10 Things We Learned About the New York Knicks After Week 1

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistNovember 4, 2013

10 Things We Learned About the New York Knicks After Week 1

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    Through the first week of the 2013-14 regular season, the New York Knicks are 1-2 and haven't looked the part of an NBA title contender.

    After finishing strong against the Milwaukee Bucks, Carmelo Anthony and Co. dropped a couple of games in a row. Derrick Rose's game-winning floater upended the Knicks in a low-scoring affair against the Chicago Bulls, and then New York couldn't overcome a colossal deficit against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    The offense hasn't reached its potential (90.3 points per game), and the defense has been rather inconsistent. Andrea Bargnani is still trying to jell in his new surroundings, and the Knicks are working without J.R. Smith and getting limited minutes from Amar'e Stoudemire.

    What have we learned from this roller-coaster start? Find out as we unwrap 10 key observations from early-season play.

1. They're Colder from Long Range Than We Expected

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    A year ago, New York burst out of the gate undefeated on the strength of its outside shooting. Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak rained triples and buoyed the Knicks to the top of the Atlantic Division.

    We didn't expect a carbon-copy hot streak to start the 2013-14, but Knicks fans hoped the addition of Andrea Bargnani and Tim Hardaway Jr. would help compensate for the loss of Novak and Kidd.

    It turns out that nobody is shooting well from beyond the arc except for Pablo Prigioni. New York is connecting on a measly 30 percent from distance for a total of 21 treys.

    To give you an idea, the 2012-13 Knicks shot 47 percent from distance on 43 triples through their first three games.

    New York needs to start converting closer to 40 percent from three-land—otherwise it will put undue pressure on interior scoring and the mid-range exploits of 'Melo.

2. Turnovers Are More of a Problem Than Last Year

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    Coach Mike Woodson always encourages his teams to commit 10 or fewer turnovers, and so far, the 2013-14 version of the Knicks is falling woefully short of that benchmark.

    They gave the ball away 22 times against the Milwaukee Bucks, 15 times in a low-possession Chicago Bulls matchup and 16 times against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    New York can't just blame point guard Raymond Felton for the high rate. Everyone's chipping in for the turnover party, including Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Pablo Prigioni.

    The Knicks were tops in the NBA in 2012-13 when it came to taking care of the ball, averaging 12 turnovers per contest.

    Three games comprise a small sampling, but it's clear they have some cleaning up to do while righting the ship.

3. A Small Backcourt Is Effective and Might Be the Answer

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    There's an ongoing debate about whether to keep two point guards on the floor, and the Knicks coaching staff is still tinkering with the roster.

    While it may be too early in the season to make a definitive lineup declaration, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni are making a strong case for the two-point guard setup.

    Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal notes how effective the Knicks are on both ends of the court when the two facilitators play together. He tweeted that New York is shooting 53.3 percent when they're both in the game (via NBA Stats), and that the Knicks allow fewer points defensively compared to when one is on the bench.

    In certain matchups, this backcourt is overmatched physically, but in many cases, Felton and Prigioni hold their own as defenders and playmakers. They are terrific ball-movers who help get teammates open looks. Don't be surprised if New York uses this combination more often, even when J.R. Smith returns.

4. Slow Starts Are Hampering Knicks' Chances of Winning

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    In back-to-back games, New York has fallen behind quickly and found itself facing substantial deficits partway through the first half.

    Against the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, the Knicks were outrun in the first quarter and surrendered double-digit margins. The Wolves game was particularly alarming; Minnesota flattened New York and took a 40-19 advantage heading into the second quarter.

    The Knicks managed to storm back in both games and make things competitive, but Mike Woodson told reporters he would rather not get stuck in those kinds of predicaments again: "That was the difference in the game. I thought the second, third and fourth quarter we played pretty good basketball, but you just can't come out on your home court and dig a hole."

    Early turnovers and subpar transition defense piled up on New York rapidly, forcing the Knicks to spend most of their energy playing from behind.

    Every team wants to start every game strong, but for New York, this is a chief area of focus entering Week 2.

5. Defense Has Been Wildly Inconsistent but Shows Glimpses of Clamping Down

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    New York's defense could be a great one in 2013-14, but a few key areas need cleaning up.

    After two solid defensive outings against the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls, the Knicks were overwhelmed by the Minnesota Timberwolves, yielding 40 first-quarter points en route to a 109-100 loss.

    On more than one occasion, New York was caught flat-footed and gave up transition opportunities leading directly to points or free throws. Bloomberg Sports' Jared Dubin aptly compared the Knicks' display to last year's Los Angeles Lakers: "This transition defense from the Knicks is 2012 Lakers-esque."

