Knicks not worried about offensive woes
The Knicks host the Suns tonight, but the main storyline won’t be a reunion of head coach Mike D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire with their former Phoenix mates but rather if the Knicks can fix their suddenly-anemic offense.
The irony is that D’Antoni, the godfather of the “seven seconds or less offense,” is known as an offensive guru and has stars like Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony at his disposal.
But during this skid, the Knicks (6-7) have seen the offense bog down and sometimes even come to a complete halt. Too many times the ball has found its way into Anthony’s hands with the shot clock winding down and the other four Knicks standing around and watching. Anthony, who is arguably the only Knick to create his own shot, has bailed them out at times, but it’s evident that him being a crutch is not the solution.
“We’re not totally cohesive as a unit. We’re still weeks away from getting there,” said D’Antoni. “We still have to get Baron [Davis] back. There’ll be some rough spots, but looking forward we have some hope [of turning around the offense]. … We just have to continue to do some good things in a lot of different areas.”
D’Antoni continued he hasn’t lost faith in the offense yet because the team still isn’t whole yet and guys are still trying to figure out each other. For the time being he’ll allow guys like Anthony and Stoudemire to break the flow of the offense and create for themselves because that’s what they do best.
“It’d only bother me if it’s negative, but if you look at it those are two of the best one-on-one guys in the business, so you have to adapt. I don’t mind adapting what we want to do for something that’s better for the team,” D’Antoni said. “They’re very efficient players at getting to the line and normally shoot above 50 percent from the field. As a system you can’t design something better than what they can do. So it’d be crazy for me to say, ‘Oh, I want to only play it my way.’”
Stoudemire knows his numbers are down across the board, including points per game (17.9, lowest since his rookie season), rebounds (7.5 is the lowest of his career) and field-goal percentage (career-low 42 percent).
“There’s no need to panic. We’re still trying to feel out our offensive scheme. This coaching staff is coming up with different schemes every few days, so it’ll take time for us to figure it out,” Stoudemire said, adding once the team jells it’ll be like old times. “There’s going to be a lot of open shots out there once we get our spacing figured out and move the ball. It’ll pick up shortly and everything will work out.”
Stoudemire added field-goal percentage is an overrated stat and allowed that young teams that were already coming into the season intact had the quick upper hand, so it’s not like the new-look Knicks are the only team suffering.
“I feel right now, if you look around the league, most of the teams are going through [bad] percentages as far as shooting. But I think that’s just due to the lockout,” Stoudemire said. “Young teams are playing well like the Philadelphias and Oklahoma Citys, but around the league most teams aren’t shooting the ball great. I just think it comes with time as we get more repetition and more games that it’ll happen for us. … It’s just a matter of us just trying to figure the offense out, more practice, more repetition, watching film and understanding how the game is played so we can try to get easy baskets to get percentages up.”
The wishful thinking around the facilities is once Davis fully recovers the pick-and-roll will return to the offense. The high screen-and-roll is a staple of a D’Antoni offense and is what helped make Stoudemire and Steve Nash such a lethal duo during the Phoenix runs.
A healthy — and engaged — Davis can certainly help boost Stoudemire’s numbers, because Davis is also a master of working the pick-and-roll. While D’Antoni said he doesn’t want to “put all my eggs in one basket” and hinge all his hopes on a sometimes iffy Davis, Stoudemire hinted Davis’s return could help boost everyone’s numbers — specifically his own.
“You definitely can count on easy baskets [when Davis returns] and that’ll get your percentages up. I’ve been a screen-and-roll guy and getting easy baskets my whole career, so it’s a little bit different now,” Stoudemire said, then recalling how easy a guy like Nash can make everyone’s jobs easier. “When you got a guy like Steve Nash orchestrating the offense it’s running smooth [and] he’s controlling the ball out there. … We’ll get there.”
Davis or no Davis, Nash or no Nash, Anthony said he’s just worrying about who’s able to help the Knicks right now. He added he still has confidence in his team and that everyone and anyone needs to keep shooting if they find themselves open.
“I ain’t even thinking about that,” Anthony said when asked about the team-wide poor shooting percentages. “Anything can help [like] just staying in the gym, doing what I’m doing now, shooting. As far as shooting percentage goes, some shots go in and some shots don’t [but] I’ll keep shooting it. I want [Stoudemire] to keep shooting and I want everybody, if they’re open, to shoot the basketball and not worry about, ‘If I miss this shot my shooting percentage is going to be down.’ We can’t go into games thinking like that.”
» The Knicks have a lot on their plates right now, but that doesn’t stop a few of them from paying close attention to what’s going on in the NFL playoffs. Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis are both Southern California natives so it’s pretty apparent where their loyalty will lie this Sunday in the NFC Championship game. Although Chandler didn’t want to outright puff out his chest and claim his love for the 49ers: “I’m in the wrong place to give my prediction. This is a setup,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll tell you afterwards. You want me to pick against them in front of four [television] cameras and have all these crazy Giants fans and crazy New Yorkers chasing me down the streets. I wear boots, too, so I’m not that fast in my boots. I’m here [pointing to the New York logo on the banner behind him]. This is a part of me now, so I’m riding with the New Yorkers. … Maybe not [Sunday] though, but any other time.”
» Carmelo Anthony had no problem professing his love. The Baltimore native puffed out his chest and smiled broadly: “I like Baltimore Sunday, of course. I like the Giants too. Giants-Ravens in the Super Bowl, man.”
» Melo also said his physical ailments will not hinder his play: “How’s my health? I’m alive. My ankle’s a little sore but I just wanted to test it out again today. It’s a little bit better, especially after twisting it again [Monday]. The wrist, it is what it is at this point but I’m getting through. I’m going to be all right.”
Melo said like Kobe Bryant, he’s trying to find ways to not have the wrist affect his play: “Gotta adjust. I’m trying to see different ways that I can try to control the ball out there when I’m shooting. … I can live with the wrist. As long as I’m able to run up and down the court and do some stuff, I’m gonna be all right.
He continued that he may have to tinker with mechanics like Bryant: “I didn’t really realize that I had to change my shot until the [Orlando] game because I wasn’t able to have any shots, any repetition prior to the game. I came right in from a couple days off and jumped right into the game. Today I spent a little bit more time doing that. Yesterday I had to adjust it shot-by-shot during yesterday’s game. … Hopefully I can keep it the same, but I don’t know. It’s just about guiding with that off-hand.”
» Melo said he was also honored about being considered for Team USA: “I look forward to going to London, look forward to representing Team USA for the third time. Hopefully we’ll have another chance to go get that gold medal. That’s big. I talked to [Team USA Chairman] Mr. [Jerry] Colangelo and he told me he would love for me to be part of that team again. It’s a blessing to get that phone call again, knowing the part I played in ’08. Hopefully I can get that chance to play that same part this year.”
» As for Wednesday’s game against the Suns, a team that uses the same system as the Knicks, Melo joked it should be like mirror images: “It’ll probably be like a very intense practice. They run the same offense we run. We know their plays and they know our plays. May the best team win tomorrow.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.