New York Knicks: 5 Biggest Questions Heading into the 2012-13 Season
The Knicks followed up their first round playoff loss with an active offseason. They re-signed J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, added depth up front with Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas and solidified the point guard position by acquiring Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.
Still, as the season approaches, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding this talented Knicks team.
New York's roster has turned over repeatedly over the past few years. It remains to be seen what role each player will fill and how well the various pieces will fit together.
Mike Woodson has yet to coach a full season under the bright lights of Broadway and is attempting to carve out a defensive identity for a team whose two superstars have historically been averse to playing defense. A couple of his key players are recovering from serious injuries and several of his veterans are getting up there in age.
Here are the Knicks' five biggest questions heading into the 2012-2013 season.
5. What Can the Knicks Expect out of Iman Shumpert?
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Iman Shumpert had a stellar rookie season before tearing the ACL and meniscus in his left knee during the Knicks' first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat.
The initial prognosis was that he would be out six to eight months and according to Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com, Coach Woodson said recently that his young shooting guard is "looking good." The Knicks' coach added:
"I like to say he's ahead of schedule, but maybe I'm jumping the gun a little bit, too. But he's doing everything that's asked of him in terms of his rehab and hopefully he'll be back out on the floor soon."
Woodson would not provide a timetable for Shumpert's return, but based on the rate of recovery, he may be ready to go by January.
Of course, once Shump is cleared to play, there's no telling what the Knicks can expect from their second-year man. He will be rusty after a prolonged layoff and it usually takes a player at least a full year to return to pre-injury form after a torn ACL.
The Knicks desperately need their best perimeter defender to be at the top of his game come playoff time.
4. Will Raymond Felton Bounce Back?
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Raymond Felton played the best ball of his career, averaging 17.1 points and nine assists, during his short stint with the Knicks in 2010-2011, though some of that success can be attributed to Mike D'Antoni's point guard oriented offense.
His numbers fell to 11.5 and 6.5 after he was shipped to Denver as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade. Then he had a dismal 2011-2012 campaign in Portland, where he showed up to camp overweight and feuded with Blazers coach Nate McMillan.
Now he returns to New York with the added pressure of being Jeremy Lin's successor and is expected to lead a veteran Knicks team deep into the playoffs.
Felton developed nice chemistry on the pick-and-roll with Amar'e Stoudemire during his first go-around with the Knicks and his gritty style of play should endear him to Coach Woodson and his teammates.
The question is: Will he be ready to go?
3. How Much Does Amar'e Have Left?
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Amar'e Stoudemire is 29 years old, but the Knicks power forward played like he was 35 last season. The six-time All-Star lacked his usual explosiveness and scored just 17.5 points per game, his lowest average since his rookie season.
Amar'e's decline began during the second half of the 2010-2011 season, when he was visibly tired after an MVP-caliber start. His season was cut short by a back injury during the Knicks first-round playoff series against the Celtics.
The injury curtailed his offseason workout routine and just when he appeared to be getting his legs back under him last season, he was sidelined by a bulging disk.
In addition to suffering two back injuries in the past two years, Stoudemire's history of knee problems was so troublesome that the Knicks were unable to insure his contract.
It remains to be seen whether Amar'e can remain healthy for an entire season, and if so, how much he has left in the tank.
2. Do They Have Enough Outside Shooting?
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The Knicks have plenty of offensive firepower down low, but in order for the offense to run smoothly the perimeter players need to knock down outside shots. If they can keep defenses honest, it will open up driving lines and create space for Carmelo Anthony and Amare' Stoudemire to operate.
The problem is, the Knicks have a dearth of consistent outside shooters.
While Anthony can get hot from behind the arc, he prefers working from the wing or in the post and is just a 32 percent career shooter from downtown.
Starting point guard Raymond Felton is a career 33 percent shooter and connected on just 30.5 percent of his attempts last season. His backup, Jason Kidd, shot a dreadful 36 percent from the field last year for Dallas.
Ronnie Brewer is a shooting guard who can't shoot and J.R. Smith can get hot in a hurry, but is equally as likely to shoot you out of a game.
The Knicks best long distance shooter is Steve Novak, who led the league in three-point shooting percentage last season, but Woodson won't keep him on the floor in crunch time because of his poor defense.
There will be games when Novak and Smith shoot the lights out. The question is whether the Knicks' outside shooting will be consistent enough to beat the better defensive teams.
1. Can Carmelo and Amar'e Coexist?
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It's been nearly a year-and-a-half since Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Knicks and it is still not clear whether he and his friend Amar'e Stoudemire can coexist.
The early results haven't been very promising. Melo and Amar'e essentially play the same position, power forward, and spacing has been a problem for the Knicks when they're on the court at the same time.
Stoudemire thrives in the pick-and-roll, while Anthony prefers to operate in isolation, and Carmelo played his best basketball as a Knick when Amar'e was sidelined last season with a back injury.
Yet, the sample size is still relatively small. Carmelo played just 27 games with the Knicks in 2010-2011, both players missed significant time due to injuries during the lockout shortened season and they have yet to participate in a training camp together.
If the Knicks are going to compete for a championship, Melo and Amar'e need to figure out how to make it work.