Knicks need defensive specialist while Hornacek molds triangle

For the past three seasons, the Knicks’ culture, their entire identity really, has been based on the triangle. And that comes straight from the top, where Phil Jackson’s obsession with an outdated offense dominates far too much of the players’ time and energy.

Or as the always accommodating and media-friendly Carmelo Anthony said when asked about the offense following Sunday’s loss to the Utah Jazz: “I’m not answering the triangle question.”

Can you blame him?

The worst-kept secret about Jackson’s championship teams has nothing to do with an offense that worked like a charm when he had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant running it. Jackson’s teams in Chicago and Los Angeles were dominant defensively. Imagine that.

Phil Jackson helps teach triangle offense to this Knicks player

So as the Knicks, with Jeff Hornacek and Anthony leading the charge, try to get away from the triangle, it’s time for the head coach, the players and the highest-paid team executive in the NBA to start focusing on the other end of the floor. The Knicks are allowing an average of 109.8 points after six games. Only the Golden State Warriors, a superior offensive team, and Hornacek’s former team, the Phoenix Suns, have allowed more points per game. On Sunday, Utah scored 65 in the second half, including a ridiculous 36 fourth-quarter points.

“We had a couple of breakdowns,” Hornacek said.

The Knicks have allowed an average of 109.8 points per game, which is the third worst in the NBA.

The Knicks have allowed an average of 109.8 points per game, which is the third worst in the NBA.

(Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

Hornacek’s team has yet to hold an opponent to under 102 points. And this is the franchise that decades ago adopted the mantra of “De-fense, De-fense.”

The combination of the triangle offense and the triple-digit defense has resulted in a 2-4 start and the need for Hornacek to start making drastic changes to the way the Knicks approach team defense. If that means hiring a defensive coach, which Hornacek had in Phoenix, do it. If it means designating someone on the current staff to work almost exclusively on defense, do it. Better still, do the Knicks even have a defensive philosophy? Or are they, as several scouts have said, “really unorganized.”

Knicks can take late pressure off Carmelo by involving Porzingis

Courtney Lee may be onto something when he says the Knicks need to spend more time practicing against a pick-and-roll offense as opposed to the offense — the triangle — that no other team runs.

“Yeah, the majority of the NBA is pick-and-roll offense, trying to get the defense shifting,” Lee said on Sunday. “The more we get used to it and the better we get at it the better we’ll be in games at guarding it.”

Lately Phil has taken a special interest in what is being written and said about him. With all this losing in New York he’s starting to show a sensitive side. Apparently, one of his underlings alerts him to any media criticism.

Jeff Hornacek.

Jeff Hornacek.

(Phil Long/AP)

But here’s the thing: Does Phil even hear or care what the players are saying? Carmelo doesn’t want to talk about the triangle and Lee doesn’t want to practice against it. This sounds like the early stages of an uprising with Hornacek caught in the middle.

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The new head coach must realize that he has to change his ways. The priority needs to be about defense. The players have a pretty decent grasp of the offense, especially when they’re running high pick and rolls with Derrick Rose. Phil doesn’t like it, but so what. Trying to placate Phil still got Derek Fisher fired. And he was supposed to be one of Phil’s guys.

Hornacek is the outsider with no history with the current team president. And one day Hornacek will be history. He knows that. So now is as good a time as any to start doing things your way, Jeff.

And here’s a little piece of friendly advice: start with defense.

Tags:
nba
new york knicks
jeff hornacek
phil jackson
carmelo anthony
courtney lee

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