Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Will Woodson's Rotation Be?

As the 2013 NBA regular season draws near, a standing conversation is becoming louder by the moment: just who will New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson trot onto the court as his starters? And what will his rotation in general look like?

Early in the preseason, the talk was about whether reigning sixth man of the year J.R.Smith will be thrust into the starting lineup, effectively switching places with Iman Shumpert. That debate seemed rather academic to me, seeing as how 1) there's no overwhelming need for a coach to define starting roles all the way back in training camp, and 2) Smith will be starting the season wearing a suit on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery -- and then be sitting at home for an additional 5-game suspension -- anyway. We may not see the guy on the court until after Thanksgiving. Worry about that bridge when you cross it.

However, the conversation over just who the 5 starters overall will be is starting to surface. Coaches typically throw together all sorts of motley lineups early in the preseason schedule, and then, for the last two or so preseason games, start playing a reasonable facsimile of their intended regular-season rotation.

The Knicks last night played their penultimate preseason game, and for the second or third straight game, the starting frontcourt consisted of Tyson Chandler flanked by Carmelo Anthony and...Andrea Bargnani. That immediately raises the question: does Coach Woodson really intend to start Bargnani?

Though I caught his comments in passing, it seems that Woodson wasn't very happy with the Knicks defense last night. That makes the possible insertion of Bargnani, a known defensive sieve and sub-par rebounder, a scary proposition.

The starting guards last night were Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert, as Raymond Felton sat to rest, I believe, a knee, merely as precaution. It's a foregone conclusion that Felton, along with Anthony and Chandler, will be on the floor at tip-off for regular-season games. So, who question then it: who sits?

Will it be Prigioni? The guy who immediately elevated the Knicks offensive efficiency to league-best numbers upon being inserted into the starting lineup last year? Please say no. Please.

Or will it be Bargnani or Shumpert? Deciding between those two effectively comes down to a decision of offense over defense, the veil of size over the reality of actually playing to your team's strengths.

It stands to reason, given the Knicks success last year, that a Felton-Prigioni-Shumpert-Anthony-Chandler starting five is the best the Knicks have to offer come game time. In light of the way a panicky Woodson over-tinkered with his starting 5 during the series with the Pacers this past playoffs, I'm tending not to hold my breath. We'll see.

* Haven't paid much attention to some of the fringe teams in the NBA, so it was quite a shock to see some of the names on the Milwaukee Bucks roster last night. Caron Butler? O.J. Mayo? Luke Ridnour? Gary Neal? Zaza Pachulia? (To go along with defensive ace Larry Sanders of course) When did all of that happen? Was I writing about A-Rod that day? On paper, that's an interesting-sounding lineup. A far cry from the Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis shoot-till-you-drop team. No, I'm not crazy enough to think this team has championship aspirations, but, apart from that, I have no idea where their ceiling -- or their floor -- is. Intriguing.

Just a few thoughts. Back to the NFL we go...

No comments: