This post was written by Ryan Colburn, a high school basketball teammate of mine. I can pay him no higher compliment than this: If I needed one person to make a wide open jumper to save my life, and I was given a choice between Colburn and Ray Allen, I’d actually think twice.
Before all of Jay’s readers write this post off as absolute blasphemy, I would like to explain myself. Although I am a New York Knickerbocker fan, I’m not all bad. I was born in Connecticut and as a child was faced with the dilemma of choosing a side in the heated rivalry between Boston and New York. (Editor’s note: Heated rivalry? Child please.) Largely because of Spre, Allan Houston and Larry Johnson, I preferred the Knicks and the MSG network rather than NESN with Paul and Antoine.
But I don’t just love the Knicks; I am a huge basketball fan. Whether it is a high school all-star game, hoops mixtape, hoopshype.com, nba.com, NBA TV, (I begrudgingly admit some WNBA Playoffs), I have been thinking about basketball ever since Game 7 ended. I miss it. I miss it maybe too much. I miss it more than ever because I am a recent college graduate and at the moment am struggling to find work. Hell, I watch FIBA competition even if team USA isn’t even playing. That says something. (Editor’s note: Not as much as watching the WNBA playoffs does.) And before I throw some Knicks analysis your way, just know that I rooted for the Celtics all playoffs long, especially when they faced LA.
Now, on to the Knickerbockers. Since their run to the NBA Finals in 1999, the Knicks have quickly become one of the worst teams in basketball. As a fan this has been especially tough, because the Knicks are such a storied franchise yet continually fail to live up to expectations.
It’s sad, too, because Madison Square Garden is a special place. Ask any player, college or pro that has taken the floor there and most will tell you it is truly an experience. The Lakers have strived to emulate emulates MSG with Staples’s new lighting regime. Instead of lighting the entire arena like almost all stadiums do, MSG has always dimmed the lighting above the fans and put the spotlight on the hardwood. Remember 2001, when Iverson torched LA for 49 points in Game 1 of the Finals? Check out some highlights from that game and note that the arena lighting has drastically changed, to the point where it now looks like Madison Square of the West. (The lighting is different only for the Lakers though. It’s really can’t come as a surprise the Clippers get no love whatsoever.)
Tangents aside, the Knicks are a 2010-2011 Playoff team. That’s right. Without Tony Parker or Carmelo Anthony, this team should make the playoffs. Although recent history tells me to think twice (editor’s note: or three or four times), I find myself coming to this conclusion for a variety of reasons.
Isiah Thomas is (finally) gone
Come again? Yes, the destroyer of this franchise is officially gone. For this year, at least. Nobody knows what tricks James Dolan has up his sleeve for the future, but after his failed attempt to re-hire Isaiah as a part-time team consultant, it is safe to say Isiah will be nowhere near the Garden this year. Which is, quite naturally, the best news any Knicks fan could hear. (Even though the Isiah era did bring THIS.)
Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni now have a clean slate
With the exception of trading away 1st round draft picks for a few years (horrible I know, but necessary to dump the horrendous Isaiah signings), and having T-Mac on our team last season, I can confidently say the Knicks are headed in a good direction. LeBron toyed with the entire league and decided to team up with Olympic buddy Chris Bosh and join Dwayne Wade in Miami, but the Knicks managed to still make productive moves to place them in a favorable position in the Eastern Conference.
One of those moves, Amar’e Stoudemire, is a perennial All-Star. He is a beast. Nobody can deny that. He posterizes people and, despite what people think, can carry a team on his back. With a huge contract, a fresh start, a reunification with Mike D’Antoni and the largest stage in sports ready for him, Amar’e has a lot to prove but he is up for the challenge.
For all of you haters out there (and I know you exist in large number), I have only one response: In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals Amar’e dropped 42 and 11 on last year’s champs, who happened to have the best frontline in all of basketball. The Amar’e signing, although maybe a little on the costly side, will pay dividends for the Knicks.
Trading David Lee was shrewd
I hate to see David Lee go because he was such a fan favorite, and he matured tremendously while playing for the Knicks. To put it simply, the guy is a double double machine. With that being said, the team is better off with him gone. The Knicks did not want to spend huge money on him, and I agree with their decision.
