The Knicks are off to a 7-6 start and it’s their offense that is clicking — Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter are rim running in a system that has the team playing faster than a season ago (although they still only get 13.1 percent of their offense in transition, 23rd in the league), and the result is an offense that is 12th in the NBA overall according to NBA.com. However, remove garbage time from the equation, as Ben Falk does at Cleaning The Glass, and the Knicks are fifth in offensive rating. Their core rotation guys are getting buckets. By those numbers, the Knicks are scoring 2.2 points more per 100 possessions than a year ago, when they were a slightly below average NBA offense.
What’s different? No Carmelo Anthony stopping the ball, for one. More importantly, no triangle offense forced down from on high so coach Jeff Hornacek can run what he wants,. With that, players are much happier. Look at what Kristaps Porzingis said recently on ESPN Radio. (Hat Tip Chris Mannix at Yahoo Sports.)
“This year you can feel that Jeff has more, he’s running his own stuff without anybody coming in and telling him what to do or how to do it, so I think from the top down you can feel that there’s more confidence in what we’re doing. It’s a better feeling this way.”
Three games into the season, Tim Hardaway Jr. said a bunch of the Knicks players didn’t know the plays, but he told Marc Berman of the New York Post that has changed.
“It’s a full 180,’’ Hardaway said. “It’s great. A lot of guys are taking each possession in practice very serious. We’re building our game. We’re building a culture here. When we step in this practice, we are all ears and minds are open. Everyone is giving their input and everyone is locked in on both ends of the floor.”
Hornacek still wants to run some triangle elements in the half-court — most teams do — but the goal now is more pace and more pick-and-roll shot creation. Hornacek said the guys like it.
“Our guys are feeling comfortable with what we’re running. We’re going to get better at that. It’s a style most of those guys like to play. It makes it easier for them. Even in this system, there’s a lot of teaching we have to do. We have to continue to learn the little things that will make it easier especially in pressure times like (against the Cavaliers).”
The Knicks have a long way to go before they are all the way back, but this season fans can see the steps in that direction. Finally Porzingis has been made the focal point of the offense, and finally they are running modern NBA sets. It’s a long season, but the Knicks look like they could be a playoff team in the East, and that would be a big step forward.