Defensive-Minded Knicks Making You Believe?




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
 Being undefeated after the first two games of a season in football would be cause for alarm, the good kind. Being undefeated two games into the NBA season, on the other hand, doesn’t exactly move the needle.

In New York, where a mercurial three-week stretch of great basketball can inspire a global movement, two great games from the hometown Knicks is raising a few eyebrows, though. They haven’t started a season with back-to-back wins since the 1999-2000 season.

A sound thumping of the reigning world champion Heat Friday night was followed up with a quality win over Philadelphia Sunday. The Knicks aren’t just winning, they are winning in style, shooting a ridiculous 47.6 percent from 3-point range and sharing the ball (22.5) like a group that’s been together for years (as opposed to the reality of just a few months).

If we didn’t know any better, we’d think Knicks coach Mike Woodson‘s on to something with this two-point guard attack (led by veteran starters Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd) and with no Amar’e Stoudemire in sight.

But the biggest change in these Knicks is Woodson’s demand that they defend like a championship team, something of a foreign concept for some of the individuals on the Knicks’ roster not noted for their stopping prowess.

If they’re going to make believers out of the masses, the Knicks will have to lean more on that than they do their torrid long-distance shooting.

“That’s all I look at, because you’re not going to shoot the ball every night,” Woodson told ESPNNewYork.com. “We made a bunch of 3s (against the Heat), but that’s not going to happen every night. But if our defense can stay consistent and we rebound the ball with most teams, we’ll give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

He’s right. They cooled off considerably from 3-point range after Friday’s 19-for-36 showing against the Heat. And they’re bound to get back to reality in the coming weeks, perhaps as early as tonight’s rematch with the Sixers in Philadelphia.

Defend the way Woodson demands, though, and the shooting numbers and offensive production won’t necessarily define this bunch the way it did under Woodson’s predecessor, Mike D’Antoni.

The biggest buy-in on this new defensive-minded approach Woodson needed was from his players, guys other than reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, who has always been a “defense-first” cat. And they appear to be all in, per Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com:

“That’s what we’ve got to do to win games,” Raymond Felton said afterward. “Sometimes, you’re not going to have great shooting nights, but if you play defense every night, you’re going to put yourself in a great position to win.”

Carmelo Anthony has been the Knicks’ anchor defensively. Woodson challenged Melo last season to make stops when the coach took over in April, and he made strides on that end of the floor. So far this season, he’s been challenged by LeBron James and Thaddeus Young, and he stepped up both times. Sunday afternoon, Anthony made it difficult for Young to score down low, and he even had two blocked shots — one of which he ran down and almost saved the ball while diving into the stands.

“Just the way Melo’s been playing, as far as really keying in on defense, guarding his man, diving on the floor for loose balls, diving in the stands. When you’ve got your star player doing that, everybody else has got to step up and play, no matter what,” Felton said.

Scouts agree Anthony is a tough defender, but he just needs motivation, and Woodson has been the right coach to push him. Now, his consistent defensive hustle is rubbing off on the other guys.

“It’s really contagious when you see your star player going out there, diving in the crowd, giving up open shots, going for loose balls,” J.R. Smith said. “It really filters throughout the team, so as long as he keeps doing that, I think everybody won’t have a problem doing it.”

If Woodson has made believers out Smith, Anthony and some of these other Knicks, you shouldn’t be far behind!

23 Comments

  1. steven green says:

    I’m not one top drink the kool aid 3 games in but knickstape is playing championship defense and that’s obvious to all who know b-ball.defense can be consistant where as shooting % comes and goes like a hooker on payday(smile).I will admit there seems to be a magical element at play here they all seem to truly have a sense of comradarie toward each other. lets hope they seize the moment and give us a season to remember

  2. Lakers4Life says:

    Melo playing defense…weird…

  3. KnixFan says:

    i haven’t seen this kind of disruption of the opposing offense in a long long time.
    The NYK are mos def on to something good with keeping defense priority.
    Thats what STAT has to do when he gets back, keep defense priority.
    If showin off his newly found the dream post moves is more important, trade him.
    This goes to show you Charles Barkley is turrable at evaluating teams.
    He claimed BKN had a better squad then NYK.
    Maybe a better PG but that is where better ends.
    GO KNICKS !!!!!!!!

  4. sharpey22 says:

    i think with a team that has full of talent like the knicks has a chance to be the best team in the NBA ..and considerably making it all the way to the championship.. with veterans like j-kidd.. sheed and camby.. i think the knicks will be the smartest team.. as far as veterans are concern. the way melo play.. i hope they are ready for primetime..

  5. newyorksteelo says:

    Make that 3 wins in a row and no loses. The Knicks just blew out the Sixers again 110 – 88. Wow. Where are the Knick and Mello haters now! Defense baby. Go Knicks!

  6. W/E says:

    I really like the Knicks right now, would be better if Amare retires or sth, theres no doubt there are gunna be chemistry problems when he comes back….and hes soooooo awfull on the defensive end..

  7. kevin nicholls INDIANAPOLIS says:

    If they play defense like that night in and night out they will be in the east finals against the heat.

