Despite the team's 15-22 record, the New York Knicks' season has been a success thus far. It has been refreshing, as a Knicks fan, to have the burden of the egregious Isiah Thomas era lifted off for good. The future looks bright with Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni at the helm.
The team has completely bought into D'Antoni's high-octane offensive philosophy, which he made fashionable during his tenure in Phoenix. They play much harder and faster in this "Seven seconds or less" system, which emphasizes ball movement to find the open man and easy buckets.
The Knicks started off the season strong, but have struggled with consistency on both the offensive and defensive ends.
The Knicks also made two huge blockbuster trades which affected their early season chemistry when they dealt their leading scorer and rebounder, Zach Randolph, to the Los Angeles Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley (who has since retired due to a heart ailment). The other trade the Knicks made was when they shipped fan favorite Jamal Crawford to the Golden State Warriors for Al Harrington.
The trades were vital in order to get under the salary cap before the famed free agent class of 2010, which is undoubtedly headlined by Cleveland Cavaliers star, LeBron James. The Knicks got rid of two good players with long-term deals while their value was at its highest peak.
While their record doesn't necessarily reflect success, the team's effort has been indicative of the new regime's progress with this once proud franchise. The atmosphere surrounding this team (minus Stephon Marbury) is full of optimism. The Knicks have finally become relevant again.
So with all that said, here are my midseason awards:
First-Half MVP: Chris Duhon (PG)
12.3 PPG, 8.2 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 42% FG, 42% 3PT, 87.5% FT, 3.0 TO, 39.8 MPG
Chris Duhon has been fantastic this season. He has exceeded my expectations during his first season as a full-time starter at the point.
He is a very good passer (fifth in the league in assists per game), gets everyone involved in the offense, plays solid defense, and makes timely shots, especially from deep.
The player who has benefited most from Duhon's stellar play is F/C David Lee, who gets great inside-scoring opportunities off pick-and-rolls with Duhon. Lee is averaging a double-double for this season (tied for second in the league in double-doubles).
Aside from this, the fifth-year guard out of Duke is a fiery leader who also doubles as a great locker room presence.
Most Improved Player (First Half): Wilson Chandler (SF)
14.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, .86 SPG, .84 BPG, 42% FG, 31% 3PT, 82.5% FT, 1.86 TO, 33.6 MPG
The second-year pro out of DePaul has made great strides since his rookie year when he barely played until the end of the season.
He has shown good versatility on the offensive end. He can score off the dribble, runs the floor well, can shoot from deep and has shown a nifty one-dribble pull-up midrange jumper, which has become his go to move. He is the team's best shotblocker due to his great athleticism and he is a solid rebounder.
He has the potential to be a very good one-on-one perimeter defender, but that will develop with experience. I fully expect Chandler to continue to improve for the Knicks as he is undoubtedly an important building block for the future.
Biggest First-Half Disappointment: Danilo Galinari (F)
Sixth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft
Injuries have killed Galinari's rookie season thus far, only playing in two games early this year.
There was much hype surrounding the 6'10" forward out of Italy. He seems to have the perfect skill set for D'Antoni's system: he can shoot, handles the ball well for a big man, he drives to rim, and he can finish well (admittedly, I was mezmerized by his Youtube videos before the draft).
It is unfair to label him as the biggest disappointment and as a bust. Hopefully he can come back soon and make an impact on the Knicks. Mostly everyone in the organization fully expects him to be a very good player for years to come.
The Get The Hell Out of Town Award: Stephon Marbury (Duh!)
The ultimate distraction and perennial team cancer. He hasn't played a game at all this season and even refused to play when the opportunity presented itself.
With one year left at $20.8 million, he has been adamantly opposed to a buyout and he intends to collect every single penny of that check. Obviously, that's more important than getting to play despite the fact that the Boston Celtics seem to have legitimate interests in his services.
We have all become sick of this self- centered egotistical head case. The self-proclaimed "best point guard in the league" must go.
Expecting Big Things In The Second Half Award: Al Harrington (PF)
19.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.17 SPG, 41.2% FG, 38.5% 3PT, 77.2% FT, 34.5 MPG
Harrington has been the Knicks best scorer since arriving here in a trade from Golden State for Jamal Crawford. He is expected to carry the Knicks on the offensive end every night and he is a much better fit in D'Antoni's offense than Z-Bo.
He has been a bit inconsistent with his tendency to settle for threes rather than driving to the rim, but he has played well for the most part.
The New Jersey-native seems to enjoy playing in New York and I expect more of the same production in the second half of the season.
Biggest Win of The Season: Jan. 4 vs. the Boston Celtics 100-88
Although this past Monday's upset against Chris Paul and the Hornets in New Orleans deserves consideration, this victory against the world champions tops the list.
Boston's elite defense couldn't stop the Knicks fast-paced offense. Chandler scored a career-high 31 points and Al Harrington dropped 30 points. David Lee had another double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Aside from Paul Pierce's 31 points, the rest of the Celtics were held in check. Rajon Rondo was shut down by the taller Jared Jeffries, who checked him from the start. Kevin Garnett only scored six points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field.
The Knicks were simply clicking on all cylinders.
It was also satisfying because the two teams have exchanged some heated words over the past couple of years, especially between Pierce and Quentin Richardson. And personally, anytime a New York team gets a victory over a Boston team, it is sweet as hell. I'm sure most New Yorkers feel the same way.
Worst Loss of The Season: Jan. 6 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-107
It's ironic how the worst loss of the season occurred just two days after the best win of the season. After a great victory against the defending champs, the Knicks lost to the team with the worst record in the NBA.
Although they made a late comeback, the Knicks fell short to the young Thunder team, led by second year star, Kevin Durant. The Knicks looked flat from the beginning and were playing with absolutely no energy.
Play of The First Half: Wilson Chandler's ridiculous dunk on Emeka Okafor
Wilson Chandler drives to the rim against the Bobcats and dunks on one of the best shotblockers in the league, Emeka Okafor. I jumped out of my seat when I saw this play.
As I've mentioned before, the record doesn't tell the whole story about the strides this organization has taken in restoring itself to prominence.
While all the talk surrounding the Knicks is dominated by the free agent class of 2010, we should not ignore the rebuilding process that is taking place now. The Knicks have become competitive and worthy of watching once again.