The New York Knicks went from an all-offensive coach in Mike D'Antoni to an all-defensive coach in Mike Woodson. Under D'Antoni the theory was as long as they outscored their opponents by running the court and shooting threes. Under Woodson the Knicks decided concentrate more on defense and utilize the isolation game. Ironically the team shoots more three pointers than under D'Antoni but fans rarely mention it because the team is finally winning and playing defense. However, the offense has a tendency to become stagnant and players end up as spectators instead of active participants. Could the Knicks use an offensive assistant coach to take the reigns on that end and allow Woodson to concentrate solely on the defensive end?
Fans watched the New York Knicks fall to a younger, less experienced and less talented Indiana Pacers team in the second round of the playoffs. Some blamed the elimination on inconsistent defense. Others pointed to the fact the offense was predictable and stagnant with Carmelo Anthony not having a secondary scorer to look to for help. The truth is, those were both problems to blame for the early elimination. However, hiring an assistant who could run the offensive side of the game for the Knicks could solve both problems.
The Knicks' offense was the third-best in the NBA during the regular season. However, they had the worst averaged for assists per game as well. When the playoffs began the assists decreased even more and so did their scoring. That eventually led to the Knicks being eliminated from the playoffs by the Pacers.
"I'm not saying [Mike Woodson] has a bad staff, but he definitely needs to hire someone to run that part of the team and open the offense up," one said.
The other scout recommended Jason Kidd, who recently retired, for the job.
"He's a guy that always had a great feel for the game," the scout said. "He's also a tremendous defensive player as well in terms of understanding positioning and just knowing how to get to the ball, rebounding the ball."
Zwerling offered five other viable candidates he thought could help the Knicks. His first suggestion is David Blatt who is currently the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv. He runs a Princeton offense. New York fans would love his offense. Basically, kiss isolation basketball goodbye. There'd be no standing around. Blatt's offense is based on constant movement, passing, cutting and moving without the ball. There'd be no more watching Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith hold the ball or dribble the shot clock away and making a move at the last second.
Zwerling's second suggestion is John Kuester who has been a long time assistant coach in college and the NBA and a one-time head coach of the Detroit Pistons. Kuester was an assistant on the Pistons championship team in 2004 along with Woodson. He believes in using screens and ball movement and pushing the ball in transition. Kuester once used LeBron James as a point-forward as the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Caveliers from 2007-09. Why couldn't he use Carmelo Anthony in the same way?
Zwerling's third suggestion is Ettore Messina who is currently the head coach of CSKA Moscow. Messina is a versatile offensive mind who can teach teams to attack slowly or with speed but would concentrate the most on playing offense through the block. He'd mostly concentrate on using Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler together properly. was recently in consideration for the Hawks' head coaching vacancy.
Zwerling's fourth suggestion is Keith Smart who who has NBA experience and believes in ball movement and an up-tempo pace. He specializes in using players strengths and attacking defenses when his offense has mismatches. He is also fluent in the triangle offense.
Zwerling's fifth and final suggestion is Quin Snyder who has NBA experience but is currently an assistant with CSKA Moscow. Snyder is known for his offensive mind and believes in the motion offense. He preaches ball movement and player movement and the use of the pick and roll.
Here's the bottom line, any of these guys could help the Knicks offensively. The defense should improve because Woodson can concentrate on that end and the offense should improve because, quite frankly, Woodson isn't exactly an offensive savant.
Are there others who could improve the Knicks offense? Absolutely, Zwerling didn't name the only five guys who could get the ball moving and kick-start the offensive production. However, all of these men are qualified. The next thing to question is if Woodson would be willing to hire an offensive coach and give up the reigns a bit. After all, he was brought here to be an defensive coach and ended up taking Mike D'Antoni's job. Does Woodson want to risk bringing in his replacement?
That's a different issue all together. In the end, it's clear the Knicks offense needs tweaking. The ball needs to move more, players need to stop standing around watching Anthony and Smith attack the defense and the team needs to figure out how to use all of its weapons. If they don't, they're really just playing to see how far they can get in the playoffs and not really striving for a title.
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