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Knicks’ triangle offense didn’t take shape in season opener

October 26, 2016

CLEVELAND - Derrick Rose had spent most of the preseason in a Los Angeles court room, arriving back in New York in time for a handful of practices and scrimmages before making his regular-season debut Tuesday night.

He admitted there was some rust and his timing was slightly off as the Knicks were crushed by the defending champion Cavaliers, 117-88. But his real issue was with - as many before him in New York could attest - was the Phil Jackson-favored triangle offense.

Rose won an MVP award in 2011 as a nearly unstoppable force in the Chicago Bulls’ pick-and-roll schemes. And after his first effort at the system implemented by Jackson and new Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, Rose was missing his old style of play.

“This is the first game, but we have a lot of room to improve,” Rose said afterward. “Just the offense, with me, of course, I want pick and roll every time down. But with the triangle, with the auto, towards the end, when you saw us running it, it was just us trying to get used to it so it’s not that foreign. We got a lot of room to make up on that side of the ball, too.

“I’ve got to find a way,” Rose added. “There’s no way around it. I got to find a way, and I’m going to find a way. That’s what being great is all about.”

The reliance on the triangle, which Jackson preached in winning 11 NBA championships as head coach in Chicago and Los Angeles, was supposed to be reduced with Hornacek’s arrival. The first two years of Jackson’s regime as Knicks president had Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis, two of his proteges, coaching. Hornacek had spoken of using triangle aspects, but trying to push the ball more and use pick and roll at times.

It has gotten to a point that Carmelo Anthony was saying last season he didn’t even want to say the word “triangle.” So he understands Rose’s frustration in acclimating to the system. Asked if the Knicks might be better served with the simpler pick-and-roll offense at least early in the season while the new players find their way, Anthony didn’t say the word again.

“I really don’t know,” Anthony said. “To be quite honest with you, I don’t know how to answer that question. We want guys to feel comfortable with kind of who they are. We don’t want to try to change anybody’s game.

“If Derrick feels comfortable being up there in high pick and roll, that’s his game. You can’t take him away from that. You want to utilize guys’ strengths. That’s who he is. That’s who he’s always been. We want to rely on that. We don’t want to take that away from him.”

Rose pointed to the Cavs’ ability to milk what they do well, going back to it repeatedly until the opposition proves they can stop it. And he believes with the talent the Knicks have, they could do the same with him operating in the pick and roll.

“Just the shooting that we have, we have to make you make a decision,” he said. “Pick your poison. Either you’re going to make me get all the way to the rim, or they’re going to contain me so I don’t penetrate, and with the three and the four - Carmelo and (Kristaps Porzingis) - they’re able to shoot it. You see with Cleveland, they run pick and roll the entire game and create mismatches and close outs, driving the ball and making someone else commit and pitching out for a 3, and that’s something we have to keep doing.”

There were some positives for Rose - if not the Knicks. He did get to the rim repeatedly, driving with no fear (although Knicks fans - and executives - aware of his injury history may have cringed every time he fell awkwardly to the floor). Rose finished with 17 points, and while he turned the ball over four times, all were in the first half.

What Rose really sounded like he wanted was a throwback to his Chicago days, not just in schemes, but in effort, too, asking for the sort of defensive intensity that the Bulls had under Tom Thibodeau.

“We’ve got to put people down,” Rose said. “We’ve got to foul. Not put them down but for sure we have to foul them in the open court to make sure he doesn’t get the crowd into the game. Little things like that we just have to learn.

“We’re building up to something,” he added. “We’re building up to become a playoff team. So every game that we’re playing we have so much to learn. Even the games that we do win there’s still areas to learn. (Tuesday) left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. We should be able to take it out on each other (in practice).”

Email: popper@northjersey.com