GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Derrick Rose and Jeff Hornacek were talking on the court after practice, and the subject was the whereabouts of the Knicks’ defense. It has gone AWOL too many nights this season. Rose said he told Hornacek he wants him to spend more time drilling the Knicks on defense.
“We were just talking about defensive schemes, what I see with our defense, what he thinks our problems are,” Rose said. “I just told him, it’s defense. Our defense triggers a lot of things. And I told him he has to be on us hard about defense every day. Like, beat it in our heads where we get tired of hearing him talking about it.”
Rose left the Knicks earlier in the week and flew home to Chicago to be with his mother without contacting the team, but he said he’s over the issue that prompted that. His focus now is on basketball, and he’s back to talking about the Knicks’ weakest link: their defense.
The Knicks have allowed 108.1 points per game, 25th in the NBA. Rose, who hasn’t done a good job defensively, said the Knicks’ issues are across the board. “It’s not just one element,” he said. “It’s all of it — effort, schemes, decision-making, personnel, communication. It’s everything.
“You can tell when we’re out there. You have some games where we have everything clicking. It’s no middle ground with us. It’s either we look good or we look quite different than that. I wanted to say another word, but quite different than that. We got to have an in-between. Then right when we’re slipping, we got to be able to let everybody be aware of that and try to fix it — not after the game, but during the game.”
With the Bulls, Rose was coached by Tom Thibodeau, who is a defensive-oriented coach and expects maximum effort on that end of the floor. Rose credited his old coach for making them such a good defensive team. “It was just Thibs,” Rose said. “His details were different, his schemes were different. I think we were with that group three or four years, five years probably, something like that. So everybody was used to playing with one another.”
Hornacek played for defensive coaches, including Jerry Sloan, but his forte is offense. Associate head coach Kurt Rambis was put in charge of the defense in early November. Hornacek said they go over their schemes all the time, but there have been few signs of improvement until recently.
The Knicks held their last two opponents — the 76ers and Bulls — under 100 points. It was the first time all season they allowed fewer than 100 points in back-to-back games.
“It was a while ago, probably a good three weeks ago, when they wanted more of it and we put more in practice,” Hornacek said. “We do defensive situations every day, try to go live. It’s a case of continuing to work on it.
“At times it’s pretty decent and other times we kind of revert back. Again, we have to do a better job of just keeping harping on them about it and putting them in different situations in practice, and they’ll have to do a better job at doing it more consistently, so we all have to get better at it.”
Rose’s mother attended the Knicks’ win over the Bulls on Thursday night at the Garden. But he reiterated that it wasn’t that he was homesick. “It’s always good to have family in town, family around,” he said. “My son’s not here, but my mom’s here, my brother’s here. It’s always good to have family around. But my problem wasn’t missing my family. It wasn’t that. They just came in town and just wanted, for sure, to see the Chicago game.”