Love it or hate it, the Knicks finally know what their backcourt is going to look like next season now that Linsanity is over at the Garden. With Jeremy Lin headed to Houston for $25 million, former Knick Raymond Felton returns to the starting lineup with a Hall-of-Fame point guard in Jason Kidd backing him up.
No one is giving them a chance. Kidd is old. Felton is fat. Shumpert is injured. J.R. is an idiot.
But the pressure is on these four to make the Knicks a better team this season, to bring stability to a franchise that saw four seasons rolled into one last year.
Here's a few things NBA fans should expect from the Knicks' backcourt moving forward.
It doesn't have as nice a ring as Stockton-to-Malone, but Raymond Felton and Amare Stoudemire need to run that pick-and-roll again for the Knicks like they think they're the second coming of that great duo to really have a chance at winning games.
Mike Woodson's half-court offense and focus on defense is a stark contrast to what Felton saw when he was in New York under Mike D'antoni's free-for-all offense. Felton will have to adjust, but as we saw in Portland and Denver, he's comfortable running an offense in the half-court.
Felton's job is obviously to get everyone involved, Carmelo Anthony excluded because, well, he'll just do his own thing in an isolation play. The Knicks are tough to beat with Stoudemire playing like his old self and if Felton wants to see the Amare of Phoenix come out again, his top priority should be to get Stoudemire the ball cutting to the basket.
If Melo and Amare combine for 60 points on most nights, which shouldn't be too much to ask from two players getting paid a combined $200 million, the Knicks will be tough to beat.
Iman Shumpert had surgery in May and isn't expected back until right around the New Year. Though he's one of the young guns, he'll need to get others to play his kind of perimeter defense when he returns, or better yet, while he's out.
It's a tall order, but Shump needs to spread a love and culture of tenacious defense like Kevin Garnett did when he went to Boston and turned the Celtics into a championship team. J.R. Smith is wildly unpredictable; so much so, that despite his years in the league could learn a thing or two from an All-Star caliber defender in Shumpert. Jared Jeffries could do more to get others to play defense, but I think we've all come to expect very little out of him.
The Knicks can have all the firepower on offense but without strong defense inside-and-out, the team will continue to go nowhere.
Jason Kidd is one of the most likable players in the league and it will take a lot for him to screw up in New York—though he's certainly testing the city's patience already with a DUI in his first week as a member of the Knicks.
He'll have the least amount of responsibility expected from him since his rookie year. But that doesn't mean he can't have a major impact on his team.
Coming off the bench, he'll need to pull together a second unit that looked completely clueless at times last season. He and Marcus Camby shouldn't feel the need to do everything, but as two elder statesmen, along with the oldest player in the league in Kurt Thomas, the second unit shouldn't be taken lightly by other teams.
There's no reason why Kidd and Camby can't develop the bench into a formidable five that steps up as the cast of unsung heroes on nights when Carmelo Anthony is having one of his many "me-me-me" games.
I wonder how many Knicks fans have ordered boxes of Propecia after watching J.R. Smith. I'll either be gray by the end of the season or bald from tearing out my hair from watching him play like he thinks he's Carmelo Anthony. Doesn't he know that there can only be one ball-stopper on the team?
On any given night, the Knicks will blow a close game because of Carmelo Anthony. I can (sort of) live with that because of how he carries the team on other nights. But J.R. is arguably more of a detriment than of any real benefit to the team. He's like John Starks on steroids.
For the Knicks to be successful next season, the biggest change needs to come from J.R. He needs to be a smarter player. It's that simple. He can't be so trigger-happy with his shot selection and he can't hold the ball for so long that he forces himself into taking a shot to beat the clock.
I wish he was off the team because the Knicks would be so much better without him, but if he can play smarter, and it's as simple as that, the opposing teams will have another tough player to guard.
I know Steve Novak is 6'10" so, as a forward, he can't really be considered a part of the Knicks' backcourt. But, he shoots threes like a two-guard and defenses treat him like he's a part of the backcourt because of all the time he spends camped out on the three, so I will too.
Novak is a great shooter. We all know that. He was literally the best three-point shooter in the league last season. But as we saw in the Heat series, he was rendered ineffective because he made himself too easy to guard.
A fundamental difference between him and all-time great shooters like Ray Allen is the complexity of their games. Where Allen can drive to the hole and create a shot for himself, Novak is looked at almost entirely as a spot-up shooter. It's catch and release for him. Nothing more. Nothing less.
He's brilliant at it, but he's got to add another dimension to his game so that he's not so easy to guard. If he can do that, if the Knicks can run a few plays for him where he cuts to the basket on a pick-and-roll from Raymond Felton, he'll score a lot more and the Knicks will be harder to defend.
Until then, it's only a matter of time before defenses figure out that he hangs out on the arc.