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Monday, January 23, 2012
Knicks' Weekly Report Card

By Jared Zwerling

Every Monday starting today, ESPNNewYork.com will evaluate how the Knicks' key personnel performed in the past week and envision how they will need to improve looking ahead to the following games.

Mike D'Antoni: D
Past Week: No one on the Knicks is more on the hot seat than D'Antoni. Last week, Amare Stoudemire called his head coach "an offensive genius," but in the four games the team played (all losses), D'Antoni only got them to score more than 100 points once. You would think Stoudemire's kind words about his sideline boss would help his own play, but he's only averaging 17.6 points per game (last season he was at 25.3). That's on STAT, but also on D'Antoni. While the Knicks are playing decent defensively, they've hardly showed any improvement offensively from Monday to Saturday. However, he doesn't have his floor general yet, but that could change later this week with Baron Davis' potential return. Looking Ahead: D'Antoni needs to coach the team, not just Carmelo Anthony, raise their energy level (especially to start and finish games), and have the guys work on offensive rebounding and guarding backdoor cuts.

Carmelo Anthony: B+
Past Week: Without Melo, who knows how much worse it would be for the Knicks right now. They don't have a point guard, Stoudemire has taken a big step back from last season, the bench has been inconsistent ... The list goes on and on. While the team went 0-4 last week, Melo made some stretches competitive with his scoring (he's averaging 26.3 points per game), and he almost single-handedly knocked off his former team, the Nuggets, on Saturday. It's not fair to focus on his tanking field goal percentage. He's been fighting through lingering effects of a sprained right ankle and left wrist, on which he's been wearing a brace. Looking Ahead: Melo needs to seriously consider taking a couple of days off at some point soon, maybe even a game or two, as he suggested he do after the Knicks' loss to the Nuggets, in order to further heal his wounds. The Knicks can't risk him being anything less than 100 percent come playoff time. On the court, he needs to develop a better two-man game with Stoudemire to get him more involved in the offense, which he said he needs to do.

Amare Stoudemire: D
Past Week: After the Knicks' loss to the Nuggets, in which Stoudemire scored only 12 points, Anthony said, "Maybe I need to get him the ball a little bit more, help him out with that." Help is what he needs, because right now Stoudemire is arguably the Most Disappointing Player of the early season. He's shooting 41.3 percent from the field, not getting to the foul line (but getting in foul trouble), and disappearing at the end of the games. On Saturday, Stoudemire didn't even attempt a single field goal in 13 minutes of clutch time, and he's yet to make a field goal in that scenario while playing just three minutes less than Anthony. (Clutch time is defined as the fourth quarter or overtime, with less than five minutes left and neither team ahead by more than five points.) Looking Ahead: Stoudemire needs to work with the team to find ways to get open at both corners right above the free throw line, which were his "kill shots" last season. That's how STAT describes his hot-zone areas. Currently he's shooting more from 16 to 23 feet. No bueno. Also, he needs to control his handle better attacking the basket. In the four games last week, he averaged 4.3 turnovers.

Tyson Chandler: B-
Past Week: The one bright spot for the Knicks this season has been their defense, as they're holding opponents to under 100 points (96.7 per game) for the first time since the 2004-05 season (99.7). That's been anchored by Chandler, a tall (7-1), agile and long-armed center the team hasn't had since Marcus Camby. But last week, Chandler and Co. allowed more than 100 points in three out of their four games, in which opposing teams dominated the paint. For example, the Bucks had 50 points in the area, while the Nuggets had 62 -- a season-high for a Knicks' opponent. Chandler, quite simply, has to be more of a protective piece at $14 million per season. Looking Ahead: Chandler needs to be more active on the offensive glass, be wary of backdoor cuts and make reads better playing with Stoudemire to give him lanes to the basket and additional open looks from 10 to 15 feet -- not from further out where he's taking more attempts.

Iman Shumpert: B
Past Week: As a rookie, starting at point guard, for the Knicks, Shumpert has done a pretty good job overall considering he's not a natural point guard. After shooting 33.3 percent or lower in three straight games two weeks ago, he had two better nights from the floor against the Suns (57.1 percent) and Nuggets (43.8). Last week, he did show some hesitation looking for his own shot -- perhaps because his accuracy had been consistently off -- but with the Knicks' struggles right now, he needs to continue to attack and develop a scorer's mentality like the other great point-guard playmakers in the league. Unfortunately, cramps have been getting the better of him. Looking Ahead: Shumpert needs to play more efficiently like he did against the Nuggets in the first half (11 points, six assists and one turnover).

