It’s been more than a year to remember for the Knicks, who patiently await their first round matchup with Boston and look to finally slay the dragon with a first round win. I have no complaints about this season, as it was probably the most exciting season, from start to finish, since the early 2000’s. I have compiled the top 10 moments, in my opinion, from the Knicks’ great regular season. With the help from a few fans in the Twitter community, these moments have been ranked 1-10. Thanks to my buddy CJ (@CeeJeyEff) for helping me run down a few key moments this season that made it onto the list.
10. Amar’e Stoudemire’s season debut
Before a second knee debridement, STAT was one of the top performing post-presences in the league, shooting insane clips from the field, and being an offensive juggernaut for the Knicks. His season debut (vs. Portland) was highly anticipated and one of the warmest receptions the MSG faithful have given out all year.
9. JR Smith cleared for take off
Looking back, I’m still wondering how it was physically possible to catch the lob smith caught and get the ball above the rim all while facing the other way. Smith’s monster alley-oop is definitely in contention for alley-oop of the year, if there is such an award.
8. Knicks beat Miami IN Miami WITHOUT Melo
Most critics put an asterisk next to the Knicks first win of the season against Miami due to super storm Sandy and the Heat not having the “mindset” to play basketball. There was no excuse when the Knicks traveled to South Beach in early December for a rematch against the defending champs. The Heat were beaten by 20 points for the second time in both meetings so far and could not contain another 3pt barrage, giving up 18 three pointers on their home floor.
7.JR Smith salsas after game winning buzzer-beater vs. Charlotte
Smith took a page from Victor Cruz on a night where the spotlight was solely his. Carmelo Anthony missed this game with a lacerated finger, which almost led to a loss to a sub-par opponent. But Smith stole the show in the final seconds, something that was sort of a trend this season.
6. Melo scores 50 in Miami
Yes, there was no LeBron James. Or Dwayne Wade. But there also was not one Heat player able of containing Carmelo Anthony and his hot hand. Anthony’s 50 points led to a scoring rampage over the next few weeks.
5. Smith beats the buzzer, AGAIN
Just when we thought we had saw enough salsa-ing, JR was at it again. Ironically, without Anthony again, Smith lifted the depleted Knicks to a big road win against Phoenix in the final seconds.
4. Knicks win in San Antonio
For the first time in 10 years, the Knicks won a game in San Antonio, and this one was a barnburner. Behind Felton’s 25points and two huge go-ahead threes from Jason Kidd and JR Smith, the Knicks picked up a huge road win early in the season that got a lot of people talking about the Knicks being a serious threat.
3. Anthony makes history with 30 straight 20-point games
Anthony broke Richie Guerin’s former regular season record of 29 straight games with 20 points or more against the Orlando Magic on exactly 20 points.
2. Kurt Thomas ignites a 13-game winning streak
With all the euphoria the Knicks brought along with 13 straight, including a biggie against Oklahoma City, let it be known that Kurt Thomas’ 26 minutes against Utah after a terrible road trip was the spark that lit the fire under the Knicks, and who’s injury resurrected Kenyon Martin. Props to you, Mr. Kurt, no one expected him to play 20+ minutes at all this season, and when his number was called with all other big men absent, he answered, like the true professional he is.
1. Knicks win the Atlantic division for the first time since ’93-‘94
It took the Knicks 19 years to regain supremacy in their division, and how sweet it was. This was the first goal out of the gate that Mike Woodson had set for the Knicks, and it was great seeing them accomplish a team goal reiterated all season long.
Carmelo Anthony has earned the scoring title for the 2012-13 NBA season. You mad? For some reason, Kevin Durant’s post on Instagram about not striving for that goal last night seemed like a slight jab at Melo, who went H.A.M. this season as the league’s leading scorer. So, Durant’s is number two in this points scored statistical category, and you know what, his KD V, in my biased opinion, are also second to Melo’s Air Jordan Melo M8 Advance from last year. To be fair, I’ve never slipped on a pair of Durant’s KD V.
Put aside the points per game stats of both of these forwards for a moment. Forget Oklahoma City’s astounding team record (60-21) versus the Knicks’ impressive 54 wins. If Durant’s sneakers are so fly, why has Melo bested him for scoring leader? My argument simply boils down to that ubiquitous catchphrase coined by Spike Lee (a.k.a Mars Blackmon), “It’s the shoes.” Those three words that came out of Spike’s mouth with vigor, declared that the Air Jordan signature sneaker is the reason why His Airness was able to soar to unseen heights, even though Jordan begged to differ. With all respect to MJ’s skills,
Mars Spike wasn’t willing to hand over credit to him so easily—probably because of his known die-hard allegiance to the Knicks. These are different times though: Jordan is retired, now Melo carries the torch of Jordan Brand in New York. If Mars Blackmon was resurrected from the ’90s, would he give props to Melo or his shoes? Ultimately, he’d have to favor the M8 Advance, Melo’s go-to shoe. He debuted them in the summer of 2012, as early as July when Anthony dominated in the Olympics setting a new USA Basketball record with 37 points (10 3-pointers), defeating Nigeria by a margin of 83 points. Fast forward to his second full season with the Knicks, he’s tied Bernard King’s record for three 40+ point games in a single season by a Knick. If you’ve been paying attention this year, Spike has paid homage to Melo’s idol by wearing King’s number 30 jersey. In back-to-back games where Melo scored over 40 points (against the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks), he was wearing the M8 Advance.
Conversely, Melo’s most debilitating knee injury, where he was compelled to have fluid drained, happened as he was wearing the M9′s (Black/White/Bright Citrus) against the Cleveland Cavaliers. We’re not saying that the M9 is a bad omen, because he’s played well in those, too. The Syracuse Team Exclusive of the M9 were clutch for Melo against the Toronto Raptors at The Garden on March 23rd. Overall, Anthony has played his best basketball in the M8 Advance, though. There was the epic win against the Los Angeles Lakers, where he scored 33 in the first quarter. Recently, the climax of Melo’s 2013 performance almost securing him the scoring title was highlighted when he dropped 50 on the Miami Heat, wearing the Game Royal/Team Orange/Black colorway. Oh, Spike was in the audience at the Heat game, sans King jersey though.
If you still think the popularity of the M8 Advance is only fueled by Melo, look at the sidelines at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks ball boys and the trainers all rock the White/Game Royal/Team Orange colorway. The materials are rigid and breathable because they’re built with Hyperfuse and mesh. Design credits go to Justin Taylor, who has been behind Melo’s kicks since the Air Jordan Melo M6 (2010). At that time—when Melo played for Denver—he said they were his best shoe yet. “For me to make a shoe as light as this shoe, and still be as durable as it is, and be able to go out there and perform and have no worries, I think this is the best shoe to have on your feet.” That sentiment about the M6 could relate directly to the M8 Advance. For all the great things that could be said about the M8 Advance in design, much credit goes to the foundation laid by the M8. “We’ve never done an exposed forefoot Zoom [Air] bag in the history of the brand, so it gives Melo something to kind of hang his hat on as the first to do,” said Taylor.
As we compare Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant’s PPG numbers: 28.7 versus 28.1, their sneakers are also very similar. The KD V, like the M8 Advance both have Zoom Air and are made of Hyperfuse technology which is the material that molds to the foot, making it one with the players. The KD V’s designer, Leo Chang told ESPN, “We decided to make it softer and easier to move.” The result makes Durant and Melo more explosive to the hoop when driving or cushioning them when landing. As you look up though, it’s Melo who is on top this year ending Durant’s 3-year scoring title streak. Congrats Melo. Keep advancing.
