9:11 am Jan. 14, 2013
The Knicks weren't a well team during their recent slump, with injuried to Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and others limiting their strength.
With Amar'e Stoudemire still working to return to form, and Iman Shumpert yet to play a game, the Knicks were struggling.
But in Sunday afternoon's 100-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets, one that snapped the team's three-game losing streak, the Knicks figured out a couple of changes that helped them to do more with what they've got.
The most important of these changes involved a starting lineup, and most shifts, including Carmelo Anthony at the power forward spot, rather than small forward. Chris Copeland provided production out of the small forward position, and the two combined for 49 points. This is no accident; Copeland is a difficult matchup for forwards to cover, and operates out on the wing, giving Anthony all the space he needs to receive the ball in his best possible spots.
The Hornets start seven-footer Robin Lopez and rangy power forward Anthony Davis. If any team should have presented a difficult mattchup for a small lineup, it was this one.
The Hornets outrebounded the Knicks. That routinely happened early in the season, too. Then, as now, it didn't matter, thanks to the Knicks' superior offensive efficiency.
The other change involved putting a pair of point guards on the floor in Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd. This meant giving Kidd more time as a shooting guard, where he can force defenses to cover him on the perimeter and try to limit his three-point shooting, while allowing him to avoid the taxing minutes as primary point guard.
That the Knicks have struggled to figure out ways to play Prigioni and Kidd together is understandable. They haven't had anyone else to play the point, and coach Mike Woodson has been unhappy playing Kidd as much as he has.
But here, the Knicks are in position to maximize their best backcourt configuration, even before Raymond Felton returns in a few weeks. After Sunday's game, Woodson announced that Iman Shumpert would make his season debut in the team's next game, a Thursday matchup against the Detroit Pistons to be played in London.
Adding Shumpert to the mix will allow the team to put Kidd on the floor as shooting guard more. Shumpert also means the Knicks can rest Kidd more in general. And all of this can happen immediately, while Felton's return will allow it to occur without playing anyone out of position at all.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Brooklyn Nets closed out the Indiana Pacers Sunday night at the Barclays Center like a playoff team, 97-86.
The Mets' search for bullpen help led them to work out Brian Wilson, recovering from Tommy John surgery after a stellar run closing for the San Francisco Giants.