See, I have 3 kids and a hectic life, and I rarely get to sit an watch an entire Knick game. Last night, I actually did get to watch an entire Knick game - that stinker of a loss to the Bulls. I also saw the last few minutes of the loss to the Pacers.
I know folks are saying all kinds of shit about the state of the Knicks, from "Amar'e's Done" to "Prigioni Sucks" to "Woodson is a crappy coach" to "They're not trying".
I didn't see any of that.
First of all, the Bulls and the Pacers are really good defensive teams. They both play good defense against the pick and roll, which is the Knicks' bread and butter. The Bulls have a very good frontcourt. Sans Rose, their backcourt isn't the best, but they've got some good NBA players. On offense, they played with good pace and passed the ball crisply.
The Knicks, on the other hand, are being exposed in Felton's absence. Felton had the balls and authority to control the ball, penetrating and using his very good ballhandling to get into the paint. His pick and roll chemistry with Tyson is special. Yes, his shooting was cold once his hands got hurt. But he was still initiating the offense.
Now, we have Kidd playing the point. Kidd is old and past his prime. Sticking him at the 2 was sort of a stroke of genius and luck for us this season. Now that he's forced to do all the point guardy things, he's being exposed. The pick and roll doesn't work as well.
Both Kidd and Pablo are doing an awful lot of dribbling up and handing J.R. or Melo the ball. And those guys can penetrate and pass, but they're mostly looking to shoot themselves. Combine that with playing elite defensive teams, and it's a recipe for stagnation. That's what we've seen.
In that Bulls game, I thought the Knicks, including Amar'e, were showing a fair amount of energy on D, but Deng was friggin' unconcious, and Melo was ice cold. As the Bulls lead grew, the Knicks started panicking and gambling on D (and for offensive rebounds), and that led to more open shots, which the Bulls hit like crazy. Meanwhile, Melo remained cold. All of that = 20 point deficit.
About midway through the second quarter, the Bulls hot shooting finally cooled down a bit. And we played even with them the rest of the way, until they relaxed a bit and Melo got hot. Hence the quasi-comeback.
Our perimeter defense is exploitable, that's no secret. Not having Camby and Wallace makes that problem more acute. But Shump is coming back. Wallace and Camby should be back at some point. Stoudemire should at least start providing some shotblocking as he ramps up. Help is on the way on D.
But without Felton, our offense can't get into a groove against really good defensive teams. The pick and roll doesn't work without him. He's coming back too, but to me, this stretch highlights how the loss of one guy is killing too much of our offense. That leads to Felton playing too many minutes and the Knicks being sunk if he's hurt. I don't like it.
IF we were to drop Flight White and add another player, it would be better if it was a pass first type of guard capable of penetrating at a high level. What this streak has proven is that Kidd and Prigioni cannot really execute the offense well enough in Ray's absence. And while they both have defensive smarts, they don't have that 'stopper' quality that makes up for it. And neither are going to get any better at their respective ages. So looking toward not just this year, but next year and beyond, I think a young, fast, headstrong backup point guard is what they need.
I'd like to bring in Scott Machado. You know what, I think the guy got buried with Houston because they'd invested so heavily in Lin, and because Toney had more experience and the steady hand, and Harden is a quasi-point guard himself. The Knicks could, ironically, get themselves another Lin miracle if they picked up Machado. Now, he probably wouldn't help any by the time Ray came back. But still, I think, looking at what Kidd and Prigioni are bringing these last few games, Machado would be a more valuable guy to have on the bench than White going forward.