By John Schmeelk
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I’m actually writing a blog about basketball.

I’m not going to mention BRI, flex caps or mid-level exceptions for teams over the luxury cap. Studying the rules over the past few days it’s becoming pretty clear that the new CBA leaves the Knicks in the same position they were in with the old one.

For New York, 2012 is going to be one last year of transition to get to a true championship level.

Sure, the Knicks will be a playoff team this year — and there’s a great chance they will actually have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. But they are not ready to compete with teams like Dallas, Miami, Oklahoma City or Chicago. They are close but lack the depth, inside presence, rebounding and balance to make a true run this season. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a fun year, with the potential of getting to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade — and having a real chance of upsetting a great team.

True championship-level play, however, won’t arrive until 2012-13 when the Knicks can surround Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony with the help they need. With $13 million in cap room, they can choose to try to bring in another star, or spread the money elsewhere on established roleplayers.

We’ll examine how the Knicks should spend that money tomorrow.

In order to make those decisions, this year is important. First, in terms of personnel, Landry Fields and Imam Shumpert need to prove to the Knicks they can play before the important free agent decisions of 2012 are made. Can Shumpert be a starting point guard in the NBA? Then the Knicks shouldn’t spend their money on Chris Paul. If Fields shows improvement at shooting guard, it gives the Knicks another potential asset to either trade or resign to a longer contract.

It’s the same for the coach. If the Knicks don’t win a playoff round this year, I don’t believe Mike D’Antoni will be coaching the team the following season. With his distinct style, his system dictates a certain type of personnel and player that can work. If he isn’t the Knicks coach next season, the type of free agent they will pursue will be quite different. It is a make or break year for his quick hitting system. It will come down to defense. If he, and new defensive oriented assistant Mike Woodson can’t get the Knicks to play defense there will be a new man on the sidelines next year (and no, don’t expect Mike Woodson to be the next head coach either).

Likewise, Stoudemire and Anthony are going to have to cement themselves as leaders of this organization. They two will have to prove they can play together and are willing to do so at both ends of the floor. As they stand now, both are considered one-dimensional offensive players and need to show improvement on the defensive end if the Knicks are going to take that next step forward.

Finally, it’s also a year for the front office. With Glen Grunwald as the interim general manager, the Knicks need to decide if he is the man to lead them into the future. Otherwise, their next head coach can also be their general manager.

It’s a big year for the Knicks in nearly every respect that will form the foundation of the franchise for years to come. Enjoy. You can follow me on twitter at:!/Schmeelk.

Do you think 2011-12 is shaping up to be a transition year for the Knicks? Sound off in the comments below…

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