If you ask me, the recently completed Knicks preseason was encouraging, albeit with some readily identifible hints at areas of concern for this coming season. Foremost among these struggles was rebounding. To the naked eye, the Knicks looked perpetually out of position, granting second opportunities while wrangling few of their own. To the clothed eye, the Knicks were...yup, the worst rebounding team in the NBA at just 36.5 boards per game. Now, there are caveats galore. It was preseason, for one. Some of the Knicks' best rebounders sat entire games, effort level probably wasn't at its highest, and the lingering humidity of the October air rendered the ball slightly slipperier than usual. All valid points. Even still, I think it's reasonable to conclude that New York will fall in the bottom half/third/thirtieth/whatever of the league in rebounding when the games start to count. Since we'd like for our Knicks to finish this season in the top half of the league overall, the glass issue will need some remedying.
Take the jump if you please.
How can the Knicks overcome poor rebounding?
1. Rebound better.
No duh, but the simplest way to rebound better is to dictate the lineup with rebounding in mind. That could mean big lineups with Danilo Gallinari at the 2, or extra minutes for Landry Fields and Anthony Randolph. Yeah. The fact that none of those solutions would actually help that much probably means that it's more on the players to step up their glass-minding than it is on Coach D'Antoni to find the right mix.
2. Contest shots.
For all of their rebounding foibles, New York did a pretty solid job of protecting the rim. They were, for instance, 7th in blocks per game during exhibition. Perhaps this number won't stand in the regular season and, yeah, you still have to clean up blocked shots, but the interior defense is encouraging. Poor rebounding begets extra possessions for the opponent, but if you're slapping those extra possessions into oblivion, then so be it.
Taken the other way, certain Knicks might improve their rebounding output by learning to pick battles. Timofey Mozgov, for instance, has demonstrated an all-out approach to swatting fools. Refreshing as that is, there are certain individuals and shots that require more or less contesting. As Timofey gains experience, he'll learn to balance block and close-out attempts with sufficient preparation to box out.
3. Force turnovers.
I can't for the life of me find opposing turnover numbers for the preseason, but I can say that the Knicks were 9th in the league in steals at a healthy 10 thefts per game (2 of which were the result of Toney Douglas doing what Toney Douglas do). Trapping in the backcourt and over-playing passing lanes in an effort to poach steals is a viable strategy for a couple of reasons. For one, it kick-starts the transition offense, which is a realm in which the Knicks certainly have the personnel to score points. For two, as previously stated above, New York might finally be a shot-blocking team. Should Toney or Raymond Felton or anybody else gamble and fail, then there should be help defenders ready to rotate and barricade the opponent's path to the rim. That sounds obvious, but after years of watching David Lee, Zach Randolph, and Eddy Curry act like step ladders for penetrators, an opening night frontcourt populated with shot-blockers feels like Kwanzaa in October. Getting back to our original conundrum, forcing turnovers prevents shot attempts, thereby eliminating the prospect of a rebound battle. Basically, if I was in charge, I'd tell the guys to press, trap, and double in order to force steals, travels, and other delightful gaffes. I'd also tell them to get over screens with abandon and over commit on the perimeter. (I'd also tell them to all grow beards and wear rec specs, but that's for another time). These are risks, but they're ass-covering risks.
4. Slow the pace.
This one's tricky, and it could probably fall under the "rebound better" umbrella, but it's a possibility. I mentioned a few times during preseason that it might be in D'Antoni's best interest to encourage the guards to hang back for rebounds. Crashing the boards as a unit would, in effect, preclude easy fast break buckets, but it would guarantee possessions. Certain lineups will feature 4 or 5 guys getting after boards, but I can't imagine this ever being a team-wide strategy. Similarly, I expect someone like Landry Fields to hit the offensive glass harder than his peers, but I don't expect a universal emphasis on offensive rebounds from guards.
So, what of it? Is the Knicks' poor rebounding really their Achilles heel, or is it something else? Are there other ways to cover for it? Are there reasons to believe that they'll rebound much better in the regular season than they did in the preseason? As always, I'm much better at posing questions than I am at answering them, so please do supplement my meager post-jump output with some comment section wisdom.