Knicks: Derek Fisher Turning to an Up-Tempo Offense


The New York Knicks are building the Triangle Offense around small forward Carmelo Anthony. That’s an indisputable fact that is as well-known as any schematic intention in the NBA.

The uncertainty surrounding New York, however, is whether or not it would adapt and embrace the up-tempo nature of contemporary offenses.

After playing at a molasses-like pace in 2014-15, the Knicks have adopted a new mentality. Not only are they moving at a faster pace, but they’re attacking without hesitation.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, Fisher is encouraging his players to run something of an up-tempo offense.

"“We want guys to understand that it’s OK to go down and try to score as quickly as possible. We’re not running to set up an offense, we’re running to go score,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “[This] hopefully just continues to free them from the idea that we have to run the offense a certain way as opposed to just taking what the defense gives you. We’re trying to make sure they understand that.”"

Said philosophy is a major change from a season ago.

According to ESPN, New York ranked No. 27 in pace at 93.7 possessions used per game in 2014-15. Only the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz were slower, with the New Orleans Pelicans matching the Knicks at 93.7.

Through three preseason games, the Knicks are No. 7 in pace, per Begley.

Plays like that are a major reason why.

The Triangle Offense is still the foundation, but New York will be capitalizing on the athleticism it’s added to the roster. The likes of Jerian Grant and Derrick Williams can erupt in transition, and Kristaps Porzingis is the ideal trailer.

Grant spoke on the change in philosophy, maintaining that the half court offense is still of extreme importance, but acknowledging the value of an up-tempo attack.

"“Obviously, in the half court we want to run our offense. But our first thing is to push the ball, run a drag [screen], run the swing, get to the basket and attack in transition,” Grant said."

That’s not a terrible idea.

In 2014-15, the Knicks ranked No. 29 in offensive efficiency. Only the lowly Philadelphia 76ers were worse, which is a testament to how much of an improvement New York needs to make.

For what it’s worth, every team that cracked the Top 10 in offensive efficiency made the 2015 NBA Playoffs.

Of those teams, only one had a pace below 95 possessions per game: the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland also had LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love—all of whom have made at least one All-NBA appearance—to offset the balance.

Clearly, it’s time push the pace.

The Triangle Offense—a system that Phil Jackson won 11 championships with—wouldn’t be run in the traditional sense under the influence of an up-tempo attack. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Coach Fisher believes that balancing the two philosophies is the way it should be.

"“That’s obviously the way it should be,” Fisher said. “We can practice running the offense, helping guys understand where opportunities come from, where shots may lie. But at the end of the day, they’re on the floor and they’re out there as NBA players, and they should just make plays that they instinctively feel. So a player like Derrick will never really always necessarily be in the right spot [in the offense] because his instincts tell him something else.“We have to trust that and find a balance between giving Derrick, as well as all of our players, the room to be who they are. But have some balance when it’s time … to execute as a five-man unit. We don’t want to take away his individual ability by putting him in a box.”"

In other words, the Knicks’ plan on offense is both logical and simple: adapt the Triangle Offense to the personnel on the roster.

Rather than forcing players to learn a system that may limit their contributions, the coaching staff is catering to their offensive needs. This will not only improve the quality of individual play, but the overall flow of the offense.

If nothing else, the Knicks should be a significantly more exciting team to watch in 2015-16 than they were in 2014-15.

Next: Is the new and improved Derrick Williams here to stay? Carmelo Anthony and Derek Fisher believe he is.

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