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Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Opening Tip: Knicks feeding off Spurs?

By Jared Zwerling

Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: Are the Knicks following the Spurs' recent model for success?

Entering the 2011-12 season, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich realized he needed to make a major change in the offense for the team to remain competitive.

Popovich knew that his biggest star, Tim Duncan , was getting older and could no longer be the dominant, consistent post-up player he once was. So one of the greatest coaches in NBA history instituted a "pace and space" system, which was predicated on ball movement, initiated by Tony Parker in pick-and-rolls, and then finished by spread-out shooters.

In 2011-12, the Spurs season tied for the best record in the league with the Bulls (50-16), and they made it to the Western Conference finals. This season, the Spurs are running the same offense, and they hold the best record in the West (4-0).

The Spurs' offensive efficiency comes from a commitment to ball movement.

"We have a great passing team, all positions, all over the court," Spurs power forward Boris Diaw said recently. "Everybody is playing the same way, and coach is doing a wonderful job making sure everybody is responsive and used to passing to the open man, making the point to make the right play. And everybody is doing that.”

Ring a bell?

Ball movement has been a key ingredient to the Knicks' 3-0 start, their best since 1999. While Mike Woodson didn't change the offense because of an aging traditional big man, he never really had one in the first place. The biggest difference from the Spurs' adjustment is that Woody knew he needed to move the ball more to prevent dead isolations through Carmelo Anthony and to help Melo, and the rest of the guys, get easier shots. Defensively, both teams are getting after it, thanks to their veteran experience.

When Woodson was hired by the Knicks before the 2011-12 season, he was considered to be a "defensive coordinator," and the team improved in every defensive category. Now, Woody, who's long preached isolation and traditional offense, is turning heads with his clever offensive adjustments -- and, of course, his No. 1-ranked defense.

If he keeps this up, he'll be in the running for Coach of the Year.

What similarities or differences do you notice between the Knicks and Spurs' offensive schemes? Leave us your comments below.

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