Whenever a big trade happens in any sport, too much is made of a win or a loss. In the Carmelo Anthony Era, the New York Knicks traded victories and losses through their first seven games, with supporters of the trade validating the it, most notably in a 91-86 win in South Beach over the Miami Heat. The detractors of the trade, meanwhile. have pointed out home and road losses to the team with the worst record in the National Basketball Association, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 115-109 in Cleveland and 119-115 in New York, and to the team desperately holding on to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers, 106-93 at Madison Square Garden, and 119-117 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
One thing has been consistent for the Knicks through all six losses
since the Carmelo Anthony trade: lack of defensive effort. The Knicks have given up an average of 117.0 points in their six losses during the 12-game Carmelo Anthony era, 11 points more than the 106.0 points they give up on the season, 29th in the league. Meanwhile, in the six wins during the Big Three on Broadway era, the Knicks have given up 96.3 points, almost 10 points lower than the 106.0 they allow on the season.
When the Knicks are playing their best defensively, they can play with anyone in the league. When they are playing their worst defensively, they are a team that players look to get their season highs against, and sometimes, career highs. This was the case with Indiana Pacers power forward Tyler Hansbrough, who scored a career-high 29 points on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, only to surpass it against the Knicks Tuesday night with 30 points. It’s as if Hansbrough imagined the Knicks in Duke uniforms, and himself in a North Carolina uniform, as he has not seen that kind of offensive success since his college days of playing for the Tarheels.
Defense is all about effort, and when the New York Knicks are not
putting that effort out on a nightly basis. The fault has to fall
jointly on the team, players, and general manager. The Knicks lack a large defensive presence at the center position who can rebound,
forcing Amar’e Stoudemire to log too many minutes at the center
position, which leads to second-chance points by the opposition, and that falls on the New York Knicks general manager Donnie Walsh. This is a flawed team, and Walsh is aware of it, and I am confident he will try his best to correct this problem. The Knicks don’t come out with a strong defensive effort on all nights, and this is on Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni and the players. The biggest knock on D’Antoni when he coached the Phoenix Suns was that his team lacked a strong defensive mindset, and New York Knicks fans are beginning to see why.
At the same time, you do have players on the team like Landry Fields, Toney Douglas and Jared Jeffries who play hard on both side of the ball every game. The two biggest superstars on the team, Stoudemire and Anthony, must make that same commitment to defense, along with D’Antoni working on defensive principals in practice, and rewarding players with minutes who produce on that end, while penalizing players who are sub par. Until then, Knicks fans will continue asking “Where’s The Defense.”