Over the past playoff series and a half, Coach Mike Woodson has continued to mix and match the order of his rotations in hopes of helping the Knicks find the perfect formula for taking down opponents.
Unfortunately for New York, the team has struggled in spots against both the Celtics and Pacers to maintain a balanced attack for 48 minutes in each contest.
But as the Knicks look to build upon their existent momentum from a game two victory, Woodson will have the luxury of bringing both Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Novak off his bench.
Of course, an appearance by Stoudemire will likely be limited to about 10-15 minutes off the pine at most. What’s more, such an outing by STAT is surely to serve as more of an emotional boost for his squad than anything else. The type of impact he will actually have on the court remains to be seen.
But in addition to the big man, Novak is also raring to go after being slowed by back spasms. The sharpshooter did make a short-lived appearance at the end of game two, but this was only due to the fact that his team was ahead by a solid amount, and Indiana had otherwise given up.
Had Novak been sitting on the bench all game beforehand simply because Coach Woodson was hesitant to use him following the injury, or because Novak is actually falling out of favor with his coach?
With Stoudemire set to return, and minutes across the board already difficult to come by, does Novak deserve meaningful minutes of his own?
The fact is, Novak has struggled to emerge as the threat from long range the Knicks discovered him to be in 2011-12. This past season was an overall struggle for him, perhaps not judging by statistics, but by impact.
Opposing teams have begun (if not have already done so) to figure Novak out, as well as how to cover him. Taking a man out of their defensive zones to simply stick on Novak completely, opponents have an easy time neutralizing his offensive prowess.
On the flip side, Novak isn’t known to be one to combat such opposing defensive efforts. He doesn’t move well without the ball, and doesn’t have the extra pep in his step necessary to evade his man and find an open spot on the court.
The Heat did an amazing job of sticking to Novak like glue last postseason, and this year, so did the Celtics. The Pacers only stand to be the next in line of Novak-neutralizes. It’s not very difficult to cover someone who doesn’t move much on the court. Not one to dribble on the court much at all, it’s easier to guess whether Novak will shoot or pass.
Minutes in the Knicks’ postseason rotation are difficult to come by, but with the offense falling stagnant as of late, game three in Indiana could serve as Novak’s golden opportunity to get back into the mix. What will be key, to his return, however, will be how well he moves.
In order to help New York keep defenses honest, Novak needs to make the extra effort to continuously get himself open. If he can focus on keeping the Pacers’ defense on their toes, perhaps the sharpshooter can once again help the Knicks spread the floor efficiently.