Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There Is Something Wrong Here....The Knicks Are Good?

It is only three games into the NBA season, but it has been a long time since New York has been this excited about basketball.  Maybe it is because it is the only sport in town right now with the NHL still in a lockout.  Maybe it is because they just opened a new stadium in Brooklyn to cause a cross town rival.  Maybe it is because this area was just ravished by Hurricane Sandy and we just need something to get our minds off of the devastation.  Whatever it is, New York is eating up the Knicks team. 

The Knicks started the season with a twenty point trouncing of the defending champion Miami Heat.  In that game, the Knicks beat them in every aspect of the game.  They got better shooting, they moved the ball better, and, something we haven't seen in a very long time, they played better defense.  It seems like this is the first time that this team is hitting on all cylinders.  They have bought in completely to Mike Woodson's system.  They seem to have a much better connection with him as a coach than they ever did with Mike D'Antoni.  Woodson is preaching defense and this team is putting that plan into effect.  There are two statistics up in their locker room, their points per game allowed and opponent shooting percentage.  The fact that these Knicks are spending so much time focusing on defense is a breath of fresh air.  It may have to do with the new faces they brought in or it may just be the fact that Mike Woodson was in control this offseason, but it seems like a whole new team playing in New York. 

The front office spent this year's offseason focusing on team defense and a strong bench.  They went out in the offseason and signed veteran defensive gurus with the likes of Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Pablo Pirgioni and Kurt Thomas.  Even preseason long shot Rasheed Wallace has been more than contributing so far.  He actually leads the league in PER (albeit in only 20 minutes of playing time but still).  Add on reigning defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler and you have a seriously stout defense.  The difference between 2011-12 Knicks and the 2012-13 version is their perimeter defense.  They know how to cover the players in the back court before Chandler has to take them on after blowing past a guard or forward.  This does two things, obviously helps defensively but also keeps Chandler out of foul trouble.  He is a key on this team and well worth the money he received. 

When you have a star like Carmelo Anthony completely changing his game and his image simultaneously you know you have something special brewing.  Woodson has Anthony playing the hardest defense in his career.  Carmelo also played for the USA team in the Olympics and became a key contributor.  I believe that overseas experience playing with the best players in the world opened his eyes a little.  He was not the best player there by far and he knew that to get on the level of these superstars he needed to work on the parts of his game that were leaving more to be desired.  Practicing everyday with the Lebron James's and Chris Paul's and seeing that they are in their prime with you, but seem to be better made Carmelo want it that much more.  This could be the year we have been waiting for from Anthony, his breakout season where he becomes the superstar he says he's been for years. 

The Knicks are doing one other thing extremely well, shooting three point shots.  You knew you were going to get some of that with Steve Novak and JR Smith coming back, but they are doing it at a torrid pace.  Looking from the outside it looks like it is something that cannot be sustained, but it isn't that they are just shooting a ton of threes and hoping the law of averages plays out.  The ball movement on this team has been superb so far.  They have every player touch the ball on some possessions before passing it to the open man for a three.  They obviously have shot this many threes because they are open for that many threes.  Even when the shots haven't fallen they are still scoring at will.  Against the 76ers on Monday night, the Knicks shot forty percent from downtown yet they still scored 110 points. 

Am I ready to say that the Knicks are the best team in the NBA?  No, not yet at least.  For now it looks like New York has its first basketball team to be proud of since the 1999 title run team.  This kind of pace is sustainable for this team and the next couple months can make it either better or hurt the team chemistry.  They will get Iman Shumpert back in a few months which will only make them an even bigger defensive powerhouse.  The blue and orange elephant in the room is what to do with Amar'e Stoudemire when he returns to action.  Well, we have a few weeks before we have to deal with that so let's ride the wave as long as we can Knicks fans.

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