It’s six games into the season, and the Knicks have one of the worst defenses in the NBA. They are allowing an average of 109.8 points and have yet to hold an opponent under 102 points.
So in an attempt to rectify the problem, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek announced on Tuesday that associate head coach Kurt Rambis will now be in charge of the team’s defense. Yes, that’s the same Kurt Rambis who was 9-19 as the team’s interim coach last year and was passed over for the head coaching job.
“I just felt that we’re probably better off with just one voice, so Kurt, we are going to have him be the voice on the defense,” Hornacek said. “The other coaches will still do the [scouting] reports, what they feel, they’ll talk with Kurt and Kurt will talk with me. That’s how we’ll go about that, just so there’s one voice, not three or four guys talking.”
The Knicks (2-4), who host the Nets Wednesday night, are No. 26 in the NBA in points allowed per game and No. 30 in points allowed per 100 possessions. They are also No. 26 in opponent field-goal percentage and No. 28 in opponent three-point field-goal percentage.
Clearly someone needs to be in charge of the defense, though the choice of Rambis, a close friend of team president Phil Jackson, was not a clear-cut one. After a nearly two-hour practice that focused mostly on defense, Carmelo Anthony was asked how he felt about the Rambis move.
“Whether we’re comfortable with it or not, it is what it is, and we’ve got to buy into it and embrace that,” Anthony said. “[We have to] kind of just focus on our schemes and what we want to do and just have a kind of foundation of how we’re going to do it and what we’re going to do and go by that.”
Rambis was not made available to speak with the media. In his 28 games as an interim coach last year, Knicks opponents averaged 101.0 points. That’s nearly identical to the 101.1 points the Knicks allowed in 82 games last year under both Rambis and Derek Fisher, who was let go after 54 games.
Point guard Derrick Rose was asked if it mattered to the team that the Knicks are now going to have a specific coach in charge of defense.
“I mean it probably matters to the coaches, but for the players it really doesn’t matter,” Rose said. “You’ve just got to tell us what to do and it’s our job in this profession to go out there and get the job done.”
According to Hornacek, the move was made to simplify communication with the players. Rambis — the Knicks assistant most familiar with the triangle offense — still will be involved in other areas of coaching.
“It means nothing,” Hornacek said when asked if the switch meant there was going to be less emphasis placed on the triangle. “The coaching staff always talks about both sides of it.”