Mike Woodson shuffled through the tunnels of the Palace of Auburn Hills, his gaze directed at his feet, his mind elsewhere. Alongside and behind him, he could hear his team, moaning, groaning, the occasional motivational quip — he thought he heard Carmelo Anthony say “We need that urgency, ya’ll” — but Woodson wasn’t fully listening.
He and the rest of the New York Knicks staggered into the locker room, Woodson stood just left of the doorway. He watched the players file in and sit quietly in front of their respective lockers. There was Amar’e Stoudemire, who had chucked his protective goggles into his locker in frustration; Pablo Prigioni stared at the ground; J.R. Smith’s face was buried in his hands; Carmelo Anthony grabbed a towel, thrashed it to his side, and stomped to the showers. Woodson made a motion to stop him, but instead let Anthony carry on. He paused for a moment, considered speaking to his embattled warriors, but instead shuffled back into the hallway, grabbed a spare chair, and took a seat. Suddenly the voice was back in his head.
“Where’d it go wrong, Mike?” The voice of Bob Knight, Woodson’s mentor, was all too familiar when Woodson was out of ideas. “This isn’t you, this isn’t that team from last year.”
Woodson hesitated, running his hands smoothly, ponderously, over his clean-shaved scalp. He replied.
“I- I don’t know. We were in it, but then the next moment we weren’t. It happened so quickly. I preached defense, movement, sharing the ball. Urgency! And these guys — it’s just not there.”
“Looked to me like that third quarter collapse was the issue.” Knight responded. “I mean… the offense got stagnant, too much isolation from ‘Melo, not enough play-calling, too much arguing with the refs. And then you guys couldn’t stop Stuckey. Rodney Stuckey, Mike. There’s too much switching, not enough communication, and no help defense for miles!”
“Well, you know, ‘Melo’s got the right to complain to the refs. He gets whacked down there!”
“Doesn’t matter, Mike. You’ve got to move the ball, get him open shots. Bargnani was hot, and he only got three of his 12 shot attempts in the second half! You can’t let these guys lose focus! Why’d you take Pablo out? Why didn’t Beno Udrih come back in? You didn’t have a point guard for most of the fourth quarter!”
“Well, we came back in the fourth quarter! ‘Melo got hot. I told them to get the ball to him and let him do his thing. He drew fouls, got buckets around the hoop-” Woodson was cut off by Knight’s roar.
“You gotta get him to the move the ball! He holds it, wastes time, attracts defensive attention, and then forces it up. Even when he’s hot, it takes his teammates outta rhythm! You need someone to facilitate movement out there.
“And even more, you gotta get these guys to help each other out on defense! As soon as one switch, one rotation goes wrong, the whole thing falls apart! Why didn’t you foul Drummond at the end? That guy can’t hit a free throw to save his life! Hack him, stop the clock, send him to the line, and take that pressure off your defense.” Knight stood and stared at Woodson, waiting for a reply.
“Defense…. Defense! Hey, wait!” Woodson exclaimed, whipping his head around the hallway, excitedly. “Defense! We only allowed 92 points tonight! That’s not so bad!” Woodson charged into the locker room, rejuvenated. “Slowly, but surely,” he thought, a smile on his face.
Carmelo Anthony – 37 minutes, 25 points, 8-20 FG, 8-11 FT, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 7 TOs, -5
Stagnation without representation! Anthony used his 37 minutes to seemingly kill any offensive rhythm, taking up large chunks of the shot clock dribbling the ball flat and making ill-fated attempts to create space and get off his own shot. Hounded by Josh Smith, troubled by the Detroit Pistons’ big-bodied help, Anthony floundered his way through the game, forcing too often, denying his teammates chances to capitalize on the worst defensive team in the NBA.
Final Grade: C-
Andrea Bargnani – 38 minutes, 13 points, 6-12 FG, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, -10
After a hot start, Bargnani nary saw a play called for him nor an easy look as the game wore on. Part of this is the Knicks’ (and Bargnani’s) doing, part of this was Detroit’s defense. The pick-and-pop was taken away, and he had less success the further he shot from the basket. The Pistons reacted accordingly, and it kind of shut Bargnani’s night down. Competed on the boards, still looked like a mess in any situation he didn’t guard the post one-on-one.
Final Grade: B-
Tim Hardaway Jr. – 11 minutes, 0 points, 0-3 FG, 1 rebound, 1 steal, -1
An inauspicious homecoming, as Clyde would say. Timmy returned to his college stomping ground and looked shaken by the support from the crowd.
Final Grade: C
Kenyon Martin – 29 minutes, 5 points, 1-2 FG, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, +3
Easily a season-high in minutes for K-Mart, who got the start against Detroit’s big lineup. Martin was one of three players with a positive +/-, and for most of the game, defended with vigor and brought some liveliness to both ends. Unfortunately, by the end of the game, he looked gassed as he failed to make as crisp of rotations, track Detroit’s big men, or clean the glass.
Final Grade: B
Pablo Prigioni – 23 minutes, 8 points, 3-5 FG, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, -2
It sounds like borderline homerism from someone who just genuinely likes him, but Pablo Prigioni is just about the only Knick that consistently plays hard, smart, and well. He got extended run as the only PG tonight and did a splendid job distributing the ball and encouraging movement. In particular, the Knicks excelled with a lineup of Prigioni, two shooters (Smith and Hardaway), and two rollers/finishers (Martin and Stoudemire). It’s also great to see Prigioni bark orders at Stoudemire and Bargnani for missed assignments. He, too, looked tired by the end.
Final Grade: A-
Iman Shumpert – 34 minutes, 11 points, 5-9 FG, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 TO, -9
Shumpert’s contributions on offense were quiet. He shot OK, but on kind of inefficient shots — his catch-and-shoots are strangely off-target while he’s done well creating for himself. His defense was excellent for most of the night as he hounded Brandon Jennings and made Stuckey work for his shots. At the end of the game, however, he got over-aggressive and got beaten or committed silly, harmful fouls that hurt the Knicks.
Final Grade: B-
J.R. Smith – 34 minutes, 18 points, 7-15 FG, 2-9 3FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 TOs, +1
Surprisingly accurate, but still not that beneficial. Smith’s shot selection was at least more geared towards attacking the rim, but he killed the Knicks by clanking some good, open looks from downtown. He also — along with many of the Knicks — played some pretty terrible off-ball defense.
Final Grade: C+
Amar’e Stoudemire – 15 minutes, 6 points, 3-7 FG, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, +2
It felt so good to see Amar’e flush some dunks with authority off genuinely great cuts and rolls to the rim. He also dished one gorgeous assist from the elbow to a rolling Martin. He also played this defense in an attempt to recover onto the pick-and-roll ball-handler, and, you know, got kind of lost:
Final Grade: C
Beno Udrih – 18 minutes, 0 points, 0-3 FG, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 2 TOs, -9
Beno got the start, but was kept on a pretty tight leash. Despite some nice dishing, he might have played the most atrocious off-ball defense of all of the ‘Bockers, and he didn’t do so well creating for himself. Still, would’ve been nice to see him a bit more than we didn.
Final Grade: C
The Knicks take on the Indiana Pacers tomorrow night. It will be ugly.
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