The Inbounds: The First Treatise on ISOMelo

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Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy.

INTRODUCTION: I’m not a big believer in the Knicks’ offense. I tend to like things like ball movement. And efficiency. And, you know, not mid-range fall-away jumpshots. But the Knicks aren’t the Bulls. They haven’t just left the offense out there to figure itself out. They’re not the Nuggets, trusting in individual team concepts. The construction of their isolation-for-Melo heavy offense is a deliberate and carefully considered creation. So I wanted to think, if I were making a treatise on the explanation of why and how to enact this offense, how would I structure it in Aristotle’s time, or in the mold of Locke? This is what I came up with. So here’s the First Treatise on ISOMelo and the New York Knicks Offense in 2012-2013.

 

I.

Whereas, the Knicks have forged their present and married their future to the ideal of the ISOMelo, and Whereas, it become necessary to understand the mechanics and causation of that precise decision, we therefore reach the conclusion that a First Treatise on ISOMelo is required, and should in good faith be produced to understand the future of the 2012-2013 New York Knicks.

(Related materials: The 2012 Knicks Season Preview on PBT.)

Therefore we must begin with the central tenets of ISOMelo and what it entails. The foundation of our ideological framework stands in four tenets.

1. It is best, whenever possible, and with full respect and consideration to the flow of the game and in taking full advantage of mismatches, to in all other instances trust the most talented offensive player with acting as both the initiator and finisher of a standard offensive possession.

2. In pursuit of maximizing the effectiveness of the above tenet, a player’s input should not only be considered but made a priority with regard to comfort and decision-making. Therefore, if he feels most comfortable in the post, he should receive the ball there; if he feels his best work is done from the high pick and roll, the offense should be structured as such. A happy and comfortable player is a self-actualized player is a productive player.

3. Carmelo Anthony is the best and most effective offensive player on the New York Knicks, and is most comfortable in a one-on-one offensive set (referred to as “isolation,” “ISO” or “that thing Carmelo does where he catches the ball and holds it for like fifteen seconds”). He prefers to work out of the high-to-mid post with an emphasis on using the space on the “wing” from above the block to top of the arc, and expanding to the perimeter.

4. A winning and successful basketball offense can be produced incorporating the above tenets to produce an offense that relies heavily on the isolation abilities of Carmelo Anthony as the primary option in any given set.

The above follows a logical train of thought that is both simplistic and nuanced, taking into account the most central concept in regards to the goal of an offensive possession: CREATE A BASKETBALL SHOT THAT RESULTS IN A MADE FIELD GOAL. The policy is not enacted out of carelessness or disregard for the offense or its efficiency, nor is it done simply to appease the priorities and objectives of Anthony, or his representatives at the Creative Artists Agency (also known as “The Knicks”). It is done with full forethought to the best way to structure the offense, the reasons for which will be enumerated below.

1. Modern, high-pace, high-efficiency offenses featuring ball-movement and a shared responsibility have shown an inability to produce in the postseason (referred to as “when it matters”). The mid-00’s Phoenix Suns, the current-era Denver Nuggets, the current-era San Antonio Spurs, the early-00’s Dallas Mavericks, and many others  have fallen short of their collective goal of an NBA championship due to the stylistic difference in the National Basketball Association’s postseason from the National Basketball Association regular season. In consideration of this, a slower-pace, “grind-it-out” offense relying on superstar capability such as that held by Carmelo Anthony has a more productive history in postseason play.

2. Postseason play is a reductionist pursuit. With the intensity and physicality provided by playoff defense, the ability of an offensive set to reduce any given set to a matter of one player with superior shot-making ability vs. any given opponent regardless of defensive capability provides an advantage that while not efficient, may prove more reliable in the long run.

3. If we are to assume the other ideas traditionally regarded as essential for team success (sacrifice, shared responsibility, the propensity to make the entire team better) are both true and worth in pursuit,  it is not essentially true that ISOMelo stands in opposition  to these fundamental philosophies. In truth, should the shooters, scorers, rebounders, dunkers, shot-makers, put-backers, pick-and-rollers all make that same sacrifice in pursuit of the ISOMelo, it can produce more efficient and higher percentage opportunities for their skills.

4. ISOMelo rejects the notion that all players’ sacrifice are both created and expressed equally. ISOMelo holds that Melo bears the weight of the offense, and therefore the weight of any such failures unnecessarily high, providing for no excuse for his play. Supporting players, regardless of their talent, are then held to the only standard of contributing to the team concept, which is ISOMelo.

5. The existence of help defenders in the modern NBA scheme should not be held as a reason to abandon or deny the effectiveness of ISOMelo and its value as the standard set of the New York Knicks. While efficiency does reduce in the presence of multiple defenders upon the act of a Melo field goal attempt, there are benefits in the drawing of a help defender, namely, the  production of an unguarded offensive player, and a subsequent easier shot. Even in the event of a field goal attempt over multiple defenders, Anthony’s shot-making ability is such to justify an attempt, with regards to maintaining Anthony’s comfort level. At all times, the belief that a happy Melo is a productive Anthony must be maintained, lest the entire ISOMelo tent collapse like a flan in a cupboard.

