“Defense wins championships” remains as one of the most common maxims applied to sports today. James Dolan and Mike D’Antoni clearly don’t want to pay attention to what history has proven to be successful.
The New York Knicks have officially signed Baron Davis to a one year deal worth $2.5 million. Davis played for the Clippers and Cavaliers last year, averaging 13.5 points and 6.5 assists during his tenure with those two teams.
This signing has taken place with no assurance Davis will even be able to play until mid-February because of a herniated disk that he claimed should keep him out 8-10 weeks. However, now Davis’s sources say that is a conservative estimate and could be more around 4-6 weeks. Either way, he will still be coming off an injury, something he has been doing frequently the past few seasons.
Davis comes to a team that will most likely be starting young guards Toney Douglas and Landry Fields at the 1 and 2. The Knicks also picked up Mike Bibby this offseason to help provide these young-guns with some experienced back-up play.
I am a bit confused with this move by the Knicks. Earlier this year, they received one of the top 2011 free agents by signing Tyson Chandler to a multi-year deal. I viewed this as the Knicks attempting to bring in some defense to a squad that allowed the third most points in the league last year (105.7). The fact that Mike D’Antoni, who only knows the run-and-gun style of offense, heavily impacts this lack of defense.
The Knicks have followed the Chandler pick-up with some questionable moves – if they plan on changing their type of play. Reputable point guard Chauncey Billups was waived by New York, and then what does the franchise do after that move? They sign an injury-plagued point guard that can’t score as easily as Billups and also demands the ball in his hands more than Billups. Crunch-time play also goes down since Billups has a solid career average of 89.4% shooting from the line and Davis has struggled throughout his career, shooting only 71.1%. Furthermore, Billups provides much better leadership on and off the court than hothead Davis. I don’t see the purpose in letting Billups go and then go out to sign a lower-quality, less mature player. There is one thing, though, that both players have in common – defense doesn’t fall under their strengths.
Looking at the Knicks four guards – Fields, Douglas, Davis, and Bibby – the shoot-first point guard Davis might actually be the best passer on the team. The other three guards all averaged under 4.0 assists a game last season. Since Anthony and Stoudemire often score off isolation where they don’t even need a pass to get going, this might not be an issue for them. However, Chandler – who has relied on Chris Paul and Jason Kidd in the past to get him the ball under the basket for his points – does not have an extensive offensive skillset and will most likely struggle to get the ball in the hoop.
So, what direction is Knicks management trying to take this team? I can’t seem to figure that out. Last season, Chandler instilled a defensive mindset for the entire Mavericks team and they all bought into it. With the squad the Knicks currently have, who will want to buy into defense? If Dolan wants to continue to allow D’Antoni to play his offensive style of basketball, that’s fine. It is his choice and his team. But why sign Chandler? If he wants to push defense for this squad, one player can’t carry the entire load. It seems as though one more defensive-minded player should have been picked up to help out Chandler if Knicks management wanted a slight shift in style of play to occur. Once this next NBA season gets going, I can envision Chandler becoming very frustrated when he realizes the mindset of the majority of his team.
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