Chat with Jared Zwerling
Welcome to ESPNNewYork.com! On Wednesday, New York Knicks writer Jared Zwerling stops by to chat about the team.
Zwerling has covered the Knicks for ESPNNewYork since 2010. He is also an NBA contributor to ESPN.com and writes for ESPN High School. Prior to ESPN, Zwerling worked for Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and started his career with the NBA in 2004, upon graduating from New York University.
Send your questions now and join Zwerling Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jared Zwerling (12:45 PM)
Hey Knicks fans, I'll be taking your questions from 1 to 2 p.m. ET today. Look forward to chatting with you guys!
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Do you think that it was Mike D'antoni's Fault that the New York Knicks were Stinking up the Storm?
Jared Zwerling (1:04 PM)
Well, there was a rift going on between Mike D'Antoni and Carmelo Anthony on and off the court -- D'Antoni always preferred Deron Williams going back to last year's trade deadline -- and that affected the team. When your star player knows something's up and is unhappy -- and you can tell because he never quite bought into D'Antoni's system -- that affects the rest of the team. While I surprised to see D'Antoni resign, the Knicks were obviously going through a tough stretch, losing eight of 10 games, and Tyson Chandler said unfortunately sometimes teams do need a change at the top. The Knicks needed a different push and Mike Woodson has provided that, especially defensively. That's his emphasis. But, at the same time, the Knicks realize where they stand in the playoff hunt. Their sense of urgency is greater than Woodson. They know they will have a very tough time beating the Heat or the Bulls in the first round.
Deven (Buffalo, NY)
Hi Jared. What have you noticed differently about the Knicks since Mike Woodson took over the team? And could he be the next head coach for this squad next season and beyond?
Jared Zwerling (1:07 PM)
Defense, defense and more defense. The Knicks were still scoring the ball well under Mike D'Antoni, but they were having a lot of defensive lapses throughout games. It's obviously interesting because Woodson was with the team from the start and was brought in to coach defense. But when your head coach is an offensive-oriented coach, that changes things a bit. Also Woodson is a no-nonsense guy and he's not afraid to hold guys more accountable than D'Antoni did. So that has rubbed off on the Knicks to play hard at all times. What benefits them is they have great depth and they can enforce the 48 minutes of defense that Woodson wants to see. They have energy around the clock coming into the game. For more on coach Woodson's coaching style and tendencies, check out the Knicks Blog. I wrote in depth about him as a head coach.
Deven (Buffalo, NY)
Would you agree with me about the fact that the reason Carmelo has been having an off year this season is because of the injuries he has had and about taking on a new role by shooting the ball less and distributing the ball more often? What are your thoughts?
Jared Zwerling (1:12 PM)
Injuries definitely has something to do with it. Remember he sprained his right wrist earlier in the year (his shooting hand). In fact, he's been bothered by several injuries this season. He's missing more open jumpers this season, but I also think that's due to his conditioning level. He didn't come into training camp at his best fitness level and insiders say he needs to lose some weight, especially looking ahead in his career. If he can lose some weight and get lighter on his feet, it'll add more jump to his step.
Ron (Johns Hopkins )
What do you think of Woody's one lineup where Shump is playing the 1 because i don't like it?
Jared Zwerling (1:15 PM)
Well, to be honest, Iman Shumpert has been playing better at the one when he's in that position, like he did last night against the Raptors. He's moving more aggressively off the pick-and-roll and he's quickly looking up the court. His floor vision has gotten better and he has a better sense of where his teammates are going to be. It's just part of his rookie transition. With Baron Davis banged up a bit right now, Shumpert gives Woodson another dimension at point guard. Plus, his 6-5, 220-pound size allows him to create space and defenders to back off him a bit, so he has more room to create.
Ron (Johns Hopkins)
Don't you believe tonight is a must-win if the knicks want to win the division and get out of the 1st round of the playoffs because if they're a 7 or 8 seed, they're one and done right?
Jared Zwerling (1:16 PM)
At this point, every game is a must-win for the Knicks in the season. They are still the eighth seed and they need to climb out of that spot and the seventh spot. A first-round matchup with the Heat or Bulls cannot happen, so, yes, every game is a must-win. You absolutely can't feel settled in the last spot in the playoff hunt.
Ron (Johns Hopkins )
Doesn't this season reminds you of the 99 season where van gundy wason the hot seat, sprewell and camby come in, and alllan houston answers question that he can lead a team?
Jared Zwerling (1:19 PM)
It's funny you mention Jeff Van Gundy. Last night's win against the Raptors took me back to 1999. The Knicks are starting to play at a slower halfcourt pace, which resembles Mike Woodson's style. And many scouts compare Woodson to Van Gundy for his more traditional style of halfcourt basketball and with a focus on defense. If you noticed last night, the Knicks only ran when they had a very clear opportunity to score, and those usually happened after a steal. And the slower halfcourt pace has benefited Jeremy Lin. He's not playing at that frantic Mike D'Antoni pace. The patience in the offense and the fact that he's not the sole focal point (that's also Melo, etc.) has decreased his turnover rate.
