Camby Issue Aside, Knicks Allowing Teams to Dictate Tempo

Tommy Dee

Let’s forget the Marcus Camby situation for a moment, and why Mike Woodson failed to call on his number despite desperately needing the veteran big last night against his old team. Let’s assume he wasn’t 100% healthy. While that issue will play itself out the more Woodson allows it to, the far bigger issue I take away from the team’s lackluster Texas trip is how Mike Woodson allowed for the opposing team to dictate pace.

Ray Felton said it the other night in Dallas. The Mavs sensed the Knicks were on the second game of a back to back and “attacked their legs” which is to say they “picked up the pace.” They played faster and under control and benefitted from rhythm jump shots. Dallas had some ball movement, but the ball often stuck to Vince Carter’s hands. Carter made the most of his best shooting night of the season finishing with some timely hoops and 25 points for the game.

We are 11 games into the season and the book is out on the Knicks. They see a team that did well to guard the perimeter, contest then close
possessions. In the last two games they saw a team really struggle with pace. My point is why is Woodson allowing for the other team to dictate pace?

MOTE suggests pace is the internet saber-metrician’s buzz word for a thing long-referred to in the basketball world as tempo. Like in music, tempo is critical to establishing team rhythm fast or slow and, like Houston and Dallas have shown the last two games, if you get scorers in the right rhythm at this level shots can fall at an astonishing rate. As a coach it’s a very helpless feeling. Clyde Frazier calls it players all having the “knack” for “getting into the act”. As a Hall of Fame guard who could score and pass, Clyde knows the significance of controlling tempo. So, too, should Woodson.

The Knicks will adjust defensively and they hope teams won’t continue to bang down open jumpers and get to the rim at will off a basic dribble drive offense (looking at you Tyson Chandler). They will force the ball back to the perimeter and improve on rotations. But where they really need to be better is getting their own shots later in the shot clock. What the Rockets did to them last night is pretty much exactly what the Bengals and most recently the Patriots did to the local football teams. When you get hit with a big first punch your game plan changes. The Knicks got caught up in a scoring fest, fell behind and took the Rockets bait of wanting to play quickly up and down. That allowed for James Harden to have a field day. Harden made 7 field goals and went to the FT line seemingly every time he went to the hoop. And he had 9 assists being the Rockets primary ball handler.

Bottom line is the Knicks better do a better job of controlling tempo tomorrow against the Pistons, who are sure to try and attack the Knicks’ legs coming off a travel day.