He obviously can be a terrific shot blocker. But they miss him most on the boards. Now they rely on Melo to grab the rebounds (as if Melo didn't have enough on his plate). And they miss Chandler's hustle and energy. Woodson needs to find a way to motivate his defense, which is giving up an average of 104.5 points per game in the last seven games.
Woody's task: Some fans are chanting for Woody's job. Look, it doesn't all fall on Woodson's shoulders since he does have a flawed roster that is thin and loaded with streaky scorers that do many of the same things while also having to survive without Chandler. But Woodson has to find a way to get his team better shots.
Too many times, the offense stalls and slows down as four players watch one guy jack up a quick or contested shot on one side of the court without a single pass. The ball needs to move more and Woodson has said as much. Part of that has to do with who he has on the floor. Woodson admits he's trying to find the right combination of who will play hard, defend and move the ball for him. Nine games into the season, he has not found that consistent lineup with several new faces, injuries and a suspension to deal with. Woodson says he likely will continue to tinker with his lineup until he finds the right combination. Playing Pablo Prigioni a bit more could help the ball movement.
Shooting blanks: J.R. Smith has more problems than just what Brandon Jennings tweets. His shot is just not falling right now. Smith shot 3-for-18 and scored just seven points in 36 minutes against the Hawks and then said, "I was playing like s---."
He has no rhythm right now and the Knicks desperately need another scoring option to help Melo. Since his return from a five-game suspension, Smith is shooting a dismal 22.6 percent from the field and just 26.9 percent from behind the 3-point arc. In three starts, Smith is shooting 11-for-44 overall and 6-for-21 from 3-point range. Woodson could opt to bring Smith off the bench again and put Prigioni back in the starting lineup. But Woodson has been concerned with his team's slow starts. No matter, Smith has to get his shot going again.
Kenyon and Amar'e: The Knicks are trying to preserve their veteran big men and have been playing Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire on a minutes restriction. There just seems to be no comfort level at all when Stoudemire is in the game as he tries to do what he can in limited minutes. Things just seem disjointed when Amar'e is in the game and the Knicks can't afford to be patient right now. Martin has tried setting the tone with defense and hard fouls. So far he is averaging 12.1 minutes. Amar'e is averaging 10.5 minutes but just 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds. Amar'e would like to play more minutes which might get him to feel more comfortable. Whatever the plan is right now with Stoudemire, it's not working.
Everybody needs Raymond: Raymond Felton has had some hamstring issues early this season and the Knicks need their point guard healthy and playing better. Felton is averaging 11.1 points and 5.2 assists in 35 minutes a game. But he's shooting just 37.6 percent from the field and only 20.6 percent from behind the 3-point line. Felton has to find a way to get the ball moving and the offense flowing better. Offensively, Felton's two best games have come in Knicks' wins. He scored 18 in a win over Milwaukee and 15 in a victory over Charlotte so they can use an aggressive but efficient Felton.
And the Knicks need better defensive play from Felton and their point guards. Atlanta's Jeff Teague and Shelvin Mack combined for 28 points and 13 assists on Saturday. Teague had 25 points and eight assists against the Knicks last Wednesday. Jeremy Lin had 21 points against the Knicks last Thursday.
How would you guys fix the Knicks issues so far? Let us know what you think below.
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann