I’ll be honest, the top three seeds in the East are pretty set in stone with me. I’m very confident that the Heat, Celtics and Pacers will be the cream of the crop. Now is when things get interesting. There’s a bulk of teams I consider to be on or close to being on the same level of competition. I don’t expect there to be very many games that separate the 4th and 8th seeds in the Eastern playoff picture. A full season with Mike Woodson at the helm will serve the Knicks very well.
It’s another year of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire playing side by side and it’s do or die. Anthony was brought to play in Madison Square Garden in 2011 and has been largely a disappointment. He hasn’t played terribly, but the cohesiveness and chemistry has been called into question many a time. Melo has vowed to play less selfishly this year, seemingly 100% on board with coach Woodson’s team first attitude. It remains to be seen if the superstar forward can help this Knicks team reach its true potential.
Egos are brutal to deal with when it comes to large market teams like this one – especially in the NBA. There’s only one ball on the court and when you have two potential All-NBA First Team players on the roster like New York does with Melo and Stoudemire, it’s going to take some getting used to. The process has dragged on a bit longer than fans would hope, but I think it may finally come to fruition this year. If Stoudemire can just accept his role as the secondary option on the team and keep his head on straight, New York could contend. This team would be best served if Carmelo takes opposing defenders one-on-one for an isolation – his ability to create his own shot is deadly. He’s one of the best scorers in the game. He just needs to remember that he has teammates. An isolation could force a defender to help out, leaving someone on the Knicks open. If Amar’e hovers around the basket for put-backs or even around the arc to jack up a wide-open jumper, the team could flourish.
There are a slew of new players on this team and the depth is certainly there. Tyson Chandler, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, has a very formidable veteran to back him up now in the paint. Marcus Camby has been brought in and that means a lighter work load for Chandler, who remains as one of the best centers in the NBA. Joining Camby in the Big Apple is Kurt Thomas who gets a year older each season but still nails open jumper after open jumper. He won’t get a ton of minutes, but his impact will be positive, both on the floor and in the locker room. When you have guys with egos as big as Anthony’s, Stoudemire’s and J.R. Smith’s, you need a guy like Kurt Thomas.
Jason Kidd is also in New York now and his effect on Iman Shumpert will be a great one. Kidd is one of the greatest point guards in the history of the NBA and Shumpert can learn a lot from him. I love the depth this team has and if they can come together and play smart basketball, Spike Lee will have a lot to cheer for courtside.
Raymond Felton had his best year in the NBA in 2010 while playing with the Knicks. Obviously the offense has changed greatly since then, but you can’t argue that some players play better in comfortable situations. All he, Kidd, and Shumpert have to do is throw the ball to Steve Novak in the corner anyway. I have yet to confirm this, but I’m not sure he ever misses. The championship belt taunt will be sure to get some exposure this season in short bursts. He’s a 3-pointer waiting to happen and I hope to see him in the NBA’s 3-point contest at the All-Star break.
Ronnie Brewer was brought in from the Bulls and coming from someone who watched him constantly here in Chicago, Knicks fans are going to love him. His hustle is off the charts and his on ball defense will prove to be very valuable for a team aching for a defensive identity outside of Tyson Chandler. Another intriguing addition to this roster is that of former NBA champion, Rasheed Wallace. I really have no clue if he’s going to add anything worth noting to this team, but it certainly makes them interesting. It could very well be a Terrell Owens in Seattle type of deal where Wallace never actually logs a minute with New York. His contract is non-guaranteed and if Woodson doesn’t like what he sees, he’ll be back at home.
This team isn’t lacking personalities and storyline, that’s for sure. It’s very fitting for the city that never sleeps and is sure to garner a lot of coverage on ESPN. The sound bites, egos clashing, etc. will mean nothing if this team doesn’t win. They could be a top four team in the Conference or one fighting for their playoff lives. I have decided to see the glass as half full. Hopefully they don’t make me look stupid.
Season Outlook: There’s going to be a lot of bumps in the road, but the Knicks manage to gel en route to separating themselves slightly from the rest of the pack in the East.
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