Knicks coaches let players determine defensive strategy last season

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The New York Knicks gave up the eighth-most points per game (108.0) among all NBA teams last season en route to an embarrassing 31-51 record.

While a number of factors play into that number, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek recently revealed a surprising tidbit of information regarding the interaction between players and the coaching staff last year.

Via ESPN’s Ian Begley, Hornacek said he and his staff gave veteran players the opportunity to determine how certain opponents should be defended.

But, this year things will go much differently in that regard.

"We're not doing that this year," Hornacek said Monday. "When we go to shoot around that (defensive) plan will be in place. We'll know the adjustments, instead of trying to give the guys the idea, ‘Hey, you guys play, you guys know these guys. What's the best way to do it?'"

The coach even admitted that he made a mistake in giving players the freedom to make important defensive decisions last season.

"I played on teams that had great veteran players," the coach explained. "We had a basic thing, but most of the time it was, ‘Okay, I'm going to be doing this, you're going to be doing this and we worked it out.' That's maybe what I thought we'd be able to do last year with the guys. But that's, we found out that didn't work the best for us. This year we worked all summer to try to figure these things out.”

Part of the reason why Hornacek’s plan to limit veteran’s input might work out is simply because the team is young and rebuilding. In fact, just Jarrett Jack (33), Joakim Noah (32), Courtney Lee (31) and Ramon Sessions (31) are in their 30s. Some of the team’s presumed core contributors like Tim Hardaway Jr. (25), Enes Kanter (25), Doug McDermott (25), Willy Hernangomez (23), Kristaps Porzingis (22) and Frank Ntilikina (18) haven’t crossed the 25-year-old threshold yet.

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Therefore, in terms of personnel, the decision to place a focus back on coaching makes a lot of sense.

This is the second major change that the Knicks will make in terms of their defensive philosophy this season.

Last week, Hornacek noted that associate head coach Kurt Rambis will no longer be running the defense by himself.

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“We’ve worked all summer – all of us – on how we want to do things. And we want to tell guys, 'Hey, if you have a question on defense, ask these three guys or ask me,'" Hornacek told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, adding, “So it’s kind of everybody now.”

Hornacek continued, “We, I, put him in that position last year. We started the season a certain way and then we tried to change and it was too difficult. But we had a summer of working on it and talking and meetings so we’re not changing midseason any more."

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Certainly on the hot seat, Hornacek and his entire coaching staff know that things need to improve sooner rather than later, even during a rebuilding period. Therefore, cohesion between coaches and players and a defined relationship between the groups is essential.

The Knicks will take on Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Thunder in Oklahoma City on October 19 to start their season. In order for them to come out with the upset, New York's defense will certainly have to be clicking on all cylinders.

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