Entering Sunday in the midst of a four-game losing streak, the New York Knicks rallied at home on Sunday to stop the swoon and pull out a needed win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The 99-94 conquest may have been a little close (and certainly too contested, with Carmelo Anthony’s needless cheap shot at Spencer Hawes initiating a shoving match between Hawes and Tyson Chandler), but a win is a win; and the Knicks were able to sustain their two-game division lead over the similarly reeling Brooklyn Nets.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, following the contest, suggested that the Knicks need to feature Amar’e Stoudemire more down the stretch of games, and it’s hard to argue otherwise considering Stoudemire’s brilliant play since returning from injury seven weeks ago. Stoudemire’s contributions haven’t aided the Knicks in what they need most, though, as they search for a semblance of defensive mettle. New addition Kenyon Martin, of a 10-day contract and just 90 combined games between 2010 and today, hopes to remedy that.
First, though, he has to change his image. From the New York Daily News’ Mitch Lawrence:
“Does it come out wrong sometimes? Yeah, I’m the first to admit my timing and tact is not the best,” he said. “But are my intentions good? Absolutely. But I might have to work on that and learn to keep my mouth shut a little bit.”
He’s heard other knocks, as he moved on to play for Denver, teaming with Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Marcus Camby when he played for the Nuggets from 2005-11.
“They say I’m not coachable, but I think I’m pretty coachable,” Martin said. “I do what coaches ask of me. Things like that, that I don’t like to practice. But who really practices during the season?”
It’s true that NBA teams – especially a group like the Knicks, the oldest team in NBA history – do limit practice time during the course of the season. Not only is it a way to save legs, but it’s also a necessity considering the outright lack of time teams have while traveling and squeezing in 82 games over five and a half months.
Practice isn’t the problem for Martin, though. And, frankly, neither is his image as a hothead. The Knicks need production, especially defensively, and Martin will be asked to give that second unit some teeth on that end.
The issue is that while Martin can change shots and provide the occasional dirty foul, he brings some of the same lacking qualities to the table that Stoudemire does. Amar’e has been criticized for his terrible rebounding this year, just 7.8 boards for every 36 minutes he plays. Stoudemire’s poor rebound rate (the percentage of available rebounds he grabs while on the floor) is actually right in line with Martin’s career rate. For someone long thought of as a game-changer defensively, Martin still has his issues with securing the loose carom.
This makes working the two together tricky. And that’s not good news when you consider that the hoped-for closing lineup featuring Stoudemire (with Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Anthony, and Tyson Chandler) has been just above average in its time on the floor. And one replacing Kidd with J.R. Smith has outscored opponents by just a point over 88 minutes of play.
These are not Miami-beating numbers. It’s true that Stoudemire has to be the player to put New York over the top, but he’s still having his issues contributing while working with the starting lineup.
The Knicks, working with a 10-day contract for Martin and unafraid of Kenyon throwing a veteran locker room into a tizzy from the end of the bench, don’t care about the NBA’s perception of the 35-year old. What they need is someone to right a defense that has dropped all the way to 18th in defensive efficiency this season.
Playing off the bench in tandem with Stoudemire, though, could result in a whole lot of reaching and a field day on the glass for opponents. Something to consider, as Knicks coach Mike Woodson puts together yet another rotation.