As a Knicks fan, it seems like every time you see the team in the headlines it’s just not very exciting news.
New York has spent the summer trying to figure out how they can make an improvement after last season ended in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but little of what they have done has felt like change. They came in with no cap room, locked into three big contracts and having to decide whether or not they could afford re-signing J.R. Smith at around $6 million per year, so undoubtedly managing the Knicks situation was always going to be difficult for Glen Grunwald.
Unfortunately, for fans in the Big Apple, competing for the title this year just isn’t a reality. Factors both external and internal are at play and unless something incredible happens, the Knicks will be lucky to make it as far as they did in 2013. I could write a big rambling fan piece about why the Knicks are the way they are and this is just the way it is, but that could go on forever. Here’s five reasons the Knicks will fail next season, and not just because they’re the Knicks.
1. Amar’e Stoudemire- I’m not blaming STAT, I truly love Stoudemire as a player. Injuries aren’t his fault, it’s not like the guy goes home at night and stabs a voodoo doll of himself in the knees every night. Though clearly, someone else is doing that because the man can’t stay on the basketball court. Last season, at the age of 30, he played just 29 games and never started. It was the second fewest games in a season played by Stoudemire, second only to the 05-06 campaign for Phoenix in which he played just three games before having microfracture surgery on his knees.
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This is where the Knicks stupidity enters the equation. By guaranteeing his $20 million plus per year contract through the summer of 2015, the team made sure that should he suffer injuries like the ones he already had in Phoenix, the whole organization would suffer. Guaranteed contracts are becoming a much more endangered species league wide, so hopefully the Knicks will do better the next time they sign a superstar, but in the meantime Stoudemire is a huge cog in the wheel of the Knicks success. If he can’t stay on the court for more than sixty games next season, there is no way the Knicks can hope to improve really. They have too much invested in him, too big of a whole to fill in his absence.
2. Still Need Rebounds-When it came to beating Indiana, the Knicks couldn’t do it because they couldn’t throw their weight around on the inside with the Pacers big men. The same happened every time the Knicks faced Chicago last season, going 0-4 against the Bulls. Next season, they will also have to deal with a front court trio of Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett with the Nets, leaving the Knicks looking rather irrelevant around the basket.
Tyson Chandler can’t do it all, particularly when he’s in foul trouble and the Knicks realize this. Excluding Andrea Bargnani, their front court signings you see are a conscious effort to bring in size that can help guys like Kenyon Martin and Chandler rebound. Metta World Peace is a decent rebounder, averaging five per game from the small forward position. Signing 6-foot-10 inch Jeremy Tyler after a respectable summer league showing is a sign of how desperate the Knicks are to find some young guys to help inside and compensate for never having Stoudemire, but is all this going to be enough? It’s doubtful.
3. Free Agent Signings and Draft- The Knicks have honestly made a decent effort to improve, I suppose, but this free agent class and draft was a poor time to have to do it. The Knicks had to trade their best three point shooter and a draft pick along with Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson to the Raptors to create enough room to bring in Andrea Bargnani, a player Toronto was desperately trying to escape because of his $11 million per year salary. Add to that the signing of Beno Udrih this week and the team is now taking a $32 million luxury tax hit.
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Every player they’ve signed this offseason is not a high impact player other than J.R. Smith. They had just the 24th overall pick in the draft to work with and anything that fell to them in free agency. This Knicks team will be different, but the same in many ways. None of these players can keep the ball from sticking in Carmelo Anthony’s hands and none of them boast the type of defensive firepower that can keep the Knicks in games, especially come playoff time.
4. Conference is Stronger Now- Look around, the Eastern Conference is no longer full of pee-on teams now. The Pistons have made themselves stronger, the Cavs and Wizards promise to be much tougher and the Knicks bogey team in Toronto promises to be as difficult as always too. Oh, but we failed to mention the fact that Derrick Rose is returning in Chicago and the Nets brought in veteran superstars from Boston to help their core which finished just behind the Knicks last season.
The fact is, the Knicks won’t be fighting for the second of third seed, it’ll be the fifth or possible even six seed, leaving them with an extremely difficult first round matchup rather than squeaking by an ailing and aging Boston team like they did this year. Though they definitely make the postseason, it’s tough to see New York doing much else.
5. Back Court Defense- Iman Shumpert was the only senior team Knicks player to go to the NBA Summer League this year and according to reports he went for a reason. To play with Tim Hardaway Jr., the Knicks sole draft pick this season and C.J. Leslie, the undrafted forward from N.C. State who many thought would sneak into the first round of the bizarre 2013 draft.
One reason Shumpert was so interested in Hardaway is that he’s probably looking at front court teammates like Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith and wondering, who is going to help me out on defense? Metta World Peace and Tyson Chandler aside, Shumpert is the lone Knick who could even sniff an NBA All Defensive Team. That doesn’t bode well in a league run by quality point guards and wing players. Udrih is a decent offensive player, but signing him doesn’t replace the type of presence Jason Kidd brought to the floor and we all know Pablo Prigioni is of the Steve Nash mold when it comes to defending, so there are going to be a lot of fast guards getting penetrating runs at Tyson Chandler and the Knicks interior.
There are five reasons right there and I did it without mentioning Carmelo Anthony or Mike Woodson and their careers of postseason misfires as a reason. So I hate to say it fellow Knick fans, it’s going to be just another year we say maybe next time.