Carmelo Anthony still doesn’t want to say the word triangle, but he will play in the triangle as long as he’s in a Knicks uniform.
Who said the Knicks did nothing before the trade deadline? They brought back the triangle offense.
Said Anthony, “I don’t think it ever left.”
Not entirely, but the Knicks were running it much less frequently before the All-Star break. In the practices and games since they returned from having a week off, the coaches have been stressing the triangle more.
“Yeah,” Anthony said, “since we came back, it’s been an emphasis on that, on the system, just being organized, getting to spots, kind of reiterating the system.”
The Knicks ran it against the Cavaliers on Thursday night and the 76ers on Saturday night. But when the latter game was on the line in the final seconds, the ball was in the hands of Derrick Rose and Anthony, and it was up to them to create.
On the Knicks’ final offensive play, Anthony, in his bread-and-butter — isolation — delivered the winning jumper with three-tenths of a second left in a 110-109 victory over the 76ers.
Afterward, Anthony wouldn’t say triangle — he smiled when it was first mentioned — and didn’t offer much of an endorsement when he was asked about it.
“It was an emphasis since three years ago,” he said. “It’s always been an emphasis on how we’re going to play, how we want to play. That’s our system. It’s just a matter now of looking at it more and doing it more and being more consistent with it.”
It’s not a popular offense with the players, but team president Phil Jackson brought the triangle to the Knicks in the summer of 2014. That system contributed to Jackson winning 11 NBA championships as a coach.
Jackson ran a triangle camp after last season with interim coach Kurt Rambis long before Jeff Hornacek was hired to be the head coach. Rambis, currently the defensive coordinator, reportedly has been more involved on the offensive end in recent practices.
Hornacek said one of the remaining goals for this season is to “continue to grow the offense.” If the Knicks can do that and make an improbable playoff run, that’s a bonus.
“We’re still trying to win games,” Hornacek said Saturday.
Earlier in the season, the Knicks, who host the Raptors on Monday night, would run the triangle more out of dead-ball situations. Hornacek said they’ve increased its frequency, hoping it will give them more balance defensively, slow the pace and make sure everyone is on the same page.
“We just tried to put it in a little bit more so we have more format for the defensive side of it,” Hornacek said. “What’s happening a lot, when we came down and didn’t get a call out from our guards, the guys seemed to look around and wonder what to do. Now when there’s not a call, they should be formatted in that set. That should help us.”
The example Hornacek used regarding defensive balance is that when Rose attacks the basket and misses inside, he often is out of position to run back on defense. Also, the Knicks in the corners waiting for a kick-out from Rose aren’t in position to get back quickly.
Rose, who excels in pick-and-roll and isolation, is not the optimal triangle point guard. That likely was one of the reasons the Knicks tried to move him before the trade deadline and aren’t expected to re-sign him this summer.
On the day of the deadline, Rose probably didn’t help his future with the Knicks by using “random basketball” to describe the Knicks’ offense.
“It’s a different offense,” he said Thursday. “You’re always in the corner as a point guard. You’re always in the corner. You just got to play off reads and play that way.
“You’re trying to figure out different plays, different options you have. I get all of my points off of random baskets. Unless you see me go to the post, then you know it’s a play for me. But all the other stuff is just random basketball.”
It doesn’t matter what the Knicks call it, or whether they want to say the word: The triangle is still their system.