By Steve Silverman
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The Knicks have a real chance to not only find out who they are in next two months, they have a chance to establish themselves as a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.
The 4-0 start is great for New York, and the circumstances surrounding that start are even better.
First, take a look at the way the Knicks have played those four games. They have had double-digit victories in each of those games. The latest of those victories came over a very good Dallas Mavericks team and Rick Carlisle sounded surprised after the Friday night 104-94 Knicks victory.
“This is a really good team already,” Carlisle said. “They are playing very good basketball. They are one of a few teams that has a chance to come out of the East.
Carlisle makes it sound like there are four or five teams in the Eastern Conference who could emerge as champions. He’s wrong about that.
Boston will need a miracle to have a shot. Not only are the Celtics old, they don’t have the talent level to get there. Chicago won’t have a chance unless Derrick Rose comes back from ACL surgery by early February and plays at full speed from the start. That almost certainly won’t happen. Brooklyn is going to have a special season and the Nets may be a factor in future years, but not in 2012-13.
That leaves the Knicks and the Miami Heat. That’s saying something because the Heat are the most talented team in the NBA, especially since Oklahoma City traded James Harden before the start of the season. The Thunder will regret that move before the end of the year.
The best thing about the Knicks through these first four games is that they play with no fear and they play for 48 minutes. No slow starts and no running out of gas in the fourth quarter. They are playing like they believe they have a chance.
The most noticeable aspect of those first four games is how hard Carmelo Anthony is playing. He is playing defense, he is rebounding. And, of course, he is scoring at a rate of 27.2 points per game.
Anthony is setting the tone as he rarely has during his NBA career and the result is that the Knicks are playing to the old Red Holzman team concept that few teams ever played as well as the old coach’s Knicks’ teams of the late 1960s and early ‘70s.
Mike Woodson may just turn out to be the right coach for this team. He has the Knicks playing a much higher level of team defense than has been seen in recent seasons. It may not be anything he is doing. But he deserves some recognition because he is letting Jason Kidd assert himself and show what leadership is all about.
Kidd sets an example and his teammates are taking notice. Not necessarily following what he is doing, but taking notice and throwing themselves into a defensive commitment.
You knew that was a big part of Tyson Chandler’s game; that’s why he made the U.S. Olympic team during the summer. But J.R. Smith, who is getting 2.2 steals per game while averaging 17.5 ppg has been an early-season revelation.
Going into training camp, Smith seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. Sure, he had talent, but he’s been a one-dimensional gunner throughout the majority of his previous eight seasons.
It appears that the light has gone on for him.
If the Knicks can play at a high level through the end of December, they will be in a position to play for home court advantage in the playoffs. Not just in the first round, but perhaps much longer.
A 4-0 start can prove to be a mirage, but this team looks like it has a chance to push Miami hard in the Eastern Conference.
Do you think the Knicks can continue their hot start through the next couple of months? Share your thoughts below.