The Knicks may look like a finely tuned machine, but according to center and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, there’s still room for improvement.
Chandler believes as the season unfolds, the defensive schemes will be executed better, therefore making the Knicks one of the truly fearful teams in the league. The veteran big man anchors one of the league’s stingiest units, and said that with such a veteran-laden squad, guys are quick to hold one another accountable.
“We’re keeping guys responsible and it’s contagious. When a guy gets out of [defensive] rotation there’s four other guys barking at him,” Chandler said. “Also, guys are just taking responsibility of their own man, while seeing if they can help out on others. … We’re just buying into [head coach Mike Woodson’s] system, [and] his concepts.”
The Knicks (7-1) finished last season in the top-10 of defensive efficiency while Woodson was just an assistant coach and later interim coach following Mike D’Antoni’s resignation in March.
But following a lockout-free summer slate that included impromptu workouts and scrimmaging at their Greenburgh, N.Y. facilities — as well as a full training camp and preseason — the Knicks have started the season on a torrid pace and are one of the top three defensive teams in the league.
“The key players like Jason [Kidd], Tyson, and Rasheed [Wallace] have been around for a long time, and they’ve been in enough systems that they know how to play,” said Woodson.
He added that having nine new faces on the roster would usually impede the learning process, but the veterans immediately bought in because winning is what’s on everyone’s minds.
“The guys are committed and have been since they came into camp. We put a system in place and guys are buying in,” Woodson said. “They understand if they continue to [play defense] at a high level, you put yourself into position to be successful and win games.”
Perhaps Woodson’s biggest achievement is getting Carmelo Anthony to exert energy on the defensive end. Anthony may be the smoothest scorer in the league, but he’s never been known as a willing defender. But since Woodson took over last season, Anthony has demonstrated more gumption on the defensive end.
“[Anthony]’s supposed to play defense. It’s no different than the last guy on the bench,” Woodson said. “Everybody is supposed to play defense, not just the star. … If you’re committed and all about the team, you’re supposed to play defense. It’s a team effort.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.