If we take an NBA snapshot right now, the Carmelo Anthony trade sure looks good for the Knicks. First, let’s review:
The Knicks gave up:
- Raymond Felton
- Danilo Gallinari
- Timofey Mozgov
- Anthony Randolph
- Wilson Chandler
- Eddy Curry
- 2014 draft pick
- Carmelo Anthony
- Renaldo Balkman
- Chauncey Billups
- Sheldon Williams
- Anthony Carter
- Corey Brewer
How are these players doing now?
Raymond Felton- At 28, Ray’s still in his prime. This season he’s averaging 14.1 points/game, while shooting 43%FG, 36% on threes and 79% from the line, all of which are above his career averages. His assists are down slightly, but so are his turnovers. The kicker, of course, is that he’s doing all this for the Knicks, not the Nuggets. To be fair to the Nuggets, they traded him away for Andre Miller, who’s giving them 10 points and 6 assists a game this season.
Danilo Gallinari- The 24 year-old was averaging 16 points and 5 rebounds a game this season, while showing signs that he might have the potential to eventually be an all-star. Unfortunately, he is currently out of the Nuggets’ lineup with a season ending knee injury.
Timofey Mozgov- The 26 year-old center has been unable to crack the Nuggets’ rotation, as he averages less than nine minutes a game.
Anthony Randolph- At 23 he still has time to blossom, but like Mozgov he’s languishing at the end of the Nugget’s bench averaging less than eight minutes a game. In the actual trade he was sent to the Timberwolves, who sent Kosta Koufos to Denver. The 23 year-old Koufos is giving the Nuggets 8 points and 7 rebounds a game.
Wilson Chandler- The 25 year-old Chandler is the actual only member of this trade really contributing to the Nuggets at the moment, putting up 12.5 points and 5 rebounds a game.
Eddy Curry- This was just about his expiring contract. He hasn’t played more than 14 games in a season since 2007-2008 and his career seems effectively over.
2014 draft pick- It remains to be seen who this will end up being, but the Nuggets used this pick to help them acquire 29 year-old Andre Iguodala, the one player on their roster who’s played in an all-star game (last season) and he’s averaging 13 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game.
Carmelo Anthony- At 28 Melo’s having the best season of his career, averaging a league best 28.7 points a game, along with 7 rebounds a game.
Renaldo Balkman- Out of the NBA.
Chauncey Billups- The 36 year-old is averaging 8 points a game for the Clippers. The Knicks amnestied his contract, which enabled them to sign 30 year-old center Tyson Chandler, who is currently the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and an all-star this season.
Sheldon Williams- Out of the NBA.
Anthony Carter- Out of the NBA.
Corey Brewer- The 26 year-old is back with Denver, where he’s averaging 12 points a game.
So, basically, the Knicks ended up with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, while the Nuggets have Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov, Miller, Koufos and Iguodala. Both teams are headed to the playoffs this season. With Gallinari out for the season, Denver is currently getting 45 points and 21 rebounds a game from the players they got courtesy of the Knicks. Anthony and Chandler are giving the Knicks 39 points and 18 rebounds a game. While this seems to give the Nuggets a slight edge, you need to consider that Denver is getting that production from a total of five players and NY is getting almost as much from only two players. Both Anthony and Chandler made the all-star game this season and no one from the Nuggets made the Western Conference team.
Quality is a much bigger deal than quantity when it comes to NBA players. It’s not like the Knicks are being forced to play with less players than Denver. Players that give you 10 points and 5 rebounds a game are relatively easy to find. NY recently picked Kenyon Martin up off the NBA scrap heap and he averages 7 points and 5 rebounds a game. All-star quality players are obviously a much rarer and more precious commodity in the NBA.
While Denver is obviously hoping to change this, the NBA title has never been won by a team without an all-star player on the roster. Denver’s entire roster has one all-star appearance between them. It was made by Iguodala, but it was before he became a Nugget. Anthony and Chandler have seven all-star appearances between them and they were both selected this season.
While this trade looks great for the Knicks, it was good for Denver too. Melo wanted out of Denver, so they had to at least try to get something in return, rather than see him walk at the end of the season and get nothing. The Nuggets currently have five decent players under 30 years old on their roster because of this trade. Miller, Koufos, Chandler, Gallinari and Iguodala are a huge part of the reason they’re going to the playoffs this season and Denver already has more wins this season than their last full season with Melo on their roster. If Gallinari, Koufos or Chandler eventually has a career spike and becomes an all-star, this trade may be one of the best moves they’ve ever made, up there with drafting Anthony.
Yet the positive impact in New York has been much greater. In their last full season without Anthony on the roster, they finished 29-53. This season, thanks in large part to Anthony’s career year, they already have more than 50 wins and their first Atlantic Division title in almost 20 years.
In a league dominated by superstars, the Knicks found a way to acquire one without having to get lucky in the draft lottery. Since the 1986-87 season, nine different players have won the NBA scoring title. Six of them have helped their team win championships and two of the others, Kevin Durant and Allen Iverson, helped their teams reach the finals. There is a very good chance Carmelo Anthony will win the scoring title this season, now let’s see if he can help the Knicks make it to the Finals.
The New York Knicks have just five games remaining in their 2012-13 regular season campaign. Where the other 77 games went, we have no idea. Currently, the Knicks sit in second place in the East right now, having won 51 games, and they just locked up the Atlantic Division for the first time since the ’93-’94 season. With the playoffs right around the corner, a lot of different storylines are hanging over the Knicks’ collective heads.
To discuss this exciting time and the surely exciting weeks ahead, The Knicks Wall team sat down and answered some questions.
1.) The Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics are all jockeying for seeds 5-7 in the East. Who do the Knicks have the best chance against and why?
Scott Davis (@WScottDavis): I want no part of the Chicago Bulls in the first round, whatsoever. Though they’re a slightly bruised bunch as well, they’ve shown utter disregard at playing short-handed. Furthermore, they’re a step closer to sweeping the season series with the Knicks (and those first three wins came pretty handily). The thought of knocking out the Celtics gets my blood rushing, but they remain (cliche coming) a veteran team with experience. And I don’t trust Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to not pull a Tonya Harding on ‘Melo’s knee before Game 1. It seems that the best option is to hope to get the Hawks – a good team, but a team I feel confident the Knicks could be four times in seven games.
Jonah Kaner (@TheKnicksWall): While it would be awesome to defeat, better-yet, sweep, the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, I think the Knicks have the best chance against the Atlanta Hawks. Simply put, the Hawks don’t really have a go-to guy that they can rely on down the stretch of crucial games.
Steve Meza (@ecualibrium): Nothing would bring me joy more than eliminating Boston in a playoff series for undisputed supremacy over the Atlantic Division. The sweet glory of Carmelo Anthony performing a 40-point-per-game series-style exorcism, assisted by JR Smith and his catch-and-shoot holy water, on the green clad demon neighbors would be an ecstasy beyond belief. Alas, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and the bottomless wisdom pit that is Doc Rivers’ brain scare me enough to look elsewhere. Even lacking their granite faced star, the Bulls flaunt a defense so ferociously zany, it would serve the Knicks better to hope Nate the Great and company soften up the Heat for 6 games before the ECF. So, kinda by default: the Atlanta Hawks.
