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Friday, January 08, 2010

Have the Knicks Turned the Corner?

During the early portion of this season the New York Knicks seemed to have regressed even in comparison to how poorly they performed in recent seasons. The Knicks scored a lot of points but ranked at or near the bottom of the league in rebounding and in most key defensive categories. However, the Knicks have recently shown signs of improvement; their 7-3 record over the past 10 games is tied for second best in the Eastern Conference (trailing only the 8-2 Cleveland Cavaliers) and this surge has been powered not by offensive explosiveness (they rank just 15th in points scored during that 10 game run) but rather with the tried and true NBA winning formula of defense and rebounding: during the past 10 games the Knicks rank third in point differential, fourth in points allowed, eighth in rebounding differential and ninth in defensive field goal percentage. If nothing else, this at least suggests that even a roster of players largely bereft of strong individual defenders is capable of playing well defensively if properly motivated/instructed.

Has Knicks' Coach Mike D'Antoni finally recognized the importance of defense and rebounding and successfully communicated that message to his players? It is a bit too soon to reach that conclusion; five of those seven wins came at home and only one of the seven wins--an overtime victory against the slumping Atlanta Hawks--was against a team with a plus-.500 record. It remains to be seen if the Knicks' dedication to defense and rebounding is the start of a new trend or simply a statistical anomaly resulting from romping through a favorable portion of the schedule. The Knicks play four of their next five games on the road, so that stretch will provide a solid test for them.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:06 PM


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At Tuesday, January 12, 2010 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

How much better could the Knicks be if they had selected Lawson or Jennings in the 2009 draft? Presumably D'Antoni approved the decision to select Hill, so why isn't he getting any floor time? I know D'Antoni historically plays a short rotation and doesn't develop rookies well, but this is ridiculous.

It's too bad that Isiah Thomas's bad contracts (may) prevent the Knicks from returning to the realm of relevant teams again.

At Tuesday, January 12, 2010 5:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bhel Atlantic:

Many observers were puzzled by the Hill selection at the time and you are right that so far Hill has had negligible impact (3.9 ppg in 8.7 mpg). It certainly seems like speedy guards Lawson or Jennings would fit perfectly with D'Antoni's preferred uptempo style.

At some point, people have to stop blaming Isiah for everything. No executive has a perfect record but all people seem to focus on with Isiah are his mistakes--and while Isiah made some notable mistakes in terms of free agent signings/trades (I repeatedly criticized his acquisitions of Marbury and Francis) he actually did an outstanding job with the draft, selecting (among others) David Lee, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler and Trevor Ariza--in addition to selecting T-Mac, Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire and Marcus Camby when he worked for the Raptors.


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