So whats going to be the bigger story, Linsanity or Tebowmania?
Jared Zwerling (1:22 PM)
I'm getting a few questions about this. Obviously in the beginning it will be all Tebow, if he does come to New York. But at the end of the day, New Yorkers are serious about their sports and want to see results. The bigger story is who will ever get their team to the final dance. Tebow will probably get more of the hype initially, but Jeremy Lin is definitely developing, whether you believe it or not, into a legit starting point guard in this league. His teammates believe it, D'Antoni believed it and Woodson now sees it. So performance and results matter most right now, and Lin obviously has the leg up.
Ron (Johns Hopkins )
Do you think Lin needs to work on getting around screens better on defense?
Jared Zwerling (1:23 PM)
I wrote about this last night. Woodson commented on this, saying Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields, especially, have impressed him so far in defending pick-and-rolls. His direct quote was: "Jeremy Lin, I think he's done great on the ball. Landry's been great on the ball for us. Melo's been pushing in terms of, not pick-and-roll, but just getting over screens and playing wing denial. I mean, it's been really a total team effort. Everybody's been responsible for the three-game winning streak."
Ross (Long Island)
Who do you got winning this game tonight?
Jared Zwerling (1:28 PM)
Great question. This will be a very close game, I predict. The Sixers have been struggling a bit and they will be ready to go. And the Knicks know they have to maintain what they've been doing to get out of the eighth and seventh spots, and not face the Heat or the Bulls. So because I foresee a close game, I see Carmelo Anthony stepping up big tonight in the fourth quarter. He hasn't had a clutch down-the-stretch performance in a while, and I think he'll help take over the game, and get his teammates involved as well. He's been sharing the ball well lately -- five assists last night -- so his creation off the dribble will lead to key Knicks' baskets in crunch time. Overall, the Knicks' star talent will provide the extra punch tonight in a close game. I also like what I've been seeing from Amare Stoudemire lately. His midrange jumpshot will be a problem for the Sixers tonight -- just like Melo's.
Ross (Long Island)
What are the chances of having J.R back with the team next season if he continues to play well?
Jared Zwerling (1:31 PM)
I think a very good chance, if he's willing to take less money. Without any practice time under D'Antoni, he stepped right in and contributed. And now under Woodson, he's buying into defense and the little things the Knicks need to do to win games, like his offensive rebounding last night. The front office has to really respect his effort. While he's had some off-the-court issues this season and in years past, he comes ready to play every game. Not to mention, his 3-point shooting is needed, along with Steve Novak's. So I think the Knicks should re-sign him and hopefully Smith is willing to play for less, because he can demand more money elsewhere, especially with the value he's providing to the Knicks.
Shakoor(NYC) [via mobile]
Hi jared, If the knicks continue playing defense at a high level what is the highest spot you see them moving up the eastern conference.
Jared Zwerling (1:35 PM)
With the way they're playing, there is no reason why they shouldn't move up to the fifth or sixth spots. The best thing going for the Knicks is their depth so they can bring an added layer of defensive energy and pressure every game -- something that most teams cannot do night in and night out. Woodson can go 10 deep with the Knicks' talent. So all that added together should deliver the team more wins in a shorter period of time. The condensed schedule makes it difficult for teams to constantly apply the defense the Knicks have been doing, but with their depth, they can. That's a big plus. So I would say the Knicks will move up to the fifth or sixth spots.
Vitas (North Jersey)
I still have the Knicks not making the playoffs mainly because the Bucks schedule is much easier, they've been playing well for much longer than 4 games and upgraded their SG for free. Even if the coaching change did finally motivate the Knicks to play D shouldn't we put some blame on the players for not trying in the first place?
Jared Zwerling (1:39 PM)
Absolutely. But there was some unrest going on behind the scenes that I'm sure affected the players. Mike D'Antoni was not pleased with some of the front office decisions that were made. Some insiders called the head coach "a dead man walking." He didn't have a lot of say with trades, especially when Carmelo came to town. So I think the uneasiness of the situation D'Antoni was in rubbed off on the players. Focus wasn't 100 percent there. Now Woodson comes in, and he's someone who wasn't part of anything in the previous years leading up to this season. He can just go about his job and now the players can go about their job, and they're both working together nicely right now.
Ross (Long Island)
Is Baron playing tonight and if so how effective can he be?
Jared Zwerling (1:40 PM)
I have not heard anything new on Davis. We'll know for sure around 5:30, 6 p.m. tonight. Stay tuned to my Twitter feed (@JaredZwerling) and the Knicks Blog for all the latest.
