Forecasting Changes to the Knicks Rotation
Everyone remembers the famous Y2K scare. Exactly 13 years later, instead of fearing the crash of computer systems on New Year’s Day, New Yorkers were praying that the Knicks’ rotation would avoid combustion upon the return of Amar’e Stoudemire.
So far this season, Mike Woodson’s offensive scheme has the Knicks spacing the floor brilliantly, which has given Carmelo Anthony plenty of room to operate as he builds an NBA MVP campaign. The team is playing efficiently, averaging under 11 turnovers per game. For the first time in years, New York (23-10) is atop the Atlantic Division and in the conversation of title contenders. But now, with Stoudemire returned to Gotham after injury, there are rising concerns that it will be impossible for the team to play as efficiently.
There is good reason to wonder exactly what kind of an impact Stoudemire would have. In their 70+ games playing together as Knicks, neither star has been able flourish without it coming at the expense of the other. And that fact has hurt the team as a whole; the Knicks are a disappointing 31-40 with both Stoudemire and Anthony in the rotation. Certainly, there will be no shortage of doubters if Carmelo’s top form turns sour in the coming weeks.
But while Stoudemire’s impact remains to be seen, there are a few consequences of his return that are inevitable. The Knicks carry a ton of depth on their roster, meaning some players will be casualties to the return of an important cog. Here’s a look at how some of the Knicks will be affected by STAT’s return.
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You’d Be Fine to Ride the Pine
These guys will see their minutes reduced with Amar’e back on the floor.
‘The Man Old Enough to be Iman Shumpert’s Father’
Let’s face it, Kurt Thomas is an old dude. I have a commemorative plaque in my room of the 1998-99 New York Knicks team, which won the Eastern Conference Championship. On that plaque sit Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby. When a player is close to receiving great rates on affordable life insurance through AARP, it may be time to keep the warmup gear on and enjoy the view from the bench.
‘The Artist Formerly Known as Brittney Griner’
In an effort to be completely transparent, I must concede that my distaste for Chris Copeland was what inspired me to write this entire piece in the first place. To be fair, Copeland can score the basketball, but it’s rather astonishing watching him produce on offense considering he lacks any athleticism. What makes him a dispensable piece is his ineptitude on defense. That and his uncanny resemblance to NCAA Women’s Basketball star Brittney Griner. But this Copeland saga churning in my head has revealed a sad fact: Copeland struggles where Brittney Griner shines. Griner is a defensive beast who can dunk the basketball. Copeland is not only a defensive liability, he induces a comedy of errors with his inability to connect mental thoughts to physical action. And as for dunking…
After the Knicks turned a 27-point deficit into a lead last week in Sacramento, they fell to a crippling buzzer-beater. Losing by one point after such an enthralling comeback is harsh, but there was a particular play in that game which stood out to me. Take a gander at this and ask yourself, “What would Brittney Griner do?” She would have slammed that basketball down and given Aaron Brooks a stink-face for even attempting to block her.
‘The Guy Who Looks Like He’s Never Touched a Basketball in His Life’
Ronnie Brewer has been starting much of the season for Mike Woodson, but his lack of production on the offensive end will ultimately cost him now that Amar’e has returned. He usually has a sweet spot just beyond the arc in the corner, but
unfortunately for him, that spot has been as sweet as a fistful of sauteed broccoli rabe of late. Brewer can be a valuable player in the playoffs, guarding against the likes of Lebron James, but until he rectifies his offensive deficiencies, he will continue to see his minutes decline.
Woody’s Got it Right
These players will continue to see their piece of the pie despite the presence of Amar’e.
‘The 35-Year-Old 1st-Year-Player’
Pablo Prigioni should be thoroughly offended at the implication that he is a 35-year old rookie. Hearing that on a nightly basis makes me cringe. Calling Prigioni a rookie signifies that nothing he has accomplished in the past 18 years is relevant. That his FIBA accolades and battles in the Euro League are somehow insignificant. People in the States should realize that to many foreign players, the NBA is just another league.
This saavy Argentine point guard has been coming on strong for the Knicks recently. He should continue to see solid minutes in the wake of Raymond Felton’s injury from last month.
‘The Other Geriatric From My 1998 Plaque’
Similar to Prigioni, Marcus Camby is seeing just the right amount of minutes for this Knicks team. What makes Camby a more viable option than his ‘plaque-mate’ Kurt Thomas is his ability to rebound the basketball. Considering Camby’s health is improving, he should continue to be an asset in Woodson’s rotation.
Steve Novak is another player who should not have to worry about his minutes diminishing. You can tell this 3-point specialist put in some commendable work this summer on the defensive end. With that said, there’s one thing the former Marquette great needs to improve on: clutch shooting. For the Knicks, pouring in three’s at the tail end of a blowout is a rather common occurrence.
Novak is particularly guilty of this, but he sometimes adds insult to injury by celebrating a bit too vigorously. What’s worse is Novak stole his celebration from Aaron Rodgers, who is the unscrupulous proprietor of the act. The true owner is of course, Freddie Mitchell.
There’s a clear double standard here which should be addressed. If Javale McGee was doing some silly celebration at the end of games he’d be chastised and labeled as a clown. Novak’s histrionics, on the other hand, are considered all in good fun. Personally, I’d like to see Novak shelve the belt for a few months.
‘After All These Years I Still Don’t Know If That’s a Bald Spot or a Birth Mark’
Rasheed Wallace has been a pleasant surprise this season. Although he has been sidelined by a foot injury for a few weeks, his return will strengthen an already dangerous Knicks’ bench. It’s amazing to think that after a two year layoff, Sheed is still is an elite post defender and is as crafty as they come on offense. He also adds the exclamation point to the tenacity that other players like Tyson Chandler bring to this roster.
Arrow’s Pointing Up
A few more minutes for these two players are just what the doctor ordered.
‘Flight is Alright’
It’s pretty simple for James White. When you seldom play meaningful minutes, there are only two turns your career can take. Either you get your chance and start making more of an impact, or you are cut from the roster. I give White a puncher’s chance to contribute for the simple fact that he is more deserving of the basketball comparisons to Brittney Griner than is Chris Copeland. White is a strong defender and has impeccable athletic ability. All that’s left is for Mike Woodson to put him on the court for a few minutes here and there.
‘Not Partying Suits You Well’
Any player who can ignite a team off the bench the way J.R. Smith can is worth his weight in gold. Though it is a misconception that Smith has transformed his offensive mentality in avoiding bad shots (his 42.0 FG% is below his career average of 42.6%), there have been encouraging signs of maturation. After Smith admitted he partied too much last season — which explains several of his sluggish matinee performances last year — there is a noticeably renewed focus for Woodson’s sixth man.
Smith has been a crucial player for New York in crunch time. His two game-winning shots in December prove that much. What’s more is that Smith’s teammates and coaches unwaveringly believe in him. J.R. will undoubtedly carry some extra weight on his shoulders this spring. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how he responds.