12/19/13 By John Schmeelk
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When I write I like to try to support my opinions with whatever numbers I can find.
It’s easy to throw stuff out there without any real evidence to back it up. With the growth of advanced statistics and analytics a lot of things can be proven with numbers. What I’m going to write about today has circumstantial evidence at best, but I think there are enough examples over the course of the last two season to prove my point: from top to bottom, the Knicks are a low-IQ organization.
Let’s start with the players. Anyone that watchedAndrea Bargnani shoot a three-pointer, up two, with the shot clock turned off Wednesday can attest to his basketball intelligence. J.R. Smith? Have you seen his shot selection? He’s near the bottom of the league in terms of basketball IQ. Just last week Carmelo Anthony told the media how he needed other players to help him late in games. Yet last night when Beno Udrih took a wide-open 10-footer on the baseline (that he usually makes), Melo gave him the stink eye for not giving it to him for a contested wing isolation. Let’s not forget Melo’s boneheaded intentional foul against Dwight Howard either. The entire team’s inability to understand when it’s smart to switch and where to properly rotate defensively speaks for itself. The Knicks poor performance in close games this year can be linked to them doing inexplicable and dumb things in the final minutes of games.
Let’s move up one level to the coach. His inability to manage the end of the game against Washington — from offense-defense situations to the timeout debacle — was glaring. Beyond that, he refuses to tailor his lineups based on statistical evidence that shows which players work best together on the floor. His constant insistence to play big is a perfect example of his stubbornness. Sticking with Smith despite his horrible play is another. He has also said things like “we won games last year because of our defense.” He’s had a number of quotes this season that simply defy the facts.
The next item is both on the coach and on the medical staff. After setting specific rules on Amar’e Stoudemire in terms of not playing back-to-backs or major minutes, Woodson broke every single one of them with aplomb. Shockingly (or not), Stoudemire now has swollen knees. In his first game back from a broken leg, Woodson ran Tyson Chandler for 36 minutes to the point where his calves began to cramp. Woodson readily admitted Stoudemire would not have played those minutes if the team wasn’t struggling so much. Do I need to explain why that is both stupid and irresponsible? Let’s not forget last year when Rasheed Wallace was day to day with a foot injury for four months before playing one game and being put on IR.
Let’s move up a level to the front office. They have Chris Smith on the active roster, for no other reason that he is the brother of someone else on the roster. With three point guards (Toure’ Murry the latest) being hurt, the Knicks could have actually used that extra roster spot on an actual NBA-caliber player. Jeremy Lin was that guy a couple years ago. Something like that is not a mistake — it’s a flat-out stupid decision that no competent or intelligent GM would make.
Finally, there’s ownership. This is where the list of examples gets rather long. James Dolan decided to fire his general manager at the start of training camp because it was recommended by McKinsey, a financial consulting firm. Apparently Glen Grunwald, who has a law degree from Northwestern and MBA from Indiana, was old school and not smart enough to use new things like analytics. Yeah, sure. He replaced Grunwald, by the way, with someone was running MSG during a sexual harassment scandal. I don’t recall any other NBA team firing a GM at that time of year. Let’s not forget Dolan’s obsession with Isiah Thomas, who couldn’t get fired if he traded two unprotected first round picks for Eddy Curry and signed Jerome James to a $30 million contract. Yes, those things actually happened.
Similarly, no NBA team has instituted a media policy quite like Dolan. He wages a virtual war on the media, which does nothing but pull the team further away from the fans and his consumers. He refuses to ever give a real interview to answer for his blunders during his years owning the team. Those are not the decisions of a smart person. They are the moves of someone who is paranoid, someone who has no idea what he is doing and is terrified of giving others the opportunity of seeing it. Instead, he wastes his time with things like benching the Knicks City Dancers.
Perhaps the most damning thing people can say about the Knicks is that they never learn from their mistakes. Anthony has never figured out that consistent effort on defense would make him a better leader and help the team win more games. Smith still doesn’t know what a good shot is. Woodson still hasn’t learned that spreading the floor and playing Carmelo at the four is the best way to win games. He has also never learned that isolation plays are not high-percentage plays. Knicks general managers consistently mortgage the future of the franchise again and again for minor short-term gains. The team never wins but it doesn’t matter. The owner is the worst of all, going through GM’s and coaches faster than anyone in the league.
The Knicks are not smart. Nothing is done with a modicum of intelligence. They’re a laughingstock to fans, media and other NBA executives. It starts at the top and trickles down to the bottom.
Donnie Walsh fixed some of it. But the franchise has since reverted back to chaos.
Until that changes, nothing is going to matter.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for the latest on the Knicks, Giants and everything else New York sports.