The State Of The New York Knicks
When the New York Knicks organization announced they were firing Larry Brown and that Isiah Thomas would take over the coaching duties of the team, there were a few people who actually had faith in Thomas's coaching acumen. I was one of them and so far Thomas has done nothing to warrant a lack of faith in him as a coach.
Based on the Knicks' last season winning percentage alone, they should expect to win thirty games this season. So far through a little more than a quarter of the NBA season, the Knicks have a winning percentage of .348, which would put them on pace for around twenty-nine wins. Should the Knicks be on pace for more than twenty-nine wins? Probably, but there is no reason to think the Knicks will not at some point go on a winning streak to up that pace a bit. Remember, even the twenty-three win Knicks of yesteryear won six straight games.
Now, let us get to the heart of the matter, which is why Larry Dolan is wrong that the Knicks have not shown "evident progress" this season over last season or to the use the term I prefer, "statistically significant progress." After comparing the two teams' first twenty-three games, last year's and this year's, the Knicks of 2006-07
are a vastly improved offensive team over the Knicks of 2005-06 in the following categories: offensive efficiency (106.4 to 101.2), field percentage (41% to 38%), effective field goal percentage (49.1% to 45.9%), and true shooting percentage (53.7% to 50.9%).
Reasons for this improvement are most likely twofold with first fold being that the players feel more freedom under Isiah Thomas's offensive system than they did under Larry Brown's and so are playing offense more freely. Furthermore, and this is the rationale I give more favor to, with the team's roster stability so high from last year to this, the players are more accustomed to playing with each other and know what other of their teammates can and cannot do, which gives them the ability to give their teammates the ball in the places where they will have the highest chance of success.
On defense, though, Larry Dolan has a point when he says he has not seen enough "evident progress" because the 2006-07 Knicks have not improved over where the 2005-06 Knicks were during the same juncture. However, nor has this year's Knicks' defense worsened over what it was last year twenty-games into the season. Optimists will no doubt point out that with the Knicks improving offensively and at least not worsening defensively, the team on a whole is a lot better. For the purposes of this post, I am one of those optimists.
Of course, the Knicks will need to improve on defense at some point in the season to make the improvement a total one, but there was no reason for the owner Larry Dolan to be anything but positive over the state of the Knicks.