HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — This is a big year for the New York Knicks.
Their first season with a $60 million frontline had its highs and lows. The arrival of Tyson Chandler improved their defense dramatically, but they ranked just 19th in offensive efficiency. Ultimately, the Knicks won just a single playoff game, more than they had won over the previous 10 seasons (which earned them some streamers falling from the MSG ceiling), but 15 short of a championship.
Now, the Knicks will have a full training camp under head coach Mike Woodson, who’s going to need it. Based on 71 games and 1,880 minutes of evidence, Woodson really needs to figure out how to get his two biggest stars on the same page.
Simply, the Knicks have been better when either Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire is on the bench than when the two are on the floor together. Thus far, as talented as they both are, they just haven’t fit well together. And maybe they need a reversal of roles.
The Olympics were a reminder of just how potent Anthony can be when he’s playing off the ball. He shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range in averaging 16.3 points per game off the bench for the U.S. And if he can become less of a ball-stopper and more of a finisher, the Knicks can take a step forward.
Stoudemire may be the bigger issue. His efficiency dropped quite a bit last season, and the Knicks were a much better team, both offensively and defensively, when he was on the bench.
But Stoudemire is trying to do his part to turn things around. The 29-year-old (along with Nuggets center JaVale McGee) is the latest pupil of Hakeem Olajuwon, who is working with Stoudemire on his post game, as Mark Berman of myFox Houston writes…
And Stoudemire already notices the improvement in his game in just the short time he has been with working with Olajuwon.
“He helped me a lot,” Stoudemire said. “A lot of moves that he has really, really translate to my game. To now develop a post game is going to be remarkable for me. It’s going to catch a lot of my opponents off guard and it’s going to be a great year for me.
“I have the IQ to implement this and learn fast, but it’s not easy. There’s a lot of detail that goes into it. He’s very, very swift with his footwork, and he’s very agile also, at (age) 50 still. It’s great to learn from him. This is a great opportunity because you never how long he’s going to be able to do this. So while I’m young and can still learn from one of the best, (I’m) very blessed to be a part of it.”
Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who played with Olajuwon when the two were with the Rockets, thought working with Hakeem would be a good way for Stoudemire to add some weapons to his repertoire.
Stoudemire has always been a terrific pick-and-roll big man, and his mid-range game has improved dramatically over the years. But if the Knicks could run more of their offense through him in the post, it could take the ball out of Anthony’s hands and make ‘Melo more of a an off-the-ball scorer, the role in which he’s flourished with the U.S. Team.
Of course, it will be interesting to see what Woodson does with Chandler when Stoudemire has the ball in the post. Interior spacing could be an issue. Stoudemire has typically been more effective as a center, and Chandler’s presence makes that impossible. Take Chandler off the floor and the defense will suffer.
Still, this seems like a step in the right direction for the Knicks. The numbers show that Stoudemire was the bigger problem last season, and more some variety in his game can only help.