Someone on ESPN's pre-Christmas Day NBA conference call asked former Knicks coach Hubie Brown two questions about the team he used to coach: 1. What is wrong with them, and is anything salvageable from the current group? 2. How much of a challenge does coach Derek Fisher face and is he suited to handling it?
One thousand, one hundred and fifty-nine words ensued. Here's the transcript ESPN sent:
BROWN: First of all, let's start with the team. We're still waiting for Bargnani to be the starting center. That was a major minus. The fact that Stoudemire is playing the best he's played in the last couple of years is a plus, but then you have to give him days off, like you did yesterday when they played Toronto. That is a negative because he is the only post player that you have that can score in the low post, in the painted area, and that is the basis of the triangle. The triangle works through the post area and then things happen from there.
So the Bargnani and Stoudemire situation were a negative for you from injury standpoint. Then J.R. Smith, no matter what you say, he must score the ball, but unfortunately he has missed all these games and they have to figure out and be able to get him back, so that the present injury will not come up again the rest of the season.
Now the Shumpert situation is unfortunate. You cannot lose the potential starting center and then have the guy who is going to replace him, Dalembert, play less than average basketball for his potential. Then your only post up guy, Stoudemire is limited because of the injuries and his past physical condition.
Now, will the perimeter people, and by that I mean J.R. Smith, Shumpert, Hardaway, and then the point guards, will they be able to pick up this stat? Now just think about this. The team is 27th in the league in scoring, and we know that that is a major problem. You say why is that? Because you don't get any offensive rebounds and get second shot attempts in the paint where you get fouled. That is backed up by the fact that the triangle offense with this group of people, minus the guys that are injured, you are 30th in getting to the foul line. When you get to the foul line, naturally extra points, we understand that, but you get fouls on the front court people and of the opposition, and they don't get their necessary minutes. And that is key because go back and look at how many close games they've been in. They've been in 10 or 11 close games, and it's come down to execution in the last five or six minutes and that would have -- if they had the execution, if they had the center play, if they were able to get to the line, things would have been different at this time.
Now, as far as a coach taking over a situation like this, it's extremely difficult because you were expecting total play of your front court -- the four front court guys that you expected to play at the power forward and center position. That has not been available for you. Also the triangle itself, no matter how you talk about it, they are shooting -- they're 20th in the league in shooting.
No. 2, they're not getting to the foul line.
No. 3, they're not getting second chance opportunities that, if you are going to shoot a bad percentage, there are plenty of rebounds that you could get to get the second chance opportunities. Now, is that positioning? Is that talent? Is that motivation? Well, the coaching staff has to teach, and the triangle cannot be effective unless the players get to the spots of the triangle. And if they don't get to those spots, you have eight players on one side of the floor sometimes, and sometimes you might only have ten if you drew a line from basket to basket. These things have got to clean up as they march forward.
Now, this is difficult for a coaching staff because the head coach lacks the experience of being a head coach. He's learning on the job how to teach the situation. Hopefully your assistants can help him. But then because you're involved in so many close games this year, the execution from six minutes down makes or breaks coaches. And we all know that that's where you win the games in the last six minutes. And then the coaching staff is challenged to have the right people on the floor, to select the right plays to be played during that time period, and then hopefully come up with something stimulating in the last 30 seconds of games.
That was long winded, I'll tell you. That was a heck of a question. You gave me two tough questions. There is no simple answer here for the situation that you're in.
The advice [for Fisher] right now comes down from up above, which Phil Jackson is saying that they're going to stay with the triangle and they're going to teach the triangle. So it doesn't matter what anyone else outside of the organization thinks, it now comes down to the coaching staff adhering to the situation, and then continuing to work on the spacing. You follow them on a daily basis and you know exactly what I'm talking about. The spacing is not there.
Then the problem comes down to the availability of the talent. If you don't have an inside game, then your midrange and your perimeter game has got to shoot a high percentage. Because of your injuries, J.R. Smith and Shumpert have not been available, and even when they were, you add Hardaway to that, and the midrange game and the three point shooting from these key people has been sporadic.
So consequently, it comes down to the coaching staff being positive on a daily basis, continuing to teach the elements of the triangle, and then forcing better spacing so that you can discourage the double teaming of the few guys that are on the floor that demand the double team -- you can take advantage of the double teaming of Anthony when the shot clock is down inside of 6 seconds. That all comes with positive approach on a daily basis, good lesson plans at practice, good practice sessions so that everybody is working hard to not only understand the triangle, but become better at making adjustments within their own area where they can counter the defense.
Right now what we're looking for is the playmakers at the point guard position and at the two guard to be able then to expose the defenses by countering the defense. So all of that sounds easy, but is extremely difficult when you have a new coach, a new coaching staff, and then an injured team. Because when you get to those close games, those 10 or 11 games that you've had right now that you could have won in the last five minutes, you have different people available. A coach has something to do with that because they're all injured guys, and it forces the chemistry. You're not ending the game with the same five guys. You don't have that blessing.