Let’s not argue whether the triangle offense can still work in the NBA’s pick-and-roll, pace-and-space era. We’ve covered that topic, for better or worse, ad nauseam. Instead, we’re here to discuss whether it was wise for the New York Knicks to change course and embrace the offensive scheme midseason.
The answer is no. Knicks star Carmelo Anthony answered this question correctly in the New York Post:
“I think everybody was trying to figure everything out, what was going to work, what wasn’t going to work,’’ he told the Post’s Marc Berman. “Early in the season, we were winning games, went on a little winning streak we had. We were playing a certain way. We went away from that, started playing another way. Everybody was trying to figure out: Should we go back to the way we were playing, or try to do something different?”
“I thought earlier we were playing faster and more free-flow throughout the course of the game. We kind of slowed down, started settling it down. Not as fast. The pace slowed down for us — something we had to make an adjustment on the fly with limited practice time, in the course of a game. Once you get into the season, it’s hard to readjust a whole system.”
The plan for this season was to incorporate portions of team president Phil Jackson’s favorite half-court offense into the up-tempo stylings that made new Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek’s Phoenix Suns so fun to watch a few years ago. Despite outfitting his roster with players unfit to run the pass-heavy, read-and-react triangle, Jackson began complaining from the jump about the lack of frequency with which the team was running the offense. By the All-Star break, they succumbed to Jackson’s wishes.
By then, it was too late. They entered Christmas Day with a 16-13 record, and since then they’ve won just 11 games, falling to 27-44 and out of an Eastern Conference playoff race that still features some sub-.500 teams. Prior to Christmas, they were a middling offense playing at a middling pace. Since then, they’re slightly worse, and they’ve been no better since the All-Star break, when they made the switch to the triangle. Their defense has been horrible throughout. This just isn’t a good team.
But sure, why not give the triangle a try? I mean, it’s not like things could get much worse.
Except, Anthony and point guard Derrick Rose were publicly critical of Jackson’s offense of choice, with Rose even saying when asked about his opinion of the triangle, “S***, do I have a choice?” The only member of New York’s so-called “big three” to welcome the scheme is Kristaps Porzingis, who’s also maybe the only one who could operate in it, and even he wasn’t a fan of picking it up midstream.
“We’re starting to learn it now the way we should [and] we should have been playing from the beginning of the season,” Porzingis told New York Newsday earlier this month. “So we’re a little behind. But every game we’re getting a little better. Hopefully, I don’t know when, we can start using it properly and making some impact playing it.”
Likewise, Hornacek conceded changing course “probably wasn’t the greatest thing to do,” especially during an NBA season with minimal practice time, and he insisted they would start with the triangle from Day 1 in 2017-18, even suggesting the offense could lure free agents to New York. Which, no.
Still, Jackson will have to do better at finding players who Hornacek can incorporate into his system, and he’ll have the cap space to at least try, because it’s impossible to run the triangle with guys who either don’t fit or don’t care. What that means for Carmelo this summer is now the lingering question.
It’s seeming more and more likely these could be Anthony’s final 11 games in a Knicks uniform. That is, if Jackson can find a trade partner willing to take on the two years and $54 million remaining on his contract. But Anthony wasn’t willing to discuss his future with the franchise with the New York Post:
“I don’t even want to talk to that or next training camp,” added Anthony. “It’s too much. I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t want to talk about next training camp and what’s going to happen next year. That’s hard for me personally to think about that. We still have these games to deal with, and it’s hard to look toward next season.”
Especially now that the triangle is here to stay. But, hey, at least he knows what he’s walking into now.
Or walking away from.
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