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Knicks Scouting Report: Defense must improve

The Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry, center, makes a

The Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry, center, makes a pass as the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, left, and Amar'e Stoudemire, right, defend during the first quarter of a preseason game in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Graham Hughes

PLAYMAKING

Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni know how to run teams and get everyone involved and are good decision-makers. Second-year pro Shane Larkin played more in the preseason than Prigioni did. He's a change-of-pace guard but remains unproven. The triangle offense will lend itself to J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. being playmakers, so their decision-making and shot selection must improve.

 

REBOUNDING

Not a strength last season and might not be this season. Center Samuel Dalembert averaged double-digit rebounds seven years ago, but the Knicks don't really have any big-time rebounders. Amar'e Stoudemire, Quincy Acy and Jason Smith have to make their presence known on the boards.

 

HALF-COURT OFFENSE

It's all about the triangle -- which is predicated on ball and player movement to create open shots and balanced scoring. But it hasn't been successful without Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen or Kobe Bryant running it. Carmelo Anthony will be the focal point, but he won't direct the offense like the other superstars. J.R. Smith said it will take a few months for the Knicks to run it smoothly. If all else fails, they can give the ball to Anthony and let him go to work.

 

FAST-BREAK OFFENSE

The Knicks want to get easy baskets, and they have some athletic players who like to run the floor. But they have to make marked improvements defensively and in their rebounding to run more, and they have to push Anthony to get up and down in the open court.

 

DEFENSE

It's been stressed throughout training camp and the preseason, but the Knicks still look as though they will have some issues. The triangle offense is supposed to help a team's defense, but the Bulls and Lakers had great individual defenders. The Knicks don't have that, and their offense will take time to master, which means everyone needs to work much harder defensively right from the start.

 

DEPTH

They're deeper than last season, but with numerous players who spend nearly as much time in the trainer's room as on the court, the Knicks might need that depth. They also have guys who can play multiple spots, which is important in the triangle, in which the positions are interchangeable.

 

LEADERSHIP

Calderon and Prigioni are proven leaders. They never get rattled and know how to settle a team. Anthony has improved in recent years and must continue down that path because it's always better when your best player is your best leader. But the Knicks finally have strong leadership in the executive office (Phil Jackson) and on the bench (Derek Fisher) -- something that's been mostly lacking over the years.

 

COACHING

Fisher has all the attributes to be a good coach after a long, successful playing career. He won five championships as an integral part of the triangle offense, possesses a high basketball IQ and communicates well. He challenged his teammates when he played, so he should have no problems doing it as a coach. Fisher has a strong support staff in Jackson and assistants Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons. All of Fisher's assistants come from winning franchises, including Brian Keefe, who broke in with the Spurs before joining the Thunder.

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