New York Knicks: 8 Reasons Fans Should Not Be Concerned About a Slow Start
A franchise emerging from a decade of poor front-office decisions and increasing local criticism, this was supposed to be the year that the Knicks returned to relevancy. However, their 3-4 record through seven games has the Big Apple faithful less than enthused.
Amongst their four defeats are a blowout to the Stephen Curry-less Warriors and home losses to the sub-.500 Raptors and Bobcats. However, New York has plenty of time to make adjustments and find ways to utilize their undeniable front-court talent.
The masses at Madison Square Garden may remain impatient, but here are eight reasons that Knicks fans should not worry about their team's slow start this season.
Reason No. 1: Chemistry Is Not Created Overnight
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If last year's Miami Heat team taught basketball fans anything, it's that nobody, not even the game's elite, can come together and win immediately.
Chemistry is perhaps the most vital aspect of a successful starting five, and the lack of such is one of many things hindering New York thus far. In the past two years, this team has gained and lost a myriad of players; in 2010-11, forwards Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire had to learn to share the court midseason. That rushed process was certainly not aided by the league lockout this summer.
'Melo and Stoudemire still aren't quite on the same page, and the addition of center Tyson Chandler and veteran guards Mike Bibby and Baron Davis has further complicated things. With time, these stars will learn to play together, masking each other's weaknesses and magnifying their strengths.
As each game passes, the Knicks will begin to demonstrate far more on-court chemistry.
Reason No. 2: The Return of Baron Davis
As mentioned previously, the Knicks made a relatively high-profile signing this winter in former Cleveland Cavalier Baron Davis.
A two-time NBA All-Star, Davis will help stabilize the woefully inconsistent Knicks backcourt. Toney Douglas has been a pure volume shooter this season, averaging almost 14 shots per game, while making less than five of them. With high-flying forwards, the Knicks have struggled in part because of Douglas' scorer's mentality.
When Davis recovers from his herniated disk and resumes the starting point guard responsibilities, the Knicks will benefit immensely from an experienced veteran who knows how to assist his teammates.
Douglas is averaging just four dishes per contest this year, while Davis' career average is 7.3. At age 32, Baron Davis is no Chris Paul or Steve Nash, but his presence at the 1-guard will definitely improve New York's offensive game.
Reason No. 3: Amar'e Stoudemire at the Power Forward Position
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Much of New York's defensive struggles last season were due to Amar'e Stoudemire's play as a starting center.
Standing at under 7', Stoudemire made a name for himself in Phoenix at the four spot; however, he was forced to learn a new position as a member of the Knicks, and his inexperience and lack of size were illustrated in New York's horrid rebounding totals.
With Tyson Chandler controlling the paint in 2011-12, Stoudemire must once again change positions. This transition should be much easier, as Amar'e is back in his natural power forward role.
Seven games into the season, Stoudemire's defense has been less than stellar, but he will surely improve as he learns to work with Chandler and readjust his game.
Reason No. 4: New York's Deep Bench
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True, the Knicks don't quite have the best bench in basketball, but they're fortunate to possess some key veterans and fresh legs that will allow lineup flexibility.
Swingman Bill Walker is a reliable defender, while Bibby and rookie point guard Iman Shumpert can provide needed scoring from the backcourt. The latter two contributed double-digit points in Friday's victory in Washington.
As we saw with Denver, Dallas, Oklahoma City and countless others last year, serviceable backups and sturdy bench play is a key to success down the stretch. Come playoff time, when starters are feeling the pains of a long season, the Knicks will be able to sub in and out without losing serious momentum.
If big men Josh Harrellson and Renaldo Balkman can develop into decent reserves as well, New York will threaten opponents with a deep, well-rounded roster.
Reason No. 5: The Weak Atlantic Division
Regardless of their record, if the Knicks win their division, they're guaranteed at least the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The New York faithful are all too familiar with Boston's stranglehold over the Atlantic in recent years, but with a starting five with an average age of 32, this may be the year that the Knicks overthrow their bitter rivals and take the reigns of the division.
New York is simply much younger and more athletic; when they tipped off with the Celtics on Christmas Day, not a single starter was over the age of 30.
As the season progresses, fatigue will be the leading factor in Boston's demise. Despite their slow start, the Knicks enter their Saturday night showdown with the Detroit Pistons just one game behind the Celtics.
Andrea Bargnani is a great scorer in Toronto, but he's far from the type of bonafide star who leads a playoff push. Meanwhile, the Nets suffer from inexperience, injuries and a fanbase disgruntled with the team's upcoming relocation.
Philadelphia may present a surprising challenge for New York, but their lack of an interior presence beyond the unproven Spencer Hawes will hold the Sixers back from a division crown. With only two teams above .500 so far, the Atlantic is wide open for the taking.
Reason No. 6: Improvement on the Glass
Following Chandler's move to New York, nobody could have guessed that the Knicks would rank fourth-to-last in points allowed per game and third-to-last in total rebounding.
Coach Mike D'Antoni's system has consistently been under fire for its lack of emphasis on defense and assistant coach Mike Woodson has done little to change the team's defensive culture.
However, the defense is looking more promising with each passing game. Chandler grabbed just six boards in Wednesday's loss to Charlotte, but on Friday, he recorded a season-high 15.
Chandler has also struggled to stay out of foul trouble this year, but he had just three fouls on Friday, allowing the center to be far more aggressive in the paint. Stoudemire will continue to adjust to the four spot, and when Baron Davis returns, his defense along the perimeter should aid the frontcourt as well.
The shortened offseason in 2011 prevented Chandler and his interior mates from working together, but it seems that the Knicks are just starting to figure things out on the boards.
Reason No. 7: Pure Talent
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Ultimately, the Knicks have too much talent to fall flat this year.
While their status as a legitimate title contender remains to be seen, Carmelo Anthony and his 29.1 points per game in 2011-12 will keep the Knicks competitive in the playoff picture through the spring.
Factor in Chandler, Stoudemire and occasional great performances from guards Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert and the Knicks are still a squad the rest of the NBA is reluctant to face.
It's far easier for a team to make strategic adjustments than personnel changes in the middle of a season. The Knicks have the right pieces, it will simply be a trial-and-error period before the right combinations and schemes are determined.
Reason No. 8: Home-Court Advantage
Despite the Knicks' ups and downs in the past few years, one thing remains unwavering. Madison Square Garden is one of the toughest places to play as a visiting team.
The Knicks are fifth in the league in average attendance, and opposing offenses will have trouble succeeding in such a loud, hostile atmosphere.
When New York eventually figures everything out, the Knicks faithful will be ready to make noise and help their team build momentum. Having a strong fanbase and an intimidating home-court advantage will help propel the Knicks throughout the 2011-12 campaign.
In the final month of the season, the Knicks host Eastern Conference juggernauts Chicago, Miami and Boston. With an energized crowd, these games become significantly less difficult for New York.