Sports Knicks at .500 entering soft December schedule Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis each average more than 20 points. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac By Anthony Payero Special to amNewYork December 2, 2016 8:05 AM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email The New York Knicks approach the quarter-mark of the schedule with a middling 9-9 record as they aim to end their 43-year championship drought. Coach Jeff Hornacek and the Knicks will have the upper hand against opponents in December. In the 15 games they will play this month, only five of those will be against teams with winning records. They’ll host the 5-13 Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. This revamped team has the potential to succeed this year, but these three observations from the first full month of the season point to a team with work to do: So-called ‘big three’ Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony are arguably the biggest names on the roster, but they are not playing up to expectations. Anthony’s team-leading 22.2-point scoring average is up slightly from last season. Rose, the former MVP, has been good for the Knicks at the point guard position, averaging 16.4 ppg and 4.8 apg. But the Chicago-born guard’s star potential has been limited after ceding some playing time to Brandon Jennings. Noah, who is day-to-day with an ankle sprain, has not been the center the Knicks needed with averages of 4.0 points and 8.1 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. Where’s the defense? The Knicks’ struggles continue on the defensive end, as opponents are averaging 106.5 points against them, tied for seventh-most in the league. Hornacek and newly-appointed “defensive coordinator” Kurt Rambis are mulling over strategies to improve the team’s efforts on the court. The Knicks must work on their defensive rebound rate (tied for 28th) defensive efficiency (tied for 25th) to keep teams under 100 points, a task they completed only three times. Future of the franchise The 7-3, second-year pro continues to impress all the naysayers who weren’t thrilled with his draft selection last year. Porzingis is the most efficient Knick offensively, shooting 49.1% from the field. Along with his offensive statistics (21.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Porzingis shows his defensive side as well, picking up 13 blocks in his last five games. His ability to protect the rim allows him to spend more minutes at center, helping the Knicks through Noah’s absence. By Anthony Payero Special to amNewYork Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.