The Knicks tried on more identities than a 14-year-old Upper West Side girl this season.
They started the season as a seven seconds or less running team, but that didn’t really work without a point guard. Then they were the Linsanity team where that system did work with a bunch of shooters and Jeremy Lin driving against bad defenses. Then they tried the drama queen team where everyone — mostly you, Carmelo — seemed to pout and not play well because they didn’t get enough touches in the system and were asked to play team ball.
Then they tried out being an isolation-heavy, defense focused, lots of Carmelo Anthony team…
And it fit. It worked.
Mike Woodson has gotten the Knicks to play good defense, he’s running the offense heavily through ‘Melo, and they are 18-6 under him. (They had 18 wins under Mike D’Antoni, too, they just had 24 losses.)
It’s been a roller coaster year, but now with an identity and style that fits them, the Knicks are a good team. A tough out. The next question is, how far can they go?
The problem is the obstacle in front of them — the Miami Heat. Miami has its own collection of stars, a bigger and brighter constellation than has been assembled in New York. A Heat team more practiced and secure in its identity and that tends to lead to better execution.
But more than that it’s a style question — the Heat are the best isolation defense in the NBA. Teams shoot just 33.7 percent and score a sad 0.72 points per possession on isolation sets against the Heat (via MySynergySports.com). Miami’s defense is custom made to stop New York. The Knicks will need a hot hand from J.R. Smith and Steve Novak and real ball movement to get open looks to score enough against the Heat.
I can see that happening for a game or two, but four out of seven?
Still, the Knicks have found a coach that gets through to the team and an identity that works. They have made real strides the last 24 games of the season. The question is, will James Dolan bring that coach and team back for next season, or will he bring in a new coach and a new identity to try out? Like one more triangular?