The New York Knicks had a superb first trimester of the season. They go into the new year with the second best record in the east at 21-9. Carmelo Anthony has been playing the best basketball of his life, Jason Kidd is playing 10 years younger and J.R Smith is making a strong case for 6th man of the year. Their defense has anchored them thus far as well as their three point success and their lack of turnovers. They’re giving up 96 points a game while shooting 39% from deep. Oh and they’re averaging just under 11 turnovers a game.
Everything could change though as the new year begins. Amar’e Stoudemire is supposed to make his debut on Tuesday against the Trailblazers. I’m a firm believer that his presence will only improve the Knicks’ success if he comes off the bench. Rumor has it he’ll be featured as a 6th man when he returns. The question is if Carmelo and Amar’e will be able to gel when he returns, I think that they will. With Amar’e coming off the bench it gives Melo time to get into a rhythm at the 4 immediately. Bringing Amar’e off the bench only brings another scoring punch and can give them some scoring from the post – something they don’t have at the moment. I think Carmelo’s new attitude and his new approach to the game will also enable the two stars to work together. Everyone is raving about how Carmelo Anthony is playing a different way this season, not only on the court but in the way he is approaching each game. His new willingness to pass the ball will allow Amar’e and him to work together. Melo is not the Melo of last year – the one who tried to do everything himself. The Melo of this season is a different player – a player who trusts his teammates and has bought into Mike Woodson’s system. As well as Melo’s new outlook on the game the Knicks have added tons of experience to guide Amar’e and really help him see the big picture and to see his role. He’s not the centerpiece anymore, he’s really a compliment to Melo. Additionally, a big man needs a consistent point guard to put him in good position to succeed. Not only does he have Jason Kidd, one of the best point guards of all time and playing some of the best basketball ever, but he has Raymond Felton back from the 2010 season where he scored a career high 25.3 points a game. He’s comfortable with Raymond Felton, and Jason Kidd is the ultimate unselfish player who will keep the ball moving, which will limit the amount of ball stopping that Melo and Amar’e may do. You also have to remember that this team has been the most effective NBA team from beyond the arc. Jason Kidd is shooting 44%, Carmelo is shooting 43%, Novak is shooting 44%, Copeland is shooting 45%, J.R is even shooting 36% from beyond the arc. This team spreads the floor like no other. With everybody shooting the ball so effectively, Amar’e will have plenty of room around the elbow and around the paint for opportunities to score.
I’m confident their defense will remain solid as well, Melo is playing superb defense and the whole team is buying in. The addition of Amar’e will provide the Knicks with new depth in the front-court. If Amar’e Stoudemire can understand his role and buy in to the unselfish on offense and gritty on defense system the team is running then the Knicks can only flourish.
On a more general note, I think the team will begin the new year on a rocky note. I don’t think Amar’e will fit in immediately to the system, I think it will take a few games before it all clicks. Not that he won’t fit in but he’ll be very rusty and won’t be the Amar’e Stoudemire we’ve grown to know over his career. Also, Raymond Felton is out 4-6 weeks. Without their starting point guard the Knicks are thinner in the backcourt and lose Raymond’s production of 16 and 6 a game.
Looking into the new year the Knicks can expect bright things and if they continue playing like they have they an expect a 2nd seed in the playoffs and most definitely a 50+ win season.