David Vertsberger (@_Verts): It’s got to be the Atlanta Hawks. The Chicago Bulls’ defense has stifled the Knicks to no end, enough so to keep New York from taking a win in the season series thus far. The Boston Celtics are still the Boston Celtics, and although they are a more depleted version of them, they still play with tremendous enough effort that no series they’re involved in will be an easy get-by. The Knicks have had an edge against the Atlanta Hawks all year, not surrendering a single game to them and matching up with them quite well. Tyson Chandler has done a terrific job defending Al Horford, and there’s no player on Atlanta that can hope to contain Carmelo.
Rami Levi (@RamiofTeaneck): Like many Knicks fans, I’m hoping the Knicks hold onto that 2 seed and the Hotlanta Hawks drop to 7. It has become blatantly obvious in the past couple of seasons that teams need a superstar in the playoffs. We have ours. The Hawks? While the Knicks have made Kyle Korver look like Larry Bird, and I’ll concede that Josh Smith is an above average player, the Hawks have nobody who can seize the collective hearts of Knicks Nation and eat them. Paul Pierce can do that. Without Rose, the Bulls don’t necessarily have a superstar, but they do play a brand of bruising basketball that tends to result in a barrage of Knicks Ts, not 3s. I am also scarred by soul crushing series losses of years past to the Bulls and Celtics. Give me the Hawks!
Tony Arnoldine (@tonyarnoldine): The Knicks have fared worst against the Bulls this year, going 0-3 vs. Chicago ahead of their Thursday night clash. The Bulls give the Knicks fits because they have a strong interior presence. The best matchup is probably Boston, thanks to Rajon Rondo’s injury and Kevin Garnett also being banged up.
Matt Clark (jmatthewclark): As much as I’d love to eliminate Boston from the playoffs in the first round there is only one team on that list I want to see: the Hawks. The Bulls are a well-coached, defensive juggernaut with some versatile scorers, and are possibly one healthy Derrick Rose away from being the 2-seed in the East. I can say the same about Boston. And Paul Pierce would probably still find a way to kill us! So, that leaves the Hawks and while Larry Drew has done a good job with that roster, they are still not a very good basketball team.
Bryan Gibberman (@Gibberman10): Out of the Bulls, Hawks, and Celtics, the team I am most comfortable with the Knicks facing in the first round is the Hawks. Despite the fact Atlanta has advanced to the second round in three out of the last five years, I don’t trust them in a playoff series. New York is 4-1 against Atlanta over the past two seasons.
Steve Scafidi (@Steve_Scafidi): All three teams would present a great test early in the playoffs. Boston, however, is not the Boston of years past. The momentum coming off a tough-fought series win beating the former rulers of the Atlantic Division could probably carry us all the way through the second round. Boston’s bench is pretty thin, and young, which will end up in more minutes on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The speed of the Knicks will probably be too much to handle in a seven-game series.
Matthew Bove (@RAYROBERT9): I would most want the Knicks to play Atlanta. I think the Knicks would beat Atlanta or Boston easily in around five games. The Knicks have beaten the Hawks twice this year and Melo scored 40 in both games, so clearly they have nobody to guard him. The only thing about the Hawks that scares you is that Jeff Teague is a quick point guard who can give the Knicks issues.
Eduardo Guerrero (@DannyG_NYC): Based on the regular season, I’d have to say the Hawks. Bulls have handled the Knicks pretty well while all three wins vs the Celtics came against battered Celtics squad (no Rondo for first win, no Rondo & KG in last two wins). It did take a fantastic game from Melo to beat the Hawks in MSG earlier this season, but the Knicks then took them apart in Atlanta. As long as Tyson and K-Mart are healthy come playoff time to hold down Al Horford, I don’t see the Hawks being much of a challenge to the Knicks.
2.) What is essential for the Knicks’ success going forward into the playoffs?
SD: I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. Carmelo Anthony’s right hand hot enough to fry an egg, the Knicks executing with machine-like precision, injuries slowly dwindling the ranks…. Things are kinda really great and really bad at the same time. Going forward, getting a player taller than 6’10″ back on the court (and healthy, too) is really important, as is the Knicks’ ability to drain three-pointers at a laughably insane rate. I’m scared to see what happens if the Knicks go through an ill-timed shooting slump. And don’t get me started with an injury to ‘Melo….
JK: Ball movement. This season, we’ve seen two completely different Knicks teams. One moves the ball around, the other doesn’t. The former gets pooped on, while the latter poops on opponents — It’s that simple.
SM: Health. The Knicks’ front line has been unmercifully ravaged by the injury bug. It’s been more like a locust-infested injury plague. On the flip side, the Knicks have been remarkably adept with the small ball lineups. The crisper ball movement and the reemergence of the 3-point weapon could motivate Woodson to throw Chris Copeland more minutes. That, and the fact that he really has no other choice at this point.
DV: It’s a multitude of things: stay healthy, don’t lose composure in physical contests, don’t iso-Melo your way through the offense, don’t try out any new lineups, play the ones that work well, like dual point guards and ‘Melo at the four. If a successful playoffs for the Knicks is getting out of the first round, then you don’t have to do all of these things. But if the standards are much higher, which I hope they are, all aforementioned keys are pivotal to having a great playoffs run.
RL: Obviously health is a critical factor when it comes to the Knicks’ playoff success. And yes, the belabored point of “they need to keep knocking down shots” holds true. But I firmly believe it comes down to composure. As we’ve seen throughout this streak, the Knicks are at their best during a blowout. The best player on the Knicks is their confidence. This does not happen in the playoffs. With exception of the occasional blowout, you gotta slog through a seven game series. Throughout the season, the Knicks have struggled in grind-em’-out-games…they lose their composure. If they can stay strong mentally, they can move on in the playoffs.
TA: The key to Knicks’ playoff success is their health and the continued high-level play of Carmelo Anthony. Melo is playing like an MVP and providing defense and rebounding along with his usual high-octane scoring. If opposing teams key in on Melo and slow down his offense, he can still make everyone around him better with great passing and drawing double teams. It will then be up to the perimeter scorers to hit shots.
MC: Health, of course, but the real key is going to be ball movement and the ability to catch and make three-pointers. I don’t need to revisit how deadly this team was in the first 25 games of this season or how good they are right now; but it all comes down to the ability to knock down open threes. In order for Melo to be truly devastating we have to always pose the threat that if you double him or collapse on him in the post, our shooters will make you pay. This gives Melo more one-on-one opportunities, and I’d argue with anyone about there being a better player in the league in that scenario.
BG: For the Knicks to have success in the playoffs it will be following the same pattern they did in the regular season – a highly efficient offense and an average defense. This blueprint got the Phoenix Suns to the Western Conference Finals in 2009-2010 and it can do the same for the Knicks this season.
SS: That has to be JR Smith. We all pretty much are assured Anthony will be locked and loaded when the playoffs get rolling—if Smith can maintain his efficiency and rebounding, it will be tough for opposing defenses to try and keep tabs on both Anthony and Smith.
MB: The Knicks need to be healthy first and foremost. Their last two postseasons have been derailed by injuries and it cannot happen again. They need to do whatever they can to get Chandler and Martin healthy. Secondly, they need to hit their threes, as they attempt the most in the NBA and hit on 37.7% of them. The majority of them have come in the flow of the offense this year and if playoff teams are taking them away they cannot force them. The offense is what has gotten the Knicks this far and will determine how far they go.
EG: Health. It’s seemed like everyone on the team has had to deal with injuries this season. Now that Tyson is banged up and with K-Mart hurting his ankle, the team needs to get as healthy as possible for the playoff. The pieces are in place for a deep run. They just need to stay healthy.
