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HOOPS EVERY DAY
THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE
November 22, 2014
By Anthony J. Fredella
NEW YORK, New York - This was not supposed to happen. They have Derek Fisher as their new coach. They have Phil Jackson, the zen master with 11 rings, running their organization. They re-signed Carmelo Anthony to a monstrous deal. And they’re running "The Triangle Offense" for Christ's sake! The Triangle! So why are the New York Knicks 3-10 right now with losses to the Pistons, Magic, Jazz, Hawks (twice), Bucks and Timberwolves? Not exactly the Murderer's Row of early season scheduling, right? And things are not looking any brighter in the near future. On November 24th the Knicks embark on a road trip that includes games against the Rockets, Mavericks, and Thunder, and then they come home to face the Heat, Nets and Cavaliers, and then bounce back and forth to play at the Hornets, home against the Trail Blazers, at the Pelicans and at the Spurs. Huh? Realistically, on December 12th, with the way the Knicks are playing right now, they could find themselves 4-20. Season over. Didn't see this coming did you Knicks fans? Why not?
The Knicks are coming off of a season wherein they finished 37-45 and missed the playoffs. In the offseason they traded away a decent rim protecting center for a decent point guard. And that’s really it. You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, right? While we really can’t classify the Knicks just yet as “insane,” they are teetering very close to the line. I know, I know, they’re running the triangle offense, so they’re not doing the “same thing,” so to speak. Well, technically, they are.
First off, know this: the triangle offense is not the end all, be all secret weapon that some think it is. If it were, other people would learn it, master it, and run it. They don’t. All the triangle is, really, is a spacing format on the floor designed to move the ball around and create open look opportunities. The “triangle” reference refers to the precise spacing format – a guard at the top wing, a player in the corner and a player in the post – to begin the offense. Those three players create the illusive “triangle.” It’s not a trick play, it’s not an un-guardable offense. It basically just designates where players are supposed to stand on the court when the ball is in certain spots. The key to running the triangle offense – and here’s where the Knicks’ insanity comes into play – is that you need talented players to run it in order for it to work efficiently. The Knicks only have one talented basketball player. When Jackson and the Bulls ran it and won titles, they had Michael, Scottie and Horace Grant, and then Michael, Scottie and Rodman. When Jackson and the Lakers ran it and won titles, they had Kobe, Pau and Shaq and then Kobe, Pau and Andrew Bynum. The Knicks have … Carmelo Anthony. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result. The Knicks, for the last few years, have paraded Carmelo Anthony out onto the floor with four role players and have expected to win. They’ve switched coaches, they’ve hired a president, they’ve changed offensive schemes. But they are still sending Carmelo out into a war each night without any weapons. It hasn’t worked. It’s not working. It will never work. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result. It doesn’t matter if the Knicks run the pick and roll offense, the triangle offense, or the picket fence at the top of the key a la Jimmy Chitwood (actually, the Knicks could really use Chitwood right now – and is Norman Dale still available?). Without the players, you cannot win in the NBA. Period.
The Knicks will not win any championships, conferences, divisions, or even games for that matter, until they have the horses to run the races. In Wednesday’s 115-99 loss to the Timberwolves – a game wherein Thaddeus Young, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic didn’t even play for Minnesota – the Knicks started Quincy Acy and Samuel Dalembert. In two previous years in the league, Acy has not averaged more than 4.0 ppg for a season. He’s starting for the Knicks right now! Dalembert has not averaged over 8.1 ppg since the 2007-2008 season. He’s their center. Seriously, where are the Knicks going? Nowhere, and rather quickly at that.
The Knicks offense right now (95.8 ppg – 24th in the NBA) more closely resembles the Bermuda Triangle than it does Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. The passing needed to efficiently run the scheme is not there, Melo is still shooting twice as much as their next highest scorer, and they can’t rebound for the life of them (38.2 rpg – 28th in the NBA). While many Knicks fans are still optimistic about the remainder of the season – awaiting the returns of Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani and having patience in mastering the triangle – I, for one, just can’t get on board with that. The early season schedule could not have been any lighter than it was, which was a perfect opportunity to get out the kinks. But 13 games in, with 10 losses notched, it still looks pretty kinky to me and the water is just going to get rougher. Unfortunately for the Knicks though, there is really nothing they can do about it this season because they have no trade bait - they should have dealt Iman Shumpert when he was still a valued commodity. The best the Knicks can hope for this season is for their core players - guys that are going to be on the team next season, Melo, Calderon, Hardaway - to master the triangle scheme, with the hopes of luring top quality talent via free agency next summer. They can also turn this disaster of an upcoming season into a high draft pick - yes, the Knicks have a first round pick in 2015 - and can maybe be lucky enough to get Duke's Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky's Karl Towns - guys with size that can also score and defend inside. On November 22nd I hate to say that the season is a wash for any organization, but can anyone be optimistic right now with how the Knicks have been playing against arguably the bottom half of the league? I mean, you'd have to be insane, right?