Landry Fields: B
Past Week: Fields looked so lost in the offense to start the season that fans were begging Shumpert to start over him. D’Antoni said Fields was lacking some confidence and thinking too much on the court. But it's clear the style of basketball Fields prefers at this point in only his second season: the transition game. Last week, with Shumpert picking up the pace, Fields exceled in the open court. The Knicks' 10 steals per game (third-highest in the league) has also helped Fields get out and run. He scored 17, 10 and 18 points in three straight games to end the week, and went for a season-high seven assists against the Nuggets. The usual hesitant Fields let loose like he hadn't done all season, and that's the kind of floor game the Knicks need from him. Looking Ahead: Fields needs to continue to be aggressive in halfcourt sets and has to improve his rebounding (3.6 per game vs. 6.4 last season) and his 3-point shooting. He's only made eight in 39 attempts (20.5 percent). From a starting shooting guard, that's one of the lowest marks in the league.

Toney Douglas: D
Past Week: Douglas has continued his inconsistent play this season, but to a higher degree. When he does get hot, he scores in the low double figures, whereas last season he would hit 20, 25 points. Case in point: Last week, he went for 12 points, then three, then two, then 11. He not only hasn't been the scoring spark the Knicks want him to be off the bench -- he's shooting 23.9 percent from downtown -- but his point-guard duties have been erratic. He tends to dribble too much around the perimeter and when he does attack, he looks to make the quick pass instead of fielding out all of his options, including setting up the offense again if no looks are there. In three straight games last week, against the Suns, Bucks and Nuggets, he had more turnovers than assists. Looking Ahead: Douglas needs to improve in all facets. He's capable, but the question is how much is his right shoulder really bothering him? He tweaked it earlier in the season.

Bill Walker: B-
Past Week: For the most part, Walker is on the court to spot-up from three receiving kick-outs from Anthony and Stoudemire, and so far this season he hasn't really disappointed. He's shooting 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. Give the man some credit. He started the season with a strained groin and he's had some right knee issues since then. Two days after getting that knee drained last week, he went for a season-high 15 points on 3-for-4 from downtown against the Nuggets, and was the key spark that led the Knicks to a 39-28 lead at the start of the second quarter. Of course, the entire team fell apart from there. Looking Ahead: Walker needs to stay healthy and continue to step in for Fields' 3-point shooting woes. That will be a big plus to a team whose bench is already thin at it is.

Jared Jeffries: C+
Past Week: Jeffries' offensive shortcomings are obvious, but his defensive versatility to stay in front of guards has enabled D'Antoni to use a bigger lineup at times. In those situations, Jeffries usually plays alongside Anthony, Stoudemire, Chandler and Shumpert. Along with the talented frontline, Jeffries has helped the Knicks become a better defensive team this season. His ability to body up faster players, clog passing lanes and alter shots at the rim have come in handy. Against the Nuggets he had three blocked shots. He just has to stay out of foul trouble because he needs to be in the game to help space the floor for Stoudemire. Looking Ahead: Jeffries, along with the rest of the team, needs to work on switching on pick-and-rolls more effectively so opposing point guards don't go off. Last week, Steve Nash and Brandon Jennings had a field day at the Garden.

Josh Harrellson: B+
Past Week: Even with his limited big-man skills set, having short arms and a weak post game, Harrellson has been doing just fine for the Knicks as their third-string center with the skills he does have. Utilizing his outside touch that he showed off at Kentucky, he’s been knocking down the three (35.6 percent on the season). Last week, he was 4-for-10 from downtown and against the Nuggets, he even continued to play and shoot after fracturing his right wrist in the latter part of the game. His stretch abilities have enabled Stoudmire to play at his best, compared to playing alongside Chandler or Jared Jeffries. In only the 57 minutes that Stoudemire has been on the court with Harrellson, his plus-minus has been +23 and he’s averaging 33.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per 40 minutes, while shooting 51.6 percent from the field. Keep in mind Stoudemire has a 41.3 field goal percentage for the season. Looking Ahead: Harrellson is out until after the All-Star break.

Mike Bibby: Incomplete
Bibby only played a total of 23 minutes in three games last week, and he didn't suit up against the Nuggets on Saturday.

Baron Davis: N/A
B-Diddy is back practicing!

Steve Novak: N/A
Now that Harrellson's 3-point shooting is gone for a while, perhaps Novak will get a small shot to knock a few down.

Renaldo Balkman: N/A
Another outside-of-the-rotation player who could get some minutes with Harrellson out, but it's highly unlikely.

Jeremy Lin and Jerome Jordan: N/A
They were recalled from the D-League on Monday.

What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Leave us your comments below.

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