The New York Knicks were one of the teams that were really hurt by the extended lockout this offseason. With so many new players on the roster, they really could have used a full training camp to gel as a team. They’ve also added some new coaches—such as Mike Woodson—who could have used this offseason to implement their new strategies for the upcoming season.
The Knicks won both of their preseason games over the Nets, as well as their first game of the season over their rival Celtics. Watching those games though, it was very clear that this team still has a lot of work to do if they want to make a run at an NBA Championship this season.
It will be very interesting to see how D’Antoni utilizes his off days this season. On one hand, the Knicks could really use these off days to practice and gain cohesiveness as a team. On the other hand, though, it will be important that D’Antoni doesn’t burn out his players since they need to play 66 games in such a short period of time and still be fresh for the playoffs.
Here are my early impressions of the 2011-2012 New York Knicks.
After watching the Knicks opening game, it is evident that Toney Douglas isn’t a PG and would be much better suited playing the off guard position.
I personally like Douglas as a player and believe he could contribute to this team, but he can’t run an offense. Toney played PG for 35 minutes in the Knicks’ opener and only had four assists. With scorers like Carmelo and Amar’e on his team, all Douglas needs to do is control the ball and wait for them to get open and he should rack up double digit assists easy.
Douglas showed he has no patience for that though, which is reflected in his 19 field goal attempts last game.
Douglas’ biggest strength is his ability to create his own shot and knock down open jumpers. He did a great job scoring 19 points for the Knicks last game, but that’s not what they need out of him if he’s going to be their starting PG.
Douglas either needs to start playing like a true PG or the Knicks need to slide him over to SG and let someone more capable of running an offense fill the PG role.
When the Knicks drafted Iman Shumpert in the first round of the draft last year, the fans in the Prudential Center erupted in disappointment. At the time, he wasn’t even on Jay Bilas’ Top 10 players still available in the draft. No one had really heard of the Junior guard from Georgia Tech, but that was all going to change very quickly.
When the Knicks drafted Shumpert, all you heard about was his tenacious defense and versatility. Last season, he led the ACC in steals and was responsible for guarding the other team’s top perimeter player every single game.
After watching Shumpert versus the Celtics though, I was extremely impressed by his offensive abilities.
Usually rookies are tentative and unsure of themselves in their first game, but not Shumpert. He was aggressive and determined to drive to the rim all game and create shots for himself. He did miss a few easy jumpers, but I’ll chalk that up to first game jitters.
Overall, I was very impressed with Shumpert’s play and I think he will eventually win a starting spot over Douglas or Landry—once he comes back from a minor knee injury that will keep him out for the next two weeks.
If anything was exposed about the Knicks in their first game, it was their lack of depth.
Going into the third quarter, the Knicks had a 10-point lead. Carmelo picked up his fourth foul early in the quarter though and it was all downhill from there. With Carmelo sitting on the bench basically the entire quarter, the Knicks were outscored 35-17 and found themselves down by eight entering the fourth.
The Knicks proved in the Celtics game that unless Carmelo and Amar’e are playing close to 40 minutes, they are in trouble. It also really hurt to lose their sixth man—Iman Shumpert—to injury in only his first career game.
After Shumpert, the Knicks' bench options consist of Bill Walker, Jared Jeffries and Renaldo Balkman. Jeffries can come in and sometimes make some solid defense plays, but none of the guys are really capable of providing that spark off the bench like Jamal Crawford or Nate Robinson used to do for the Knicks.
Carmelo and Amar’e are going to have some off games throughout the season, so the Knicks desperately need to find a high-energy player who can come off the bench and score in bunches.
The Knicks brought Tyson Chandler to NY for two reasons: rebounding and defense. If he’s doing both those to the best of his ability, the Knicks will be virtually unstoppable.
Chandler is a game changer, who does the dirty work that most NBA players don’t like to do.
Just look at how Chandler affected the Mavs. Before he arrived in Dallas, everyone thought they were good, but too soft to ever win a championship. Chandler quickly changed that perception and helped Dallas win a championship in his only season there. Now that he left, Dallas lost their first two games, and looked soft in both of them.
Like Shumpert, Chandler also seemed to have first game jitters when they played the Celtics.
He was flying all over the court on defense—blocking an astounding six shots in the process. But in doing so, he took himself out of position for many rebounds. Chandler only had one defensive rebound in that game, which is very uncommon for him.
He needs to find the balance again between aggressive defense and rebounding if he wants to help the Knicks succeed.
If there was ever a debate between whether this was Amar’e or Carmelo’s team, the debate is now over. Since Douglas doesn’t play like a conventional PG does, every single play runs through Carmelo. When he’s not on the floor, the Knicks look lost on offense—as was evident in the third quarter of the Celtics game.
Carmelo is such a versatile scorer, making him nearly impossible to stop. If the defender backs off him to stop the drive, he will just pull up for three. If the defender plays tight defense to stop his outside shot, Melo will just use his strength to blow past his defender and get to the rim. Also, you can’t foul him or he’ll knock down both free throws almost every time.
Last game, Carmelo proved it was his team when he completely took over during crunch time.
With the Knicks trailing, he scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, to go along with the 20 he already had. When the game was tied and time was running out, the ball was in Carmelo’s hands. He drew a foul and knocked down both free throws to secure the two-point victory.
Even though Amar’e was the first superstar to join the Knicks, Carmelo has put the team on his back and proved he is the true king of New York.