Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: Does Mike Woodson need to help Steve Novak get easier looks and more involved in the offense?
Novak came right out of the gate firing, shooting 5-for-8 from beyond the arc in the Knicks' season opener against the Heat on Nov. 2.
But since that win, the sharpshooter has only made four 3-pointers in four games, including a bagel performance against the Sixers in the second game of a back-to-back.
So what's going on?
The most obvious reason is that Novak is no longer buried on the scouting reports any more. His name is now high up on the first page and in bold type. Even with the Knicks' effective ball movement, opposing teams have appeared to close out on Novak better, forcing him to take tougher shots and challenging him to put the ball on the floor. But he hasn't shown much yet of his new tools, including pump fakes and dribble pull-ups.
From a team standpoint, Mike Woodson hasn't really been calling any pick-and-pops for Novak. The coach is focusing on Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd running the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler, and Carmelo Anthony receiving the pass in the low- or mid-post areas to go to work.
And because of Melo's high scoring rate closer to the basket -- he's averaging a league-high 26.8 points per game, mostly from points scored at the rim and from 10 to 15 feet -- he's not looking to feed his teammates as much through his playmaking (he's averaging a career-low 1.6 assists per game).
There have been times when the ball stalled a bit with Novak on the court -- for example, during the Magic game Tuesday night -- and that's because of two main factors: one, the point-guard backcourt of Felton and Kidd is usually broken up then; and two, J.R. Smith is a man on a tear, like Jamal Crawford is with the 6-2 Los Angeles Clippers. While Novak is the Knicks' most dangerous downtown threat, Smith has been red-hot with his own 3-point shooting (13-for-18; 72.2 percent).
The biggest issue that Novak faces compared to Smith is that he needs assistance getting open. But Woodson's not having Novak run off down screens and things of that matter like a shooter who also has midrange ability. Novak can work off curls, but he's being used as mostly a stationary gunner from the baseline corner, especially because the focal points in the offense are the pick-and-roll, Anthony's post-ups and Smith's scoring.
Of course, it's obviously early in the season, and the Knicks are playing well doing what they're doing. But if Novak continues his dismal streak, don't be surprised if Woodson backtracks to what he said several times last season, "I need to do a better job of helping Steve."
That starts now. Woodson can't afford to have Novak disappear once again in the playoffs, especially as the team is poised to make a deeper run.
Do you think Novak needs to get more touches in the offense? Leave us your comments below.
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