Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Knicks trade doesn't not make sense

Monday night, the Knicks shipped Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cavaliers for a mound of scrap metal, magic beans and a 2nd round pick.

The trade made it abundantly clear that the Knicks are looking forward to the offseason. While many fans were supportive of Phil's first move as president -- trading Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas -- reaction to this deal has been relatively negative.

The Knicks gave up two relatively well liked and talented players for almost nothing other than cap space. While fans are initially unhappy with the trade, I think they'll come to find this deal makes a certain amount of good sense.

At face value, it looks as the Knicks gave up talent -- albeit floundering talent -- for just about nothing. But one must consider three things. First, neither player was excelling in New York or in the triangle. J.R. Smith was a long ways away from his "Sixth Man of the Year" award and when Shump was able to stay healthy, his stats just were there. His shooting percentage over his career is pathetic. His defensive rating, while maybe not the fairest measurement of his talent, keeps getting lower.

These were two players that weren't wowing anyone and weren't really proving to be worth their paychecks. So moving them is no real loss.

Secondly, both of these players were leaving over the course of the next two years anyways. It was unlikely the Knicks were going to re-sign Shumpert to a new deal and the end of the season and J.R. Smith was gone by next season. We weren't going to retain them, we weren't going to re-sign them, so best to move them and get whatever the marketplace would provide. Which at this time was understandably not much. Don't delude yourself. If you were a GM, what would you want to give up for these two? Shumpert, brimming with potential, but routinely inconsistent and injured. Smith, a talented offensive player, but hasn't really shown that ability since his knee injury last year and has a history of taking bad shots and being a locker room problem. Would you give up a first rounder for these two? I probably wouldn't.

Finally, while getting a higher draft pick would have been nice, it isn't necessary. If the decision was between getting rid of J.R. Smith's contract and getting a late first rounder, I think the cap space is the most important thing.

Carmelo Anthony is 30-years-old and not getting any younger. He has a window. It's not clear what that window is, but it's there. It may be closing quick or may stay open for the length of his deal. But either way, the Knicks don't have time to live through the draft. While the Knicks' pick next season will be a nice addition, the team doesn't have a choice, they need to bring in a top free agent as soon as possible.

So the more cap space they can get, the better. The more money to throw at Marc Gasol (or whomever) and use to fill out the rest of the teams roster.

Also, this trade is something the Knicks' locker room needed. The deal helps scrub away some of the persisting problems from the former regime. Now, the only remaining players from the D'Antoni/Woodson Era squads are Carmelo Anthony, Amare' Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Pablo Prigioni and Tim Hardaway. Next season, it may just be Melo and Hardaway left. So this trade carries a breath of fresh air the team needs and the Jackson may want to help cultivate a new environment.

In the end, will this go down as Phil's greatest deal as president? Probably not. But this seemingly bad deal could put the Knicks in position this offseason to building a contender. And if not, then at the least it creates room to finish the tear down and start truly fresh. Likely, without Melo.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Moving Melo: Why not have Anthony play power forward (again)?

Alright, I know it's too early to start making major changes and freaking out. Especially after the Knicks just had a big win and there is hope everything is coming together.

But in an effort to improve this team, I'm making a humble suggestion: learn from the past and move Melo back to PF.

To make my point, I will first take a look at the team's history with Carmelo Anthony and other offensive schemes.

Flashback to 2011: Melo gets traded to the Knicks. Coach Mike D'Antoni is leading the team with a slowed down version of his offense. Melo comes and wants to play the 3 -- which he has his whole career. However, in D'Antoni's offense Melo has to stay at the corner for spacing reasons, which isn't the role Anthony played in Denver.

Melo tries to comply, but as time goes on, he starts slipping back to where he's comfortable: the elbow. This kills spacing for the Knicks offense, especially the following season when Tyson is acquired.

To his credit, D'Antoni did get creative and tried to find ways to satisfy Melo and stick with his offense -- including making Anthony the point forward. But to no avail. The Knicks struggled and limped into the playoffs -- where they were quickly dispatched in the first round.

The struggle was real and continued the next season, That's when D'Antoni leaves; Woodson takes over. Woodson makes some changes, and while the team excels, they still get killed by the Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

The following year, Woodson makes more changes and he moves Carmelo to the four.

What happens? The Knicks have their best season in over a decade and they even win a playoff series for the first time since 2000. The offense had balance and Melo was where he wanted to be (and it didn't hurt that the Knicks were moving the ball well, their bench was excellent and making shots).

So, why doesn't it make sense to make that same change now?

As the power forward, Melo would be exactly where he likes to play. The elbow, high post and low post. It would help spacing without a doubt, because we'd have one more shooter on the floor. And spacing is essential when it comes to the triangle. The move, in my inexpert opinion, would help chemistry for the team in general. Whether or not he's playing the four, Melo is still moving to those spots on the floor. Much like he did in 2011 and that's causing confusion and perhaps some frustration among his teammates. Anthony's forcing his way into the post and that's forcing other players to figure out what he's doing and move correctly to another spot on the floor.

Moving Melo would also make sense for the roster because we have a hell of lot more wing players and guards than we do big men. Which group is more talented? J.R. Smith, Hardaway, Shump, Early and Wear or Dalembert, Jason Smith, Acy and Bargnani? Without a doubt the former. So why not find a way to keep our best players on the floor?

It would even make sense in context of the triangle offense, since a good post-up player is recommended and we don't have one of those (right now) besides Stat.

Now, Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher know more about this offense than I'll never know. For me,
playing Melo at small forward doesn't make sense. But I can understand that there might be some reasons. For example, the future of the team. The offense seems to work best when you have a balance of talent on the perimeter and paint. And this coming offseason, the best options for New York in free agency seem to be post players.

So, hypothetically, if NY were to sign someone like Marc Gasol with Carmelo playing the four, it would create a post logjam. If this is the logic, then maybe this season is more about teaching than it is about winning. Phil and Fisher want to show Melo how to play so he's prepared for a 2015-16 run. Which might be a more prudent move than I can reconcile.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Report: Steve Kerr close to accepting the Knicks job, you know, unless he decides to sign with the Warriors, who actually want Stan Van Gundy, who is just about to sign with the Pistons reportedly but who knows

Yes, after months of speculation, it appears that Steve Kerr will take the Knicks job, according to a New York Daily News report among others. Unless of course, he doesn't. That's surely a possibility because the Golden State Warriors apparently really want him. They are also looking at Stan Van Gundy too, reportedly, who is close to signing with the Pistons -- according to sources.

However, it might not matter because it appears a deal between the Knicks and Kerr will happen soon. Or if not, maybe in a couple of days. Or maybe next week at the very latest. But even when that happens, Kerr will not show up until after the playoffs.

Yes, a ton of stuff that is and might and will possibly happen. Reportedly. So many possible things-to-come that are so eminent and just about to happen eventually. Unless something else happens which, sources say, is almost inevitable, but probably won't happen right now.

Source: Frank Isola



Saturday, March 29, 2014

Report: Kevin Love will consider NY in 2015

ESPN is reporting that -- along with Los Angeles and Chicago -- forward Kevin Love will also consider the Knicks as a possible landing spot when his contract expires during the 2015 offseason.

Love will be the cream of that year's free agency crop and at the same time, the Knicks' cap will be relatively clear with Amar'e Stoudemire's, Andrea Bargnani's and Tyson Chandler's contracts all expiring at the same time.

Love has been on the radar of Knicks fans and is a MVP-level player. This past season, he has averaged 26 ppg with 12 rpg. The 6'10'' forward has also shown versatility as a scorer who can score in the paint/on the post and knock down outside shots consistently. However, his defense is questionable and he has accrued a career defensive rating of 106.

Whether or not Kevin Love will want to venture into the fray that is the New York Knicks is the main concern for NYK fans. Especially if that's a Carmelo-less Knicks roster.

If Melo does leave, the Knicks will have a rare 1st round pick in that summer's draft, which could end up being a pretty high pick in that scenario. Even if Melo does stay, there's no guarantee the Knicks won't have a lottery pick next season, as this year will demonstrate. The Knicks at this point, aren't in position to make any significant roster moves, so at best, the Knicks will have about the same squad but with a new coach. Or possible, the same squad with no Melo and a new coach.

Read the ESPN story here:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Knicks have Knicks-like second half, end streak with loss to Cavs

That terrible Knicks ball that hasn't been nearly as present over the past eight games returned Sunday night, as the team bungled a 17-point lead.

"They beat us, they won the game," said a dejected Carmelo Anthony following the game. "It's tough, we should have won this game, we gave it away."

Melo scored 32 points in the loss, but laid an egg in the fourth, going 0 for 5 from the field. After the game, Melo said double teams caused him problems and also admitted the ball just wouldn't go in the basket. It also felt like player movement also stopped at times and it became Melo versus the world. The team also settled for a number of perimeter jumpers rather than going to the basket. Amar'e Stoudemire, who has been a strong point in the teams streak, also disappeared in fourth, scoring only a single basket.