    Despite this unfortunate trend and a couple of half-court communication lapses, New York's defense has shown some impressive stretches thus far.

    It has yet to give up more than 19 points in any fourth quarter. Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert anchored a stone-wall defense against Chicago, holding the Bulls to 11 points in the final period to give the Knicks a chance to win. The orange and blue then clamped down in the fourth against Minnesota, nearly executing a monumental comeback.

    Which defense will show up this week?

6. Tyson Chandler Came Ready

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    One of the most irreplaceable pieces of the New York Knicks' puzzle is center Tyson Chandler, who brings post defense, rebounding and an enforcer's energy to Madison Square Garden.

    He has nine total blocks to start the year, but more importantly, his physical presence and explosiveness are keeping the club alive.

    Chandler hasn't always been entirely effective, especially on the offensive end. But his mid-range jumper is noticeably improved, and he's 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.

    The Knicks absolutely need his rebounding and pick-and-roll talents, because they don't know what they'll get from the other frontcourt contributors from night to night.

    Carmelo Anthony will intermittently thrive on the glass, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin will chip in, but ultimately, Chandler is the big-man anchor that New York can't live without.

7. Knicks Are Being Extremely Cautious with Amar'e Stoudemire

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    The Knicks entered 2013-14 with the intention of being careful with Amar'e Stoudemire's knees, and they are not fooling around.

    They're not just holding him to 10 minutes per game and alternating between him and Kenyon Martin on back-to-back nights. Mike Woodson is also resting him in favor of Martin during other designated games, according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Sunday's tilt against the Minnesota Timberwolves was a fresh example.

    Stoudemire has played in just one of New York's three games, so Woodson is taking his time, easing STAT's knees back into the swing of things.

    Will his knees ever exhibit decent durability, and if so, will New York trust him with an expanded role later in the season? For now, the Knicks are keeping him on the tightest of leashes.

8. Knicks Are Still Relying on Frequent Isolations

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    Giving Carmelo Anthony the ball in isolation isn't always a bad thing. He is, after all, one of the most talented scorers on the planet.

    Resorting to isolations too often, however, can be unproductive and sometimes counterproductive to the New York Knicks offense.

    Relying on the one-on-one style means the team is living or dying by 'Melo's success, and it's not sharpening the group's chemistry and making them a better unit.

    The squad is turning to this iso-ball a bit too much to start the season, and Anthony has hoisted 61 shots in just three contests. He's shooting 38 percent from the field and 27 percent from behind the arc.

    His percentage will improve, but for the sake of the offense's health, New York must curb the tendency to clear out and watch him work.

9. Andrea Bargnani Is Still Trying to Fit In

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    Although his shooting is turning around of late, newcomer Andrea Bargnani hasn't been fully effective for the Knicks yet or found his niche.

    Offensively, there's still something missing in the chemistry between Bargs and his teammates. When he has the ball, they don't always know when he's going to drive, and when Bargnani's on the wing, he doesn't know if or when they'll cut.

    This miscommunication has resulted in several disjointed possessions and in some cases, turnovers. The numbers aren't in his favor so far, as New York is shooting just 41.6 percent when he's on the floor.

    As a stopper, he has struggled to perform in Mike Woodson's system, and that's why he's averaging 20.3 minutes per game. In the first three games, he has yet to record a plus-minus rating better than minus-9.

    New York hopes some of his shortcomings will be remedied within the next few games, but there may be serious limitations to Bargnani's production and cohesiveness this season.

10. Carmelo Anthony Wants to 'Retire in New York'

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    Carmelo Anthony's NBA future has been a hot topic lately, and the potential of him leaving after 2013-14 has created a stir in New York City and beyond.

    After declaring his interest in becoming a free agent in 2014, 'Melo put things in context during an interview with TNT prior to the Knicks' loss to the Chicago Bulls. He made it clear that he ultimately would like to remain a Knickerbocker and retire in New York:

    They pulled all the strings to get me here, and I wanted to be here, you know...And I want to retire in New York, let's be quite frank. I think a lot of people jumped the gun when I said I wanted to be a free agent. And yeah, I want people to come to play in New York. I want them to want to play in New York. I want New York to be that place where guys want to come play in New York.

    While his pro-New York stance is encouraging for Knicks fans, Anthony's 2014 offseason could go in one of many directions.

    It all depends on whether the Knicks can demonstrate an upward trajectory this season and whether he can truly attract high-profile free agents to the Big Apple. If things look grim in both of those departments, all bets are off.

    One thing is for sure: This conversation and topic won't die down anytime soon.