The weight is on coach Woodson to get his Knicks back on track
JAIME C. HARRIS Special to the AmNews | 2/28/2013, 3:59 p.m.
Their destination is alarmingly uncertain after a promising start to the season. The Knicks have been trending in the wrong direction since a Dec. 17 109-96 loss at home to the Houston Rockets.
We now know that defeat foreshadowed what was to come over the next month and a half. Prior to then, the Knicks were humming at 18-5. From that point on, they have been an ordinary 15-15 heading into last night's game at the Garden versus the Golden State Warriors.
During this spiral, the Knicks have relinquished their hold on the coveted second overall spot in the Eastern Conference to the Indiana Pacers, allowing the Pacers to make a valid claim as the team best constructed to topple the conference-leading Miami Heat and the remarkable King James from their throne.
"When you lose four in a row ... you're on edge a little bit," said Knicks head coach Mike Woodson after his team ended their winless streak with a 99-93 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Garden on Sunday. "It's my job as a coach to make sure guys relax and just play."
The issues troubling the Knicks are glaring but correctable. Defensively, they have been unable to shut down penetration, placing an added burden on center Tyson Chandler, their only reliable interior defender with Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace laboring to return from foot injuries.
Signing veteran power forward Kenyon Martin is a reach, but it may result in catching lightening in a bottle, as the Knicks did with Wallace before his body betrayed him.
Offensively, the Knicks are unbalanced. They are a jump-shooting team with no consistent low-post threat to command a double team and collapse opposing defenses. Consequently, defenders are staying home on the shooters and offering few open looks. And because Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony are the only Knicks who regularly create shots for their teammates--Felton with penetration and Anthony by drawing an additional defender in isolation sets--the Knicks' offense has become stagnant.
Smart money says they will recover and make a hard charge for the Eastern Conference title. Winning 18 of their first 23 games wasn't a mirage, nor are their current struggles. With the toughest schedule in the league on paper the rest of the way, it is going to be a daunting challenge.