If the Knicks’ defensive intensity increased half as much as their postseason ticket prices they’d put a real scare into the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Following Monday night’s debacle – a 119-117 loss to the Indiana Pacers – New York [34-32] has now lost three straight and are only 6-6 since the Carmelo Anthony trade, meaning as of right now the Knicks are playing like a middling team.
They are currently holding on to the sixth seed – and would have a favorable matchup against the Miami Heat – but if they don’t fix their glaring defensive deficiencies, they’ll fall into the seventh or eighth slot and have an unfavorable matchup against either the Chicago Bulls or Boston Celtics.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni said he figured that gelling would be a problem for a team that restructured its roster midway through the season but they just have to fight through it. He added they’d just have to figure things out on the fly since the Knicks play 18 games in March, leaving very little practice time.
D’Antoni acknowledged that while unreal expectations may be high amongst the rabid fanbase, inside the Knick facilities they know this is a process.
“Anytime you put together a team that hasn’t had a training camp or many practices you have a tendency to say ‘Oh my gosh’ because you’re not honed in on what we’re doing totally,” D’Antoni reasoned. “The biggest thing we’re doing now is to not make it bigger than what it is. It’s a process. We have to worry about getting better by the end of the season and then be as tough as we can when the playoffs come…and we’ll get there.”
The biggest letdown is obviously the defense but no one within those orange and blue walls seem to have a remedy yet for that ill. Anthony said that since the new guys aren’t in-synch yet with the holdovers maybe a dumbing-down of things may actually be for the best.
“I think we need to come up with a scheme or a couple of things where we feel we can get better at,” said Anthony. “One day we come in and it’s one [scheme] and the next day it’s another. I think it’s a little bit confusing at times.”
Anthony added that as a leader it’s his job to keep spirits high and guys focused. He agreed with his coach that this is still a work in progress.
“These guys on this team have been great at staying positive and trying to figure it out together. Nobody is trying to do it on their own. We’re doing this as a team because at the end of the day we need everybody,” Anthony said. “Sometimes you have to take steps backwards to go forwards. For the most part this is a grind and everyone knows that but we have to get it done.”
Trying to get cohesion under the tight restraints of a cramped schedule is just something the players have to suck up and deal with, according to Anthony. No one will throw a pity party for the Knicks because as they’ve seen in other places public sentiment treats teams that try to stack their rosters with superstars rather harshly.
“I don’t really want to say it’s frustrating but I think we need to get it done in a short period of time. I think everyone knew what type of process it was going to be. Guys are still trying to figure it out by talking and communicating. But no one is upset. We’ll figure it out,” Anthony said. “You just have to deal with it. It is what it is. Whatever way games are scheduled you have to play and you can’t worry about that.”
So much for the dynamic duo joining forces and running roughshod over the league: In 335 minutes on the floor together, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are a plus-1.
The Knicks have lost three in a row, are a shocking 6-6 since the Carmelo Anthony trade, and are putrid on defense but instead of remedying their defensive deficiencies they’re having the look of a team that’s just getting defensive towards the mounting criticism.
Following Monday’s 119-117 loss to the Indiana Pacers [29-38] where Tyler Hansbrough went for a career-high 30 points – coming off a 29-point effort at the Garden two nights earlier — and Danny Granger knocking down the game-winning jumper with three-tenths of a second remaining, the Knicks are suddenly forced to look in the mirror – and as of right now no one likes what they see.
“I think we’re all frustrated but again the thing we have to do is get better defensively,” said head coach Mike D’Antoni. “That’s the hurdle we have to get over. The question is can we get better defensively and eliminate those key turnovers?”