HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The New York Knicks had something special last season. Yes, as a 2-seed, they were upset in the conference semifinals. But in the regular season, the Knicks developed a fantastic offensive mix of Carmelo Anthony‘s one-on-one play, Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler‘s pick-and-roll, and the most prolific 3-point shooting in NBA history.
The 2012-13 Knicks ranked third in offensive efficiency overall, but were off the charts on that end of the floor in the first six weeks of the season (111.1 points scored per 100 possessions) and again in the last month (114.6).
The Knicks returned seven rotation guys from last season, but one key ingredient was missing. And though Nets coach Jason Kidd got fined $50,000 for his drink-spilling tactic on Wednesday night, it was a reminder of the savvy that the Knicks are missing, as Marc Berman of the New York Post writes…
“That goes to show you what kind of person he is,” Anthony said Friday before he missed the last-second shot in the Knicks’ 97-95 loss to the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. “He’ll do whatever he has to do to win. He protects his team.”
Kidd protected the Knicks last season with his play and savvy and helped the Knicks to an 18-5 start and 54-28 finish. With Tyson Chandler out, Anthony is the lone leader now on a 3-12 club.
It’s not only Kidd’s leadership that is missed, Anthony said. The Knicks had cagey veterans that made them the oldest club in NBA history last season.
“That makeup of the team was different [last year],” said Anthony, who lost another homecoming game in Denver. “With J-Kidd, he was a leader in his own right. He wasn’t a vocal leader like a Rasheed [Wallace] or Kurt Thomas. He was leader by example on the court. His hard work, his play, everyone fed off that. And everyone led in their own way. Now we do miss that — J-Kidd, Kurt, Kurt and Rasheed. Last year as a team we were more synchronized than right now due to chemistry, due to having fun, due to just having one another’s back.”
Kidd missed the final 18 shots of his career, making it easier to believe that his production could be replaced. But you can’t quantify the influence he had on his New York teammates, especially Anthony, who played smarter and more efficiently last season than he had previously.
Kidd isn’t the only guy the Knicks are missing. Tyson Chandler is their most important player and he’s been out since the fourth game of the season. When he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula, Chandler was projected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Well, the four-week mark arrives on Tuesday, and Chandler spoke about his status in Denver after Friday’s shootaround. Paul Willis of ESPN New York has the quotes…
“I don’t want to put a timetable on it right now,” Chandler said. “I’m feeling better. I’m starting to do a little more. But we’re just kind of taking it as it goes.”
Asked when he’ll be cleared to run on the court, the 13th-year pro said: “That stuff, I really don’t know. The trainers kind of take it step by step, and when I can do one thing, they move me on to another to see how I react. But I couldn’t give you an honest answer on a timetable or how quickly I can start running on the court.”
Chandler insisted there have been no hiccups with his rehab, but the process has to run its due course. In the meantime, Chandler’s Knicks have dropped seven consecutive games. He said it’s been a difficult to sit and watch without being able to help.
“From my perspective it’s tough to watch, but the guys out there, we just have to play the game and have fun, trust in one another,” he said. “When times get tough, you have to lean on one another.”
Chandler looked healthy and active in those first few games, and he helped the Knicks get off to a strong start defensively. They were allowing just 92.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. And in the 11 games he’s missed, they’ve allowed 107.2, sinking to 26th in defensive efficiency.
At 3-12, the Knicks’ problems go well beyond that. There’s no easy answer for head coach Mike Woodson and Chandler’s eventual return isn’t guaranteed to turn things around, because they’re clearly missing both the tangible and intangible elements of last season’s success.