3.) How far is this Knicks team capable of going into the playoffs?
SD: It always depends on a number of variables: ‘Melo’s jumper, the health of the big men, efficiency of the offense, and obviously, the opponents. I feel fairly confident the Knicks could get past anyone in the first round. Assuming they play the Pacers in the second round… it could get scary. But the Knicks have generally persevered through injuries, and at their worst, they played slightly better than .500 ball. With a few lucky rolls, I could see this team making it to the Conference Finals. After a decade in basketball doldrums, that’s a successful season to me.
JK: Assuming the team is playing solid basketball (ball movement, knocking down threes, defense, etc), I see no reason for them to not get to the conference finals, setting up an interesting series with the Miami Heat. Should they get that far, I see the Knicks v. Heat series going 7 games, with the Knicks winning. As a Knicks enthusiast, Knicks in 6 over the Clippers.
SM: If the universe feels like blessing New York with a reversed 1999 Finals run campaign, when it seemed like the Knicks lost a player to injury in every round (seriously, the Knicks started CHRIS DUDLEY at center against The Admiral), the Knicks can bully their way to the ECF and potentially beyond. If Kenyon Martin, Tyson Chandler, and either Rasheed Wallace or Marcus Camby can return healthy and provide some staunch paint defense, I’m sure (or, I hope) Carmelo Anthony will oblige by putting on a net-splashing parade on the other end. Here’s to hoping.
DV: The peak is likely the Eastern Conference Finals. The Knicks can take on any team that isn’t in Miami, and if they maintain the second seed, they won’t have to up until round three. Once they get there, well, the season’s probably over. It’ll be a tight series – Miami won’t walk away easily like last year – but they will once again be victors.
RL: I’m having too much fun to let my overwhelming skepticism put a limit on this team. I have reason to believe they don’t even make it out of the first round. But you know what? 16 wins, and you call yourself a champion. The ‘Bockers are riding a 13-game winning streak right now – who’s to say they can’t do it in the playoffs? Nobody wants it more than a ring-less ‘Melo right now, and just maybe the basketball gods will smile on NY once more.
TD: If the Knicks are the No. 2 seed in the East, they should make it to the Conference Finals. Although the Pacers – the likely No. 3 seed – would give them headaches in the second round, the Knicks should be able to take them in a seven game series if they continue to play at the level they have been. All of this, of course, is dependent on everyone staying healthy.
MC: If K-Mart, Camby, and ‘Sheed can return from injuries and contribute, then we can beat the Heat. Grunwald and company built this team to beat Miami, and I believe that the big men are the crucial piece there. The Bulls showed the entire league how to beat Miami when they snapped their 27-game winning streak, and that is to be be bigger, tougher and more physical. If you can force their role players to make plays, you can beat the Heat.
BG: I think the Knicks’ ceiling is the Eastern Conference Finals. I do think the Knicks will put up a fight against the Heat, but in the end will fall short. New York matches up pretty well against Miami compared to others teams across the league because their offense has the ability to exploit Miami’s defense. In the end, going up against LeBron James will be too much to overcome.
SS: A realistic expectation would be the Eastern Conference finals if the Knicks stay on the level they’re on now. Indiana will most likely face New York in the second round – a team that has given them trouble all year. Our big men will need to be healthy for a deep run. Having our big men available at the same time would supply an endless amount of options for Woodson to use matching up against a big Indiana team, and eventually, Miami.
MB: The Knicks are capable of making the Eastern Conference Finals if they are healthy. If the Knicks were to lose in the first round, it would be a disaster, and a loss in the second round would be disappointing as well. If they make the Eastern Conference Finals, anything after that would be gravy. Is it impossible that they could beat the Heat? No, but obviously it’s not likely. The Knicks have played the Heat well this year; however, if Lebron James plays at the level that he has this season, there really is no beating them.
EG: Being that I think they’ll get the 2nd seed, I don’t see how the Knicks don’t get out of the first round. I don’t see the Bulls falling to 7th, so it’ll either be the Hawks or Celtics in the first round, and I believe the Knicks will beat either of them. As for the 2nd round, I can see the Knicks getting past either Indy or Chicago, but I can also see the other two advancing as well. The one advantage I do believe the Knicks have in their favor against Indy or Chicago is having Melo. The other two don’t have that guy who can get them a basket whenever they need on. To answer the question simply, I can see the Knicks getting to the Conference Finals….or losing in the second round.
“They may reach the promise land, but, for now, as the Knicks slump towards Portland, it seems they have lost their way and the wheels have fallen off the wagon.”
I wrote my last post huddled by the limited candlelight that barely illuminates “Knicks Fan Hell”. You know, that place you crawl into when the Knicks (and their limbs) are free falling, settling right into their usual bottom seeded position. While I wasted away with the season in Knicks Fan Hell, I wrote an entire column likening the Knicks’ season-ending west coast trip to a cholera-filled trek on the Oregon Trail.
The wheels, I concluded, had fallen off the bandwagon (along with many fair weather fans whose stomachs had endured one too many punches over the past ten years).
Cue Montage With Newspaper Clippings, Highlights, J.R. Smith giving Steve Novak bunny ears on the team bus, Mike Woodson laughing in the mirror as Shumpert, holding a camera, catches Coach shaping his goatee, all as The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe In Magic” blares…
12 games, 12 wins and 8,043 Carmelo Points later, the Knicks are on the verge of winning the Atlantic Division Title for the first time since 1994.
I’m not hear to tell you how it happened-Someone else can offer a much deeper analysis complete with numbers and highlights with arrows and circles and all that crap. Because honestly, I have no idea how it happened. I’m just here to react to the seemingly unbelievable fact that after 19 years, the Celtics, Nets, Sixers, (and whoever else is in our division-no but seriously-who?) will once again be looking up at our shiny behinds when it’s all said and 82 done.
It’s great, glorious, and WILDLY CONFUSING.
You see, Knicks fans use one particular classic sports cliché like they invented it: Nothing matters until the playoffs.
Every season, it’s Championship or Bust. This is Madison Square Garden we’re talking about. New York, the Mecca of basketball. Basketball is in our DNA. We are a great franchise with a history of success. These are things we tell ourselves. A division title, is “not why they play game”, as we say.
But last Friday Night’s Ceremony honoring the 1973 squad was a backhanded reminder at a very sad reality. In the scheme of “Championship or Bust”, The New York Knickerbockers have busted for 40 years in a row.
Knicks fans know this. They know its been forty years since a 7 footer went down The Canyon of Hero’s . They know the most recent basketball-related banner hanging in the rafters belongs to the New York Liberty (yep, right in the groin). They know that everyone is nostalgic for ONE season, a season MSG Network has dedicated hours of programming to, A SEASON THEY DIDN’T EVEN WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
So, I’m going to use this platform to tell all my fellow Knicks fans something they need to hear:
A division title is not a championship. Not even close. No one really remembers them unless, like in the Knicks case, it’s been nearly 20 years since you won one. You dont even get a trophy. But at the very least, a division title is tangible validation for Knicks fans who have been looking for a glimmer of hope to rise from a darkness rivaled only by that of Woody’s Goatee. An Atlantic Division title is shaky proof, that no, the Knicks don’t suck. In fact they’re pretty good. Objectively-better -than-8-teams-in-the-league, good. And maybe. JUUUUUST maybe, when push comes to shove…they’ll make it out of the first round.
