Photo: Illustration by Tony Manfred
The New York Knicks 121-79 blowout of the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday is a complete aberration because Portland stinks.It was Mike Woodson’s first as interim head coach after Mike D’Antoni abruptly quit.
The game was a blowout so early on and the bench got a ton of playing time, so there’s no point in using it as a barometer for how well the team will perform going forward.
The best way to assess how well a Woodson-Knicks offence will be is by looking at the teams he coached while with the Atlanta Hawks.
It took a few years for Woodson and the Hawks to find their footing in the Eastern Conference, as they didn’t make the playoffs until his fourth year at the helm in 2007-08. Once there, Woodson and the Hawks got to the post season three years in a row.
Those Hawks teams all had very similar makeups: a very good wing scorer who likes creating his own shots (Joe Johnson), a solid secondary option (Josh Smith), an OK post player who rebounds well (Al Horford), a decent point guard (Mike Bibby for the first two years), and a reliable bench scorer (Josh Childress, Ronald Murray, and Jamal Crawford alternated in this role).
The similarities between those Hawks rosters and the current Knicks roster are obvious: Carmelo Anthony in Joe Johnson’s role, Amar’e Stoudemire in Josh Smith’s, Tyson Chandler in Al Horford’s, Jeremy Lin in Mike Bibby’s, and the J.R. Smith–Iman Shumpert–Steve Novak trio coming off the bench.
Woodson was successful with those rosters, so he’s likely to ride out the season in New York using his Knicks players in a similar fashion.
THAT should concern many Knicks fans.
Those Atlanta teams made the playoffs and even won a couple series, but they didn’t run a high-flying team ball offence like the one everyone became enamoured with while Jeremy Lin took the world by storm.
Woodson’s offenses featured at least three of his regulars with usage rates above 20 per cent. That usually means a team is spreading the ball around effectively, but that wasn’t true with the Hawks.
Atlanta was middle-of-the-pack to bottom of the league in assists and field goal percentage during that three-year stretch. Joe Johnson did little more than hold on to the ball forever before taking a shot. Josh Smith would primarily score on lobs or fast break plays (virtually unreliable unless you’re the Chris Paul-led Clippers or LeBron’s Miami Heat).
Sound familiar Knicks fans?
As has been the case the last few weeks, expect the ball to stop moving as soon as it gets to Melo’s hands, rendering Lin’s pick-and-roll game ineffective.
Oh and about that defence, Woodson’s Hawks teams weren’t that great at it, either. Josh Smith’s long arms had to bail the rest of the team out plenty. Tyson Chandler knows what that’s like too.
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