Struggling Knicks play the blame game

Elsa

Statistics indicate the New York Knicks are struggling on both ends, but the players and coaches attempting to find answers hint at bigger issues.

Members of the New York Knicks have thrown out two different reasons to explain why they're off to a 3-10 start. Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert have questioned poor ball movement, while coach Mike Woodson and forward Carmelo Anthony have cited poor defense as the culprit, according to the New York Daily News:

"It's just defense at this point," Anthony said. "We're not guarding nobody. The easiest thing to do, I always say this, is try to point fingers and try to figure out what's going on ... ball movement. At the end of the day it's the defense. We're not guarding anybody. We have to figure that part out."

While Stoudemire and Shumpert's assertion might be viewed as an attack on Anthony or gunner J.R. Smith, it stands that there are many issues to resolve. Both sides are right to varying degrees, but now that the blame game has begun, that may be a deeper issue than what's schematically wrong in New York.

But if we must, here are the hard numbers.

First, how about that ball movement?

Assist percentage, or the number of field goals that are assisted upon, is a good statistic to indicate how well a team is moving the ball and finding open shooters. New York is the sixth-worst team in that regard while assisting on 54.1 percent of its field goals, per NBA.com, but that doesn't necessarily mark a bad offensive team. Last year, the Knicks had the league's worst assist rate, dishing on 52.7 percent of their makes. They were successful and, simply put, shooting at a much better clip.

New York had a top-five three-point shooting team last year, which pushed its efficient field goal shooting (which accounts for three-pointers being worth more) to 51.5 percent, landing Woodson's team in the top-10 of the league. This year, that's at 47.1 percent, which falls in the bottom third of the NBA.

Shot selection, a cousin of ball movement, still might be an issue this season, proving Stoudemire and Shumpert's point.

Posting and Toasting: More on the Knicks

As for the defense, Anthony has a major case as well. The Knicks are giving up 105.5 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com, a figure topped only by the struggling Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.

The first thing to do is point out the absence of center Tyson Chandler. By itself, the minor fracture to Chandler's fibula that's kept him sidelined could be the leading cause for the bleeding on the defensive end. In playing four games to start the season, Chandler accumulated a plus-minus of plus-two. As of now, he's the only Knick with a positive plus-minus. The tandem of Andrea Bargnani and the aging Kenyon Martin -- when he's available -- fails to replace Chandler as a rim-protecting combination.

The biggest roster issue -- lacking a backup to Chandler -- hints that the results could be beyond the control of anyone in the locker room. And the numbers prove all the points of all the Knicks' comments, as if the game film hadn't already.

It's at that point when frustration builds and the blame game begins to pick up.

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