The Knicks enter season three with the nucleus of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, yet this will be their first full training camp together on the Knicks. To further that point, this will be their first full 82-game season together. The common theme here: the Knicks’ two most integral parts have been playing together on the fly. Continuity is essential in the NBA, and that continuity is something the Knicks will aim to acquire in the upcoming season. Lets not forget, the duo has only played a combined 63 regular season games together.
Between coaching changes, roster turnover, injuries and early first round playoff exits, there has been plenty of criticism of how the Knicks have been constructed. Owner James Dolan may spend the big bucks to get players, but that hasn’t translated into much success as of late. Rewind to the summer of 2010; the Knicks seemed to have a plan all laid out to woo LeBron James to New York, and then the rest would be history. However, that plan went awry, thus leading the Knicks to sign Amar’e Stoudemire and then trading the house for Carmelo Anthony. Smash cut to this season, in which the Knicks made some savvy free agent signings, preparing themselves to finally make a deep run into the Eastern Conference playoffs. Enter the most critical year the Knicks have had since Patrick Ewing was roaming the paint. It’s time to put up, or shut up.
The Knicks come into this season Jeremy Lin-less, but more than made up for it. They brought back Raymond Felton, which should instantly improve their defense, a unit led last year by Lin, Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby, and Baron Davis. What do those four guys all have in common? They couldn’t guard your average out-of-shape 29 year-old YMCA Men’s League point guard. The Knicks solidified the rest of their back-court with the signings of Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, and Pablo Prigioni, who will team with the resigned J.R. Smith. The Knicks were already a solid defensive team, but they undoubtedly just got better with the aforementioned signings. Signing Brewer allows the Knicks to be careful with how fast they want to rush prized shooting guard Iman Shumpert (torn ACL) back into action. The Knicks are very deep in the back-court, and can use an array of different lineups if they want to slide Carmelo Anthony down to the four-spot. A combination of Felton, Brewer, Shumpert (when healthy) should be able to lock down many opposing teams’ back-courts.
Tyson Chandler is the obvious heart and soul of the Knicks defense. He also provides leadership and toughness to a team that clearly lacked it over the years. It is no secret the Knicks have the potential to have the best frontcourt in the league with Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. However, the Knicks, and more specifically Carmelo, seem to be at their best with ‘Melo playing the power forward position.
With the acquisitions of Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, the Knicks beefed up their defense. When Tyson Chandler picks up his third foul with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter, the Knicks lose essentially nothing defensively when Camby comes in. Thomas adds leadership and toughness as well. Rasheed Wallace also figures to get a look as there is serious consideration of the Knicks bringing him to camp. The forward spot figures to have some good depth, as the Knicks could go small and resigned fan favorite Steve Novak to help stretch the defense.
The Knicks have invited 19 players to come to camp, possibly 20 if they give Rasheed Wallace an invite. So the competition is going to be fierce for spots on an already deep team. The key to the Knicks hopes of making a deep run starts and ends with Carmelo Anthony. If ‘Melo comes into the season in shape and predicates his game on sharing the ball, the offense could thrive. More importantly Anthony has to buy into playing both ends of the floor. Defense wins championships, not isolation plays from the elbow.
Amar’e Stoudemire’s tenure with the Knicks has been up-and-down, to say the least. He came to New York and was instantly hailed as the teams’ savior, with chants of “MVP!” whenever he touched the Garden floor. STAT (Stoudemire’s nickname) was filling up the stat sheet and scoring 30 plus points at will. Then came the big trade for Carmelo, and it changed Stoudemire’s game for the worse. Toss in self-inflicted injuries during the playoffs from doing a trick dunk to smashing a fire extinguisher with his hand, and people are questioning whether or not Stoudemire is still an all-star player. This is the most important year of Stoudemire’s tenure with the Knicks. Getting back Raymond Felton should help Stoudemire reclaim some of the old magic he had when operating out of the high pick and roll from the top of the key. He has also been working with former NBA All-Star Hakeem Olajuwon on his low post moves and the Knicks undeniably will need his low post presence if they plan on being a real threat to the Miami Heat.
Role players: Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Ronnie Brewer, Pablo Prigioni and Kurt Thomas figure on having a huge impact on the Knicks season.
This is the most important year for Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire as members of the New York Knicks. I expect both to have solid seasons and finally put it together. Do they have enough to beat the Miami Heat? I’m not even sure they can beat the New Jersey Nets or Boston Celtics. Their focus should be on grabbing the two seed. Miami figures to be the one-seed with their deep roster. With the Bulls expected to decline this season with the loss of Derrick Rose for potentially the whole year, the number two seed figures to be up for grabs. I see the Knicks having a 52-55 win season, good enough to grab that two- seed. This may seem very optimistic for a team that is old and has question marks, but I like what they did this offseason, bringing in veterans that know how to win. Now the real question is, can the Knicks get past the first-round of the playoffs? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Jason Whitney (Founder SK Network)