With the New York Knicks lacking defensive skill and effort for a number of years, something has to change. Can head coach Jeff Hornacek make it happen?
The New York Knicks have been a poor defensive team for a number of years. With a number of young players, including defensive-oriented guard Frank Ntilikina, it’s time for that to change.
The Knicks need to look toward 2019. One way to help themselves make the transition to future success easier is to start now. They started playing the younger players, which was a great first step.
Now, it’s time to emphasize defense.
Give The Players A Reason
Young players like Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, and Emmanuel Mudiay have gotten the playing time that should definitely help them improve and develop. However, there are some players who have still not been able to crack the lineup.
If this team is ever to be successful, defense must become the No. 1 priority. Whether it’s the younger players or the skilled veterans, a message must be sent.
One way to start to make this happen is by sending a message by forcing the youth to earn the youth movement. The players know they are no longer competing. Whatever head coach Jeff Hornacek wants to do with the roster really has no implications on this season, but may have implications on future ones.
I would take defensive-oriented players like Ntilikina and play him over Burke and Mudiay. This will surely confuse people at first glance. Then, verbally let the team know that the players who are going to play defense are the players who are going to be in the game.
Spread the message to the media, as well. With evidence backing it up, players will start to realize what it’s going to take to get minutes. This method could even work by playing Lance Thomas and Courtney Lee over Tim Hardaway Jr.
Obviously, Hardaway still needs to get his bulk of minutes, but subtle changes like that should be enough to send a message.
The Effect This Will Have
More than half of this roster is playing with something to prove. Players like Burke, Troy Williams, Dotson, Luke Kornet, and Hicks have to prove they belong. Those players are willing to do anything for minutes.
Make no mistake, if improving in defensive skill/effort is what it takes to get minutes, most players are willing to do it. With a roster full of young players who are in a fight for minutes, this becomes even more likely.
Showing that no ego is safe, the younger players will feel as though they’re on an equal playing field—and it will be true.
Do not allow players to be given minutes; make them earn them.
This well help the youth earn the youth movement by improving defensively rather than just throwing in the towel on the season. A win-win scenario. The youth will hopefully earn minutes, setting the youth movement in motion with defense emphasized.
If coach Hornacek shows the New York Knicks that playing defense will be rewarded with playing time, the defensive effort will rise. The defensive philosophy for the future would then be established.