Ironically, the recent adjustment to the starting lineup for the Knicks features a frontline that was expected to strike fear in opposing defenses for many years. Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler were a much-ballyhooed combination when the trio formed in 2011 but injuries limited the on-court time for these three All-Star caliber players.
On Monday night in Detroit, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson inserted Stoudemire into the starting lineup with J.R. Smith at the shooting guard spot. Desperately seeking a spark plug to jump-start the New York offense, Woodson relied on a crew that spent minimal time together this season. The starting unit responded by building a 28-20 led on the Pistons in the first quarter of action. Anthony and Stoudemire combined for 28 points and eight boards as New York entered the locker room with a five-point halftime lead.
While the Knicks were unable to secure the road win in Detroit, the head man went back to the starting unit that seemed to find success in Wednesday's must-win game against the Wolves. Raymond Felton, Smith, Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler established dominance from the tip with a 38-point first quarter and 14-point advantage. Spacing, ball movement, and clear decision-making were evident in the early action, which has been absent for most of a trying season.
This starting five unit also allows Woodson to stick with a big lineup. Woodson had made it known that he desires a more traditional starting five as seen earlier in the year with Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and Chandler.
“I don’t have a problem with that, especially when we are playing against traditional bigs like Kevin Love and [Nikola] Pekovic,” Anthony answered when asked about the new wrinkle to start games. “For them two guys to go against Tyson and Amar’e, it keeps me from being down there, banging with them guys and we are able to do a lot of things out there.”
According to NBA.com/Stats, the Felton-Smith-Anthony-Stoudemire-Chandler lineup has played 64 minutes together this season. The group owns an offensive rating of 110.7, a defensive rating of 105.4, a net rating of 5.4, an effective field goal percentage of 53.1, and a true shooting percentage of 55.8.
Additionally, the Knicks second unit changes with Pablo Prigioni directing traffic next to Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. Cole Aldrich and/or Jeremy Tyler serve as a big in the lineup to help protect the rim or score in Tyler’s case.
“It makes us deeper. Getting Shump back, getting an extra defender, wing slasher to be able to rotate him J.R. and Timmy,” Chandler explained.
Woodson admitted he would have to monitor Stoudemire's health situation in terms of minutes and his place in the starting lineup. There’s also the possibility of New York continuing to match-up against the size of the opposition. However, if this starting five continues to flourish, Woodson may ride it while the Knicks fight for a postseason berth.