After losing to the Heat in the first round of the playoffs last season, Steve Novak, who shot 4-for-7 from 3-point range in the series, knew he had to add to his game.
To better prepare for how teams, like the Heat, would defend him, Novak attacked the offseason with one main offensive plan in mind: to develop ball fakes and one-to-two dribble moves. If you've watched him closely this season, you've noticed that he doesn't look as rushed as he did in 2011-12, when he would catch the ball and usually quickly give it up if he sensed a defender closing in. He has better natural instincts upon receiving the pass, and he's made more shots with getting his defender behind him.
What's also helped is the Knicks' ball movement and efficiency, which has led to cleaner passes and more 3-point looks. Novak has done a nice job of reading the offense and finding open seams to catch and shoot. Overall, his heads-up playmaking has improved.
In a conversation with ESPNNewYork.com on Tuesday, Novak discussed more in detail about how he's been adjusting this season. Here are a few key nuggets:
I know you wanted to add some new moves in the summer. How have they helped?
I feel like it's been good so far. I feel like I've been able to get to it more, and this year is really the first year I'm being played defensively different. I think it's just understanding and how to continue to get better at that to take another step this year. So far, I feel comfortable with it. It doesn't feel like it's something I'm not used to. That was really my goal when I was working on it, to let it feel natural.
Against the Heat last season, you told me all five guys were yelling your name so they could locate you on the court. Do you still hear that?
Yeah, at times. When you come in the game, they'll say, "Shooter, this guy." You can tell there's like a scheme or something like that for me. But I don't think that's uncommon. I think that we go over the other guys in the scouting report and they go over us, and that's the thing you've got to understand -- what they're trying to do and be able to counter it.
How good has it been to get got going against the Heat this season? You're 9-for-17 from downtown in both wins.
I didn't go into those games thinking to prove something about last year. I just think I better understood how they were guarding us. Last year, I never waned to play outside of myself. I didn't want force things, I didn't want to be shooting because I had gotten a touch or something like that. And really the same thing this year. I want to play within myself and I have. I just think I've understood better how they're defending and where my shots are going to come from.
You mentioned last season how the condensed schedule helped you stay in rhythm. Does this season feel any different?
I'll be honest, I don't know what it is, but this season doesn't feel any different than the lockout season at this point. I feel like we've had a pretty tough schedule, we're playing every other day at least, so to me it feels very similar to be honest. When I look back on so far this season, to me it feels like the same kind of schedule. Hopefully it lightens up a little bit, but it doesn't for the next two weeks.
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