It is the belief in this system and these ideas that result in the essential ideology of the 2012-2013 New York Knicks, having made such moves as to maximize the effectiveness of this system, including but not limited to the hiring of Mike Woodson as head coach (a classic supporter of the system under another name: ISOJoe), and the addition of shooters to compliment and work alongside Anthony without challenging his authority, as some other point guards from Ivy League schools may have.

ISOMelo is not a default option, it is part of a greater tapestry that the Knicks believe will result in the achievement of the ultimate goal. It comes not from nefarious or flawed malapropisms, but instead from a deliberate pursuit of an effective, if not efficient, offense. Efficiency is neither the key to the gates of basketball heaven nor the end-all, be-all of basketball. The alternative path blazed by ISOMelo is one of physicality and the gradual destruction of a defense through superior talent and expression of the greatest singular shot-making ability on the team, in the simplest context. What it lacks in nuance, it makes up for in brute force. What it fails in efficiency, it excels in effectiveness. And in the most key moments of any basketball contest, the final seconds, it provides the most reliable of any basketball ever produced, even more so than the once-vaunted pick-and-roll, a high-percentage jump shooter shooting a jump shot with the clock ticking to zero.

It is in the ISOMelo we believe, once and forever, until a rebuilding period is needed. In CAA we place our faith, amen.

Pacers head to Cleveland looking to put pressure back on Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — The Indiana Pacers are in no better position to pull off a historic upset in this first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers than when they awoke Sunday morning.

The Pacers had a chance to put the Cavs, at the time reeling with playoff inexperience and the crushing weight of expectations with LeBron James, squarely behind the eight ball in this series by winning Game 4.

But Indiana fell behind by a huge deficit in the first half for the second consecutive game, erased it in the third and early fourth quarters again, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Kyle Korver and James made enough plays down the stretch for the Cavs to win, 104-100, tying this series at 2-2 with Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

James has never lost a first-round series in 12 previous playoffs. Now, he has two of the next three games at home to try and keep his streak alive.

“I think just tying the series up and coming back home is something we feel good about,” said Kevin Love, who like every other Cav not named James has mostly struggled in this series. “We feel like it’s a best-of-three type series and at the end of the day, if it comes to it, we have two games at home. We like our advantage and we’re going to use that to our advantage (Wednesday) night.”

The Pacers trailed by 17 at halftime of Game 3 but steamrolled the Cavs in the second half and pulled out a 92-90 win behind 30 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, a playoff career high. They were down 10 through two quarters in Game 4 but fought back and were ahead 93-91 with 3:49 remaining before Korver connected on two deep 3s.

Indiana won Game 1 behind a playoff career-high 32 points from Victor Oladipo, who has struggled since (19-of-53 shooting in the last three games). Domantas Sabonis played a big role in the Pacers’ comeback Sunday, scoring a playoff career-best 19 off the bench.

The Pacers are getting the best night of someone’s playoff career almost each game of this series, and it’s been good enough for two wins. Then again, the Cavs’ two wins were by a combined seven points, and outside of James (32.5 ppg this series) almost no one is scoring.

Love is the next closest at 12.0 points in this series and JR Smith is third with 10.0 points.

“We’re not losing confidence,” point guard Darren Collison said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This team is the defending Eastern Conference champions. Whatever you want to say about them, this is a very good team. They’ve been through a lot over the last few years. We’re fine. There’s no need to overreact or panic. We’re going to go into their building and we’re going to give the same effort.”

The Cavaliers say point guard George Hill (back spasms) is questionable to play in Game 5. He missed Game 4 with the same injury — four injections before the game were not enough to ease the pain to the point where he could play.

Jose Calderon started for Hill on Sunday and scored five points in 19 minutes. The Cavs are 24-9 this year (regular season and playoffs) when Calderon starts.

Hill is the only player on either team listed on the injury report. But Love suffered an injury to his left thumb in Game 1 and it’s affected him. He’s shooting 17-of-47 in the series with 11 turnovers. Catching and gripping the ball have been obvious problems.

“I’ve been able to get up a lot of shots,” Love said. “I think initially it was painful and in the few days that followed, but now it’s kind of subsided and I’m just getting my feel back in my left thumb.”

Report: Kawhi Leonard to return to San Antonio around exit interviews. Then…

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Nobody is sure how the Kawhi Leonard situation is going to play out with the Spurs. As is the nature of the NBA, the GMs of other teams are starting to circle the Spurs like vultures, on the chance that this time Gregg Popovich cannot smooth out the relationship with his star player and needs to trade him. Leonard spent the playoffs away from the team, working out and talking to doctors in New York while “his group” shielded him from attempts from San Antonio to reach out.

Now has come the time for the sides to talk, and that will happen soon reports Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News.

