The 2008-2009 New York Knicks may be just 16-24.
However, new head coach Mike D'Antoni and new President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh have taken a team that would often look unprepared and overwhelmed under Isiah Thomas, and transformed them into a respectable unit.
Sure, this team still has trouble closing out games and by no stretch of the imagination are they ready to make a playoff run.
But the new regime has them playing energized and making basketball fun again.
First Half Team MVP: Donnie Walsh.
It is difficult to sort through the number of Knicks playing at a high level so far this season and choose one guy who has been their unquestioned MVP. As a result, the credit has to go to Donnie Walsh for a number of reasons.
First, bringing in coach D'Antoni and his up tempo system was a good move. Having D'Antoni on the sidelines brings instant credibility and even though his system has never won a championship, it's demonstrated its positive effects in getting the best out of many of the Knicks players.
Walsh should also be credited for bringing in free agent PG Chris Duhon who has been excellent to this point, providing a steady hand at the point guard position.
Finallly, Walsh deserves praise for his trades of Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph. Are Jamal and Zach more talented than what the Knicks got back in Al Harrington and Tim Thomas? Yes. But the most important thing Walsh did was provide the Knicks with some breathing room in 2009 and 2010 in terms of salary-cap flexibility—something the Knicks haven't had in ages.
Some people have argued bitterly about "having to put up with losing until 2010" when the Knicks are expected to make a big splash in the loaded free-agent market.
My response as been this: Were Jamal and Zach going to bring home an NBA championship? Not a chance.
We've endured losing for about seven years now, why not endure another two of exciting basketball in order to at least give us a shot to make some significant moves in 2010?
Biggest Surprise: Chris Duhon and Al Harrington
Duhon was underused in Chicago after proving he can be a capable and efficient leader at Duke. After the 2008 season I was eager to see what Walsh was going to do regarding the pointguard position and was pleased with the signing of Duhon. But let's be real here—nobody expected him to contribute the way he has thus far.
Aside from playing around 39 minutes per night second in the NBA), Duhon has been careful with the rock, looked to find his teammates (especially on the pick and roll with David Lee), and knocked down some big shots—about 41 percent from downtown.
Harrington's career took some tremendous highs and lows in Golden State. While his production improved in many areas, his relationship with coach Don Nelson became strained and a trade was inevitable. Since joining the Knicks, Harrington has been their top scorer while also pulling down about six boards per game.
Biggest Disappointment: Danilo Gallinari
Who knows if he would be the recipient of this award if he had not missed almost the entire season with back issues? By no stretch can anybody refer to this kid as a bust at this point. I say it usually takes three seasons before anyone can ever truly give a player that label.
Fortunately, Gallinari returned a few nights ago and seems to be getting his NBA legs under him with each passing minute. We got to see a bit of his sweet stroke against Chicago on MLK Day.
Most Improved: Wilson Chandler
If Isiah deserves credit for one thing during his Knicks tenure, it's evaluating talent. Chandler was thought of as a bit of a project with big-time upside coming out of DePaul. After Isiah granting him extremely limited playing time last season, Mike D'Antoni has given Wilson a great opportunity to showcase his skills and he has done just that.
Chandler's athleticism enables him to provide a boost defensively whether its getting in on a steal or blocking a shot and his offensive skills come with range out to the three-point line and the ability to throw it down at any time. I'm excited about this kid's future especially under coach D'Antoni.
Best To Watch: Nate Robinson
Nate's game has really matured, from the passionate spark of energy who was reckless with the ball to the passionate spark of energy capable of knocking down shots at any point and running the offense with a sense of control.
Now that Jamal is gone, Nate is the only Knick in my opinion who is capable of going on an extended scoring tear, making buckets from anywhere on the court.
Most Memorable Moment: November 5, 2008
Nate Robinson scores 19 points (hitting all four three-point attempts) during a stretch in the second quarter.
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