On the other side of the ball, while the Knicks stars were fading, guard Jarrett Jack went off. He scored 23 points in the second half on 10 for 13 shooting and dished out 5 assists.  Jack -- who scored an unsurprising season high -- was unstoppable in the second half and in the final minute, scoring  a crucial basket to help put the game away.

"Those guys got hot," said Raymond Felton, who was responsible for guarding Jack for a majority of the half. "Jarrett Jack got hot coming off that screen-and-roll... once a guy gets hot like that, it's kind of hard to guard him."

"He hit a lot of tough shots, contested by me, contested by Tyson. I mean, he just had a good night."

The players and coach Mike Woodson both seemed to target the slow start to the third quarter for their downfall.

"In the third quarter we came out a little flat," said Tyson Chandler. "We had some defensive breakdowns to start that quarter. It kind of gave them a bit of a rhythm and from their they just fed off it."

Coach Woodson said, "I thought we started off well, and we came in after the half time, I thought we were playing pretty good basketball. And then we went dry early in the third. I thought we came out of the third so slow, they scored the first five points and then we decided we wanted to play."

"Once Jack and Waiters really got going, it was tough."

This is an especially disappoint loss considering the streak the team was on and the push they are trying to make for the playoffs. Woodson said before the game he thinks the team will need to hit the 38 to 40 wins area to take the spot, meaning they will have to be almost perfect over the final 12 games.

Something that Carmelo Anthony says is more than possible. Despite the loss on Sunday, he seemed eager to move ahead and continue the push.

"I got faith that we can make a run, we've been playing extremely well," said Anthony. "As far as how many wins it's going to take -- who knows? We got to go play. We can't worry about how many wins it's going to take."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Knicks string six wins together, make push for playoffs

The Knicks pulled off another decisive win over the Bucks on Sunday, for the team's sixth straight win. Saturday's win puts the team just three wins behind the Hawks, but with only 15 games left to play. Certainly enough time to close the gap and take the eight seed, especially if the team continues to finish strong, but unlikely, in my opinion.

The team has really played well after faltering following the All-Star Weekend where the team dropped seven straight following the break. The team only won two games in the entire months of February. But the Knicks have looked significantly better over the past six games, on both sides of the ball. Albeit against subpar teams, but the Knicks of February were dropping games to the Bucks, Magic and Kings.

However, based on my projections, I don't think the Knicks will likely make the playoffs. Again, they are just three behind the Hawks and playing their best ball of the season, but I think the Hawks schedule is too easy going forward and the Knicks have just enough obstacles to get in their way.

My prediction: I can see the Knicks winning a majority of their games over the final month of action. I think there's a good chance they finish 10-5 or 9-6. Putting them (at best) 37-45. The Hawks on the other hand have seven games I think they should win easily (Raptors, Cavs, Sixers, T-Wolves, Bobcats, Pistons and Bucks). Those wins would put them at 35, meaning they would just have to win three games other games. They play the Raptors and Bobcats twice and I think they should be able to at least win one of each of those games, but they could obviously take both. They have a road games against the Wizards and Nets that are more than winnable. They also catch the Heat near the end of the season, and might catch a team that decides to rest veterans because they have already clinched their seed.

If the Knicks can finish strong, and the Hawks are lackluster, New York will have a shot to slide into the eight seed. But anything less than nine wins probably won't get it done. If, on the otherhand, the Knicks can exceed expectations and win 12 or 13 games, they can put a ton of pressure on the Hawks to win.

The bad news for New York is, if they do get the eighth seed, they will likely have to play the Pacers in the first round. Meaning a repeat of last season's disastrous playoff series.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Overview: A look at the triangle offense

According to reports, Phil Jackson will join the Knicks to become the president of basketball operations. In that position, he will oversee the entirety of the team's basketball decisions, likely including the team's next head coach. That is assuming Mike Woodson is a short timer.

We are still so early on in the process and Jackson hasn't spoken publicly about his plans for New York yet. Or with this organization, it's unclear how much you will ever hear from Jackson. But many people are already wondering if Jackson will attempt to bring the Triangle Offense to New York. The very same offensive strategy that has put eleven rings on his fingers. A system that served Jackson so well and led to such much success, but has more or less fallen to the wayside since Jackson retired in 2011.

