The New York Knicks Blame Game – Who’s At Fault For The Slow Start?

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Despite the win last night, the New York Knicks have been just abysmal so far this season. Over the past couple weeks, we’ve heard all the excuses in the book, but who’s really at fault here? We present the possibilities, you decide.

MANAGEMENT

Is it the GM’s fault that the team is underachieving? Steve Mills was thrown right in to the fire after being promoted just days before the season tipped off, so the fingers shouldn’t be pointed at him. However, the slow start certainly shouldn’t be pinned on former GM Glen Grunwald either. Given New York’s cap restrictions, Grunwald did all he could to improve the roster of a team that won 54 games and finished as a two-seed last season. Was trading a first round pick in exchange for Andrea Bargnani the smartest move? Probably not. Was giving the final roster spot to Chris Smith when there was such an obvious hole in the frontcourt a good idea? Definitely not, but if you ask me, both of those moves have James Dolan’s fingerprints all over them. Which brings us to our next suspect…

Is it the owner’s fault that his team isn’t on track for a championship? According to him, there’s no reason why this team shouldn’t be competing for a title, but Dolan certainly hasn’t helped the matter. His outlandish claims have put unnecessary pressure on everyone in the organization from day one, and the fact that he took his temper out on the Knicks City Dancers shows just how irrational he can be.

Speaking of irrational, can anyone say for sure why he’s trying to ride Iman Shumpert out of town? Shumpert’s value is probably inflated by the large market and favoritism by fans, but Dolan is hell bent on shipping his best young asset somewhere else. Yes, the Knicks could use a big man, but it shouldn’t be at Shump’s expense.

J.R. Smith should be the one on the chopping block, but considering how Dolan wanted him back so badly that he agreed to give his brother a roster spot too, I think it’s safe to say that won’t be happening. Anyone who thinks that Chris Smith is on the roster because he deserves to be is oblivious. NBA GMs have gone as far to say that Chris is the worst player in the history of the summer league. At this point, Dolan might as well be selling off roster spots to the highest bidder. I can see it now:

Calling all kids sitting courtside at MSG! Haven’t you always wanted to play for the New York Knicks? Well, starting next holiday season, you can, and it’s all just a signature away! Black Friday sale! Ride the pine for one of the league’s most laughable franchises for just $2 million! Comes with a free copy of whatever trash that JD & The Straight Shot is spewing out!

Anyways, it would make the most sense for the Knicks to to keep Shump and Tim Hardaway Jr and break down everything around them. Whether Melo leaves or not, the Knicks could enter the 2015 offseason with two promising wingmen, a draft pick, and tons of cap flexibility. No Dolan, that doesn’t mean you have to spend all the money right then and there.

The best thing that he has done is get Carmelo Anthony to New York. He had to go above then-GM Donnie Walsh’s head to do it, but in retrospect, it was the right decision. Now, he’ll be challenged to keep him. Kevin Love is a possibility come 2015, but that move won’t stop the layup line known as the Knicks defense. Dolan will always continue to throw money at the situation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this season is on his shoulders. Still, I’m sure that I’ll celebrate just as much when he sells the team as I will on the day that the Knicks finally win a title.

COACHING

Is it Mike Woodson’s fault that the team has just four wins through 17 games? He certainly can’t go out there and make the open threes they’ve been missing or position himself defensively, but he could definitely do a better job managing the lineups. The Knicks haven’t set a legitimate rotation yet, and while this is the time of year to tinker if you’re going to do it, something more permanent should probably be established if you’re sinking as fast as this team is.

This all came to a head in a loss to Denver last week.  The team was struggling to fight back until midway through the fourth quarter, when Tim Hardaway Jr knocked down two consecutive treys to get the Knicks within striking distance. During the next stoppage, Woodson did the right thing by keeping the rookie in the game and instead sending Shump in to replace J.R. No more than thirty seconds after making the right call, J.R. came trotting in for Hardaway Jr, with no basis for reason. Sometimes, especially when the team is struggling to find ways to win, you have to stick with the hot hand, even if it’s somebody new. This goes doubly when your “closing” shooting guard is shooting a career-low 34 percent from the field and had admitted to soreness in his surgically repaired knee.