So, you can puff up your chest and get all Stephen A. “Ill wait to the playoffs” on me… but for the Knicks fans just looking for permission to enjoy this relatively non-noteworthy feat, consider it granted.
 Having said that, I would like to add that Pablo Pirgioni is just NOT getting enough credit here. I don’t know what it is about the former Gaucho (not confirmed, but highly suggested), but holy hell has he made a difference. The streak has everything to do with Melo, JR and of course the addition of Kmart, but lets take a second and applaud the little ball thief. 12-0 as a starter. He doesn’t speak much English, but that record speaks for itself.
Following a stretch of three games where Carmelo Anthony has lit up the Knicks’ opponents for a combined 131 points and a Knicks record (tied) three straight 40+ point performances, all anybody can talk about, in regards to him, is his scoring. While I’ve been loving the sky-high scoring numbers, (43.6 PPG, 64.1% FG) what I’ve been more excited about is the wins – 11 sweet ones in a row. Anthony did face very few double teams and often found himself facing off against the likes of Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and Ersan Ilyasova, so the high totals are nice, but they aren’t enough to blow me away.
One thing that was brought to my attention was that combined in the first two games, Melo had only one single turnover. He did have five last night, a very bad number, but the aforementioned figure enlightened me. Carmelo doesn’t turn the ball over nearly as much as a player with his offensive duties would. He’s averaging 2.7 turnovers a game, nothing extraordinarily low. However, when compared to other qualified small forwards in the league (ESPN lists him as a small forward, no idea why), under an advanced turnover statistic, Turnover Ratio (TO), Anthony ranks just outside of the top-20, pedestrian at first glance. What you have to realize is that no player ahead of him is coming within 10% of his league-leading Usage Percentage (estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor), and only one player (Thaddeus Young) is coming within 5 minutes of Anthony’s 37.2 of game time a night.
Melo’s ball security as a primary ball handler and offensive juggernaut for the Knicks this season is actually historic, believe it or not. As of yesterday (before the evening games), Anthony’s USG%, per Basketball-Reference, is at a 35% mark and his TO% is at a 9.6% mark. Using this threshold, I searched for players with a matching criteria. USG% of 35% and over and TO% of 10% and under, with the inclusion of a 1,000 minutes played boundary, in order to knock away any small sample sizes. What came about all but solidified my understanding of Anthony’s ball security.
Only five players, since the dawn of the NBA, managed these numbers, with Anthony primed to be the sixth, should he continue his level of offensive output and ball security. Here are the names on that list:
- George Gervin – 1982 season
- Michael Jordan – 1987 & 2002 seasons
- Dominique Wilkins – 1988 season
- Tracy McGrady – 2003 season
- Kobe Bryant – 2006 season
Correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems like some decent company. Now, one rebuttal can be, “but David, Melo doesn’t pass!” Well, when checking up on each player’s AST% (percentage of a player’s possessions ending in an assist) during those seasons, Carmelo ranks fifth among the seven seasons, behind Jordan’s two, McGrady, and Bryant. Sure he’s not the most pass-heavy, but he certainly isn’t the biggest ball-hog, either. (A side note, Melo’s eFG% ranks him third among this same group.)
Speaking of passing, Carmelo Anthony is really good at it. Definitely way above average for a player of his athletic build and scoring ability. I say this right at the people criticizing this portion of Melo’s game, because it’s a flawed and inaccurate criticism. Passing is not where the majority of Anthony’s turnovers come from, he may do it more sporadically than many of us would like, but he’s a gifted distributor. Nbawowy.com has in-depth turnover breakdowns, and when looking at Anthony’s, you’ll see that 12.2% of his giveaways are under the “bad pass” category. About a tenth of every turnover he commits is the fault of an off pass.
The majority of his turnovers? Offensive fouls make up 20.7% of them, and the whopping number one cause is a “steal,” at 45.1%. Not much info lies here, so I took to Synergy Sports to further break down where Anthony has turned the ball over this season. According to Synergy’s play sorting data, Anthony turns the ball over the most on unclassified plays and on post-up tries.
Looking through (each and every one of em’) the unclassified plays, the majority were off-ball offensive fouls. The few turnovers when Anthony had the ball in his hands often came when he attempted to pass the ball within a second of him catching it: rushed passes.
The latter makes a ton of sense, with Anthony often being doubled when working in the low-post, and if it comes down hard enough a double can be ridiculously tough to get the ball out of. Post-up plays account for 20% of Anthony’s offense, only behind isolation attempts. Here is where we’ll find the meat and potatoes of Melo’s turnovers. I dug through each instance of Carmelo turning it over from the low post, and here are the only important points needed to be focused on:
- The leading cause was offensive fouls (30% of the turnovers), Melo hooking his arm to swing by an opponent or just bulldozing his way through them. This is where Anthony needs to get smarter.
- 25% of his turnovers came when Anthony was doubled and was either stripped of the ball or lost it himself. A key indicator of a turnover coming is when you see Melo keeping his head down trying to maintain control of the ball. That’s a no-no.
- Bad passes made up merely 10% of Carmelo’s turnovers out of the post, all of which occurred when he was doubled.
The next step in Anthony’s progression as an efficient controller of the basketball is to overcome his over-aggressiveness and learn how to manage being double teamed. Everyone will travel, step out of bounds or lose the ball accidentally once in a blue moon, it’s basketball, it happens. But there lies two serious trends in Anthony’s forays into the paint in which he lowers his shoulder, or pulls away defenders with his off-ball arm. Both are illegal tactics, both rarely ever go unnoticed by referees, in Melo’s case. Anthony’s court vision seems to limit itself when he backs down, as he’s often unable to see a second defender coming who applies immediate pressure, enough so to cause a turnover. Where fellow superstars LeBron and James and Kobe Bryant excel is seeing the double coming and passing out to an open shooter quickly, before the second man can get there. Anthony must develop this skill to cut down on his turnovers.
This article is about Melo’s undeniably strong ball security, but it can always improve. Look at Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Both were superstars two years ago, yet they continually worked on their games, (see: LeBron’s post game and Durant’s distributing/rebounding) elevating them to new levels. Levels where they can compete for the MVP award, at the same time being right in the hunt for an NBA championship. Anthony’s far from a perfect player, and honing one of his most impressive skills can be just as important as developing a new one.
Anthony was not always a savvy player when it comes to protecting the ball, honing a TO% of above 10% in each of his first 8 seasons in the league, before dipping under that threshold in two of his previous three years. Credit is due to his maturation as a player, and his taking upon a much steadier approach to the offensive side of the basketball. Even now though he sometimes finds himself out of control, either rushing or panicking his way into a giveaway.
Nevertheless, he’s still wholesomely remarkable at keeping the ball away from the opposition, and it’s carried over to his teammates. The Knicks are first in the league in lowest TO%, which has been a terrific team effort, but can also be in part due to Anthony’s leadership in this aspect. Leadership, the one quality Knicks fans have been praying for out of Anthony since he’s arrived. Here we see the quality in action, the one that will lead Carmelo and the Knicks to new heights.
The Knicks are 10 games into the best stretch of basketball we’ve seen all season, and it doesn’t look like they are going to take their foot off the accelerator any time soon. Yes, there is lots of credit due to many players. Kurt, you of course, get the upmost respect from all of us Knicks fans for literally kick starting us (no pun intended on his foot injury) from the bottom to where we are now. I hope you feature in a coming re-make of Drake’s “Started from the bottom” anthem that really can explain the heroics you have contributed to this winning streak being where it is now.