So what is the triangle offense and what are the core concepts that go into the offensive strategy? Well, I've decided to write a very brief overview. First, let me start off and say that I'm no expert. I have been following the NBA as a fan for more than a decade and over the past few years I've gotten really interested in the triangle. I've watched Lakers and Bulls games under Phil Jackson and I've read books by Tex Winter. Above all else, I've learned that the Triangle Offense, isn't just a group of set plays, it's an ideology. To run it, everyone on the court has to understand their positioning and the reasoning behind their movements. It's also revolves around passing as a fundamental way to penetrate, rather than pure dribble penetration (as you tend to see in today's NBA).

The Triangle

The system gets it's name from the basic form of the set. On one side of the court, one player stands at the wing, another in the corner and the final player on the block. This forms the traditional triangle. The two remaining players are placed on the opposite or weak side of the court. One player is near the weak side wing or close to the top of the key. The other is near the weak side elbow area. The chart below kind of outlines the formation and show you the spacing formed in the set.

Typically the two big men on the court are the ones occupying the 4 and 5 spots, whereas the 1 and 2 wing spots are usually wing players (SG and SF) with the PG traditionally moving to the corner. However, one big part of Phil Jackson's strategy is the idea of flexibility and interchangeable parts. In a perfect world, any player could be put in any position in the triangle. For instance, it was not unusual to see Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant get shoved into the 5 spot on the block for a post-up play.


As the chart above shows, the key part that goes into the triangle offense is the concept of spacing. Every player should be at least 15 to 18 feet apart. The reasoning behind that distance is that it makes it difficult for teams to double team. If a team does try to double a player, the 15-18 feet distance gives enough space for a pass out and clean look by the open player before the defender is able to rotate/close out.

Forming the triangle

As you would expect, there are a number of ways to form the triangle and start the set play. Rule number one is that the triangle can be formed on either side of the court. If the defense is denying the right side, you can swing the ball over and try to set the triangle on the left side.

Photo via

Every play begins with a player, typically the point guard, bringing the ball up. The point guard (#9 in the pic above) will typically pass to the wing player (#7) on the strong side and then after the pass, the point guard will then move to the corner. The diagram above differs from the tradition formation, because it's set around Kobe Bryant in the low post. This kind of shows how the triangle can be formed in different ways. Kobe cuts across the paint as the pass and corner cut is made. Now we have the triangle and now the play can begin.

Triangle options

After the triangle is set and the ball is in the hands of the player on the wing (typically), at that point, there are five options. The primary option is typically getting the ball to the low post player. Whether that player is a traditional center, like Shaq or Andrew Bynum, or if it's like the play above where Kobe is in the low post spot. The closer to the rim your player is, the higher his FG% will be.

photo via
The next two options are moving the ball to the weak side for perhaps a pick and roll by the wing player and bigman or a pass to the bigman for a Princeton-like backdoor cut/pinch post play to the basket by the weak side wing player. You could also pass to the corner player or the ballhandler could keep the ball himself and run a play, but this is not preferred since the core concept of the triangle is passing the ball.

From this point, their is any number of plays or sets that you can run. As I said, a pinch post weak side play (example below) is a popular choice as is getting the ball to the interior low post player. Whatever the play, if a defense is able to stop it, a good team should look to reset the triangle and try something else.


Alright, there's only so much I can do to explain the triangle, so why don't we look at some examples. Before we do, I recommend checking out Triangle Offense blog and Coaches Clipboard both do good jobs at outlying the offense.

Example 1

Low post isolation

My first example is from a non-Phil Jackson source. This is a play from earlier this season, where the Pacers ran a triangle play. The Pacers have integrated parts of triangle into their offense after Brian Shaw came on as assistant coach. Shaw has since left the team, but the triangle is still a part of their offense. And they definitely have the parts to run it. The play above, is not your traditional set, but the top goal remains the same. Get the ball into the low post.

The play begins with CJ Watson bringing the ball up and an initial triangle is formed on the near side of the court. The amount of dribbling is a little unusual, but Watson dribbles across the perimeter as Lance Stephenson cuts around the back side to the strong side wing. Effectively, all that has happened is Watson and Stephenson have switched spots. Watson passes back over to the Stephenson at the wing and Stephenson swings the ball over to Paul George in the corner.

George makes the entry pass to Roy Hibbert in the post and then watch as he cuts back across the perimeter. Now you'll see that once again, another triangle has been formed, with Hibbert and Stephenson on the weak side. This new triangle also creates an isolation that allows Roy Hibbert to back down his man (Noah) in space for a turnaround jumper near the rim. You can see Stephenson's defender is wary to leave him and the 18 foot space makes it difficult for him to easily disrupt Hibbert's back down.

