Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 3, 2012 at 9:08 AM
There are a few things that everyone "knew" about the New York Knicks entering the 2011-12 season. They would have a dangerous offense led by Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. They would be bad on defense because coach Mike D'Antoni can't coach defense...even if offseason acquisition Tyson Chandler was supposed to help. And, they'd be on the short list of challengers to Miami and Chicago in the Eastern Conference playoff race along with the likes of Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, and Indiana.
The New York Knicks squad that's going to take the floor Friday Night in a national TV game at Boston on ESPN looks NOTHING like anyone expected. Consider:
The team ranked 24th in offensive efficiency (points per possession) heading into Thursday Night's TV game against Chicago, leading only the absolute dregs of the league (New Orleans, Sacramento, Detroit, Toronto, Washington, and Charlotte). It's probably more accurate to say that New York IS one of the dregs of the league on offense this year! Carmelo Anthony is scoring, but isn't helping anyone else do much. Amare Stoudemire seems to be a shadow of his former self.
The team ranked a stunning 11th in defensive efficiency though, comparing favorably with defensive minded teams like Miami (10th) and the Lakers (9th). Chandler really has had a big impact in the paint, and the team as a whole is doing a much better job of disrupting offenses this year. Who knew D'Antoni had that in him?!
The team is NOT on the short list of true contenders in the East at the moment...though we still have two-thirds of the regular season to go. The East is so bad that somebody is going to make the playoffs with a losing record...and that could easily be the Knicks. What's important to note right now is that New York is having trouble competing this year vs. winning teams.
NEW YORK VS. WINNING TEAMS
Beat Boston 106-104
Lost to LA Lakers 99-82
Beat Philadelphia 85-79
Lost to Memphis 94-83
Lost to Oklahoma City 104-92
Lost to Orlando 102-93
Lost to Denver 119-114 in overtime
Lost to Miami 99-89
Lost to Houston 97-84
That's 2-7 vs. winning teams heading into last night's game against Chicago. Since the Knicks carried an 8-13 record into that one, it means they were only 6-6 against losing teams! Perhaps most discouraging, New York could ultimately be in a race with Milwaukee and Cleveland for the 8th and final playoff spot.
New York lost to Cleveland 91-81
New York lost to Milwaukee 100-86
Sorry guys, Washington and Charlotte aren't going to be in the playoffs. You don't get any credit for beating the horrible teams!
Yes, Anthony has missed some games with an injury. And, yes the preseason lockout could have hurt the Knicks more than other teams because of personnel turnover. It's possible that New York is going to get its act together and close strong enough to make the playoffs. On the other hand:
Anthony and Stoudemire haven't figured out how to play well together yet. That was hidden in the second half of last season because the bench was strong enough to make some treys in a way that made up for inefficiencies.
This year's bench is weak, with virtually NOBODY ready to contribute in a meaningful way on a consistent basis...particularly against any top 20 caliber competitor.
Coach D'Antoni certainly isn't inspiring anyone. There are rumors that he's on his way out soon if the team doesn't turn things around...or at the end of this season even if they do. He has the look of a lame duck head coach...and his players are treating him that way.
Maybe a strong sequence against Chicago and Boston in big TV games, or two wins in three games with New Jersey on tap Saturday Night to finish off a triple-threat challenge, will help ignite a resurgence for New York. Or, maybe poor results will hasten a coaching change. We'll be watching New York-Boston very closely because what we learn should help provide winners in the coming days. If the Knicks rise up in a three-games-in-three-days challenge, there's hope for good news soon. If there are more laydowns, you'd best fade the Knicks until further notice.
Games on the immediate horizon for New York:
Tonight: at Boston (in a back-to-back)
Saturday: vs. New Jersey (third game in three days)
Monday: vs. Utah (fourth game in five days)
Wednesday: at Washington (fifth game in seven days)
Friday: vs. LA Lakers (sixth game in nine days)
Saturday: at Minnesota (back-to-back and seventh game in 10 days)
That's just a BRUTAL stretch considering the likes of Chicago, Boston, Utah, the Lakers, and Minnesota are in the mix. There are a couple of potential breathers with the Nets and Wizards in the mix. But, New York has been playing so badly of late that those games are far from sure things. Next Saturday's game at Minnesota has disaster written all over it.
Here are some more stat notes on New York so you can monitor the boxscores during this busy spot in the schedule:
OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING: New York is 21th in the league in Offensvie Rebound Rate, which is one reason their sluggish offense is killing them. They don't get many second chance opportunities...and few players are working to get off good shots. Carmelo Anthony works to get off guarded shots, which helps his volume averages but hurts the team.
DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING: New York is a stellar 4th in the league in this stat, which nobody saw coming. Credit Chandler with bringing toughness to the paint, and encouraging toughness from his teammates. That was an important part of what brought Dallas the league championship last year. If the Knicks start to slip in this area, it means the team has given up and they're about to fall further off the map.
TURNOVERS: The offense ranks 27th in the league in Turnover Rate, which is a disaster considering how stagnant the ball is. We've shown in the past that you can live with a poor turnover rate as long as you have good ball movement and all of your open looks make up for the miscues. New York has horrible ball movement, and keeps losing the ball anyway.
ASSISTS: Proving the point, New York ranks 25th in Assist Rate this year. They don't pass the ball around well, and they keep losing it. The team is just as sloppy as it gets. Horrible to watch if you're a fan, or if you paid exorbitant prices for great seats at Madison Square Garden after the Carmelo trade. Bad investment!
Friday's schedule has a lot of interesting possibilities. As of press time, New York-Boston may or may not be part of the mix. We're also looking at Miami-Philadelphia, Cleveland-Orlando, Memphis-Oklahoma City, Phoenix-Houston, Indiana-Dallas, and LA Lakers-Denver (late ESPN game) as well. This is a very strong Friday card! We might have something for you from the Ivy League too.
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