What happens during and after that meeting is anyone’s guess.

The Spurs will only move Leonard as a last resort, and they have two things on their side. First, Gregg Popovich, who has maintained a healthy relationship with his star pupil through all of this. LaMarcus Aldridge told Popovich he wanted to be traded last summer, and over the course of some dinner meetings and self-reflection, Popovich was able to both keep Aldridge in the fold and put him in positions to be an All-NBA level player this season. The key is that both sides were willing to talk with an open mind, are Leonard and his advisors open to that?

Second, the Spurs have the ultimate hammer — the $219 million designated veteran extension (the contract James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed this year). Put that on the table and Leonard will sign it. The question is will the Spurs put it out there? Probably not if Leonard makes it clear he doesn’t want to be in San Antonio any longer. That’s when the trade talks start to gain traction.

But we’re not there yet. Not even close. Let the meetings play out first.

Back home, Thunder try to avoid elimination against Jazz

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City was built this offseason around three All-Stars with the hopes of contending for the Western Conference crown.

The Utah Jazz started the year 18-26 without center Rudy Gobert. However, Gobert returned and the Jazz rolled off 11 straight wins into Valentine’s Day with the help of a surprise rookie of the year contender.

One more win and the Jazz will reach the second round for the second straight year. They’ll send the Thunder home with a second straight first-round exit — despite Oklahoma City’s overhauled, star-studded roster.

After losing the first game on the road, Utah won decisively in each of the past three games, including a 17-point victory in Game 4 — a game the Thunder called a must-win in Salt Lake City.

“It’s the playoffs, it’s gonna be war,” Utah point guard Ricky Rubio, who had a triple-double in Game 3, told the Salt Lake Tribune after Utah’s 113-96 victory in Game 4. “We know that it’s gonna be another war next game. We just have to be tough but at the same time, mentally ready for that.”

Game 5 is set for 9:30 p.m. EST Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, who averaged 20 points per game during the regular season, has averaged 27.6 points during the past three games — taking his play to another level to lead a balanced Jazz attack that has five players averaging in double figures. Mitchell, who was the 13th overall pick in last year’s draft, has scored 110 points through the first four games, the most by a rookie in his first four games since Michael Jordan’s 117 in 1985, according to nba.com.

“To be honest, a lot of this is surreal. I’m just taking it game-by-game and not really getting caught up in the big picture,” Mitchell told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “Just focusing on game-by-game. My teammates have helped me out a lot as far as that goes. But we’re playing together.”

Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook picked up four fouls before halftime in Game 4 and was fined $10,000 for an altercation with Gobert late in the game. Luckily for the Thunder, he was not suspended following his altercation with the Utah center.

Westbrook’s foul trouble has hardly been the Thunder’s biggest issue.

Oklahoma City was inconsistent much of the year, but it has had to contend with shooting woes from offseason acquisition Carmelo Anthony, who has hit just 25 percent of his 3-pointers in the first four games of the playoffs.

“We gotta win, nothing to it,” Anthony said after the Game 4 loss. “We’ve just gotta win. We can sit here and say what we gotta do, or what we didn’t do or what we did do, but it comes down to having the will to win that game Wednesday and forcing a Game 6 back in Utah.”

Winning in Utah won’t to be easy, where the Jazz have won six straight. Oklahoma City has to get back to Salt Lake City first and stave off elimination. But Utah hasn’t lost three straight games since Gobert’s return to the lineup in mid-January.

“Every game’s been physical,” Gobert said to reporters. “We just got to watch the tape, see how much better we can get and get ready to play basketball.”

Any end to one-and-done rule remains a couple of years away

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Condoleezza Rice and the Commission on College Basketball released their much-anticipated report and…

Yawn.

We’ll see how much the NCAA wishes to police itself and ban coaches caught cheating from the sport, or to do anything that would stem the flow of money from shoe companies and boosters into college hoops. Will the NCAA make an organizational shift to focus less on enforcement and more on involvement with players before they get to college?

One thing the report wants is an end to the one-and-done rule with the NBA, and it issues some veiled threats about getting back together and coming up with new recommendations if the NBA and its players’ union does not act within a year. Yawn. The NBA will continue to work toward this at its own pace, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes.

Allowing guys to go back to college if not drafted — even if they had an agent — is a good step.

The NBA will move at its own pace with reforms to its draft rules, and we are still years away from that (if the owners can be herded into a consensus in the first place). This commission’s report changes none of that, and without the NBA and players’ union’s cooperation the commission can’t accomplish some of its goals anyway.

The NBA is moving toward ending one-and-done, NBA commissioner Adam Silver had said they were waiting on this report to take the next steps down that road. With the assistance of the NCAA, the league could move to something more akin to the baseball model (players can be drafted out of high school to the NBA, but if they go to college they have to stay two or three seasons). However, this remains years away. For now, players such as Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III will continue to be one-and-dones. Nobody likes it, but it is the rule for now.