Monday, February 17, 2014
Chances for a second half bounce back?
By Ohm Youngmisuk
It’s been a season of utter disappointment and things can actually get much worse for the New York Knicks after the All-Star break.
The Knicks can’t stop losing to bad teams and will be mostly on the road from here on out. Oh, and Carmelo Anthony could say he'd rather be somewhere else after this season is over.
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Of course, the season isn’t over yet. The Knicks can still do something about it as they open the post All-Star break just 2.5 games out of eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s a look back at the Knicks before the All-Star break and what lies ahead of them:
What went right: The Knicks showed a glimpse of what they are capable of doing when they won six of seven at the start of 2014, including two of three in the Texas Triangle. Carmelo also managed to stay healthy, averaging 27.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals. Tim Hardaway Jr. is looking more and more like a steal.
What went wrong: Just about everything else. The Knicks have had to deal with numerous injuries to Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Raymond Felton, Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani and even a five-game suspension (Smith). Even worse, the Knicks have struggled against some of the worst teams in the NBA. The play of Anthony’s supporting cast has dropped significantly from last season and Smith, Shumpert, Felton and Chandler have not played as well as they did last season.
It looks like the Knicks will stick with Mike Woodson.
Coaching: After overseeing a 54-win campaign last season, Woodson has not been able to get his team to compete consistently or handle business at home. Despite several injuries, Woodson had a healthy Anthony and enough talent to beat the likes of Milwaukee, Sacramento, Boston, Philadelphia and other woeful teams the Knicks have lost to. They seem to lack motivation on some nights and there have been defensive breakdowns at times. Also, basketball IQ hasn’t been great late (see failed called timeout vs. Washington and Bargnani’s inexplicable shot late against Milwaukee). James Dolan, though, has stuck with Woodson this long and it appears the coach is going to stick for the rest of the season.
MVP at the break: Anthony. He does it all and the Knicks still need him to do more unfortunately. He’s averaging 38.8 minutes a game and that could be a reason why he’s missed some late clutch shots this season.
Most disappointing at the break: We’d like to say The Knicks City Dancers, who have been completely phased out. But we have a three-way tie between Felton, Smith and Shumpert. The Knicks need better point guard play and Felton’s struggles on both sides of the floor has hurt the Knicks at times. He’s also battled injuries. Smith has come on as of late but Anthony desperately needs Smith to play like the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Shumpert plays hard but has only scored in double figures 13 times and his three-point shooting percentage has dipped from 40.2% last season to 35.8%.
Best win so far: They buried 16-of-27 three-pointers (59.3%) in Brooklyn in early December but the Knicks’ 102-92 win over Miami at home on Jan. 9 was one to savor.
Worst loss so far: There are plenty of worthy candidates such as inexcusable home losses to Philadelphia and Sacramento and a road loss at Milwaukee. But losing by 41 points (114-73) at home to the rebuilding Boston Celtics on Dec. 8 still reeks.
Best moment so far: Melo’s 62-point explosion at Madison Square Garden. Knicks fans should hope that’s not the last special moment he gives Garden fans as a Knick.
Worst moment so far: With apologies to Smith and “shoelace-gate,” the end of a 102-101 home loss to the Wizards sticks out. The Knicks failed to foul late, allowed a Bradley Beal layup and then utterly failed to call a timeout to set up a final play with six seconds left.
Potential moves: Dolan opted not to make a coaching change at the All-Star break so we have to assume Woodson will survive the final 30 games. The Knicks will do everything they can to make a trade but who wants what they are selling? Perhaps there’s a team out there that can be convinced that Shumpert can use a change of scenery along with a future first-round pick or that Chandler could be a final piece to the puzzle. A trade might help keep Melo happy but the Knicks really can’t afford to part with another first-round pick in a trade that might only make them marginally better.
The road ahead: Treacherous. Knicks hit the road for 19 of their remaining 30 games with eight back-to-backs.
Key unsung player post break: Hardaway Jr. He had his coming-out party in the defensively-challenged Rising Stars Challenge on Friday with 36 points. Even if Hardaway doesn’t play much D himself, Woodson should still find minutes for the offensive sparkplug.
Knicks make the playoffs if: If Melo gets some consistent offensive help from a second and third option, Knicks play some defense and play loose and better on the road, maybe they can start stringing some wins together. They need to regain confidence and also can use some help from Charlotte and Detroit, the two teams currently ahead of them. The division is probably out of reach.
Knicks miss the playoffs if: Felton, Shumpert, Smith and Chandler don’t pick up their play and if the Knicks continue their inconsistent ways. If Melo gets hurt, the season is over.
Prediction: The Knicks have given us very little reason to believe it will turn around but I still have a hard time believing Melo will not be able to get the Knicks into the eighth spot in the dreadful East.