Knicks ready to run as Jeff Hornacek wants to open up the offense
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks opened training camp Tuesday with a new outlook, a new franchise player, a new offense and some traces of a system from the recent past.
“We actually did have some stuff from the triangle,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “I saw some elements from the triangle.”
Jeff Hornacek laughed it off, saying there are triangle actions all the time. All teams run elements of the triangle, but it was a taboo word in these parts the past few years.
By all accounts, the Knicks’ new offense in this post-Phil Jackson, post-Carmelo Anthony era will be based on getting quick shots and trying to outrun teams.
The Knicks are building with young players, and they don’t really have a proven go-to scorer after Anthony was traded to Oklahoma City. Hornacek plans to use those young legs — the Knicks have seven players who are 25 or younger — to their advantage.
“We’re going to play faster,” returning swingman Courtney Lee said after the spirited practice. “That’s one thing they’ve been stressing is to make sure we’re in shape. We’re going to get out and run people and we’re going to wear on teams. The pace of the game is definitely going to be faster.”
Of course, the Knicks need to get stops on defense to really be an effective transition team. But they want to make it tough for teams to guard them.
Hornacek thinks the Knicks should have enough shooting with Porzingis, Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr., and they have guys to throw to inside in Willy Hernangomez, Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn.
In Hornacek’s first season as coach of the Suns (2014-15), they were in the top eight in points, three-pointers attempted per game and pace (possessions per game). The following season they were third in pace.
Last year, the Knicks — who went from running “triangle aspects” early to the triangle offense by the end of the season — were in the bottom half of the league in all three categories.
“The speed wasn’t where we wanted it to be,” Hornacek said. “I think we’re going to try to open it up, obviously the strength of our team should allow us to do that.
“We think we can spread the floor out a little bit more and maybe get up and down the court a little bit more, put some pressure on the defense that way, but again, all that stuff’s going to start and probably only work so well if we can lock down defensively.”
Hornacek can play smaller and quicker or more versatile lineups as he did with the Suns.
He could start Hardaway Jr. and Lee at shooting guard and small forward, respectively. Or he could go more conventional and have Michael Beasley at small forward, but the Knicks lose something defensively with Lee on the bench.
Porzingis will be the focal point of the offense. But Hornacek hopes to have other options so teams can’t focus all of their attention on the 22-year-old Porzingis.
“We’re going to try to use him as much as we can but we can’t just be one-dimensional,” Hornacek said. “ ‘Let’s find out where KP is and get him the ball.’ We’ve got to play. You saw some of the games last year when some of the young guys were out there and the ball was really moving and that’s what makes it fun. He’s still obviously going to be our main weapon, but when we can spread it out it makes it easier for everybody.”
The Knicks hope a lot of things are easier after all the drama they experienced last year, notably the Anthony-Jackson situation, Derrick Rose’s civil trial and going AWOL for one game, and the Charles Oakley incident. Hornacek wants this season to be just about basketball.
“Hopefully,” Hornacek said, “the focus is on the New York Knicks organization and what we can do to grow, to do some good things. That’s our guys’ focus.”