Despite the New York Knicks being in the largest media market in the world they began the season completely under the radar. Many assumed that all was lost when the Knicks parted ways with Jeremy Lin and signed 37-year-old point guard Jason Kidd who made headlines this summer for his drunken rendition of dance fever in the Hamptons.
After an early exit in the playoffs at the hand of the eventual NBA champions the Knicks entered the off-season with a lot of questions. Carmelo’s return to his hometown had yet to meet the expectations of Madison Garden’s faithful who presumed that his paring with Amare Stoudemire and defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler would yield more than just a first round exit.
Several of the Knicks battled nagging injuries last season but they wisely used the off-season to rest and get stronger. The same Knicks front office that is known more for its blunders than its successes struck gold yet again in signing point guard Raymond Felton whose on his second tour with the Knicks and adding power forwards Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace who will add much-needed veteran leadership to the franchise. The Knicks also were fortunate enough to resign three-point shooting ace Steve ‘discount-double check’ Novak who had the best season of his career leading the entire in NBA in 3-point percentage.
Regretfully the same injury bug that has nagged the New York Knicks struck quickly when starting power forward Amare Stoudemire went down with another knee injury. Since signing with Knicks this talented young man has been a shadow of himself whose fashion cents have garnered more attention that his play on the court. Although his return to the court has yet to be determined The team adjusted almost seamlessly by moving Carmelo to power forward which has been a match-up nightmare for opposing teams.
At 7-1 it finally seems that the entire team has bought into the concept of playing defense led by former Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler. Although the season is still young the Knicks have already collected impressive wins over the NBA’s elite – the Heat and Spurs.
However, only 8 games into an 82-game season the NBA landscape can change quickly. The chemistry on the team appears to be solid but how will things change once Amare Stoudemire returns from injury? It may be in the teams best interest to bring him off the bench but will the perennial All-Star accept a diminished role. Due to his 5-year $100 million dollar contract and his well documented injury history Amare has zero trade value so if he fails to accept his new role he may be asked to stay home ‘a la Marbury’s $22 million dollar bench role in 2008.
Another development to keep a close eye on throughout the season is the health of the veterans on the Knicks roster, currently they have four of oldest players in the league (Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Jason Kidd). However, the Knicks will add much-needed depth when guard Iman Shumpert returns after the All-Star break from a torn ACL that he suffered in last year’s playoffs.
Many questions remain for this talented squad but the success of their season will ultimately be determined not by Carmelo’s scoring but by his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor. Although Melo may be the face of the franchise the Knicks will go as far as their leader defensive minded Tyson Chandler takes them. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark