Hopefully Hakeem taught Amar’e how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
PG Raymond Felton Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni (r)
SG Iman Shumpert J.R. Smith
SF Carmelo Anthony Ronnie Brewer, Steve Novak…Mychel Thompson
PF Amar’e Stoudemire Kurt Thomas…Chris Copeland
C Tyson Chandler Marcus Camby…Henry Sims
Offseason Recap: Fans were in uproar when the team lost restricted free agent Jeremy Lin via free agency. Frankly, I think the loss of Jared Jeffries from last year’s roster is bigger. Re-signing a guy to a $25-million deal who started 25 games then blew out his knee? that’s scary….it’s a mill per start! Shortly after letting Lin walk to Houston, NYK responded with some crafty transactions. They replaced Jeremy w/ former Knicks PG Ray Felton, a guy who’s eager to regain his form after being shuffled through Denver and Portland. He’ll be the undisputed floor leader again and I think he’ll thrive in Mike Woodson’s system. Jason Kidd said back in June that he’d sign wherever Deron Williams went…then he said he’d gladly mentor Jeremy Lin in NY…well, he’s now backing up Felton. As a starter Kidd is no longer a game-changer, but as a back-up and in the locker room he’ll be dynamite. The team also added swingman Ronnie Brewer to help buy time for stud Iman Shumpert to finish rehabbing his knee. But then, in typical Knicks fashion, Ronnie injures his knee and goes under the knife. J.R. Smith is also back and likely will resume his 6th-Man gunner role. Steve Novak will do much the same thing just in a more quiet and obedient fashion.
The hiring of Hakeem Olajuwon to coach their ‘bigmen’ was a coup for the Knicks. ‘The Dream’ has been coaching stars privately in the offseason for years. The fact that the Knicks will have this in-house next season helps their squad immensely. Olajuwon is one of those rare guys who can teach either rookie ‘bigs’ learning the fundamentals and established stars taking the next step.
Now to the ‘feel good’ story of the summer: Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, heroes of the ’99 cinderella run, return to Gotham. Something about seeing these two guys back with the Knicks just makes you smile (unless you’re Pat Riley). Hey, anybody got LJ’s cell number?
Strengths: Adding Marcus Camby to a team that already features Tyson Chandler means that the Knicks will likely always have one serious rim-protector out on the floor at all times (last season they were 27th in shot-blocking). This is a far cry from the run n let ‘em score on us D’Antoni days. This inside rotation is finally one that N.Y. fans can sink their teeth into. Then, when the game is close in the 4th, the Knicks are as dangerous as anybody because of Carmelo’s one-on-one brilliance. He’s in that rare group with Kobe, Durant, Wade, and now Lebron. Anthony can put the other 4 guys out there on his scoring back and finish the job all by himself. The key is to not rely on this too early in games.
Another strength this year may actually be good health. Last season this group just couldn’t get everyone healthy and playing well at the same time. It was one serious injury after another. One has to think that this upcoming season will be much better.
Weaknesses: The question still remains…do Carmelo and Amar’e have the right synergy to lead a team to a championship? It’s not good enough just to have talent in the NBA, it’s got to mesh. Anthony is a dominant figure on offense and Stoudemire must find a way to still be productive as the #2 guy. The time spent with Hakeem this summer will help him mentally more than physically. It’s about staying in the moment and showing controlled aggression on offense. I do have serious doubts, though, if Amar’e can play well without being in a D’Antoni-style offense. For years he had Steve Nash spoon-feeding him easy shots. Now, he’s gotta go out there and get them himself. In the words of Tim Hardaway: “we gone see.”
Ball-handling & decision-making will be a key factor for the Knicks this season. Last year, they led the league in turnovers as they shuffled point guards in and out of the lineup (Douglas, Lin, Davis, Bibby). You know you got problems when you’re playing J.R. Smith at the point. 2012-13 must feature smoother offense in order to help the defense from getting torched.
Lastly, the frontline isn’t quite as deep as last year. Kurt & Marcus are great, but also very old. I’m looking for the team to pick-up one or two bigs off the waiver wire in late October.
Prediction: Last season the Knicks started under Mike D’Antoni…they were great on offense and poor on defense. By the end of the year, they finished 11th in both scoring and opponent’s scoring. Obviously they got better on ‘D’ and worse on ‘O’ under Mike Woodson. Well, Woody will finally have a training camp with this Knicks team and get a chance to fully implement his gameplan on both ends of the floor. I expect him to incorporate more motion on offense, something he didn’t do quite enough of down in Atlanta.
I think the key to the season will be the health of Iman Shumpert, who’s still recovering from knee surgery. His defense and toughness at the SG puts everyone else in their right places on the team (J.R. must not start). Recent reports are that he’ll be back in the lineup by December.
Sorry Knicks fans, but I got some bad news for you…..your team will not win the Atlantic Division this season. But, the good news is that neither will the rival Nets or Celtics. In fact, I have the Knickerbockers finishing second behind the 76ers…with Boston & Brooklyn bringing up the rear (oh, and Toronto). I expect each regular season game between the Knicks & Nets to be intense as Prokhorov’s crew begins their assault on the ‘Big Apple’. The Nets have nothing to lose in the court of public opinion and they’ll play like it. The Knicks, meanwhile, always seem to play like they have everything to lose.
The Knicks will be right in the middle of the playoff mix all season. I see them hovering in that 4-5 playoff bracket and, for the sake of New Yorkers everywhere, hopefully avoid a more experienced team like the Celtics or Bulls. If they can somehow draw a team that is talented but not very cohesive that would be right up the Knicks’ alley…..nobody does that better than they do. On a personal note, I would pay real money to see a Nets-Knicks playoff matchup.
I predict a much healthier (and happier) Knicks lineup in 2012-13…..hey, it couldn’t get much worse.