I hate to sound like I’m stuck on repeat, but how much longer until Woodson “unleashes” Pablo Prigioni. After seeing how burned out Jason Kidd was at the end  of last season, I understand the minutes restriction, but that was a different year. This time around, Woodson doesn’t have the luxury of a huge lead in the standings. I’m not saying he should be pushing 30-plus minutes a night, but 16:02 per game isn’t enough. The offense flows much nicer with him out there and the defense responds to his energy.

In professional sports, coaches usually get fired long before they deserve to. Now that the nine-game losing streak is done with, let’s see if Woodson can bounce back. He certainly doesn’t seem intimidated by the adversity. Although it looked like he lost the team for a while, let’s be proactive and name someone that is a legitimate upgrade before riding him out of town.

Jeff Van Gundy’s name has been floated around as a possible replacement, but one go around with Dolan was probably enough for him. John Calipari is always a possibility, but he’s not going to desert Kentucky midseason. That leaves us with Herb Williams. Knick Nation has the ultimate respect for Herb, but would you really rather have him coaching over Woodson?

Maybe some fresh blood would kick start this team to the playoffs, but not even the best of coaches could get this team to a title. Still, the Knicks are definitely better than their record currently says.

PLAYERS

Is it the players fault that they haven’t been able to get anything going so far? Sure, they’ve been mismanaged and outcoached, but they haven’t been executing either. Injuries have contributed partially to this. Without Tyson Chandler, the defense is downright miserable, but lets not act like he’s going to come riding in on his white horse in a couple weeks and save the city from basketball embarrassment. Yes, the Knicks are a better team with Chandler on the court, but they should be much better than 3-10 without him.

In addition to missing Chandler for a bulk of the season, the Knicks have also missed games from Raymond Felton, Kenyon Martin, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Metta Ron Artest World Peace. Injuries happen to every team so it’s not to be used as an excuse, but for sure, the team would be better at 100 percent.

Aside from the health issues, there are a good amount of players underachieving. Although the slow start has next to nothing to do with last year’s scoring champion, even Melo has fallen off from last season.

Not that the Knicks were relying on him to be there every game and carry the team to victory, but Amar’e Stoudemire has regressed to a point where it’s almost hard to watch. This hurts doubly because of how much his salary counts against the cap. He has improved since the beginning of the season, which isn’t saying much, but it’s sad to say that we’ll never see the old STAT again. I legitimately feel bad for the guy. It’s not his fault that his body is failing him. Even after making a highlight-reel shotblock last night, Amar’e struggled to get off of the floor.

Also falling under the category of regression is World Peace. New York was so excited to have one of their own back in the city, but it hasn’t taken long for fans to realize that he’s a shell of his former self. The Knicks really could have used him about 15 years ago.

The backcourt has also been a major issue thus far. Felton has turned into a human turnstile on defense, and without the big man behind him to protect the rim, the defense has resembled a layup line. Up until last night, Shumpert has looked discouraged in uninterested. This is what happens when the owner wants to get rid of the team’s youngest talent. J.R. is a whole other story. What happened to the Sixth Man of the Year? What happened to 18.1 points per game with fundamental defense a tremendous rebounding for his position? Fans can only hope that it’s the knee thats bothering him because if this is what we’ll be witnessing for the next four years, the Knicks are in big trouble.

Hopefully, last night’s win breathes some new life in to the Knicks. They’re currently only 2.5 games out of first place, so the season is still salvageable. Still, the slow start has made New Yorkers worry about the Knicks in the long run.

So who should be to blame for this mess? Let us know in the comments section below.

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