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Knicks Playing Well but Doubts Remain

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A quarter of the way into the season and I’m still not really sure what kind of team the Knicks are. Feels like they’re good. They’ve won 9 out of their last 10 games (their only loss in the last 10 came to a Hawks team that beat the Knicks in game 2 of their own 5 game winning streak, which was recently snapped by a surging Heat team). They’ve won seven straight on the road. They have a star player willing them to victory night after night.

But I still don’t know.

Before the year most pundits were pegging the Knicks to be around a .500 team. And a .500 team beats the teams they are “supposed” to beat and loses to the teams to which they are “supposed” to lose. Sometimes they’ll exchange one at the expense of another.

Well, in November the Knicks lost to 5 teams they were supposed to beat: Philadelphia, Milwaukee (arguably), Golden State (arguably), Minnesota, and Houston. However, for the most part the Knicks haven’t beaten anyone they were supposed to lose to, except the Hornets, who have cooled off considerably since their hot start.

But lets also note that there is a marked difference between the way the team is playing now and the way it played when it lost to those 5 bottom feeders. Nay-sayers didn’t want to hear it but this is a team with 10 new players who needed some time to feel each other out and build chemistry. What if the Knicks could have rematches with those 5 teams now?

Would they lose all 5? My point is that even though I’m happy that the Knicks are 12-9, 3 games over .500 after 21 games for the first time since the 2000-2001 season, I’m tempted to argue that really, this team would be between 17-4 and 14-7 if only they’d been clicking like this all year. And that would put them in the mix record wise at this juncture of the year with the mid-90s teams.

The gathering storm though is the mid-December to early-February schedule, which makes it all the more disheartening that the Knicks couldn’t fatten up more last month. Even if their record today was 17-4 or 14-7 they’d need that big cushion for the hell they’re about to go through. Between December 12 and February 2, the Knicks will face Denver, Boston, Miami (twice) OKC (twice), Chicago, Orlando, San Antonio (twice), Phoenix (twice), LAL, Utah, and Dallas. That’s 15 out of their next 24 against a few good teams but mostly title contenders.

So I think it’s after the next quarter season or so that we’ll really be able to decipher with some clarity who these Knicks are. If they can make it through January not much worse for the wear, I think we may be looking at a team that is somewhat better than the preseason .500 projections.

***1/4 season notes***

  • The first 1/8 of the year was abysmal. The Knicks were lost and it looked like nobody knew what their roll was or should be. However, since Ray Felton was given the freedom to look for his own offense and some of the playmaking responsibilities were shifting to the wings and the frontcourt, the team has fared much better.
  • Wilson Chandler has played much better from where I’m sitting in the second eighth of the year than the first eighth when he indiscriminately jacked up threes from all angles. Lately he’s settled for the three only, for the most part, on open looks. He still shoots them a bit too much for my tastes but on the plus side, he also seems to have discovered that the corner three is actually very makeable for him.
  • Gallinari seemed to turn the corner when all was lost for the Knicks and they headed out to Denver for game 11. The Knicks stretch of good play started when he decided to be aggressive and put the ball on the floor instead of settling for long jumpers. Unfortunately he seems to have turned back around that previous corner because lately he’s just been settling for threes instead of attacking. I’d like to see him regain the aggression that made his efficiency skyrocket and set the Knicks on their current trajectory.
  • What can you say about Landry Fields other than “this kid can play”? How different would the Knicks’ season be if they had drafted Darrington Hobson like so many of us wished they could have, or Lance Stephenson like others had hoped.
  • Starting to worry that there’s something seriously wrong with Turiaf. The reports of his frustration with his knee (and questions about it) are foreboding.
  • Even though the entirety of the main body of this post meant to convey a very guarded optimism, doubters of the current regime and closet Zeke supporters who would have preferred that the Knicks simply hire Mark Jackson and make no roster moves, continue to wipe egg away from their brows. They were out in full force and even mocked me here in this very space when the Knicks were struggling and my response was that it was too early. It’s still very early (and that’s why I won’t be berating them on their own blogs, yet), but I think I was justified in not admitting that I was fooled for the last two years, as some have demanded I do.
  • In the same vein, where are the folks who wanted Walsh and D’Antoni’s heads over Patrick Ewing Jr. because his presence would have lent some karma to this squad, now that it is clear that the person who was chosen over him, Shawne Williams, provides so much more than just ethereal gratification and cosmic snugness.
  • In the same vein, the Knicks will likely have max cap space next summer.
  • In the same vein, where are my David Lee peeps at?
  • Not sure what happened to Mozgov once the regular season started. Could be that he was blindsided by how much faster and more intense it is than even preseason games. I don’t know. But it shouldn’t affect his ability to just catch the damn ball.
  • The most important note about the Knicks though in my opinion relates to Amar’e Stoudemire. We were all very excited about Amar’e but I don’t think most of us predicted the dominance he’s displayed. But what impresses me most about Stoudemire is that he’s a real leader of men. He’s been able to keep the group together through some adverse times without Steve Nash, somehow, and he’s done it by fostering not only a environment of accountability but also one of brotherhood in the face of hostility both away and at home from the harsh Madison Square Garden spotlight that we fans constantly shine on all of our sports figures. That point is driven home in light of the previous bullet, by this quote from Newsday:

[Amar'e has] also been quick to come to the defense of others, such as when fans at the Garden recently got on Timofey Mozgov’s case. Witnesses say Stoudemire grew enraged at the heckling fans and barked, “Why the — are they booing Moz? Give him a break!”



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