Knicks cite 'productive' team meeting after beating Hawks

NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks held a meeting on Saturday between coaches, players and executives -- including team president Phil Jackson -- to clear the air over a few lingering issues.

The meeting lasted about an hour, according to Carmelo Anthony, and the players did most of the talking. Jackson attended a portion of the meeting.

Whatever was said seemed to strike the right chord.

The Knicks came out on Sunday afternoon and beat a strong Atlanta Hawks team 104-94 for its most impressive win of the young season.

Afterward, players cited the meeting as one of the factors behind their strong play.

“You can just see the difference,” Anthony said. “I think any time you have a meeting or conversation amongst each other, guys say what they have to say and you get a better understanding of where guys’ mindset is and what they’re thinking, rather than not communicating. So I thought yesterday was good for us to kind of just get it out there; guys said what they had to say. It was a great response from everybody that you could see today.”

The response manifested itself in many ways.

The Knicks entered play on Sunday ranked 29th in defensive efficiency, but they somehow held Atlanta to 40 percent shooting. They did so without starting center Joakim Noah, who was out with an illness. Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder finished with just a point in 21 minutes on 0 for 8 shooting, a credit to Derrick Rose’s defense.

On the other side of the ball, the Knicks had 21 assists and shot 48 percent from the floor. Anthony was impressively efficient, finishing with 31 points on 12 for 22 shooting. He hit four of eight 3-point attempts.

Afterward, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek explained what led to Anthony getting hot.

“In the first half, when they had a smaller guy on him, we could go to him. Then they put [Paul] Millsap on him; he’s about the same size. Then we got him off on to some other guys in pick-and-rolls, and he was able to step out,” Hornacek said.

“He’s one of the best in the league at one-on-one play. We have confidence in him when he gets the ball over there, even though guys tend to stand around. We’re trying to get those guys to cut. He threw one off to somebody for 3. In this game, you’re trying to find who that guy is that’s going to command a double-team.

"At some point, if Carmelo keeps making shots, they’re going to have to do something. Now he can kick it out to the other guys. He was great tonight.”

Anthony’s performance also called into question the idea -- espoused by some fans and media -- that the Knicks need to run the offense through Kristaps Porzingis every night. Porzingis is a fantastic talent, and the Knicks’ top priority should be his development. But he and Anthony benefit from one another, so it’s inaccurate to say that Anthony needs to take a backseat to Porzingis at this point.

Here’s what Porzingis had to say about the topic:

“Without Melo, it would be much more difficult for me to get those 30 points, or 28. People don’t realize that. But that’s how it is. He draws a lot of attention, and he’s the main focus for the other team. That opens up stuff for me. So without him, it would be much more difficult.

“I’m happy to have him and D-Rose and guys who are really aggressive driving to the basket, who draw so much attention for me to be able to get those wide-open looks and then attack. It’s good sometimes that we have that. Without them, it would be much more difficult.”

Things were relatively easy for Porzingis -- who posted 19 points and 11 rebounds against the Hawks -- a day after a meeting that he also described as productive.

“We talked a lot about what we want to do, how we want to be better,” he said.

It’s unclear what the players talked about during the meeting, but league sources said Courtney Lee and Noah spoke extensively. The guess here is that the offense was one of the topics of conversation. ESPN sources said some New York players expressed displeasure over the triangle offense earlier this month because they feel it doesn't suit their personnel, particularly point guard Rose, who has thrived when using pick-and-rolls.

League sources familiar with the dynamic said the players remained displeased with the triangle as recently as late last week.

One detail that we know about the meeting: the conversation was driven by the players.

When asked if Jackson spoke during the meeting, Anthony said, "Nah, he actually just listened this time. Which is good."

Clearly Jackson, who in an unrelated matter has felt some heat recently for his comments referring to LeBron James' business partners as a posse, was there to listen.

That approach seemed to work. Anthony said he and his teammates were able to sort out several issues during the meeting.

“I thought the players did a great job of just kind of voicing their opinion on kind of where we want to be, what type of team we want to be, where we want to go and things that we want to see change,” he said.

We’ll find out if that change is a lasting one over the next few days and weeks. The Knicks (6-7) host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday and the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.