By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks struck gold on their trip out west, but now we find out if it’s real or fake. Winning three straight on the road is great regardless of the opponent, but the truth is that Golden State, Sacramento and the Clippers are all bad teams that don’t play a whole lot of defense. Did the Knicks finally commit to Mike D’Antoni’s seven seconds or less offense? Has D’Antoni’s adjustments to the Knicks half court offense really made a difference? Is Danilo Gallinari a true fourth quarter closer and go to scorer? We’ll find out soon enough.

The Bobcats aren’t an upper echelon team but they do play defense under Larry Brown, and operate almost exclusively in the half court. It will be telling to see whether or not the Knicks will be able to push the ball and create the same type of ball movement against Charlotte as they did on the west coast. Amar’e Stoudemire should be able to score against the likes of Tyrus Thomas, DeSagana Diop, Boris Diaw and Nazr Mohammed. Seeing how Gallinari reacts to the physical defense of Gerald Wallace will be far more telling.

Last week, I called out D’Antoni and his inability to make this group of Knicks efficient on offense. Wisely, he has almost completely abandoned the high screen and roll with Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire and is running a lot of his half court offense out of the high post. Gallinari is getting a lot more touches on hand offs from the big man initiating the offense (Stoudemire or Turiaf), and Felton is being given more room to use his quickness to get to the hoop. They are adjustments that had to be made, and have helped the team build confidence.

With all the losing the Knicks have done the last decade, it is important for D’Antoni and this new group to change the culture. The only way that is going to happen is to win. This team is starting to believe. The next step is to do it at home, where the team seems to play tight in front of the quick to boo Madison Square Garden crowd. If the Knicks can take their belief they can win in the 4th quarter back home, this could truly be a start of a new era of Knicks basketball. That mission continues tonight at the Garden, where there will be almost 20,000 people that are still wondering if what the Knicks found out west was fool’s gold or the real thing.

Up and Under

Up: Danilo Gallinari might just be turning into the player the Knicks front office believed he could become. Gallo is not the most physically gifted player, but he still needs to do more than just shoot threes if he wants to be an All-Star. Using his brain and instincts, he’s drawing fouls consistently and getting to the basket. How about this stat: Of the Knicks rotation players, just three have taken more free throws than three pointers. Those players are Stoudemire, Timofey Mozgov and Gallinari. Gallo has taken 93 free throws and just 75 three pointers. If he keeps that up, he’ll be a twenty point a game scorer in no time. The only thing he has left to develop is a game between 10 and 20 feet, the elusive in-between game that most young NBA players struggle with. All that stands in the way is Gallinari himself. He needs to be aggressive and show that killer instinct every single night he takes the floor. He can’t be an observer anymore, the team can’t afford it.

Honorable mention to Kelenna Azubuike who is back scrimmaging 5 on 5. He would be huge addition to the Knicks backcourt, and another legit three point threat.

Down: Timofey Mozgov is struggling to find his groove, especially on the offensive end of the court. The Knicks aren’t finding him for easy finishes around the basket where he excels. He also isn’t getting any open mid range jumpers. On defense, he still fouls too much, but that’s preferable to him being tentative and not going for blocked shots at all. This kid still has tons of learning to do.

Around the World: Isn’t the point of having LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the same team so that if one isn’t shooing well the other can take over? Well, on a night Wade shot 1-13, LeBron James took just 14 shots and scored 25 points. He also had six turnovers. Chris Bosh scored just 21 on 13 shots. The Heat lost to the Pacers 93-77 at home, lost Udonis Haslem to a long term injury, and are now hoping Erick Dampier can be a difference maker. Good luck. The Heat are 8-6 and only 2 games ahead of the Knicks. It will turn around, but everyone on this planet is enjoying this while it lasts.

The Fadeaway: Blake Griffin is a ridiculous athlete, but he isn’t a great basketball player yet. That’s no crime, considering he is about a dozen games into his rookie season, but he still needs more polish scoring in the half court. And please, that was NOT a dunk on Mozgov. He never reached the rim, so he had to throw the ball in. His follow dunk on the offensive rebound was far more impressive to me. He jumps so high so fast, which means he’ll be a terror on the boards for a long time. We’re looking at a 10 time All-NBA player, barring any more serious injuries.

Make sure to follow me on twitter at:!/Schmeelk

pixy Schmeelk’s Stance: Fools Gold?

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