In what will become a weekly radio spot on ESPN 98.7 FM with Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson talked about the team’s early season success Thursday afternoon.
The coach (as always) preached the Knicks’ defensive intensity as a key to continuing their success as the season goes on, but also recognized the emergences of players like Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, and Rasheed Wallace, in addition to the leadership of Carmelo Anthony.
Woodson insisted that everyone has bought in to his vision since day one, and said that the entire Knickerbocker locker room believes an NBA championship is attainable by the roster already put in place.
But when it comes to maintaining that same level of play throughout the season, the Knicks are going to look to develop some consistency. And though, so far, the team is rolling without Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, re-inserting both players back into the lineup is certainly going to shake things up.
Sometimes shaking things up is good. Make no mistake, STAT and Shump are two pieces absolutely crucial to the team’s future success.
In the interest of not allowing either to disrupt the Knicks’ present rhythm, however, both players will need to be eased back in to the lineup. With Ronnie Brewer playing so well and fitting right in, who’s to say Shumpert’s best value to this team isn’t coming off the bench to provide a spark when he returns?
The same consideration should be given when it comes to Stoudemire as well. Granted, the Knicks aren’t paying the forward $100 million to become “Sixth Man of the Year,” STAT may still be best brought back if it’s done off the pine.
And Woodson seems to understand that. The coach couldn’t say with 100% certainty that STAT would be thrust back into the starting lineup as soon as he returns from injury. While he lamented that a player won’t lose a starting “job” due to injury, there was no guarantee the forward would be in the starting five the minute he’s ready to hit the hardwood.
Frankly, why should he be? If Anthony is thriving so much as a post-player, why throw him off by inserting Stoudemire into the fray? Anthony, STAT, and the Knicks have continued to preach that time is needed for them (as well as the team as a whole) to ultimately gel as a unit.
Thus, it makes sense to ease Stoudemire back into things. In the thick of a playoff race, why rock the boat? It may serve the Knicks better to create a more balanced attack, featuring both players on offense at different times on the court. This has been suggested many times in the past, but STAT’s return may present the perfect opportunity.
The Knicks will have time…before the playoffs, during training camp next season,—whenever— to work things back to normal. But as they look to carry that same momentum with them throughout the season, why not add to what they already have, rather than take away? If players like Anthony and J.R. Smith are excelling, don’t take the ball out of their hands in lieu of another offensive player. Instead, bring Stoudemire off the bench (or at the very least, play him during different periods), to ensure each weapon is just as lethal at all times.
The Knicks are three games in, and things (or more specifically, their success rate) could change in an instant. They just have to make sure that altering the team flow in favor of a player’s return isn’t what triggers a change for the worse.