New York Knicks: 7 Reasons Veteran Squad Could Actually Win It All
The New York Knicks have had a busy offseason, and as a fan of the team, I must say that I'm beyond excited for the upcoming 2012-2013 campaign. Not only does the team have some much-needed depth off the bench, but they also have some valuable veteran leadership that will only help in the long run. Say what you want about the Knicks being old. This season, they have a legitimate shot at winning a title.
In particular, one move that has me optimistic is the signing of veteran point guard Jason Kidd. He's not the all-around threat he used to be, but he still is a positive presence in any locker room. The same goes for big man Marcus Camby, who can still play great defense as he returns to the team that made him a star.
Throw in some other reasons we'll soon discuss, and the evidence as to how this seemingly older Knicks squad can win it all keeps piling up.
No. 7: Raymond Felton
Felton first came to the Knicks as a free agent in the summer of 2009, and he put up great numbers in then-coach Mike D'Antoni's system, averaging 17.1 points, nine assists and even 1.8 steals per game.
Yet, at midseason, the former Tar Heel was sent to the Denver Nuggets in the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York, and he was traded again that summer to the Portland Trail Blazers. He had the worst year of his career in Portland, but came forward after he signed with the Knicks again and admitted to being out of shape all year.
Thus, though he isn't the best point guard in the league by any measure, Felton is still going to be a great contributor for the Knicks this coming season. This is a player who has been a starting point guard for virtually all of his career, has put up consistent numbers and plays good defense.
With New York moving towards a more defensive approach and away from a fast-paced offense, Felton could very well make fans forget all about Linsanity.
No. 6: A Full Season
Due to a nasty lockout, last year's NBA season spanned just 66 games compared to the usual 82. The Knicks finished the year out as the No. 7 team in the Eastern Conference, as inconsistent play and injuries led to them underachieving.
Call me crazy, but had the Knicks received a full preseason to get their bearings, not to mention a full season, they would have done better as the year progressed. I'm not complaining about how the season turned out, as they performed well down the regular-season stretch, but those 16 missing games could easily have made a difference.
Fortunately, a new CBA has been agreed upon and New York's fine players now have a full preseason to weed out the good from the bad and finalize the rotation. Throw that in with a restful offseason, and the prospects for 2012-2013 are looking bright.
No. 5: Veteran Leadership
As talented as the Knicks may have seemed on paper last year, they weren't exactly the definition of a team with solid leadership. Nothing against Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, but they're little more than scorers, and as last year showed, they also struggle without a proper point guard getting them the ball.
GM Glen Grunwald has taken care of both flaws this summer, particularly in the signing of veteran point man Jason Kidd (pictured). The former California Golden Bear is no longer the triple-threat guard he was in the prime of his career, but he is still reliable from beyond the three-point line and a phenomenal leader.
The same can be said for center Marcus Camby, who was brought in to be a backup center to reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler.
With both of these players on the roster, the Knicks could finally have some much-needed positive voices in the locker room. If the rest of the team responds well to them, the possibilities will be endless.
No. 4: Championship Experience
As important as veteran leadership is on a team like the Knicks, championship experience is even more of a blessing. Come playoff time, any team that has a player who has been through long playoff runs before is at a distinct advantage. This player knows what it takes to get through each round and in some cases, he might even have a championship ring.
This makes the Knicks' signing of Jason Kidd all the more great, as he is just barely over a year removed from his first-ever NBA championship, won with the Dallas Mavericks in 2010. Before that, he had helped lead the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.
Simply put, given the great amount of potential the Knicks have entering the upcoming season, Kidd's experience on that level of play is going to be a tremendous help for the team. Each of the players on the roster wants a ring, and with this veteran guiding them, be it in the starting lineup or off the bench, New York's chances of winning it all will only grow.
No. 3: Overall Depth
One of the Knicks' greatest problems each of the past few seasons was overly relying on their starters to shoulder most of the load. This is a recipe for disaster, as the mark of any great team is one that has depth beyond the regulars, in reserve players who play their role well. New York got a small taste of this last season, as guys like J.R. Smith (pictured) and Steve Novak proved to be electrifying options off the bench.
Both Smith and Novak chose to sign new contracts with the team, and their presence will be quite welcome. Yet, this season, they won't be the only great players in the second unit.
As I mentioned before, Glen Grunwald went and signed Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby to multiyear deals. Yet, he also brought in Ronnie Brewer, an absolute pest on defense whose presence will help on the court until Iman Shumpert is fully recovered from a knee injury sustained in the playoffs.
Should each player live up to his potential and perform well, the Knicks could very well find themselves among the top contenders in the East.
No. 2: Defense, Defense and More Defense
The old adage goes that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. In 2012-2013, the Knicks will have more than enough of the latter. The season hasn't even started yet, and this is a team that has more size under the basket than most opposing squads may know what to do with.
Leading the charge on defense is reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler (pictured), who has become a fan favorite in New York with his toughness on both ends of the floor. What made his first season with the Knicks all the more amazing was that he was able to take that award home despite being hurt for most of the year. Now that he'll most likely start the season fully healthy, one can only imagine how much better his numbers will be.
Chandler also has a great deal of help in veteran Marcus Camby, who averaged nine boards a game last year at age 38.
Throw in some pesky work from Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert (once he's back) in the backcourt, and this is a team that could be tops in defense all the way to the NBA Finals.
No. 1: Mike Woodson
Once Woodson took over as head coach following the resignation of Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks immediately responded well to him. In spite of injuries to Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, the team went 18-6 with him manning the sidelines as he abandoned the fast-paced offense in favor of an aggressive defensive approach with isolated scoring.
The Knicks immediately went from looking like underachievers to a team that could make a lot of noise. Call me crazy, but I'm still convinced that last year's team could have beaten Miami in the playoffs had Lin been healthy enough to play.
This time, New York and much of its returning roster have a full year with Woodson, who in his brief coaching career has developed a knack for turning teams around. Keep in mind, when he was coach of the Atlanta Hawks, he won 13 games in his first season. Once his time was up there, the team was and still is a contender.
The Knicks shall be no exception, as they should continue to respond well to Woodson and continue to build confidence playing for him. As the confidence grows, so shall their win total. In the end, their veteran squad could very well be raising the Larry O'Brien trophy above their collective heads.