Richard Hamilton was about to penetrate into the lane when he found out there was no need to take another step.
Quickly noticing the Knicks' defense napping, Hamilton saw an unguarded Tayshaun Prince in the paint and fed him for a basket that would've made the originators of the layup line extremely proud. Exactly 2:30 into last night's 113-86 loss to the Detroit Pistons, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was forced to burn a timeout.
Prince's basket gave the Pistons a 10-point bulge and late-arriving stragglers hadn't even plopped down in their seats before the Knicks had yielded four dunks or layups in the Pistons' first five trips on offense. That weak showing offered a quick snapshot of the Knicks' defensive effort in their first season under D'Antoni.
"We need to get a lot better defensively," said D'Antoni, whose team came into last night allowing 108 points per game with only Golden State and Sacramento yielding more. "You can't be 28th or 27th in the league defensively and think you are a playoff team. You need to be in the top 15 at least if not in the top 10. So yeah, we are not there and it's not there on a consistent basis. But that's one of the things that we'll try to address in the offseason."
That means looking for help to bolster an undersized frontcourt that has 6-9 power forward David Lee starting out of position at center. The Knicks' lack of size on their front line has been a major flaw that's been exposed.
Whenever things get tight and the opposing team needs a basket, they usually drive the ball straight at the rim knowing the Knicks don't have anyone who can turn back a shot other than the 6-8 Wilson Chandler. Bound for the lottery after missing out on the playoffs for the fifth straight season, one of the main tasks for Knicks president Donnie Walsh is to do something about their league-worst 2.48 blocks per game average.
"There's a lot of guys on teams that have blocked more than our whole team has," D'Antoni said. "So that's important. There's no doubt about it."
The Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - likely would have to win the lottery to have a shot at selecting Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, considered to be the consensus No. 1 pick in June. Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet might be an option if he decided to forgo his senior season, but some have questioned if he can take a daily NBA pounding.
They also could elect to upgrade through free agency, and Rasheed Wallace, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds, could be on the Knicks' radar. There have been very few instances where the Knicks have played lockdown defense.
Said D'Antoni: "It comes down to players taking pride in what they are doing and stopping their guy and everybody getting on the same page."