New York Knicks: Where is the effort?

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New York Knicks are playing, for at least the next month, without their defensive anchor Tyson Chandler.  They have two power forwards, Kenyon Martin and A’mare Stoudemire, who are on minutes restrictions.

For the first five games, the Knicks were without the suspended J.R. Smith’s 18.1 points per game from last season.  The Knicks are also going through the process of integrating new players such as Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace into their roles on the team.  All of these issues would explain the slow 2-4 start the Knicks have gotten off to thus far, but the biggest problem is simple.

Lack of effort.

The Knicks have been getting outplayed in every facet of the game.  Mike Woodson called Sunday’s 120-89 loss to the Spurs “unacceptable”, Carmelo Anthony — 16 points on 5-10 shooting — added “embarrassing” to describe the performance.  This is the Knicks third consecutive poor home court performance.  This is disconcerting for a team who dominated their home floor last season.

Inexplicably, the Knicks seem to lack focus and confidence.  Anthony called a team meeting after the Knicks lost to the Charlotte Bobcats last Tuesday to address their early season woes.  Anthony is trying to fill the leadership role left by veterans Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, and Rasheed Wallace.  The Knicks looked like they had taken the meeting to heart in a 101-91 win over the Bobcats last Friday.

However, it did not last as the Knicks came out flat against the Spurs on Sunday.  The Knicks were down 10-0 before even breaking a sweat, and trailed by as much as 37 in the second half.  There is no shame in losing to a team that was a free throw away from winning a championship last season, but how the Knicks are losing is the issue.

As Mike Woodson said, “Right from the start, we let our offense, shots that we missed, dictate how we defended on the other end.”  The Knicks are struggling on offense — as a team they are shooting 43% from the field and only 32.4% from three — but their defensive struggles are indicative of the lack of effort.

The Knicks are missing Tyson Chandler, who is a  big part of the defense, but as Woodson said, that is no excuse for their poor play.

Smith was rusty in his return from suspension -- AP/Seth Wenig

Smith was rusty in his return from suspension — AP/Seth Wenig

“Wasn’t nothing pretty about our game,” Woodson said. “You give up 17 layups, that doesn’t have anything to do with somebody being at the rim.  The Knicks have been constantly beaten off the dribble and slow to rotate.  The Knicks may have to re-examine their defensive strategy of switching all screens.  Switching screens has left the Knicks in bad mismatches in the post and on the perimeter.

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The Knicks had hoped J.R. Smith would help the offense in his debut on Sunday. Instead, Smith looked every bit like a guy who has not played all season.  Smith was 1-9 for 5 points with 4 turnovers.  He will need a few more games to get adjusted to playing at game speed.

Despite the early season struggles, Carmelo Anthony remains confident the Knicks can turn the season around.  “I’ve been through worse, trust me,” Anthony said. “I been through worse in my career. That’s why my confidence is sky high that this can get turned around, and we’ll find a way to get it rolling.”

It has been a rough 6 games for the Knicks, but it is not time to panic.  The Knicks have plenty of time to turn this season around, but if they don’t figure it out soon their season will turn into a huge disappointment.

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