Example 2

Weak side pinch post

Alright, the play starts with Kobe bringing the ball up the court and passing to Gasol in the wing. Now, watch as Kobe cuts to the corner on the opposite side of the court, rather than moving to the near side corner close to Gasol. What this effectively does is form the triangle on the opposite side of the court and Gasol's side becomes the weak side, even though they have the ball.

In this formation, Bynum is also on the weak side in the post and Gasol is looking for the entry pass, but his defender is playing off of him and denying Bynum the ball. This is because they don't respect Gasol's perimeter jumper. Once Gasol realizes the entry pass won't work, he swings the ball back out to Derek Fisher, who's playing further out from the wing. He's so far out that he's actually closer to where the weak side wing player should be. Bynum shifts over to the opposite side of the paint and forms another triangle on the far side.

Fisher passes to Ron Artest on the strong side wing and Fisher moves over to Gasol, who has shifted closer to the basket. Artest quickly passes back to Fisher, who in turn passes back to Gasol. Then Fisher and Gasol run what is referred to as a pinch post play, where the bigman (Gasol) has the ball and the guard (Fisher) runs around him, effectively using Gasol as a screen. This is a play you will see over and over again in the NBA. Gasol passes back to Fisher as he moves around him and Fisher cuts to the basket.

Bynum's defender helps, leaving Bynum open under the basket. Fisher pulls up and alley-oops a pass to Bynum who puts it in. A great read by Fisher, who was probably hoping to get to the rim, but once he saw Bynum's defender rotate over, he instinctively found a way to get the ball to the open man.

I think this set shows you the countless ways you can set the triangle. The play started off with an unusual set, with two bigmen on the same side of the court. But with a couple of passes, the set switched over to a more traditional look.

Example 3

Weak side iso

This video is a great example of  how the offense continues to try to reform the triangle after every stalled play. The play starts with Fisher bringing the ball up and passing to the Kobe at the wing. Fisher than reverses and goes to the opposite corner. This is similar to example 2, where Kobe moved to the opposite corner. This again forms the triangle on the opposite side of the court and puts Kobe on the weak side. But in this case, Lamar Odom is out of position at the top of the arc.

Kobe passes back to Lamar and Lamar passes to Artest. Kobe then cuts across the paint to the low post and the triangle is finally formed. Artest looks for Kobe, but doesn't like the positioning and passes the ball back to Odom who has now shifted onto the weak side with Gasol. They run a pick and roll and Odom looks for the low post pass, but it's denied. Odom has also picked up his dribble, so he is stuck.

Kobe cuts back across the formation and occupies the weak side wing. Odom passes Kobe the ball and then moves to the corner while Gasol shifts back over to the other side of the paint. Artest and Fisher shift back into place and the triangle is formed once again with Kobe again on the weak side. With just a few seconds left on the clock, Kobe is forced to beat his man on the dribble and pull up for a jumper near the basket.

If there was more time on the clock, you might have seen Kobe opt to pass to Fisher, who was open along the top of the key.


I think the triangle is a phenominal offense that has worked for two of the greatest teams in NBA history, the Jordan Bulls and the Kobe-Shaq Lakers. But there are a couple things you should realize. The system worked, but it's not a miracle worker. It's not going to turn an average player into a god. If you don't have good players, if you don't have the right players and if you don't have smart players, it's not going to work.

For example, Kurt Rambis attempted to install the triangle in Minnesota in 2009. His top players at the time were Al Jefferson and then-rookie Kevin Love. Two players that fit in the system, no doubt. But outside of them were Ryan Gomes, Jonny Flynn and Corey Brewer. Not quite Kobe or Jordan.

Rambis had an abysmal time in Minnesota. Over the next two seasons, he compiled a 32-132 record and had one of the worst offenses in the league. He was fired in 2011 and returned to the Lakers as an assistant in the summer of 2013. Now, Love was a really good player, especially by his second season, but this is a case in point that any good triangle team has to have a competent wing player.

At this point, it's not clear if the Knicks have that piece. Is Melo good enough to get it done on the wing, or is he better used in the post (as Woodson has used him in the four spot the past two seasons). If the pieces the Knicks have now don't work in the triangle, will Jackson and his front office cronies be able to help? These are major questions/concerns, but I think, as long as he is allowed to work freely, Jackson is a smart man and a great basketball mind. If there is anyone that understands the type of players that are needed for the triangle, it's him. And I think he knows right now exactly how Melo should be used in the system. Or else, I don't know if he would have joined the Knicks. Jackson has always been a man that knows when to join a team at the right time.

Hopefully this is New York's right time.