Meet the new Knicks!
Nothing like the old Knicks, but is that a problem?
BY DAVID THORPE
The Knicks offense is mind-blowingly simple. They don’t pass or move much. They don’t create easy buckets for each other.
But there is nothing simplistic about what’s happening in Gotham these days. They didn’t win nine of their last 10 with smoke and mirrors: There’s a strategy that could work in the playoffs.
TrueHoop loves to praise offenses that rely on tactics, screening, ball movement, and player movement. The Cuisinart, the Blender, Flex, or just old fashioned “good to great” passes that lead to wide-open shots make us giddy. The great Spurs teams were known for their pick-and-roll work with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, which they used as a fulcrum to create matchup advantages in numbers situations: 5-on-4, 4-on-3, 3-on-2 in small spaces. They’d start with a ball-screen action, then move the ball quickly to get wide-open shots. That’s where the phrase “good to great” comes from: Players gave up good shots to get great shots for teammates.
In fact, the greatest Knicks team, which won the 1969-1970 NBA Finals, was known to play the most beautiful brand of basketball—a delightful mixture of basketball geniuses and characters who passed and cut opponents to death. They also played as if they had six defenders on the court. Much of the spirit associated with Knicks basketball began with that team and its leader, Willis Reed, who once said:
We don’t have superstars, but we have guys of all-star caliber. It’s something we never had before. Any night it could be anybody, not only one of the five starters. Cazzie can come off the bench and give us the quick shot we need. Or Stalls. Or Riordan. You don’t know who is next. One guy can pick another up. A guy makes a mistake, you pat him on the fanny and say, “Forget it. We’ll make it up.”
Those offenses hold a special place in history.
The other side of the spectrum is a more isolation-based offense, where you've got players capable of creating their own shots and of making those shots at a high level—or drawing fouls in 1-on-1 play. Many NBA followers believe these systems are inferior.
Yet, the Knicks are just about the hottest team in the NBA, and they’re winning by doing exactly that.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau’s system might look basic, yet these Knicks are kicking the league’s ass with offensive firepower. They know who they are now—and they’re killing teams with their newfound identity.
One man can make a difference
Last year, the Knicks went from surprising to disappointing, largely because they lacked an identity. James Dolan’s team has long been a defunct circus.