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NBA PM: Can Carmelo Fit With New-Look Knicks?
Posted By Alex Raskin On February 13, 2012 @ 5:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
It’s time to put aside the references to the D-League, Harvard and all the rest that came with the emergence of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin because there are some serious basketball questions to answer.
Carmelo Anthony is nearly ready to return to a different team than the one he left after straining his groin last week. The Knicks have returned to coach Mike D’Antoni’s high-pick-and-roll, up-tempo style of play during their five-game winning streak; and they’re no longer bogged down with isolation plays, 20-foot jumpers (basketball’s least-efficient shot) and the eternally frustrating catch-and-hold interruptions of nearly every offensive set.
But when asked how these two opposing basketball idioms can be bridged when Anthony makes his return later this week, both D’Antoni and Anthony greeted the chorus of questions with laughter.
“All this stuff about me fitting in,” Anthony told reporters on Monday, including SNY’s Adam Zagoria, “it’s funny, honestly.”
D’Antoni, with his usual optimism, agreed.
“He’s not gonna mess it up,” D’Antoni said of Anthony’s effect on the offense. “I think that’s ludicrous.”
But is it really? D’Antoni told reporters that Amar’e Stoudemire will return for Tuesday’s game in Toronto against the Raptors (he’d been grieving and attending the funeral of his brother, who died in a car crash last week), but nobody questions Stoudemire’s ability to conform because he’s already thrived in a similar system when he and D’Antoni were together in Phoenix.
Anthony, on the other hand, doesn’t have that style of play on his resume. Sure, he told reporters that he plans to “space out” the floor to give Lin room to run the offense, but eventually Anthony is going to catch it on the shoulder and wait for everyone to get out of HIS way before deciding between driving or shooting.
The Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Clark did an excellent job of compiling some of speed bumps Lin and Anthony will face in this newly arranged marriage.
For instance, the Knicks ran nine pick and rolls against the Celtics on Feb. 3, which was the final game before Lin moved into the starting lineup and turned New York City on its head. One week later, the Knicks ran 49 pick and rolls as Lin dropped 38 points to beat the Lakers.
Anthony, meanwhile, survives on a heavy diet of “shots taken 16-23 feet from the basket;” but as Clark points out, only 15% of Lin’s assists have come on those types of shots.
Nobody is denying Anthony’s talent. It’s just that Lin has been playing efficient basketball (he shot over 50% from the field over the last five games and has been drawing fouls at a much higher rate than anyone anticipated) while Anthony has made less than 40% of his field goal attempts this year. And Anthony’s style of play has to be seen as a detriment to Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak, who have averaged a combined 27 PPG during the five-game winning streak. As Clark mentioned, 45% of Lin’s assists have come at the rim (Chandler) while another 33% are being cashed in behind the 3-point arc (Novak).
Right now, everyone is saying the right thing. Yes, Lin and Anthony can each probably relinquish some control over the Knicks offense without damaging the team’s momentum. However, they currently rank fourth and fifth in the NBA in usage rate respectively (number of possessions a player uses per 40 minutes). Even if they each surrendered 10 possessions per game, there still may not be enough basketballs to go around.
Is everyone still laughing?
Defenses adjust to Greg Monroe
Not that anyone has noticed, but Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe currently ranks 10th in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating and is second among all centers in that category.
He doesn’t block shots and is routinely described as a “below-the-basket” player, yet that doesn’t seem to be a detriment on the offensive end of the floor, where he’s averaging 16.8 PPG and making 53% of his field goals.
Now here comes the hard part: The Pistons don’t have enough reliable scorers to prevent opposing defenses from double teaming Monroe and now the second-year center is going to have to make adjustments.
“I think I just find ways to get easier buckets, offensive rebounding and getting buckets on the move,” Monroe told HOOPSWORLD. “Just keeping attacking when I do have the ball in my hands, make strong moves. Be confident. Be patient.”
It sounds easy, but as Pistons coach Lawrence Frank says, it’s going to take some time.
“He’s a little bit more of a focal report,” Frank told reporters last week. “He’s on the scouting report. He’s highlighting the scouting report. He’s getting many touches throughout the course of the game. I think most teams kind of stick to their schemes and what they do. I don’t think teams necessarily go out of the ordinary, but I think there’s more of a focus and attention paid to him just because of the amount of times he has the ball in his hands.
“He has some turnover games,” Frank said of Monroe, whose turnover rate (percentage of possessions that end in a turnover) has gone from 9.7% as a rookie to 13.3% this year. “Some of it is a credit to the defense, some of it is just we have to value the basketball more. But I think, by and large overall, I think he’s played very, very well. Anytime you’re put in new situations, there’s going to be a time where it takes just a little bit to get comfortable being in that situation, where teams are really loading and shrinking the floor and sometimes putting two defenders on the ball.”
The good thing about the added defensive attention is that Monroe can finally show off his rarest talent: the ability to pass the ball.
Anyone who followed his career at Georgetown knew just how good of a passer Monroe was, but given his limited initial playing time as a rookie, he wasn’t able to show what he could do in that regard. Now, however, he’s boasting an assist rate (possessions that end in an assist) of 12.8%, which ranks 17th among centers, and that’s only going to improve.
“I’ve been able to find my teammates more, something I’ve always been good at, taken pride in,” he said. “Now I’m just getting the chance to do that.”
If Pistons president Joe Dumars can keep him surrounded by good, young players like Brandon Knight, Monroe can make things very uncomfortable for the opposition.
Lin, Westbrook named Players of the Week
Lin and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook were named Eastern and Western Conference Players of the week, respectively.
Lin helped keep the Knicks 4-0 last week while averaging 27.3 PPG, 8.3 APG and 2.0 SPG and his 109 points over his first four career starts are the most of any player since 1976-1977, according to the league’s press release. As CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger pointed out, Lin is the first player to win NBA and D-League Player-of-the-week honors.
Westbrook, meanwhile, helped the Thunder to a 3-1 record last week while averaging 30 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.3 APG and 2.0 SPG.
Check Out: Seattle’s bitterness toward Commissioner David Stern
David Nelson is a former Marine and current teacher at Seattle Community Colleges who penned something for the Post-Intelligencer that should be of interest to Sonics fans. There are some in that community who are willing to forgive Stern if it helps bring the NBA back to the Emerald City, but Nelson is certainly not in that group.
It’s an interesting take from a still heart-broken fan.
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