New York Post

Hornacek: Defense comes 1st


Wait a minute. What was going on here? Jeff Hornacek was talking in Westcheste­r on Monday about the Knicks’ style and the word “triangle” never was used? By anybody. Guess change really is in the air around the Knicks.

So Hornacek spoke more about “defense” than geometric figures. Defense. It’s enough to bring the old timers back to the Garden in throwback jerseys.

“We want to try to establish an identity. The identity has to become defense first,” Hornacek said.

“We have to also try to develop a mentality for them, that desire to get a stop. It’s not, ‘OK, he scored that time, I’ll guard him next time.’ You should be embarrasse­d. You should feel, ‘That guy can’t score on me.’ That’s the mentality you have every time you’re guarding the guy with the ball.”

Suffice to say there wasn’t a lot of embarrassm­ent around the Knicks last season. At least not because of the defense. The Knicks ranked 23rd in points allowed and generally stunk defensivel­y.

Hornacek’s Knicks tale has been well told. He was hired by Phil Jackson after the disastrous runs by Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis. Hornacek was not a triangle coach, but shortly before the All-Star break Jackson was insistent the triangle would be the offense of choice, even though the players regarded it with all the respect given substances wiped off the bottom of shoes.

“I don’t think we were restricted. We were trying to meld some different ways you play basketball. We weren’t able to do it the way we wanted to but we’re moving forward,” Hornacek said. “It gives us an opportunit­y to incorporat­e some of the things that we as coaches learned last year. Bringing some things we as coaches learned last year. Bring some of the things we did before that. ... Guys have to be knowledgea­ble with, be comfortabl­e with, and feel that if they lay it out there, they’re going to have success.”

So Hornacek wants to emphasize defense, which always was a staple of the old Bulls dynasty under Jackson, and not just play offense the way Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did.

“We’re going to do some things this year a little bit different than last year, in terms of something internally that guys will be able to see,” Hornacek said. “We want to be a team that’s scrappy, a team that’s diving on balls, taking charges. ... We want to become a team that does that. That’s how you win ballgames.”

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