The trade for four-time all star Carmelo Anthony by the New York Knicks was supposed to solidify the foundation of a championship team in the near future. It was also supposed to create a dangerous first-round adversary in the 2010-2011 NBA Playoffs. Thus far, however, the Knicks have shown the ability to play flat, uninspired basketball against bottom dwellers of the NBA like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons.
After Wednesday’s 111-99 loss to the Orlando Magic, their fourth in a row, and seventh in eight games, Carmelo Anthony said “We need to relax. We are putting to much pressure on ourselves. We are losing games we should be winning. We need to relax and have fun. Losing games, that is the toughest part. Losing games we should be winning.”
That pressure has come from the Knicks win against the Miami Heat, 91-86 Sunday, February 27, 2011, in their third game of the Carmelo Anthony Era, an era that brought together “The Big Three on Broadway”, Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Chauncey Billups. Since that victory, the team is 5-9, with two losses apiece to the 13-57 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 32-40 Indiana Pacers, as well as a loss to the 25-46 Detroit Pistons and the 28-42 Milwaukee Bucks, who they face tonight.
The Knicks have given up a staggering 110.8 points per game in their 10 losses since the trade, over the 105.6 they allow on the season, good for 27th in the NBA. In wins since the big transaction, however, the Knicks allow only 96.7 points, nine points below their season average.
Therefore, the key to the Knicks being more competitive is quite simple. More effort on the defensive end. Teams that play good, or better, defense, like the Boston Celtics, who lead the league in fewest points allowed, with 90.9, or Chicago, who are second with 91.1, have the ability to win games in which they shoot below average. Chicago, for example, is 16th in the league in team field goal percentage, at .460, but have the second-best record in the National Basketball Association at 51-29.
In theory, the answer is simple. Play harder on defense. However, defense is about trust. It’s about five players on the floor communicating, working together and giving maximum effort to stop the opponent. With athletes as talented as those in the NBA, desire plays a large roll. The Knicks need the will to play better defense, and not just against the league’s elite. Until then, the deal will not live up to it’s expectations.