The Knicks’ offense has lurched and sputtered through 11 games — even with a healthy and vibrant pushing it along — with little ball movement, efficiency or cohesion.
The team’s problems are a product of too many new faces, too little practice time and the absence of a true point guard, but also an over-reliance on Anthony’s individual skills. Anthony posts up, and the Knicks stand still. Anthony dribbles, and teammates watch. And when all else fails, Anthony bails them out.
The Knicks (6-5) will be forced to find a better way on Saturday night. Anthony is still hobbled by a sprained right ankle and is listed as doubtful for their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (10-2). Bill Walker is expected to take his place in the lineup.
“If a miracle happens, then I’ll come back tomorrow,” Anthony said Friday, although he listed Monday as the more realistic target.
Anthony’s absence is clearly a huge blow. He is averaging 25.5 points (fourth in the N.B.A.), or about 27 percent of the Knicks’ nightly total. He accounts for 23.3 percent of their assists (4.3 per game) and 31.8 percent of their free-throw attempts (8.2 per game).
But then, Anthony also consumes 24.5 percent of the Knicks’ field-goal attempts, which is not always positive or productive. The offense has been at its best lately in the first half of games, when the ball is moving. It has often stagnated late in games, when Anthony dominates the ball. He is shooting just .439 from the field.
As a consequence, the rest of the Knicks often have trouble finding a rhythm. Amar’e Stoudemire is averaging 19.2 points, but he is shooting a ghastly 42 percent from the field. Stoudemire was at his best for the Knicks early last season, before Anthony’s arrival, and is still having trouble meshing with him.
“He’s a product of what we’re not doing as a team,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re not giving him space. We’re not shooting the ball, because there’s no rhythm, there’s no rhyme or reason about anything.”
The lack of a true point guard is part of the problem. The Knicks are also still integrating several new players, with little time to get acquainted. But there is no disputing that the Knicks had better passing and offensive balance before Anthony arrived last February.
In his absence, the Knicks have to rediscover that form.
“That’s how we got to play, regardless,” Stoudemire said. “We got to move the ball, get everybody involved. When you get other players involved and create easy shots for people, percentages go up.”
In an odd twist, the Knicks are now winning with defense — ranking seventh in defensive efficiency — but are losing because of poor offense. They rank 21st in offensive efficiency, 26th in field-goal percentage and 25th in assists — a sure indictment of their passing.
The Knicks’ role players, Landry Fields and Toney Douglas in particular, have struggled this season as the offense has stagnated. Stoudemire pointed to last season, when players like Fields, Shawne Williams and Wilson Chandler thrived in D’Antoni’s system.
“And that’s what we got to get back to, is moving the ball,” Stoudemire said.
They also need a consistent lineup and some good health. The Knicks have already played two games without Stoudemire (going 1-1) and four games without Iman Shumpert (1-3). Jared Jeffries, who has missed the last 10 games, is expected to return Saturday night. Baron Davis, whose playmaking skills are sorely needed, is still at least two weeks from playing.
Assuming Anthony is out Saturday night, Fields and Tyson Chandler will be the only two Knicks to start every game. But Stoudemire firmly believes the Knicks can solve a lot of problems with more dedicated passing.
“Once we start moving the ball,” he said, “once we start getting back to our offense, running the floor, creating great spacing, Tyson and I playing in tandem, all of that will eventually cure our offensive problems.”