NBA AM: Knicks Running Out of Time
When the New York Knicks overhauled their roster to acquire Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups last month, nobody said that the road to success would be easy to navigate. The Knicks instantly had star power and support, but developing chemistry and winning games was going to be more difficult given the drastic changes.
Now, the Knicks are 6-5 since their blockbuster trade and are still trying to get everyone on the same page. They’ve had two ugly losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and last night they didn’t show up against the Indiana Pacers, who were playing without Danny Granger. While they’ve shown what they’re capable of in their wins against the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks, it’s clear that the group is going through an adjustment period that needs to end quickly.
"The things we can control, we need to do that," Anthony told reporters after the loss. "We need to get control of that and figure out what’s going on quick. Right now is not a time for us to hang our heads and do none of that stuff, mope around. We got to figure this thing out and keep going."
Injuries have made matters worse for New York. A thigh bruised sidelined Billups for six games, which hindered any progress that the team had been making. While Toney Douglas played well in his absence, the Knicks lost two week of precious time in what is already a race against the clock as they try to mesh before the playoffs.
"Chemistry [is the issue]," Stoudemire said. "We just had Chauncey back for the first time in a while. Not to make excuses but we’re still working at trying to figure out our identity. Sometimes it takes losses like this, but we have to make sure we’re ready for those guys in the next 48 hours."
"It’s a little understandable with Chauncey coming back," Mike D’Antoni added. "It does throw your rhythm off. He’s such a big part. We’ll have to get through that, figure out what we need to do and get a little bit better."
New York has had just one practice since revamping their roster so the seven new players have had to learn everything on the fly.
"We have had one real practice," Billups said. "The trade happened three weeks ago. It’s not that easy. We’re practicing in the games. You have to figure out what guys like to do and tendencies in game situations. And that’s not easy."
Whenever a team implements new focal points midseason, the adjustment period is lengthy and difficult. That has been the case in New York, but the Knicks have less than one month to get comfortable before their regular season comes to an end. The road has been long and winding thus far, but it’s time to see what the Knicks are really made of.
Irving Hoping to Return: The Duke Blue Devils are already one of the best teams in the country, but how good would they be if they had Kyrie Irving serving as their sixth man during the NCAA Tournament? We may find out soon enough.
Irving, arguably the best player in the nation, has been sidelined since injuring his right big toe in early December, but he isn’t ruling out the possibility of making a March Madness cameo.
"I can’t really put a percentage on it," Irving told The Charlotte Observer. "It all depends on how I feel, and if the medical staff feels good about it."
While the freshman is sticking to the company line when speaking on the record, sources close to Irving say that he’s optimistic that he’ll be able to return. He’s very excited about Duke’s chances in the tournament and he wants to contribute, even if it’s only in a reserve role.
Irving worked out on the floor of the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday and Sunday, and Nike has already designed a custom shoe for him that stabilizes his toe to prevent further injury.
The point guard hasn’t been cleared for full speed scrimmages yet, but the medical staff could change that as early as next week. While things are looking good for Irving, head coach Mike Krzyzewski wouldn’t confirm that his star would be available.
"We’re far away from that decision," Krzyzewski said. "But he’s doing well. He’s worked out here every day and we’re not trying to hide anything. We tried to show that first of all we do have a guy named Kyrie and secondly that he’s progressing well."
If Irving is able to return, it would do wonders for his draft stock. Prior to his injury, he was projected as the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Teams drooled over his potential and many decision makers fell in love with his game.
After the injury, the general consensus around the league was that Irving would have to perform well in pre-draft workouts in order to remain at the top of the board. But if he’s able to play in the tournament, teams will be able to evaluate him against other top talent and he won’t have nearly as much riding on his workouts.
Irving could be the wildcard during this year’s tournament and his status will likely make or break plenty of brackets. Even if he’s only playing a limited role, there aren’t many players better than him and I can think of 67 teams that are hoping to see Irving in street clothes rather than custom Nikes.
Boston’s Annual Reminder: It’s mid-March which means it’s about time for the Boston Celtics to remind everyone just how good they are. Last night, the Celtics held the Milwaukee Bucks to a franchise low 56 points on .314 shooting from the field.
The only Bucks player to score in double digits was Earl Barron, who had ten points in ten minutes. If it weren’t for two late field goals by Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee would have finished with an all-time low 18 points in the first half.
"I didn’t have my NBA record book on the bench with me tonight, so I didn’t realize it," Paul Pierce told the Boston Herald. "It was just encouraging to put together a four-quarter game of defense. It was just good to get comfortable in our own building again and play the type of defense we like to play."
Getting back to that suffocating defense will give the group confidence going forward, which Kevin Garnett alluded to after the game.
"Today we just had a different focus," Garnett said. "We don’t like to lose around here. Something is bigger than everyone in this room."
Bucks head coach Scott Skiles didn’t know what to say following the defeat, and he couldn’t believe the lack of effort his players showed.
"That’s about as humiliating a defeat as you’ll ever see," Skiles said. "Right at the jump ball [Rajon] Rondo got right up into Brandon [Jennings], they got right up into our guards, and they got us on our heels and took our competitive fight away from us. We pretty much just gave into it."
It was only a matter of time before Boston delivered a not-so-subtle reminder that they’re still a force to be reckoned with in the East.
Twitter: HOOPSWORLD has launched a new Twitter module where we will be releasing more breaking news and insider-type information via Twitter. Make sure you are following all of our guys to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskin82, @stephenlitel, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: HOOPSWORLD has two NBA chats today, starting with Bill Ingram at 11am EST. Bill will do his best to answer as many of your questions as possible. HOOPSWORLD editor Jason Fleming will host his weekly chat tonight at 8pm EST. The chats fill up fast so getting in early always helps your odds. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: Upcoming HOOPSWORLD Chats.