VIDEO: Mike Fratello breaks down the hole in the middle of the Knicks’ defense
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A quick review of the injuries and roster make-up of the New York Knicks reveals exactly what ails this team this season. Not only are they missing their defensive heart and soul in Tyson Chandler, but even when he’s in the lineup, the pieces don’t exactly fit.
Their latest disastrous outing, Sunday’s 114-73 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, only served to accentuate the faulty chemistry of the group Knicks coach Mike Woodson is trying to poke and push into playing the “right way.” Even Woodson’s best-laid plans haven’t produced the desired results.
And at 5-14 heading into tonight’s game (7 p.m. ET, League Pass) against an equally disheveled Cleveland team, Woodson’s search for the right roster mix continues. How much longer he’ll have to continue that search is anyone’s guess. Woodson is up for the task, he said as much to reporters, including Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com, Monday:
“Every day that I come to work, I work,” said Woodson, who repeatedly said how privileged he is to be Knicks coach. “I don’t take days off. I put my time in, I think my preparation is great with my staff. And we try to get our guys to play at a high level.”
“Unfortunately, we haven’t had a lot of the pieces,” Woodson continued of injuries to his squad. “I thought I got to a rotation in those two games with Brooklyn and Orlando which I felt was good, but got to the arena and Kenyon [Martin] couldn’t go … For me, it has kind of been a work in progress. I think I am up for the task.”
And I can vouch for him on that one. He’s endured nightmare stretches before in his coaching career. His first season as an NBA oach in Atlanta, his team was a league-worst 13-69. It was a miserable season on paper and in reality, one that left everyone — the players, coaches, fans and the entire city — with a bad taste in their mouths.
But Woodson fought off the drama and endless twists and turns of his brutal start to help the Hawks become the playoff regular they are today. It took a series of roster tweaks, however, to aid that cause. And it took time for the Hawks to assemble the right crew to help dig out of that initial sinkhole.
Despite the through-the-roof price tag, I’m not convinced he has the pieces in place to work similar magic this season in New York. Sure, it looks workable on paper. Shouldn’t any coach be able to win with Carmelo Anthony, Chandler (when he returns) J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Amar’e Stoudemire, Martin, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Pablo Prigioni as the core group?
Not when your only true two-way players are Chandler and Shumpert. And certainly not when two of your key components — Anthony and Bargnani, who has served admirably as the fill-in for Chandler — are absolutely brutal defensively when they’re on the floor together.
Anthony and Bargnani are the Knicks’ most-used two-man combination and they’ve allowed 109.8 points per 100 possessions with them on the floor together. That’s worse than Utah’s 30th-ranked defense. And their offense is bad, too, so they’re a -10.4 points per 100 possessions with those two on the floor. That’s just plain putrid.
In 205 minutes with Anthony on the floor without Bargnani, they’ve allowed 91.7 points per 100 possessions (better than the Pacers’ No. 1 defense) and are a +14.9, which is great.
Knicks pace and efficiency
|Anthony + Bargnani||535||91.9||99.4||109.8||-10.4||-94|
|One of the two||252||95.9||103.9||90.6||+13.3||+51|
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Not many coaches could whiteboard their way out of those dire numbers, not even one with Woodson’s years of experience and track record of turning a foul situation around.
Still, Woodson remains steadfast in his belief that he can grind away and eventually figure a way out of this mess:
“At the end of the day, the players are playing, but I’m still coaching the team,” Woodson said. “I’ve always had the responsibility as the coach to make sure guys are playing at a high level. We’ve done that for the most part since I’ve been here. We’ve had our lapses since I’ve been here.
“I’m still the head coach,” Woodson continued. “And I’m still going to push guys to play at a high level. Players have got to do their part as well. We can’t have games like that. That’s no fun for anybody.”
Woodson is right about at least one thing: the players indeed have to do their part. And so far, they have fallen down on the job in spectacular fashion.