The New York Knicks just can't seem to catch a break in the final days before Opening Night. According to a report by ESPN's Chris Broussard, star power forward Amar'e Stoudemire is anticipated to be out at least six weeks as he recovers from a ruptured cyst in his left knee, on which he had microfracture surgery in 2005. Initially, Stoudemire was expected to miss no more than two to three weeks.
The long and short of it is that Stoudemire's injury throws the most annoying of monkey wrenches into the Knicks' plans for the season. The team is already shorthanded as guard Iman Shumpert continues to recover from a knee injury sustained in last season's playoffs, and losing their star big man is an even greater loss.
Head coach Mike Woodson runs an isolation offense that features Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony as the go-to guys, and even though the Knicks managed to post a 12-5 record without Stoudemire over the final stretch of last season, they cannot solely rely on Carmelo Anthony to carry the load this time.
As much as fans and team management may hate to admit it, some major adjustments will need to be made.
Start Carmelo Anthony at Power Forward
Most fans know Anthony as a score-first forward used to playing on the wing and creating his own shot. In fact, his resistance to play in a more structured system contributed to the Knicks' struggles to start last season and ultimately resulted in coach Mike D'Antoni's resignation.
Once Woodson took over and Stoudemire's back started acting up, however, he fared much better and even saw some time at power forward. Despite seeming small for the position at 6'8", 230 pounds, Anthony played quite well at the 4 and carried the Knicks into the playoffs.
That being said, Woodson should not hesitate to take this same approach over the first month and a half of the season. Anthony is a phenomenal athlete who excels at creating mismatches, thus making him play the position a lot "bigger" even though he is built more like a small forward.
He may be a score-first player, having a career scoring average of 24.7 points per game, but Anthony can also do some fine work when it comes to grabbing rebounds. He has averaged 6.3 per game for his career and posted 7.3 over the final month of last season.
More importantly, the Knicks had some pretty big wins when Anthony started at power forward in 2012, particularly an overtime victory against the Chicago Bulls and an eight-point win against the rival Boston Celtics. Anthony had 43 and 35 points in those games while also pulling down 19 total rebounds and shooting an incredible 53 percent from the floor.
Thus, though the prospect of being without Stoudemire and his size for an extended period of time may seem scary, Anthony has already proven that he can step up in his teammate's absence. With the Knicks more determined than ever to succeed in 2012-13, this is an adjustment that could prove critical to their final record.
Get Tyson Chandler More Touches on Offense
Chandler has been a defensive player his entire career and is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but many forget that in his first season with the Knicks, he posted some good numbers on offense as well. On top of 9.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, Chandler also averaged 11.3 points and led the NBA in field-goal percentage, shooting an unbelievable 68 percent.
Here's the kicker. Chandler only took about six shots per game last season. That's understandable, as he isn't a particularly strong scorer and the Knicks' offense was built around true scorers like Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
Still, as was mentioned earlier, Anthony cannot carry the offense on his own. J.R. Smith and Steve Novak can help out here, but their best work is done behind the three-point line, and the last thing the Knicks can afford to do is become overly reliant on long-range shooting. The loss of Stoudemire results in a lack of dominance on the inside, and that simply needs to be made up for in his absence.
Thus, why not give Chandler a chance to be one of the go-to guys on offense? He has great hands and does a good job of limiting his turnovers, so it's perfectly reasonable to believe that he can help Anthony carry the offense by using his length to create even more mismatches in the paint.
Granted, it's a big risk trying to turn a defense-first guy like Chandler into a primary offensive option, but it's one that the Knicks can't afford to not take.
Roll the Dice on Chris Copeland
The greatest surprise of the Knicks' preseason was the emergence of forward Chris Copeland. A 28-year-old rookie who played his college ball at Colorado, he spent the previous five years playing in Europe before heading back to the United States and signing with New York. Sure enough, he impressed everyone in the preseason and earned himself a roster spot.
Granted, it's highly likely that a pure scorer like Copeland, who stands 6'8" and weighs 225 pounds, is a candidate to spend some time in the D-League and fine-tune his defense. Yet he averaged 15.5 points over six preseason games and showed a great basketball IQ.
For example, if his three-point shot wasn't falling, he would abandon it and instead rely on his mid-range jumper or drive the lane to draw fouls. In his 34-point effort against the Boston Celtics, he shot 11-of-18 from the field and took nine trips to the charity stripe.
Thus, the Knicks don't have anything to lose by letting Copeland either start or get significant minutes off the bench for the first few games of the season.
Best-case scenario, he proves to be a valuable contributor in Stoudemire's absence and stays with the team in a bench role once the star big man returns. Worst case, the experiment fails and Mike Woodson finds another way to bring home some wins while Stoudemire recovers.
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