Until the day Jeff Hornacek realizes how to properly manage his well-established talent, the New York Knicks will not secure their legitimacy.
Each second Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose spend sharing the floor with each other is a step in the wrong direction. Every possession in which Kristaps Porzingis watches Anthony launch up an ill-advised shot is a wasted sequence.
Last night was a prime example of what the New York Knicks will amount to — at least until Jeff Hornacek figures out his personnel.
They will simply provide a brand which surprises on one night, and disappoints the next. Thrives against some top-tier opponents, and gets absolutely embarrassed by others. Ultimately failing to learn the art of defense in the process.
Although New York was able to come away with a promising win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden, its imminent flaw could not have been more apparent to the 19,812 standing by.
Ironically enough, that imminent flaw can eventually become their greatest advantage.
Carmelo Anthony is that flaw.
As prolific a scorer as he can be, as much of a team leader and box office presence as he already is, there is no room for the man with the first unit.
Sure, he can be introduced — typically bringing the Garden crowd to its feet — and stand on the floor while the Knicks win or lose the tip, but those one or two opening minutes should be the only signs of early first quarter daylight he encounters.
Immediately, he should be introduced to the bench, awaiting his turn to star with the second unit.
Let’s be real here. Melo can be lethal, something we have all paid witness to during his time in the Big Apple. He can take a game into his own hands and lead the team to victory.
However, his style of isolation, everything stops, basketball cannot be tolerated on a first unit with sensational potential surrounding him.
Derrick Rose must be freed up in the open court, Courtney Lee must finally get perimeter looks, and Kristaps Porzingis must be provided with maximum touches, creating numerous high-percentage looks at the basket.
When Carmelo Anthony pauses the action to execute his game, 24 seconds are taken away from a starting group that can run and gun with the best of them.
What head coach Jeff Hornacek fails to realize is that a solution does not require drastic measures. It does not mean turning Anthony, an 11-time all-star, into a sixth or seventh man.
It simply means freeing the first unit to do what they do best, allowing Melo to play his game — and his game only — for a vast majority of the time in which the second unit sees the floor.
With supplements such as Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Kyle O’Quinn, Anthony can be aided rather than blockaded. His looks will be there whenever he asks for them, resulting in a high-level of scoring for a secondary group. He, unlike when he attempts to fit in with the starters, can lead the way.
When his looks are not there, he has a play-maker in Brandon Jennings to look to. In certain cases, he will have layovers of Rose or Porzingis, allowing him to form a dynamic duo in potentially dangerous phases of the game — ones which the Knicks become increasingly vulnerable in.
Again, this is not to say Carmelo Anthony, who is off to a solid start to his 2016-17 campaign, should be limited. This is not to say he should be “benched.”
Instead, this is to say he should be unleashed in the fullest.
In order to do so, the better part of his minutes cannot be spent next to guys who are redefining, energizing, and fortifying these new-look Knicks.
If there is one glaring flaw to realize in a 7-7 team, and one that can turn their season on a steep incline, it is the improper use of their $124 million man.
And it must change immediately, or else mediocrity will be the name of the game.