Getting Defensive in the Big Apple

By Ray Floriani

Last season the New York Knicks finished 23-59. The campaign, to no surprise, resulted in Isiah Thomas’ being relieved of his coaching duties. In his place comes the well respected Mike D’Antoni who came East from Phoenix.

D’Antoni has a solid reputation and is called a ‘player’s coach’. Still, he has a monumental task ahead. One of his jobs will be changing the negative mindset. Last year’s Knick team basically packed it in before the tree went up in Rockerfeller Center.

What needs fixing the most? Simple, defense. The Knicks were 29th in the league with a defensive efficiency of 111.9. By contrast the Celtics led the NBA at 98.9 defensive efficiency. Even eighth playoff seed Atlanta was 108.9, a significant distance from the Knicks when you factor in possessions. The pace of the Knick games was midpoint (15th) at 91.6 possessions per outing. There are those who argue if you do not have the talent you push the pace and beat the opponent down the floor. Others say you slow each possession a bit and try to ‘shorten’ the game. Regardless, it wasn’t the pace that did the Knicks in.

Offensively the Knick efficiency was 104.7 (23rd in the league). Obviously the offense needs direction but job one is defense. Not only was the efficiency poor but the Knicks were 28th in turnovers forced (a TO rate of 13.8) and 21st in offensive rebound rate (27.3%). The Knicks had a poor defensive efficiency and part of it, obviously, was their inability to force turnovers and their generosity on the offensive glass.

D’Antoni comes to the Garden with a reputation of offensive acumen. Regardless, job one in getting this thing turned around will be on the defensive end.

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I have mixed feelings about D’Antoni with an elite team but in the NY situation I think he will have a pretty good first season.

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