Elsewhere, there is Kenyon Martin, who, like Lazarus, has risen from the abyss of the NBA onto the biggest stage of them all. Then there is Carmelo Anthony, who has just been insanely bonkers the past two games, scoring 90 points and only missing 20 shots. What about the last eight games before Anthony seemingly took the rim and made it two feet wider in front of our own eyes?
Ladies and gents, Raymond Felton and JR Smith.
Truly Carmelo’s backing of sorts through this 10 game tear of almost effortless basketball. Going back 17 days all the way to Salt Lake City, Felton and Smith have averaged a combined 17 points per game on 50% shooting from the field, enough to back a powerful first option in Anthony to 10 straight. Felton’s defensive prowess has also seen a rebirth, along with the rest of the Knicks. Over 10 games, he has about two steals per, and deferring just enough where it evens out with him also being able to find his own shot when called upon at an efficient 52% clip. It’s no shocker that Felton piled up nine assists against Miami, mostly to Anthony, which was his high over the winning streak. In about 33 minutes per game, Felton has not really had any terrible games and has been a crucial piece in New York’s winning ways.
Before the past two games, the man running the show was JR Smith, who has been playing some of the best basketball in his career since Utah. Swish is averaging 23 points and five rebounds over the past 10 games. Oh, and he’s shooting 48%. Who would of ever thought we’d see the day where Smith actually attempts fewer than five three pointers in a single game? It has paid off dramatically, seeing an increase of free throws and penetration, which spaces out the whole floor for the Knicks and really gives shooters opportunities to knock down shots at a higher rate. Although he has slightly veered off path from his three games when he scored 32, 35, and 37, shooting over 50% in all three, it is still extremely gratifying watching Smith play at the level he is playing at. A level that must be maintained heading into the playoffs for the Knicks to really silence a great deal of doubters.
Smith and Felton both have justifiably been a shoulder for Anthony and company to lean on as of late, and it has transmitted into win after win. It’s going to be a sight for sore eyes seeing the Knicks keep their level of intensity up for the rest of the year, and peaking at the best time possible with their supporting cast taking a step up. Lets just remember, we are here because of Kurt Thomas.
Stats from NBA.com.
As of last night, Carmelo Anthony now has three 50-point games during his 10 years in the NBA. I had him pegged for 53 points last night, given how hot he was ending the first half with 27 points against the Miami Heat. It would have also been pretty amazing if he broke his old record, which would have matched nicely with issue #52 of the recent Melo themed zine, created by photographer/filmmaker, Ari Marcopoulos.
The 20 pages of photos take you through Melo’s highs and lows. Starting with the cover of Anthony posing for his middle school yearbook, and book ending it with the back cover, his mugshot from April 2008. For Knicks fans looking for great images of Melo joining the Knicks, there’s practically none. In the only other photo of him without cornrows, the trim on his jersey doesn’t look like a Nuggets colorway, but it’s also not a Knicks home jersey. For $15 you get a retrospect on his formative years playing at Oak Hill high school against LeBron James, winning a NCAA chip for Syracuse in ’03, then his era as a Denver Nugget. What started at just 50 copies, Marcopoulos’ zine is now sold out at Dashwood Books. Check out his website for more of his photography, plus a flick of Tyson Chandler.
- A morale destroying losing streak.
- Major injuries to multiple key stars.
- A reserve guard suddenly putting up MVP type numbers.
- A surprising seven game winning streak led by some unexpected heroes.
The Knicks’ current winning streak isn’t their only impressive win streak this season, but it’s the one that most reminds me of the history making seven game win streak they went on last season, now better known as “Linsanity”. Let’s start with a look back.
February 4, 2012. Coach Mike D’Antoni and his Knicks were desperate. After starting off the strike shortened season an encouraging 6-4, the wheels had seemingly come off the Knicks’ season. New York had just lost to the Boston Celtics, their eleventh loss in 13 games. Now, the Knickerbockers’ record stood at 8-15, with thoughts of making the playoffs rapidly seeming like a pipe dream. After missing the playoffs for six straight years, the Knicks had made it back in 2011. Now it looked like they would be going back to their losing ways in 2012.
Yet, February 4 was the day things changed. With point guard Baron Davis unavailable due to injury, D’Antoni had been trying to get by using Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas to run the show without success. Douglas had lost D’Antoni’s confidence and Shumpert was both playing out of position and playing too many minutes. Out of other options, D’Antoni had given six minutes of playing time to journeyman point guard Jeremy Lin against the Celts. Lin was solid but unspectacular, yet D’Antoni was happy enough with solid to get Lin into the game sooner the next night against the New Jersey Nets. Lin was ready. As Lin started piling up points and assists, D’Antoni took notice and left him out there for almost 36 minutes as Jeremy put up 25 points and seven assists. That night, the Knicks beat the Nets 99-92 and everything changed.
The discovery of a good point guard buried at the end of the bench was somewhat muted by the loss of Amare Stoudemire, hurt in the New Jersey game. If this wasn’t bad enough, the Knicks lost another key star, Carmelo Anthony, the very next night against Utah. At this point, D’Antoni was willing to try almost anything and he’d shoved Lin into the starting lineup and reached down to the end of the bench for another journeyman, forward Steve Novak. Novak had struggled so far that season and only played a total of four seconds in the two previous games. Yet this night he played over 17 minutes and as the Jazz defense collapsed to try and deal with the penetration of Lin, he found himself getting open and thanks in part to Lin, getting the ball. Novak made the most of this opportunity and went five of eight from deep.
With that, Linsanity was on. Lin and Tyson Chandler led a cast of second and third tier players to seven straight victories, with Novak coming off the bench and blazing away from almost as deep as he had been buried on the bench.
No one expected anything similar to happen this season. The main reason was because this time the Knicks had loaded up pretty much their entire roster full of aging veterans, with the plus and minus of them being known quantities, so the Knicks’ at least knew the ceiling of what they could likely expect from each of them. Last season’s roster featured nine players with five years or less of NBA experience. This year, the Knicks’ have only four, and two of those players, Pablo Prigioni and James White, are in their thirties. Last season, the Knicks included seven players 27 or younger, this season they only have one, the 22 year-old Shumpert.
While this may give New York a better shot at winning big this season, it does limit the number of pleasant surprises possible from their roster. There is less discovering new young talent like Lin, and more discovering nagging injuries and players losing a step from advanced age.
March 18, 2013. Coach Mike Woodson and the Knicks were desperate. They were reeling from a crushing four game losing streak where New York lost by an average of 20 points a game. Added to this were injuries to all three of New York’s front court superstars: Chandler, Anthony and Stoudemire. Suddenly, hosting a first round playoff series wasn’t looking like such a lock, never mind winning the Atlantic Division title.
March 18 was the day things changed. With the injuries to his stars, Woodson had been mixing and matching various starting lineups, frantically trying to find a winning combination. This night he unveiled his third different lineup in as many games: Prigioni, Shumpert, Raymond Felton, Chris Copeland and Kenyon Martin. Despite playing on the road, the second night of a back-to-back against a Jazz team fighting for its playoff life, the Knicks broke their losing streak with a 90-83 victory. News of the victory was tempered by the news that Kurt Thomas had joined the bevy of injured Knicks and would be out indefinitely.
Fortunately, the Knicks were able to trade up by getting Melo back in the lineup for their next game. With a small starting lineup of Melo, Shumpert, Prigioni, Martin and Felton, the Knicks have put together their longest winning streak of the season, currently at seven and counting.
