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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.

Karl-Anthony Towns beats out Isaiah Thomas to take Skills Challenge title

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 09:  Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts after hitting a basket against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 9, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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TORONTO — In a new twist to the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the NBA made the decision this year to add big men to a competition that has traditionally focused on point guards. The new wrinkle created new layers of intrigue, an unusual amount of controversy and, ultimately, a new champion: Timberwolves rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns.

C.J. McCollum beat out Jordan Clarkson in the first round, and Isaiah Thomas took care of Emmanuel Mudiay. In something of an upset, Towns handled Draymond Green, who is the NBA’s leader in triple-doubles.

The other matchup in the first round came with some controversy: DeMarcus Cousins missed all three attempts at the chest pass into the ring but moved on in the obstacle course and ultimately defeated Anthony Davis. This led to widespread criticism on social media for Cousins being allowed to advance without completing all the drills.

But Towns beat out Cousins in the semifinals, thereby preventing a nightmare scenario where a winner might have to have an asterisk next to his title.

Thomas beat McCollum in the guards’ semifinals. McCollum lost his dribble early on in the round and never really recovered.

The final round between Towns and Thomas went down to the wire, but Towns’ three-pointer went down first, giving him the title.

 

Russell Westbrook on Lakers speculation: “Nah, I like where I am now”

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 08:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Thunder defeated the Suns 122-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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TORONTO — No matter what Russell Westbrook does, he cannot escape the rumors that have followed him for years. He grew up in Los Angeles and played college basketball at UCLA—so, it’s only logical that when he hits free agency in the summer of 2017, he’ll look to sign with the Lakers, right?

Westbrook did his best to shut that down on Saturday after practice with the Western Conference All-Stars.

“Nah,” Westbrook said. “I like where I am now. Oklahoma City is a great place for me.”

Westbrook admitted that he grew up a Lakers fan, but said he never thought of playing there as a kid.

“I never thought I’d play in the NBA,” he said. “I was just watching them.”

Westbrook has another full season to go before his contract with the Thunder is up, so it’s going to be a while before there’s any resolution here. A lot, of course, will depend on what Kevin Durant does this summer.

If Durant sticks around and the Thunder make another deep playoff run next season, it becomes more likely that Westbrook will stay. But if Durant goes somewhere else, there’s a good chance Westbrook follows suit. For now, all they can do is deflect the speculation that will be there no matter what they say.

Gregg Popovich says he thinks more about Warriors than any team he ever faced

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Gregg Popovich and his Spurs have gone up against some powerhouse teams in the past 17 years. There were the Shaq/Kobe Bryant Lakers, Steve Nash and the seven-seconds-or-less Suns, The Kobe/Pau Gasol Lakers, LeBron James‘ Miami Heat teams, and the list goes on.

But nobody has given him more to think about than Stephen Curry and the Warriors.

That’s what he said on ESPN Radio Friday, as reported by Marc Stein of ESPN.

“I’ve spent more time thinking about Golden State than I have any other team I’ve ever thought about in my whole career,” Popovich told ESPN Radio on Friday. “Because they are really fun. I’d go buy a ticket and go watch them play. And when I see them move the ball, I get very envious. When I see them shoot uncontested shots more than anybody else in the league, it’s inspiring. It’s just great basketball.

“So I’m actually enjoying them very much. You try to solve them, but they’re in a sense unsolvable because it’s a particular mix of talent that they have. It’s not just that Steph [Curry] can make shots or that Klay can make shots or that Draymond Green is versatile. Everybody on the court can pass, catch and shoot. And they all get it.”

When you think about those legendary teams Popovich faced, they may have been a little less mentally taxing to gameplan for. The Shaq/Kobe Lakers ran the triangle (an offense Popovich was familiar with), but most of what made them great was exceptional talent — two future Hall of Famers at their peaks. The Spurs tried to bully the Suns, and then they developed a motion offense that eventually shredded the Heat.

The Warriors are different, and Popovich gets to a fundamental problem in defeating them:

“They’re talented. But they’re also very, very smart.”

That’s what’s hard to plan for — smart players and smart teams adjust, and the Warriors by design loaded their roster with high IQ guys. If you adjust, they counter. And for the last season-and-a-half, that has worked brilliantly.

LeBron James on Kevin Love trade rumors: “They’re false”

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TORONTO — The rumors were out there: the Boston Celtics were interested in Kevin Love and were talking trade with Cleveland.

LeBron James would have none of that.

“It’s false,” LeBron said of the rumors when speaking to the media after the Eastern Conference’s All-Star Game practice Saturday. “It’s the only thing I can look at it and say it’s false. That’s the last thing guys are worried about right now are trade talks from our team.”

That echoed what Carmelo Anthony said. The buzz around Toronto (where the NBA has gathered for All-Star Weekend) that there wasn’t a lot of to the talks and if there was any momentum has stalled out.

Still, there will be talks, and there will be plenty of Cavaliers trade rumors in the run-up to the Feb. 18 trade deadline. Cleveland could use some shooting from the wing and quality depth to provide versatility going up against Golden State or San Antonio in the Finals.

LeBron just wants to make sure the talks don’t impact the locker room.

“One thing about this business is you can only control what you can control. Things that you can’t control, you can’t let it bother you, and I’ve learned that over the years,” LeBron said. “There is so much that goes on in professional sports that if you just focus on what you can control, everything else will take care of itself.”

The Love rumors likely will continue to flare up this week, but they are not going to move him unless another team makes a Godfather offer.

The Cavaliers have been 10.1 points per 100 possessions better this season when Love is on the court compared to off it (and their defense does get marginally better when he plays). When Love, LeBron, and Kyrie Irving are on the court together the Cavaliers outscore opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions. Those are massive numbers.

The Cavaliers are a win-now team, if you’re going to break up part of that trio it has to be for something that makes the team demonstrably better. And that kind of superstar trade is rare at the February deadline anymore.