By John Schmeelk
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Reading about the Knicks in the newspapers and on Twitter this past week has been something akin to that classic, chaotic scene in “Animal House”.
I’m going to have to be Kevin Bacon in this situation — “Remain calm!” — and I’m quite aware that I will most likely get trampled. I’m OK with that.
I’ll set up an assumption here. I’m assuming the Knicks are telling the truth about the injuries to Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. I realize that’s a stretch, considering how the “sore” and “day to day” injuries to Jeremy Lin, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Amar’e Stoudemire all turned into problems that kept them out for months at a time. The Knicks just don’t give out complete information about injuries. However, it seems Chandler and Anthony should be back before the end of the week.
I’ll buy that.
If one or both are out for an extended period? Sure, panic!
If they come back, the Knicks will still be in fairly good position to get not only win the Atlantic Division, but also get the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Judging them by their play over this four-game stretch is foolish and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Asking the Knicks to beat Western Conference playoff teams on the road without their two best scorers (I realize Carmelo played against the Warriors and Nuggets but he clearly wasn’t himself) is unrealistic. Once Chandler got hurt against the Nuggets everyone knew it was going to be a nightmare. The Clippers, Warriors and Nuggets are all in the top six of the conference, and the Trail Blazers are only 3 1/2 out of the eighth seed. These are good basketball teams.
The Knicks played hard against the Clippers and Trail Blazers, but just couldn’t score enough to win. Over those four games the Knicks shot 27 percent against the Warriors, 43 percent against the Nuggets and Trail Blazers, and then 36 percent against the Clippers. Without Stoudemire and Anthony, the Knicks simply don’t have enough talent to score consistently. I don’t care how well the ball moves. If not one person on the court can create their own shot (and shoot at a decent percentage – looking at you, J.R. Smith), the team is going to have trouble scoring.
How do you think the Miami Heat would look without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the floor? Would Chalmers, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Chris Anderson look any better than the Knicks looked in their last two games?
I doubt it.
Even though the Knicks have lost four straight and risk getting swept on this West Coast trip, they’ll come back to a situation that’s not much worse than when they left. The Pacers have struggled as well, losing three of their last four. They play nine of their last 16 on the road, including a trip through Texas and the West Coast. The Knicks are tied with them in the loss column. The Nets are still two games back in the loss column, and are about to go on an eight-game road trip. Only five of their remaining 16 games are at home.
The Hawks, Bulls and Celtics are three games back in the loss column and could be a threat, but they have their own scheduling quirks left. The Knicks still get the Hawks twice, which should let them more or less control their own destiny. The Knicks get two more shots at the Celtics, too, who also still have to play the Heat twice, Dallas and Memphis on the road, and the Pacers, Nets and Hawks at home. Otherwise their schedule is not difficult. The Bulls have it the easiest, but they’ve struggled recently also, losing four of their last six. Derrick Rose’s return date remains a mystery.
That’s not to say the Knicks don’t have a lot of work to do themselves. They play half of their 18 remaining games on the road, including matchups at Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Chicago. The home schedule features top teams like the Pacers, Celtics, Grizzlies and Hawks. Once the Knicks get back to full strength, they’ll have to play better than before injuries began to ravage the team.
It comes to down to two very simple — but very elusive — keys: Ball movement and defense.
Those were two things New York did so well in November. Get those back, along with their two stars, and an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals could still be in the offing. In many ways the Knicks control their own destiny.
Fans can either take solace in that, or panic even more.
– For all those fans that are of the incorrect opinion that the Knicks are better without Carmelo Anthony, I just need to show you the games on this West Coast trip to prove you wrong. It’s absolutely painful to watch the Knicks try and score without him on the floor. Unless they hit at a ridiculous percentage from three, they can’t win against good teams.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.
OK, you’ve read Schmeelk’s argument. Still panicking? Be heard in the comments!