Last night’s beat down to the Heat marked the end of the first half of the season for the Knickerbockers, and left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth of Knicks fans for at least the weekend. It has been a rollercoaster type season for the Knicks thus far, and they head into the All-Star break a game below .500. The break couldn’t have come at a better time for guys as the lockout condensed season has fatigued many, none more than Jeremy Lin, who was visibly overwhelmed by the Heat’s physicality and athleticism.
Despite the loss you have to feel confident, or at least encouraged by the way the Knicks have recovered from a horrific 8-15 start. Obviously Jeremy Lin is a vital component to the Knick resurgence, but all season long the defense has been a huge catalyst for the orange and blue. Offensive numbers are down across the board in the NBA due to the lockout season, but it does not discount the improvement the Knicks have made protecting their bucket. They are 12th in the league in points given up at just 94.1 per game, and second in the league in steals with 9.57 per game, two much improved stats from just a year ago.
Prior to Shumpert missing the last three games, he and Lin provided great on-ball defending of guards. Shumpert ranks fourth in the league with 2 steals per contest, with Lin contributing 1.5 steals per game since being inserted into the rotation. Heading into the draft the characteristic the Knicks loved about Shumpert was his ability to defend multiple guard positions, and he has done nothing short of that so far this year.
It has been said time and time again about Jared Jeffries contributions and how they cannot be told in the box score. While he has heard the wrath of Knicks fans countless times, he does all the little things to be a solid role player on a very good team. It seems every other play he is standing in there and taking a charge, or grabbing an offensive rebound to keep a possession alive. Jeffries also possesses the ability to potentially guard any position out on the floor, as we have seen him guard guys from Rondo to Lebron.
The backbone of the D is the big guy they brought in during the offseason, Tyson Chandler. Chandler has never been known as a premier shot-blocker, but he is the captain of that defense. It is an attitude change when a guy like Chandler anchors your defense, and provides a trickledown effect. It allows the other guys to fall back into their roles, and puts less pressure on them. Tyson has also done his job on the offensive end of the floor, with an outrageous field-goal percentage over 70% (The next highest is 58.3%). I would love to see Chandler develop any sort of a jump-shot, even from just 8-10 feet out. He does shoot 72% from the charity stripe, so it’s not like it is out of the question for him to add that tiny element to his game. Overall though the impact he has had on this team defensively can’t truly be measured, and a major reason for the Knicks turn around.
The ball movement and increased offensive efficiency created by Lin’s emergence has been well-documented, and did turn this team’s season around, possibly saving Mike D’Antoni’s job. The defense that’s been played all year by the orange and blue cannot be overlooked though. The Knicks now head into the break at 17-18, just 3.5 games back in the Atlantic. It’s time to sit back and joy the all-star festivities, although they have declined in excitement each year, at least in my opinion.