Usually there is no “D” in D’Antoni, however a few minor moves seem to indicate that the Knicks are finally committed to stopping their opponent on the defensive side of the floor. Although the Knicks head coach has had plenty of both regular season and postseason success, his lack of an NBA Finals appearance has caused the public to dub him as too offensive-minded to ever win a championship. For all of those D’Antoni doubters, help is finally on the way.
It all started back in June during the NBA Draft when most Knicks fans were clamoring for New York to select a center to start next to Amar’e Stoudemire. However, just because the fans want a big, doesn’t mean you have to take one. Instead, the Knicks took who they thought would be the best defensive talent, Iman Shumpert, who quite possibly could be a Chauncey Billups replacement in near future. Of course Shumpert was booed at the draft, but have you ever seen a Knicks pick not named Patrick Ewing that wasn’t? Despite the masses’ disapproval, it seems that the Knicks may have gotten a steal.
Judging by his interviews, Shumpert certainly seems to have the right attitude and mindset. In his most recent chat, he deemed his defensive play as contagious and went on to explain his eagerness to familiarize himself with teammates at a training camp run by Amar’e in the near future. Even more recently, Shumpert dropped 25 points to go along with six rebounds in a recent “Lockout League” game in Las Vegas.
CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely had this to say about Shumpert’s debut: “There were a handful of rookies, but Shumpert was hands-down the best of the bunch. His athleticism was impressive, but he showed the ability to knock down jumpers as well which would make him an extremely tough cover in the coming years.”
Already having one of the most offensively-gifted minds in the game in D’Antoni, the Knicks’ second plan of action this summer was to appoint a defensive-minded assistant coach. That move came a few weeks ago when Mike Woodson was hired to the staff.
While some might see Woodson as a future replacement for D’Antoni, for the short term it can be viewed as a one-two punch much like the situation in Boston last year with Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank. A little help goes a long way.
Woodson, a former first-round pick of the Knicks, perfected his craft under the tutelage of Larry Brown. After winning a championship in 2004 with the Pistons, he took over as the head coach in Atlanta. Although he coached the Hawks to a top-10 defense in almost every season he was there, his failure to make adjustments in a 2010 playoff series against the Magic led to his demise.
Despite his failures in Atlanta, an assistant job will give him the capability to concentrate solely on his bread and butter: defense. Sure the Knicks don’t have the defensive pieces that the Hawks had, but with plenty of cap space and a new team attitude, Woodson might be just what the Knicks needed to put them over the top.
To be competitive on defense, two of the most important things to have are a tough mentality and quality coaching. Obviously, the Knicks were lacking in this department over the last few seasons. But with Donnie Walsh out the door, a new Knicks regime plans on being dedicated on this front. One thing for sure though is that the 2011-12 New York Knicks will be much better prepared for each and every game that they play. Combined with their prolific offense, they will once again be a force to be reckoned with.
What do you think?
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