The New York Knicks enter this season with plenty of people doubting them both as a team, as well as individuals. Some of those doubts are fair and some of them aren’t, but the Knicks should be listening to them and using them as motivation.
The Knicks are being prognosticated by most analysts to be anywhere from a 44-50 win team this year, and with the right matchup, could possibly get into the second round of the playoffs. That is likely a very fair assessment, but the Knicks need to be aiming higher.
With the way the Knicks have built their team, they have left themselves a short window to compete for a championship. That window is probably around two or three years and this year may be their best shot. Besides Miami, every team in the East has flaws. Boston has old age, Brooklyn has to deal with putting new pieces together, Chicago will be without Derrick Rose for awhile, Indiana still has no stars, Orlando lost Dwight Howard, Atlanta lost Joe Johnson, and Philadelphia is still pretty weak offensively.
All the Knicks have been hearing all off-season are jokes about how old they are and about how Brooklyn is coming to take over New York City. Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, referred to James Dolan as “that little man” in an article in New York Magazine. Also, new Nets guard Joe Johnson said that the Nets were the best team in New York.
The greatest athletes in sports use these slight digs at them to help drive them to perform better. The Knicks need to do that during this season. The Celtics have certainly responded to being called old over the last few seasons and have used it as a badge of honor. The Knicks have the veteran leadership, so hopefully they do the same.
Many individual players on the Knicks should have plenty of motivation for themselves that has nothing to do with what I have mentioned so far. Players with even more motivation to perform include the likes of Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Felton’s arrival to New York this offseason came with a lot of controversy. The Knicks decided to trade for Felton from Portland, rather than sign the popular Jeremy Lin. The Knicks were crucified for this decision, as Felton was admittedly out of shape last season in Portland and played dreadfully.
Felton already seems like he is going to play with something to prove this season. He has come into camp in much better shape and has played well in the pre-season. Felton had eight assists in the first pre-season game at Washington and got to the basket with ease.
The Knicks will be looking for Felton to find the same chemistry he had with Stoudemire the first time Felton was in New York, especially with pick-and-rolls. Felton will never put up the same numbers under Mike Woodson as he did under Mike D’Antoni, but he can still be just as effective as a point guard. He will be more of a mediator and less of a high-octane point scorer and pace pusher. He will need to get the ball in the right spots for guys like Anthony and Stoudemire to put up their points. His veteran presence might mesh with this Knicks team better than Jeremy Lin would have.
Anthony might be the Knick player with the most motivation entering the season. Now that LeBron James has won a championship, all eyes will roll towards Anthony, as he is considered by some now the most talented player yet to win a ring. Not only is Anthony ring-less, but he has only gotten out of the first round of the playoffs once in his career.
Anthony had a rough year last year, for his standards, as he had a down year on the court and his commitment to the team was questioned. In an article for ESPN The Magazine, Anthony is painted as a big reason why Lin was sent packing, as well as why D’Antoni resigned. He couldn’t seem to find his shot all season, as he shot a career low 43% from the field and only averaged 22.6 pts per game.
Anthony was accused of not using his teammates enough in the playoff series against Miami, although who can blame him when those teammates consisted of JR Smith, Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Landry Field, Toney Douglas and Jarred Jeffries. Due to injuries to Iman Shumpert, Ama’re Stoudemire and an illness to Tyson Chandler, the Knicks had no chance in that series, yet Anthony still took the blame.
Anthony has committed to doing whatever it takes to win this year, even if it means not scoring as much. We have heard that before, so he will have to prove it on the court. Anthony has many doubters to prove wrong this season and he has the talent to do it.
Stoudemire is the other Knick with a lot to prove this season. Everybody is saying he is done and that he will never be the same player again. Like Anthony, Stoudemire is coming off a tough season on and off the court. Stoudemire only played in 47 games last season and was a shell of himself. He seemed to have lost a lot of the explosiveness that made him the player he was. Stoudemire only averaged 17.5 pts and 7.8 rebs per game last year. He then made his season even worse by punching a fire extinguisher after the Game 2 loss in Miami and was forced to miss Game 3 of the series.
Stoudemire is a very prideful player who will work his hardest to get back to the player he was. He has worked with Hakeem Olajuwon on his post game this summer, which would be a big addition to his game to go along with his pick-and roll game, his mid range jumper and his face-up game. Unfortunately for Stoudemire and the Knicks, Amare will miss the first two games of the season – possibly more – due to a left knee injury. Once he’s back, though, I fully expect him to try and silence the critics.
The Knicks have a lot of questions that need to be answered this season, but hopefully the veteran leadership on this team keeps them focused for the whole season. One thing is for sure: the New York Knicks should not lack motivation.