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Column: Knicks need changes in order to improve

By Spencer Mayfield
On January 22, 2014

After a promising start to the 2014 calendar year the New York Knicks have crashed back to reality. New York started off the year by winning six of its first seven games and finally showed signs of life, but since then the Knicks have lost four straight games by an average of 18 points. Coach Mike Woodson appears to have lost control of the team as they struggle to find their identity. One of the biggest issues for the team has been finding a rotation that plays well on both the defensive and offensive ends.
The Knicks have no choice but to try and rebuild their roster because they cannot risk Carmelo Anthony leaving the team for free agency. Anthony seems to be headed toward this path as his frustration continues to become more visible with each embarrassing defeat. Although Anthony has played incredibly well at times, this current situation is not working out for the team. The Knicks' offense is so heavily reliant on Anthony because he does not receive consistent help on a game-by-game basis. The Knicks need to find a way to trade Anthony before the trade deadline in order to acquire some type of value for him. It would be devastating for the team to give up a talent like Anthony without receiving anything back in return, especially with their lack of upcoming draft picks.
J.R. Smith has also become a liability for New York and has become more known for his antics rather than his performance. Smith has been benched twice in the past eight games due to his immaturity. It is no secret that the Knicks were a better team last season when a much more focused Smith had the best season of his career highlighted by winning the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award. After receiving a contract extension to return to the team, the Knicks have yet to see that version of Smith again. Smith's play has been an overall detriment to the team; his scoring has decreased by six points per game and he is shooting a career-low 37 percent from the field. If Smith's attitude does not improve, it is hard to imagine him helping the team.
In order for the Knicks to improve, they should commit to giving Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. larger roles within the offenses. Both players provide much-needed youth that New York needs as well as the ability to play with passion and energy, something that is lacking from Smith. Although Shumpert has been slumping for most of the season on the offensive end he has shown flashes that he can be a consistent scorer. Hardaway Jr. also has shown off his natural scoring ability at times but also needs to play more consistently. It is time for Woodson to give Shumpert and Hardaway Jr. a chance to earn the playing time that Smith has not valued.
New York is past the point in the season where they can expect things to get better without making changes to their roster. Trading Anthony is the only way to guarantee that this team will be able to improve. The risk of trying to re-sign Anthony in free agency is far too great for the team to just roll the dice and hope he returns.

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