Time to Face Facts: The New York Knicks are For Real

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It’s finally time to admit it: the New York Knicks are contenders for the Eastern Conference — even if they did get blown out by the Rockets…twice. I thoroughly enjoy ribbing Knick fans because there is so much material (Isiah Thomas, 40 years without a title, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, etc.) and they always react. This team has piqued my interest, though, because I can actually see a scenario where they upset the Miami Heat and make it to the Finals. They are currently sitting atop the Eastern conference, so I have to give them their due.

To be fair, we are roughly a quarter way through the NBA season. That’s the equivalent of four games in the NFL. At this point in the football season, the Cardinals were headed to the playoffs, and the Philadelphia Eagles had just defeated the NY Giants; both showing they were a force to be reckoned with in the NFC East (lol).

That aside, there are some reasons to believe in the Knicks. This post will hurt to write, but here goes:

The “Expendables” have come through

Expendables Banner Poster[1]

Allow me to explain the movie reference. The Expendables, a cheesy action movie from 2010, is an ensemble movie with several of the oldest action stars still shuffling around. When I saw the preview, I couldn’t look past the haggard faces of most of the cast. I expected them to amble around the screen, deliver a couple of catchphrases, then (mercifully) fade away forever. Instead, the movie actually delivered! (Still have to catch up on The Expendables 2.)

How does this relate to the Knicks? Well, the age of the Knicks roster has been beaten to death over the course of the season. While it’s true they have the oldest roster ever assembled, coach Mike Woodson is managing the situation perfectly. Kurt Thomas (age 40), Rasheed Wallace (38, two years removed from the League), and Jason Kidd (39) fill roles without having to play 40 minutes each. Instead, they contribute where they can before being exposed by playing too many minutes in any one game.

This doesn’t just apply to the old guys on the roster. Ray Felton ate his way out of Portland and joined the Knicks in the wake of Linsanity. He boldly declared he was a better point guard than Jeremy Lin, and has been proven right so far (even though Lin will start in the All Star game…but that’s for another post). The role players for the Knicks have been perfect compliments to (a healthy) Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. This ignores the fact that…

They have talent waiting in the wings

Say what you will about Amar’e Stoudemire and his apparent lack of chemistry with Carmelo, you’d rather have him on your team than not. Plus, the Knicks’ hot start gives him the opportunity to wait until he’s completely healthy before rejoining the team. Stoudemire has to see what’s going on without him, right? When he returns, I expect him to come off the bench, lead the second unit, and play in crunch time. This allows the Knicks to establish Carmelo’s offense elite-daily-iman-shumpert-hair[1]early and play off of Stoudemire pick and rolls against the opponent’s reserves. Definitely an ideal situation.

Aside from Stoudemire, the Knicks are waiting on Iman Shumpert to return from the knee injury he suffered in last year’s playoffs. He appears to be close to action, and when he does, he’ll add some defensive balance to JR Smith’s “every pass is a bad shot” offense. Shumpert is also sporting the best high top fade in the league right now. Not sure how this impacts his play, but it cannot be ignored. Sorry, Norris Cole, you are number two. That is a terrible segue to my last point…

The Heat are flawed

This year’s Heat team hasn’t played as well as years past, especially defensively. Their record may not indicate it, but they have slipped noticeably on that end so far this year. Their Defensive Rating, a measure of how many points a team gives up per 100 possessions (to adjust for pace of play), has them below the league average (they were 4th last season). The Heat give up too many threes and rebounds, areas where the Knicks can (and have in two blowouts this year) take advantage.

This could be a case of boredom for Miami. They know they can turn up their defensive pressure at any time, and they have shown that ability late in games. LeBron James is currently averaging the fewest free throw attempts in his career since his rookie season. Seems like a guy who is holding back, saving the wear and tear that comes from frequent trips to the lane. With the pressure to win now behind them, it’s easier for the team to conserve their energy, knowing they can revert to their old selves in the playoffs.

hi-res-143810994_crop_exact[1] As a lifelong Pistons fan, I’ve seen this movie before. The Pistons made six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals during the early 00’s, and you could see them drift in and out of games, especially against inferior competition. Unfortunately, they couldn’t always muster enough to win at the right times, and those six ECF trips only netted one championship. This is the danger for Miami. If they let teams hang around, their margin for error slips considerably. Thankfully for them, they have LeBron James, the best player in the world. But let’s say the Knicks hold on to the top seed in the East…couldn’t you see them getting hot in Madison Square Garden and blitzing the Heat in the playoffs with homecourt advantage? I can. Which is why I believe New York is a serious threat to upset the Heat and represent the East in the Finals this year.

After all that Knicks praise I need a shower. In the meantime, what do you think? Are the Knicks a real contender? Or has their early success been a case of fool’s gold? If not New York or Miami, who do you have coming out of the East this season? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Well Enuff

    All Shump has to do now is get his name and # cut into the back circa, 1993 Anthony Mason.

  • CHeeKZ Money

    THANK YOU! This is no fluke….all the moves people have laughed at the past couple of years have worked off. Best news is this time around the knicks won't be in cap hell if it doesn't work out. Stat only has two more years after this one.

