The New York Knicks were knocked out of last year’s playoffs in 5 games by the eventual champions. Three Knicks players, Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis and Amare Stoudemire, all suffered injuries at the most critical time of the season and the Heat moved on to the next round with ease. Once again, Carmelo Anthony saw his season end much sooner than he would have liked. But the journey towards the ultimate goal of becoming an NBA champion is far from over for this superstar forward.
Anthony did not spend much time away from the court last summer, as he was soon summoned to Las Vegas for training camp with the United States Olympic team. And what a summer it was for the 28 year old. The Americans brought home the gold medal once again and shattered a couple of records while they were at it. Anthony did something that I have never heard of, at any level of basketball. In a meager 14 minutes, the man was able to score 37 points while connecting on ten 3-point field goals.
Carmelo is in the middle of the prime of his career and is playing the best basketball of his life. On an average night he is an NBA all-star. On a good night, he can match up with LeBron James and outscore the league’s MVP. That’s exactly what he did on opening night at Madison square Garden on Friday. He even grabbed more rebounds than LeBron. The New York Knicks turned on the cruise control and handed the Heat their first loss of the season (104-84), giving New Yorkers something to cheer about in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Anthony is ready to play basketball, this is quite clear. Nobody is questioning that. What is unclear, however, is how the rest of the roster will perform; and what form this team will take down the stretch of the season. There are many new faces on the team this year, and a couple of faces from the past.
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With old age, comes wisdom. The Knicks front office decided they would fill out the roster with experience this offseason. New York is now the oldest team in NBA history. That’s right, the oldest team, ever. The average age of this veteran Knick roster is 32 years old. Starting in the back-court, Pablo Prigioni from Argentina will be the oldest rookie in NBA history at 35. Then they added the 39 year old Jason Kidd, and 28 year old Raymond Felton makes his return to the Big Apple after spending 2 years in Denver and Portland.
Their front-court is even older. At 38, Marcus Camby, who was a Knick from 1998 to 2002, is back for what could be his last year in the league. The same goes for Kurt Thomas, who is now 40. Rasheed Wallace came out of retirement for one last curtain call (also age 38). The good news is that most of these players are reserves simply looking to fill in as role players. But with Shumpert and Stoudemire still recovering from injuries, Kidd has seen a larger role as he steps into the starting lineup. But that’s no problem for Kidd as he claims to be in better shape now than he has for the last 5 seasons; and he’s ready to play as many minutes as Mike Woodson needs him to.
So far so good for the Knicks as they are now 2-0 after finishing off a short-handed Philadelphia squad at the Garden this afternoon. Ronnie brewer (28) will add versatility and strong defense to the roster, and JR Smith (27) will be counted on as the team’s second leading scorer off the bench. Carmelo Anthony will have the team on his shoulders while the team remains without two key players from their rotation.
We’re only two games into the regular season, but if the Knicks can finish near the top of the Eastern Conference, Anthony will have to be considered a top candidate for MVP this year. At full strength, New York should be the best team in the East. They definitely are not afraid of the Heat. Now they need to prove they can consistently hang with the league’s best. New York can only be patient for so long.