  8. NBA this says:

    The Knicks had me pleasantly surprised the first. I did not expect them to beat the heat. Thought they would lose by a small number. I knew they would beat the sixers no problem after that. Question is, is it the traing camp that did the trick or was it hurricane Sandy. Either way, they definetly improved their game.. Its almost like the way they wished they could play last season. Carmelo’s so-called ego is checked because their winning. You can tell by the ball distribution. He isos when he needs to iso ad when there’s a good opportunity. I think they will be extremely tough to beat in the Garden. I want to see how they match up against the Lakers, Spurs and OKC. To me their biggest challenge is the Spurs because they play precision basketball and rarely make errors.

  9. what the? says:

    The real challenge for the Knicks is when Amar’e comes back. I think he’ll ruin the team chemistry or improve the team defence when he cathces on with th gist. Can’t wait to see what happens!

  10. Mariama says:

    WHAT ????

  11. When you give Melo spaces in one on one he will makes you paid period. Jason Kid plays according moves and plays settle down in the board but he is not a playa that he can improvisation. Novak is a thunder from 3 point but he is thinking in money all the time and you can´t win a championship without heart and encourage.
    Felton is talent but has no courage.
    Chandler is clearly a Lerbon heaters.
    Brewer is a conflict guy in the lockeroom
    And on and on and on….

  12. They have good playas but they dont have identity. Ny is more like physical team and defensive team. A rough team,. They want beat Miami It notices in their faces you can see it.
    They have good players like Felton he is too good.
    It is a long season we have to play it by ear and see who is gonna win Too much long road further.

  13. vern says:

    I see we still have pessimism abound. Just wont give the team their props even if for just 2 games. If you can curb your ego for 2 games you can curb it for 82, Winning does that. As long as you’re winning, nobody has a problem with ego. There are too many vets on the team for ego to raise back up once it’s controlled. I’d just like all the non-believers to keep a knife and fork near so they can eat crow.

  14. J says:

    Hey, to me any win is a good win.

  15. Ricardo says:

    2 down. 80 to go.
    I have to confess, the last two displays by the Knicks had me surprised, in a good way of course.
    You expect that a team full of veterans as this would click like no one, but honestly, not so soon. I was specially pleased by the performance of Jason Kidd. His numbers don’t make justice to his value as teammate. What he may lost in terms of speed and agility in the last years, he has definitely compensated with experience and basketball I.Q. He reminds me of an old fox. Being too slow to catch a rabbit by its own, it relies on its smarts to set up clever traps to its preys.
    I just hope that they are able to maintain this composure, specially when Amare returns. Last year was too bipolar for my liking…

  16. vamos a la playa says:

    well … jason kidd is a veteran who knows how to talk to the big stars.
    knicks will continue to play D and play collectively, involving the bench guys and the glue guys.

  17. Alex says:

    Can’t amnesty him. They amnestied Billups. I disagree with the ego thing. As long as they play defense, they’ll be fine.

  18. Dennis says:

    Very good point. I think ego will be an issue in a long season, as they will inevitably face low points. However, I think their veterans can help smooth that ride and deter any behavior that threatens the team basketball. Biggest question is what to do with Amare and if plugging him into the starting rotation will ruin the team chemistry. Can you possibly conceive paying someone that kind of money and have him as your main scoring option coming off the bench with JR Smith? Or do you just amnesty the man and look for someone who better fits the role they need in making them a more realistic title contender?

    • Jeff says:

      They cant amnesty him they used it already on Billups to get Tyson Chandler. I think they would amnesty him if they could. Bad move using it on Chauncy given Amare poor health the past few years.

  19. newyorksteelo says:

    Unbelievable display of defense n the past 2 games coming from both Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks. If they keep playing like this, they might just end up being the top defensive team in the NBA this year. I am so exited for the Knicks, especially for Melo. This is his time to shine and prove that he is one of the greatest players (not just scorer) to ever play this game. It starts with the defense. Go Knicks!

  20. Here's-a-thought says:

    My intuition tells me that when you rely on ego-led players, then that ego will rise eventually, and will beat any team spirit. I expect the Knicks to be consistent in disappointing their fans. Because I believe Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have the ability to not think about himself for a whole 48 minutes… No to mention a whole season. Time will tell. It will certainly be interesting to see how Woodson does, when egos start stirring the MSG waters.

    • Comment says:

      you don’t know what you are talking about

    • I think as long as they keep winning, everything will be fine. Melo gets a lot of undue criticism for not being a team player. I agree that he could be a better defender, but he is probably the most skilled scorer in the league & has the best clutch percentage of any player playing today. As far as him being knocked for not being a team player, he did lead Syracuse to a national championship as a freshman, and has led his NBA teams to the playoffs every year that he has been in the league. Before Lebron won his chip, all of the critics wanted Lebron to be more Melo-like & take & make more shots in the clutch, & defer less to his teammates, but Anthony gets thrown under the bus for not being more Lebron-like when his game is and always has been to be a pure scorer. We will see if Woodson can get him to become a consistent defender & more of an all-around player. If he does then Miami may have some competition in the battle for eastern conference supremacy.