I was delighted to see Adam Zagoria focus on Steve Novak's crucial contributions to the Knicks' recent victories in an article today. Zagoria and Novak talked mostly about Jeremy Lin, but in praising Lin, Novak kind of touched on his own importance:
"I think you’re really starting to see our offense come together when we have that kind of penetration and that kind of finding guys," Novak said in crediting Lin, the rookie sensation from Harvard.
"And it’s contagious because other guys know, ‘I’m going to get the ball from him or I’m going to make the next pass because the next time down he’s going to find me again."
Novak's right, but in a way, he's got it backwards.
In the first quarter of that Washington game, the Knicks' offense-- piloted by Lin-- was quite bad. The Wizards collapsed into the paint when Lin penetrated and forced him to kick the ball out to open men on the perimeter. That'd be just fine, except the (current) starting lineup's best three-point shooter, Bill Walker, couldn't convert even his openest looks and nobody else stepped up to stretch the floor. Novak entered toward the end of the first (Eh! Steve!), drilled his second three-point attempt, and suddenly the Knicks had an offense. With perimeter defenders less inclined to collapse, Lin had more room to penetrate 'n' create. The Knicks came back and took the lead in the second quarter (on a Novak three), and never looked back. So, without Lin, Novak might not have had such great looks, but without Novak, Lin might not have had as much room to make sensual magic with his fingertips.
Remember mutualism from Ms. Wallace's biology class in seventh grade? Wait, y'all didn't have Ms. Wallace? She had such good handwriting. Well, Lin and Novak are a lovely example of a mutual symbiosis. Jeremy is the busy bee and Steve is the fertile flower. Or Jeremy's the clownfish and Steve is the sea anemone. Or maybe Steve's a little oxpecker bird that sits on Jeremy's rhinoceros back and nibbles the bugs off of him. Yes! That's the one. It makes the least sense physically, but I think it best describes their coexistence. Anyway.
Now, our beloved flower-anemone-bird probably wouldn't be playing if Carmelo Anthony and Josh Harrellson weren't both injured, which begs the question: Does the full, healthy Knicks rotation include Steve Novak? If so, whose minutes would he bite? Walker's been streaky, but he's a decent shooter off the catch and is better equipped to defend pretty much anybody (though he doesn't always feel like it). Harrellson serves the Knicks best when he's wrasslin' for put-backs in the paint, but he was the Knicks' best floor-stretcher before breaking himself and is a significantly better defender/rebounder/trophy hunter than Novak is.
In short, pretty much any functional Knicks unit requires a three-point shooter to spread the opposing defense. Novak seems most fit for that role, but New York employs other guys who can semi-replicate his accuracy without sacrificing defense and rebounding and stuff. Does Novak still warrant minutes when the Knicks are fully healthy?
Don't look at me. I haven't a clue. That's why I asked the question, dude.