    Most important thing is getting that number one seed, bc we want to face Miami at their weakest, take advantage of the kinds of breaks Indiana and Boston couldn't last year. I def don't think the heat are a lock to win again this year.

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    Forget the Knicks, this caught my attention:

    "(even though Lin will start in the All Star game…but that’s for another post)."

    I never even thought about that, and haven't paid attention to the All-Star voting. This is why Charles Barkley is right, and the NBA needs to get rid of the fans voting for the starters. It will be criminal if Lin gets in over Chris Paul. But I'll save the rest of my thoughts for the upcoming post on the topic.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

      for years I say they need a fantasy draft like NHL…give or take a few blockbuster deals it’s basically been the same game every year. honestly I’d take linsanity over Paul just because it’s somewhat of a change

      • Joe Sargent

        A fantasy draft would be a lot of fun. Imagine Kobe and LeBron choosing up sides. Takes me back to the playground, lol.

  • Streetz

    Joe,

    I know it hurt you to keep it real. lol. I applaud you sir.

    I'll just wait for Dr Jay to come in here and crush the buildings

    • Joe Sargent

      Appreciate it. I'll be sending this link to everyone who calls me a Knick hater for eternity.

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

    I’ll admit it’d be nice to see anyone but Miami come out the east, but like my Celtics health down the stretch is going to be critical.

  • Larry

    Are the Knicks real contenders?

    Well sure, of course they are…at this point in the season anyway. They're shooting at a very high clip and in the famous words of Basketball Wives L.A. Reunion show host John Salley (and former Piston), "If you can shoot, you can win."

    Now the skeptics will say the usual, "They won't keep up the hot shooting all year" and "In the playoffs the defense will get tighter and there wont be as many open looks" , etc.. etc…and quite honestly those are all valid assertions. It's a long season an normally the numbers regress back to the mean. Doesn't necessarily mean it still wont be good enough for the Knicks to win the East.

    • Larry

      Bottomline is that the Knicks will get the same treatment the Heat got before they won a championship…..you can play as well as you want to in the regular season, but no one outside of New York will be full believers until they actually prove they can get it done.

      But yes, they are contenders…so are the Heat, so are the Hawks and the Nets. The Knicks just need to avoid a bad match-up in the playoffs….luckily for them the Rockets are in the Western Conference :-)

  • jdoubleu

    The funny thing about signing all 4 vets is that they'll come in handy after the All Star break and definitely going into the playoffs. We've already seen how pivotal they can be given ample playing time in the 1st qtr of the season. And if you compare 2nd units, NY/Boston/Miami are almost neck and neck. Save for JET, all 3 teams have guys who can make shots and play D. But they're not consistent enough to ensure a sweep come playoff time. Chris Copeland can ball, the jury is still out on James White though. But as a Knicks fan, I feel like this is about as complete a team as they can possibly get.

    Now them against a WC team in a 7 game series is a different debate entirely.

    • Joe Sargent

      Yeah there's a reason I stopped short of saying they could win it all. If they get there, anything could happen, but I'd put OKC and Memphis ahead of them for sure.

  • Dr. J

    My reputation precedes me…

    It's 25% of the way through the season and before we are ready to crown the Knicks we must admit that we've been here before and the Knicks have found ways to screw this up.

    1) Miami are still the champs. They've gotten away with this current lineup because it works in the Playoffs because it causes crazy matchups and they dial their defense all the way up. They could easily go back to the traditional lineup and improve defensive performance. But it's only 25% of the way through the season and championship teams don't really get into a grove until after Christmas, sometimes the All Star break.
    1b) Remember those Cavs teams that used to beast all season long and people thought they were Jon Blaze until they lost in the playoffs like chumps?

    2) This is the current 4th seed in the East, The Bulls. Just like the Knicks get back Stoudamire and Shumpert (who isn't that nice to begin with), the Bulls will get back Derrick Rose. A team that's maintaining that position without their star player and like 75% of their offensive production over the last few years can't be counted out. And the Bulls always put the Knicks in tethers.

    3) Keeping Melo motivated for a long period of time has yet to be seen. OK, so last year Lebron won his chip and Melo now wants his chip. Melo was in the Conference Finals in Denver and saw what it would take to beat the Lakers and you know what he did? He digressed. George Karl has never lied about Melo, had he been able to keep him engaged and motivated to play a high level for a whole season, they easily could have won chips, but Melo hasn't been able to do it. We'd like to think that Melo is turning over a different leaf, but he's been in the league for a long time and we've seen each season go the same way… lots of streaks of greatness followed by slumps and mental breakdowns on and off the court.

    So can the Knicks win a championship? Probably, even the sun shines on a dog's ass. Likely? Nope, this team isn't ready for a stamp of approval. We watch too many Miami and Cleveland teams do this all the time. We even watched the Spurs do it last year. If the Knicks get to late-February and are not slumping into an abyss, then we can talk. I don't even require that they stay at the #1 seed. Just don't fall below the 3rd seed and keep talking chips… it ain't happening.

    • S.G

      So…back to that post. February is gone and the Knicks are 1st on their division and second throughout the Eastern Conference.
      What are the thoughts about it?

  • MaggK

    ahahahahahahah i just love how Doc shut down all the hope Knicks fans have inside of them… *singing: Back to life, Back to reality*