Lee deserved a big contract, but the Knicks shrewdly traded him for three valuable pieces – Anthony Randolph, a 21 year old freakish athlete with all the tools to succeed in an up and down system like D’Antoni’s; Ronny Turiaf, a physical shot blocker who brings toughness and rebounding to the Knicks; and Kelenna Azubuike, a strong role player who commits on the defensive end and also knocks down three-pointers. The only question with Azubuike is whether his injured knee hold up.
As sad as it was to bid D-Lee farewell, Mr. Walsh traded him for two solid role players who play defense and one potential star who faltered early in his career because Don Nelson is out of touch with reality. Might I add that Nellie is hanging on to coaching just to increase the all-time wins record that he now holds?
A couple other solid additions
In addition to the four newcomers I mentioned above, the Knicks also signed Raymond Felton and Roger Mason, Jr. Felton won a National Championship at North Carolina and performed solidly for five years on the Bobcats. His tenure ended last year after he led the franchise to its first playoff berth. He will thrive on the Knicks but needs to improve his outside shooting. But then again, does he? Mason should pick up Felton’s slack from beyond the arc.
The former Spur saw his playing time diminish greatly last year, but his impressive season two years ago should not be forgotten. He is still the same Roger Mason who hit a buzzer beater on Christmas day 2009 to beat the Suns in Phoenix, and also had a few more dramatic game winners to the chagrin of the Clippers, Lakers and Celtics. Mason needed a change of scenery, and found it in Manhattan.
The Knicks also made some minor moves that could pay dividends. They signed Timofey Mosgov, a talented but raw center from Russia who has performed well in FIBA competition this summer; drafted Landry Fields, a smart, athletic stand-out from Stanford; and selected Andy Rautins, a solid combo guard who may struggle to find his way into the rotation. Another move I liked was the recent signing of Patrick Ewing Jr. Will he even play? Probably not. But does the possibility that he might intrigue and excite Knicks fans? Absolutely.
Even with all the moves, the Knicks managed to keep their young, talented core in place for the upcoming season. One such talent is Danilo Gallinari, who is ready to elevate his game to the next level, barring another back injury. The young stud is extremely talented, with unlimited range and a competitive spirit that was showcased countless times last year. I was dubious on draft day but it has become clear that Gallo was worthy of his lottery selection.
A couple other talented youngsters
Wilson Chandler, another young wing player, looks posed to have a breakout year as well. He has a complete offensive game but needs to commit on defense, which is totally realistic considering his capabilities. All it takes is hard work and determination. He has the athletic ability to do anything on the court and stands tall at 6’8″.
Yet another wing player looking to make some noise this year? Bill Walker. (Editor’s note: DOH!). Before reconstructive knee surgery, Walker was dubbed the next Vince Carter because of the relative ease with which he threw down windmills. After a solid end to last season, he has lost a lot of weight and trained hard all summer for the regular season. It is a make or break year for him; he realizes it’s time to prove his worth. Once a highly touted high school prospect, Walker now has to show the Knicks and the rest of the NBA that he can still perform at a high level and contribute on a nightly basis.
Do what Toney Douglas do
Last but not least, Toney Douglas. As Chris Duhon fell apart and lost all of his confidence last season, Douglas assumed a starting role and showed flashes of his game. He hit clutch jump shots, locked down other PGs and proved he will be a valuable backup to Felton this year. He will get his chance to play and I am excited to see what he will bring to the table this year. Douglas, and the other three young returning Knicks, played significant minutes under D’Antoni last season and they are ready to win.
This post has become too long, so I will end it quicker than I would like to. I could go on forever but I want to leave you with a few things to remember. The Knicks are poised to have a successful year and it wouldn’t surprise me if they made a nice run in the Playoffs. To many this may sound absurd, but I believe that with their current roster, there is no reason the Knicks cannot exceed expectations of a 7 or 8 seed in the East. They have an entire training camp to jell and a regular season to grow together. Unlike years past, they will not have to experience a variety of roster upheavals and changes in personnel.
I’m expecting big things from this group, and as they always play loudly in MSG, “Go New York, Go New York, GO!”