Highlightin’ Hoops: Knicks Fans – Time To Get Excited
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By Ryan Schneider
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32.7 wins… 49.3 losses… their last playoff appearance was six years ago…they haven’t had a winning team since the 2000-01 season. They’ve had more coaching changes than menu options at McDonald’s. They’ve had made so many contractual blunders that the past two years have been dedicated to solely achieving salary cap flexibility. Please welcome…the New York Knicks!!!
That’s it, I’m done… I promise. The negativity was a thing of last decade. Now, let’s get excited! It’s important to remember how absolutely horrible the last ten years have been to fully appreciate the excitement surrounding the Knicks this season. They are young, exciting, have a big-name player, have guys that want to be here, and are trying to reach out and repair all of the broken, disheartened and flat-out disgusted fan relationships of the past ten years.
Yes, I know how you all felt when LeBron made his decision. Because I felt it too…I was on vacation with a couple of my friends, and instantly felt ill. In hindsight, writers crushed Donnie Walsh, blamed LeBron, killed Dolan (understandable)…but the summer wasn’t a complete failure. The Blue and Orange are a much-improved team following the off-season.
The roster overhaul by Walsh provided the Knicks with multiple pieces to become a competitive team in the East. Along with Amare, the second biggest free agent signing of the summer was Raymond Felton. Here is a guy who in his two best seasons with the Bobcats averaged 14 points and 7 dimes. He had a significant improvement in field goal percentage last season, and is also a lock-down defender.
In Mike D’Antoni’s offense it is essential the Knicks have a capable point guard. They not only have that in Felton, but Toney Douglas is rapidly becoming a kid who will contribute at the one and two positions. Last season the Knicks struggled mightily while playing Duhon 45-48 minutes a game. This year they have far more flexibility in the backcourt. A Felton-Douglas combination will make for a fast, up-tempo line-up that can guard a lot of 1-2 combinations in the league.
When you combine that sort of speed with the outside shooting ability of Danilo Gallinari, you get a potent combination. In order for Gallinari to take the next step in his career is to become more assertive inside the three-point line. Who doesn’t love a 6’10 guy who can make 3 or 4 trey bombs a game? But if you combine that with an ability to get to the basket, and make a few more trips to the line…then you will be looking at a guy who will move into the upper echelon of NBA talent.
Wilson Chandler has been nothing but solid in his first couple of years in the league. But the Knicks have added a sleeper into the mix. Landry Fields has come out of nowhere and thrust his name into the rotation. So much so that Fields will start tonight as the shooting guard. What does Fields give you? A remarkable IQ, he consistently made the smart play in the preseason…can knock down shots, attacks the glass, has nice size and most importantly as a second round pick, will play with a chip on his shoulder. Throw Bill Walker and Roger Mason Jr. into the mix and you have a logjam at the guard position. Four options, providing you with depth that has been non-existent for years.
Mike D’Antoni has finally been given some flexibility. The Knicks have added size to their roster by signing Timofey Moszgov, a 24-year old, 7-footer who is going to be a difference maker in the paint. If the young fella can learn to stay out of foul trouble he will be a huge asset this season. Mainly it allows for Stoudemire to play his natural position at power forward. But, Moszgov has also shown that he can hit the mid-range jumper, and has impressed me with his athleticism.
Remember last season? The Knicks played with Lee at the center spot, hoped Jared Jeffries could hold weight at the 4 position, and sometimes even had Gallo at the 4. This year the Knicks add Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph. With Turiaf you get the essential glue-guy. Count on Turiaf for 15-20 minutes a game, the ability to block some shots, dive into the first row for a loose ball, and guard the other teams best big guy. Nothing gets MSG rockin’ like a couple of back-to-back hustle plays.
Anthony Randolph has a world of talent…but can he be utilized? Randolph who will miss tonight’s opener with a sprained left ankle is young, freakishly athletic, and handles the ball like a guard. However, he has looked lackadaisical in the preseason. It worries me that if D’Antoni grows frustrated with his youth and inexperience he could find himself in a similar situation to Nate Robinson. Patience will be key with Randolph, but if he can start to put his skills together and apply them within the Knicks system he could be a tremendous asset to this team.
Amare Stoudemire is going to be a great Knick… you can hear it in his interviews. But for those who hated to see David Lee go, watch this.
How does that not get you excited? The Knicks have a superstar again. He is a face that you can put on an organization. He has familiarity with the up-tempo style D’Antoni ran in Phoenix. He has looked tremendous in the preseason and quite frankly could be posed for an MVP type season. In order for the Knicks to have real playoff aspirations, Amare has to be great night in and night out. And that includes being dominant on the boards. That has always been one of the knocks on Stoudemire, but that mentality needs to change. The Knicks got murdered on the glass in the preseason, and I hate to say it, but I don’t want to be relying on Gallo and Chandler to grab all of our rebounds. Amare needs to be a force on the glass for the Knicks to make a legitimate run at the 7 or 8 spot.
So that’s the hand the Knicks have been dealt…it’s certainly not a Full House yet, but the cards are getting better. The key to success this year, and something that I have heard frequently this preseason…was Mike D’Antoni’s emphasis on defense. They have the athleticism to cause some problems defensively, especially when you can have a 7-footer behind you in the lane. The ability to create steals and get out in transition will benefit the Knicks greatly this year.
Let’s get one thing straight…with improvement and excitement come expectations. It has been a long and arduous decade to get to this point. Knick fans want to matter again…they want to be in the postseason discussion. I loved when D’Antoni was hired…I think he brings a winning mentality to New York, and has the system that is not only fun to watch but can produce wins. However, the Knick faithful needs to start seeing some improvement. A competitive season, and an appearance in the postseason would be a tremendous success for this young group…and maybe just maybe, surround this organization with enough excitement that we can add a couple of more aces to the deck next summer.
I thought it was incredible that while the Miami Heat were getting dominated for the first three quarters against the Celtics, the new Dwyane Wade commercial kept running. Wade is a superhero who at one point says, “It’s time to bring the rings back to Miami.” You know what? Enough with the talk…start winning games, win some championships, and then start talking about all your rings.
I thought the Houston Rockets looked very impressive in last night’s two-point loss to the Lakers. Fast doesn’t describe their pace…Aaron Brooks has that offense running at a hundred miles an hour. With a healthy and comfortable Kevin Martin at the two-guard, and Yao back in the line-up the Rockets could be an underdog pick to make a deep run in the West this year.
Enjoy the Knicks tonight…Should be a win against the Raptors!!!