While Jeremy Lin’s emergence was clearly the biggest impetus to last season’s seven game win streak, it certainly wasn’t the only reason for it. There were other big stories as well: the emergence of Steve Novak and terrific defensive efforts from Chandler, Shumpert, Landry Fields and Jared Jefferies.
There are several major reasons for this win streak as well. Returning home to Madison Square Garden, getting Melo back in the lineup and playing some relatively weak teams certainly have helped, but that only begins to tell the story. While Melo has made a strong contribution, these games haven’t been up to the standard of excellence that he’s set earlier this season. Instead, much of the credit for the Knicks’ surprising turnaround have to go to new starters Martin and Prigioni, along with elevated play from Shumpert and perhaps most of all: JR Smith.
In some ways Kenyon Martin and Pablo Prigioni are this season’s much older version of Lin and Novak. Martin has spent most of the season unsuccessfully trying to get a team to take a flyer on him and Prigioni has spent most of the season buried on the Knicks’ bench. Martin has averaged 11 points and six rebounds a game during the streak, after basically being a garbage heap pickup for a Knicks’ team with every post player on their roster out with injuries. Those stats only tell part of the story. The 6’9” Martin has been playing out of position at center, bringing rugged hard-nosed defense every night while shooting 62% from the field.
Prigioni has also come out of obscurity to be a steadying presence in the starting lineup. It’s not a coincidence that these seven wins have also been his first seven starts of the season. Having a second point guard on the floor with Felton has increased New York’s ball movement and security. During the streak he has an impressive assist/turnover ratio of 25 to 3. Prigioni’s pesky defensive presence has also added to the improved defense that has been a key part of this streak.
Iman Shumpert has started to look more like his old self during the streak. After taking what seemed like an eternity to regain his form after returning to the lineup from last season’s injury, he’s starting to be more aggressive and more effective on both ends of the court. His biggest impact on the offensive end has been the development of a deadly long range game. During the streak, he has gone 12 of 22 from three-point range.
The biggest key to the streak though, has been Smithsanity. Most of the season the talented but mercurial Smith has been just as likely to throw away games with his poor shot selection as he has been to win them with his clutch late game shot making and game changing dunks.
Over the streak however, Smith has transformed into an overnight superstar. Despite coming off the bench, he’s averaged over 26 points a game while shooting a remarkable 54% from the field after being a career 42% shooter that’s only shooting 41% this season. He’s also attempted 60 free throws over the streak. This is an average of 8.5 attempts a game, yet for his career Smith only averages 2.6 attempts a game. This vastly increased number of times he’s getting to the line reveals the biggest reason for his remarkable transformation. Instead of constantly settling for extremely high level of difficulty jumpers when he’s handling the ball, he’s attacking the rim instead.
Smith shows no signs of slowing down, if anything, he’s heating up. In his last three games he’s scored 32, 35 and 37 points. He’s also averaging close to five and half rebounds a game over the streak, despite averaging 2.6 a game for his career. Does this mean that Woodson has finally become the one coach to fully tap into Smith’s talent after nine seasons in the league? Knicks’ fans can only hope. If JR can even come close to keeping this up, the sky’s the limit to what New York can accomplish once its big men start to get healthy.
While I don’t expect Smith to average over 30 points a game for the rest of the season, he’s not necessarily as sure to cool way off as much as the hot three-point shooting that keyed the Knicks’ six game win streak earlier this season. He’s not scoring more simply because he’s got a hot hand, he appears to have fundamentally changed the way he approaches the game offensively. He not just choosing better shots either, he’s creating better shots. If this new JR sticks around, his contract is going to look like the biggest bargain in the NBA. More importantly, the Eastern Conference playoff picture may have just gotten a lot more interesting.
First and foremost, from what we already do know, Kevin Garnett is out for two weeks with an inflamed ankle. On the other hand, Tyson Chandler is listed as questionable tonight against Boston; so we probably will not know until a little later if he will be active tonight or not tonight.
Boston has been trotting out a relatively small starting lineup, similar to the Knicks’ with Kenyon Martin at the five spot. Jeff Green and Brandon Bass present a great matchup for Carmelo Anthony and K-Mart, which brings up the question to if Chandler, who’s neck is still not 100%, should play tonight against a worn-down Celtics squad. Would it be better if Chandler took the night off and returned tomorrow night at home against a frontcourt-dominant Grizzlies squad?
Without Garnett manning the middle, Boston’s defense and rebounding have plummeted significantly. They have allowed over 104 points in three of their four games during their losing skid. New York’s four in a row will meet Boston’s four in a row tonight, in what could potentially be a first round matchup.
Now ask yourself, how much will Chandler truly be needed tonight? Yes, Boston is a hostile environment, and Chandler is our number one guy on defense. But the lack of a true post scorer for Boston has resorted to a heavy reliance on Jeff Green and Paul Pierce to produce points—Both whom like to pick-and-choose their spots on the floor. Kenyon Martin has resurrected himself in Chandler’s absence, averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds, while filling the defensive captain role Chandler plays for the Knicks.
While tonight’s matchup will most likely come down to the last few minutes, New York should be more worried about giving up open looks on the wings to shooters, than slashers that will break down the Knick defense. Not to mention Marcus Camby is available if needed. But without Garnett, Brandon Bass is Boston’s biggest player at 6’10, and can easily be handled down low by Martin, the way he has been playing over these last six games.
It is a division game tonight, and a chance to build on a second place lead in the conference, but it can be done resting Chandler for tomorrow, as Mike Woodson probably hopes he can limit the minutes of most of his players on the first night of a back-to-back. Also knowing that Chandler is not fully healthy just makes his case to rest-up more plausible. We all know, though, how much of a competitor Tyson is, and how hard it will be to keep him out of tonight’s game if he wants to play. If he is completely healthy, by all means play tonight. His week off probably did wonders, as he has had no time off since his Olympic stint in London last summer. It can ultimately go either way, and I guess Woodson will let us know sooner or later.
Props to NBA.com for providing stats.
Well, they’ve done it. The Knicks have clinched a playoff spot. Now I can finally stop holding my breath, I can shave my “they’re-not-in-the-playoffs-yet” beard and I can dump my girlfriend. That last one might not have much to do with the Knicks, but I like to share. Speaking of sharing, now that the boys are officially in the playoffs, I’ve decided to get some other things off my chest, too. I’m sure the Knicks know and care that I think they’re all heroes for getting us to the promised land, but there is still lots of work to do. While each of the Knicks seems to have found a way to contribute something positive this season, each of them also seems to have a fatal flaw which has hurt the team on occasion. So, I’ve decided to make a Knicks wish list, wherein I list the one thing I would wish for/from each member of the team to give us the best chance of success in the postseason.
Carmelo Anthony - Don’t be a hero. Melo has become a surprisingly complete player this season, but even he has a fatal flaw. He wants to win so badly and he wants to be the hero so badly that he will sometimes make bad choices that end up hurting the Knicks. So no more playing hurt when he should be resting up and no more forcing tough contested shots when things aren’t clicking for the team on offense. We need a healthy Melo that trusts his teammates and sticks to the plan on offense even when things aren’t going great.
Tyson Chandler - Stay on the court. By which I mean get/stay healthy and stay out of fights and foul trouble. I love that you’re such a rambunctious tough guy Tyson, but we really need you to keep out of trouble.
Raymond Felton - Pass first, attack the rim second and shoot jumpers last. This may seem like pretty obvious stuff for a point guard, but Ray’s shooting under 42% from the field and it’s due largely to him taking difficult two point shots when he should be finding a way to dish or get to the rack.
Iman Shumpert - Be aggressive. Alright Shump, you seem to have fixed your three point shot as you’re now hitting on close to 40% of them after only hitting around 30% last year, nice work. So why is your overall field goal percentage down to just 36%? It seems like you need to attack the rim more, like you did last year. While you’re at it, let’s see more attack mode on D as well. Last season you were someone we counted on to shut down the opposing team’s best perimeter player and we need to see more of that kind of defense this season.
Jason Kidd - Find your shot again. Look Jason, we all lose things, so let’s think about this: where were you standing the last time you remember having your shot? The good news here is that after an epic slump from three-point land, Jason has recently been showing signs that he’s over it. At this point in his career, Kidd’s game actually has quite a few flaws, but he finds lots of ways to compensate and cover for most of them. Being able to reliably nail open threes is a crucial part of old man Kidd’s game now though and if the Knicks are going to make noise in the playoffs, he needs to keep working with shooting guru Dave Hopla and making sure he doesn’t misplace his three point shot again.
Amare Stoudemire - Get back in shape in time. STAT is the Knicks’ X-factor for the playoffs. If he’s healthy and in playing shape like he was right before he got injured, then suddenly anything’s possible come playoff time. Remember the way he dominated the beginning of the fourth quarter against the Heat before Woody inexplicably benched him? Yeah, we need that.
JR Smith - Play intelligent, fully engaged basketball. At this point, nobody can really question Smith’s talent. The question is his focus and judgment. When JR is focused on the defensive end, he can give the Knicks a real perimeter stopper. On the offensive end, he needs to stop forsaking team offense so frequently in favor of crazy, low percentage, step back, two-point jumpers. When Smith is taking open jumpers off the catch or attacking the rim, he’s an incredible weapon, but when he’s constantly freelancing, he frequently digs big holes for the Knicks.
Steve Novak -Find a second skill set. Not only is Novak the Knicks’ best three-point shooter, but he’s one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. That’s why he has a job in the NBA and he averages 20 minutes a game. He may be one the ten best shooters in the entire galaxy, but he really needs to find a second skill set. I realize it might be asking too much for Steve to become an elite or even solid defender, but what about developing a two-point game to compliment his three-point game? Like Shump, Steve actually has a higher percentage from three than he does overall. This means that teams only need to guard him at the arc and can and often do otherwise ignore him. Get on that Steve!
Pablo Prigioni - Just shoot already! At close to 39%, Pablo is one the Knicks’ best three-point shooters. Someone needs to inform Pablo of this though. No more looking left, right, up and down before deciding it’s safe to shoot. You’re not crossing the street Pablo and you don’t need to check with anyone when you’re wide open, just shoot like you’re confident that it will go in and things will be great.
Kenyon Martin - Keep up the good work. Kenyon is playing so far beyond reasonable expectations, that I feel that it would be absurd to ask for anything else but more of the same at this point.
Chris Copeland - Work on your defense. Cope is a special talent on offense, able to score and score efficiently in a variety of ways. Yet he doesn’t get much playing time, because coach Woody considers him a liability on defense. Cope realized that being a great offensive player will get you a job in the NBA, now he needs to realize that being at least a decent defender is what’s required to get him more playing time.
Rasheed Wallace - More healthiness, less three-point shooting. Given how long Sheed has been out of the lineup, getting healthy is a given, so I’m adding a second wish: stop shooting so many threes. Sheed is a stopper on defense and he has the skills to be a post threat, but he wastes too many offensive possessions with his love of the three ball, which wouldn’t be quite so bad if his shot wasn’t so bad (32%).
Marcus Camby - Find your game. So far this has been a lost season for the former defensive player of the year. When he’s gotten onto the court his offense has been completely missing: 31% FG%, down from 48% last season and he hasn’t established enough dominance on defense or on the boards to maintain a spot in the rotation, even with the Knicks seriously hurting for bigs.
James White - Recover your swagger. While White is far from an accomplished NBA player, we could always depend on him for self-confidence and swagger. Who can forget his epic trash talk leading up to the Slam Dunk contest? Unfortunately, the dunk contest seems to have been overly humbling for White. Ever since his ignominious performance (or lack of performance) at the dunk competition, Flight White has been grounded. In the starting lineup against Miami to help defend against the Heat’s elite wings, he looked lost and desperate, seemingly always a step behind the game. It didn’t take long after that for him to fade from the starting lineup all the way to very end of the bench where Sheed leaves his used chewing gum. He’s recently shown a little bit of life in garbage time and if he can learn to shine during meaningful minutes, he may yet have a shot to stay in the NBA after this season.
Kurt Thomas - Rehab, rehab, rehab. While Kurt hasn’t seen many minutes this season, he’s delivered when called upon. The defense is still there and though his offensive is somewhat one dimensional, at least it’s consistent. Thus I can only ask/hope/wish that he gets better soon.
Mike Woodson - Manage those minutes. Based on his short tenure in NY, Woody is a sensational coach who deserves to be part of the coach of the year conversation. I just ask that he find more rest for his older players and his overworked stars. JR, Tyson and Carmelo have all played over 2000 minutes this season, despite the fact that JR is a reserve, Chandler has missed five games and Melo 13. You’ve clinched the playoffs coach, as much as playoff seeding matters, it won’t matter at all if the Knicks’ key players have all broken down.
March Madness is officially upon us! For the Knicks, they have had a whole March full of Madness, since the first day of the most grueling month on New York’s schedule this season. I hope everyone’s brackets are doing well. Yeah I know, Harvard screwed most of us.
Hopefully, New York does not get screwed over by Toronto in their final two meetings of the season in a home-and-home matchup. The Knicks flew to Toronto yesterday (did everyone else see that shirt Mike Woodson wore on the plane?), and tip-off tonight at 7:30. The wounds of the road trip we will not speak of, are slowly healing, winning two games in a row and seeing a healthy Carmelo Anthony revitalize the lethargic Knickerbockers. Toronto will not be a pushover of any sorts, though. Do not let this team’s 26-42 record deceive you, Rudy Gay and company are more than capable of putting up points quickly on any given night. There is also the element of New York being winless on the season against the Raptors.
There is no room left to drop games to lesser opponents this year. Especially Toronto who has dropped two in a row, and 10 out of their last 14. New York is still looking to achieve the first goal they set this season, winning the division. Brooklyn is quickly covering ground behind the Knicks; even Boston is making a little run. 10 of New York’s 16 remaining games are against playoff opponents, which leaves little margin for era.
What to look for:
- The ball movement against Orlando, for the most part, was immaculate. When the ball moves, everyone gets involved, which is crucial for New York who has more players than less who need ball movement to operate at 100%.
- When JR Smith drives to the basket, a whole new dimension opens up on offense for New York. His defensive intensity also was a very beneficial factor in winning on Wednesday. Smith is too athletic to not be putting himself in the driver’s seat more often, lets see if he can bring the same attitude tonight.
- Iman Shumpert is expected to play tonight. The pop in his knee was deemed nothing serious, and should be at full strength tonight. Shumpert seems to have shaken off the rust, and is looking like his self from last year more and more every game.
- A win on the first night of a home-and-home, on the road, is big for a team when heading back home with momentum. New York should look to get out early, play comfortably, and get a win to stay atop of the Atlantic. A win tonight will also clinch a playoff berth for New York, something that has not been done in 10 years.