Do you think Melo will consistently play good defence in this team or will this energy on d be short lived?
Jared Zwerling (1:42 PM)
Most people agree -- the media, scouts, players, etc. -- that when Carmelo Anthony wants to play defense, he can. The thing is, he usually exerts so much energy on offense being that he's the guy who needs to take the most shots and score the most points. But, guess what's happening now? He's not taking as many shots and not always the guy the Knicks are looking to in the offense. Melo is making offensive sacrifices and he's utilizing that extra energy on the defensive end.
Jared - The Knicks have been playing so efficiently on both sides of the ball since the coaching change and it truly looks to be sustainable considering their depth. However, the pessimist in me can't help but think this is just a honeymoon period. Please convince me otherwise.
Jared Zwerling (1:46 PM)
As I mentioned before, the biggest strength for the Knicks looking ahead is their depth. And that should, whether or not it always work, allow the Knicks to play consistent defense for 48 minutes. Case in point last night against the Raptors: They applied steady pressure all game, and then they finished very strong, outscoring the Raptors 27-19 in the fourth quarter by forcing them into five turnovers and making a living in transition. Jeremy Lin said all the starters were able to rest in the final period because of how hard the second unit was playing on defense. Not many teams, if at all, have the depth the Knicks do right now. There really is no excuses for them, at this point, not to bring it every night. So I'm an optimistic and looking at this situation as not just a honeymoon period.
Ross (Long Island)
What happened to Landry Fields he's been horrible at the 3pt line and the ft line all year but last year was shooting above average?
Jared Zwerling (1:49 PM)
First of all, Landry Fields is not a great 3-point shooter. He's only effective when he's wide-open. His release is too slow and his arch is too much of a line drive. So that'll never be on of his strong suits. As far as his drop-off, I go back to offensive pace. Fields is a guy who flourishes when the pace is faster, like it was under D'Antoni. Woodson has slowed the pace down to more of a halfcourt offense, which benefits your best offensive players on the court. Fields is not a great scorer -- he's more of an intangibles player -- so now his role changes some. If you look at his stats progression from his rookie season, he's mostly having big games when the Knicks run. This season, those were when Carmelo and Amare were out and he was running with Lin a lot.
Ross (Long Island)
do you believe that Landry Fields will still be the starter by playoff time?
Jared Zwerling (1:52 PM)
Yes, I do because of his pick-and-roll defense, which Woodson complimented yesterday. He also can make plays off the dribble and he's a good passer. But expect, however, for Iman Shumpert to sometimes play more minutes than Fields off the bench for his one-on-one defense. I think it's going to be a case by case basis. Shumpert has said he prefers coming off the bench -- he feels more comfortable there and likes to add that spark -- so that's another reason why Fields has been starting.
jared, you seem to have pulse for things around the league too. What is teh general consensus from GMS and scouts on Jeremy Lin's upside. Are a lot of people still thinking hes a system player (woody is still running mostly d'antoni stuff) Or do they think he can really get a lot better?
Jared Zwerling (1:55 PM)
The consensus is that he's just a good starting point guard, forgetting the system. He's cat quick, he has great floor vision around screens, he's patient and knows when to attack. And he's been impressive on defense lately. Where he has to improve is getting a little stronger. He many times takes extra dribbles to the basket, while dealing with a defender's body pressure. That extra strength will enable him to push his defender aside faster and take less dribbles to the basket. You can tell right now he still exerts a lot of energy going around screens and penetrating the lane.
I read somewhere yesterday that Woodson said he wants them to switch less on the pick and roll defense, but isn't that the whole premise of the Woodson D? It looked like last night they were still switching on every one....
Jared Zwerling (1:57 PM)
I disagree. I thought they were doing less switching until a few times in the second half when Jose Calderon made a couple of baskets on Amare Stoudemire after a switch. The Knicks have been doing a better job of not switching as much. That added pressure is a big part of what's led to the Knicks' controlling teams. They are limiting point guards, which as a result, has caused their opponents' offense to break down some.
Are there any free agent backup big men whom the Knicks could sign for the stretch run? Jeffries alone doesn't seem like enough.
Jared Zwerling (2:00 PM)
Don't forget about Josh Harrellson. He can play some D and grab boards. D'Antoni and Woodson would love to play him more for his two-sided game, but the Knicks are so deep right now. Harrellson' plus-minus is very strong because of his ability to not only space the floor and knock down the three, but make some plays on the defensive end. He shows a lot of muscle and fight down low for a rookie. He's not afraid to bang, even against veterans. In fact, when he matched up with Dirk Nowitzki a few weeks ago, he forced him into two steals. Harrellson is, for now, that backup big man you're referring to.
Jared Zwerling (2:00 PM)
Thank you guys for your time. You can follow me on Twitter @JaredZwerling and on the Knicks Blog. Talk to you soon!