If you’re a Knicks fan — a real Knicks fan — you don’t have many possible choices as to what your favorite team-related moment from the past ten years could be, and, in fact, one of them isn’t even directly related to the ‘Bockers.
One particular moment that Knicks fans do, or at least should, love just as much as the others, came on Sunday, June 12, 2011. For those unfamiliar with that date, it’s the night that the Dallas Mavericks captured their first ever NBA title, and did it at the expense of, and in the home of, the Miami Heat.
LeBron wasn’t supposed to be in Miami. He was never meant to team up with one of his biggest rivals, even if they were best friends. LeBron was supposed to be a Knick. That game was supposed to be in The Garden.
Nevertheless, in hindsight, it’s no longer about that the Mavericks accomplished that impressive feat, but moreso about how they did it. Sure, they had a once-in-a-lifetime power forward in Dirk Nowitzki, but they also had last year’s Defensive Player of the Year and current Knick, Tyson Chandler. Perhaps even more importantly, they had Jason Kidd.
Obviously, the Jason Kidd that the Knicks signed over the summer isn’t the same one that swept the Knicks as a member of the Nets in the first round of the 2004 playoffs. Heck, this isn’t even the same Kidd that simply helped lead the aforementioned Mavs team two seasons ago. But it is still Kidd, and with him, the Knicks can develop a formula similar to that championship squad.
In that series, the Heat struggled mightily with many things. Their perimeter shooting was dismal. Their best players tended to disappear in the games’ most meaningful moments after building seemingly unsurmountable leads and their inability to penetrate into the paint was thanks, mostly in part, to the presence of Chandler.
What seemed to work the best, though, for the Mavericks was their intuition to mate Kidd in the backcourt with fellow point guard, the younger, faster, JJ Barea. While the pair didn’t overwhelm the box score (Combined for 16.5 points/6.7 rebounds/9.5 assists), having them simeltaneously on the court created matchup problems for the swingman-laden Heat.
Barea served as a spark, with his exceptional ball-handling skills enabling him to weave through the defense and leave Miami players in disarray in several different situations. On the other hand, Kidd, though his body may not agree, will always be a point guard. His mind remains three plays ahead of everybody else’s, sees things that slip past the average eye and, in his elder statesmanship, has developed a nearly-automatic three-point jumper that came in handy when Barea caught the opponent out of position.
If you’re wondering why this important, you’re probably not alone. If, while reading this, you said to yourself “JJ Barea isn’t a Knick,” you’re absolutely right. The Knicks do have Raymond Felton, though, and while he doesn’t have the ball-handling skills or speed of Barea, he’s a viable point guard and more than capable of carrying out a gameplan similar to that of the 2011 Mavs. His ability to get into the key creates mismatches for defenses, thus creating open shots for perimeter players and/or easy buckets for members of the frontcourt.
Felton comes into 2012-13 with a huge chip on his shoulder. He felt wronged by his inclusion in the Carmelo Anthony deal two seasons ago, and rightfully so. His play was nearing All-Star status that winter, and, before he knew it, he was a Denver Nugget.
What about Felton should excite New Yorkers the most, though, is his relationship with starting power forward Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire, who spent the summer working on post moves with all-timer and infamous Knick-killer, Hakeem Olajuwon, is entering the season with maybe even more to prove than Felton. After a long, dragged-out summer of naysayers second-guessing his chemistry alongside Anthony, Stoudemire’s comfort with Felton should, at least, provide some level familiarity among a team that has never really played together.
The thought of a physical, determined Felton and a savvy veteran like Kidd paired in the same backcourt might not immediately result in beating the Heat in a six-game series. It might not even assist the Knicks in advancing in the playoffs for the first time in more than ten years. What it could mean, though, is more of a willingness to share the ball, as well as help create the smartest New York lineup in recent memory.
So, while Knicks fans continue to mourn the loss of new Raptor Landry Fields, await the health of Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert, or the expect maturity of JR Smith, they can sleep easy knowing that their starting shooting guard may be something even better: a point guard.