By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks officially open up training camp today, and the time for excuses is over. There’s no lockout. The same head coach that finished last season is returning this season. There is no offseason surgery for Carmelo Anthony, or bad back for Amar’e Stoudemire.
The team has gathered for an unofficially early training camp in New York. Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony are coming off a gold-winning summer, and should be able to use that experience as an example of how to win. It’s championship mode.
That’s not saying the Knicks have the talent of the Heat, Lakers, or Thunder because they don’t. But right now there is no future except today. This team has a three year window with the core of the team under contract. If it doesn’t work, the team has the perfect opportunity to blow up the roster and start over from scratch. This is the core. This is the team. The time for major changes is over. For better or worse, this is it.
The Knicks should be better than they were last year. Their two superstars are healthy and have a full season under their belts together. They’ve added a number of veterans that know how to win in the NBA and provide much needed playoff experience. There’s a lot of depth in both the front and back court to survive some injuries. Raymond Felton should be fit in quickly thanks to his chemistry with Amar’e Stoudemire.
With all that said, this season will come down to players that will be on the billboards all around Madison Square Garden: Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. How far the Knicks go sits firmly on the broad shoulders of their two superstars. The Mavericks won two years ago because Dirk Nowitzki played like the best player on the planet. LeBron James finally got over the hump last season when his game finally came together. That needs to happen for Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
The outlook for Stoudemire seems to be positive. Despite the fire extinguisher incident, he looked like his old explosive self at the end of last season. He should be able to get some more action on the pick and roll with the return of Raymond Felton. He spent the offseason playing basketball and working on his low post game with Hakeem Olajuwon. His mid-range jump shot needs to come back after his it inexplicably disappeared last season. Can he play with Carmelo Anthony?
It is with him that the fate of the Knicks organization sits. He is talking a good game coming off an Olympic gold medal. He is participating in the team’s unofficial training camp and talking about how he has no problem sacrificing points for the betterment of the team. Last season Carmelo showed he could play good defense in stretches but now he must do it every game. He not only needs to get his own shot, but also set up and make his teammates better. Can he operate in the flow of the offense with the ball moving?
Carmelo Anthony needs to transform himself from a great scorer into a great player. It’s time for him to take the same journey that LeBron James took last year. He has the talent but does he have the rest of it? Does he have the maturity, basketball IQ, drive and work ethic to sustain greatness? We don’t know that yet. The answer to that question will determine how the Knicks season will end.
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