New York Knicks: 5 Players Who Must Become Team Leaders
If the Knicks want their talent to gel into a successful team, these five guys will have to step up and lead.
Last year's team, for all its talent and preseason expectations, was a chaotic bunch. The argument can be made that Mike D'Antoni just did not have a feel for the roster he had, but the switch to Mike Woodson for his first full season doesn't solve everything.
The players must be held accountable as well. Outside of Tyson Chandler, who rejuvenated the Knicks' defense and demanded his teammates follow suit, there was little sense of cohesion on the team.
What was more prevalent was guys looking out for themselves.
Look at Carmelo Anthony stopping the ball to play his offensive style or Jeremy Lin refusing to play through an injury in the postseason. Each can be chalked up to individual selfishness or self-preservation, but what it also shows is that the concept of team unity wasn't strong enough in the locker room to convince these guys to play for the Knicks and not for themselves.
With a deeper roster and more veteran presences this season, the Knicks are looking to make playoff run, and to do it as a team and not just 12 guys. These are the five who must lead them.
Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas
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Two Knicks from their last NBA Finals will be instrumental figures in the quest for a title.
Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas are NBA relics nowadays, and it's not just because they're a combined 77 years old. There are few players left that are familiar with the unforgiving physicality of the NBA in the '90s, and the Knicks have two of them.
At their age, neither can contribute the way they used to; Camby is good for about 20 minutes per game, Thomas probably less. However, these guys can still do three things: bang around in the paint, pull in boards and play fundamentally sound defense.
With these guys in tow, the Knicks' depth is improved, though still not the best around. Camby and Thomas aren't back in New York to dominate on the court, though. They're Knicks because they will practice what Chandler preaches, and they have the experience and the mentality to convince the rest of the team that hard-nosed basketball is the best basketball.
It will be 14 years next spring since Camby and Thomas last brought the Knicks to the brink of a championship. Given the need to emphasize a defensive mantra, there is no better duo to lead the Knicks today.
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Already, the chance to play in New York is not all it was cracked up to be for Jason Kidd.
In an interview with Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork, Kidd said that he did not care how many minutes he got, he just wanted to play for a winner and mentor Jeremy Lin. Well, one of those things won't happen, since Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni are not exactly prospects.
Nevertheless, there's still the matter of playing for a second ring for Kidd. Even from afar, he seems to know what the priority is for the Knicks this season: Getting the stars to play together. From what it sounds like, the veteran point guard wants to be the guy that makes it happen.
The 18-year veteran called trying to get the trio of Stoudemire, Anthony and Tyson Chandler to fit together "a great challenge."
"Hopefully, I can make those pieces run smooth," Kidd said. "I think it's a great opportunity."
There are few guys in the history of the league who know how to distribute the ball and run an offense like Kidd. He'll know what Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony must do to share the ball, and what Stoudemire and Chandler must do to share the post. Given his reputation in the game, Kidd has as good a chance as anybody to get them to listen.
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Once upon a time, the Knicks were Amar'e Stoudemire's team. When it came time to share it, he did not fare well.
No one is blaming Amar'e, nor should they. Between a litany of injuries and the death of his brother, it's safe to say that nothing in his life has been in sync lately. Now it looks like Stoudemire knows what he has to do to pick himself up and get back on the court, and it's something brand new for him.
By working on his post game with Hakeem Olajuwon, Stoudemire has shown a great deal of self-awareness. He never needed to know any post moves earlier in his career, when he had the athleticism to blow by anyone. He does not have that luxury anymore, and he also sees that he can't keep playing the same offensive game as Carmelo Anthony. For the good of the team, he needs to adapt.
It remains to be seen how much progress Stoudemire has made in the post, but the effort to develop that part of his game is a show of leadership in itself.
He's acknowledging that Anthony fills the same role in the offense that Stoudemire did before they were teammates. Rather than continue to clash stylistically, Stoudemire is putting in the work to put the team first. That's just the precedent this team needs.
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The Knicks will go wherever Carmelo Anthony leads them.
If he freelances on offense, plays lackadaisical defense and just generally tries to play his game over the team's game, the discordance in the ranks will be insurmountable. Selfishness simply begets more selfishness; why should anyone else make the extra pass if Carmelo isn't?
Anthony must become a leader by example in the vein of Chandler.
If he mopes through the game when his shot isn't falling, he can single-handedly sap the energy out of his team. That's what we've seen in the past when things haven't gone Melo's way as individual slumps turned into team slumps.
However, if Anthony does the little things to make an impact when he's not scoring, instead displaying his impressive passing ability and playing hard defense, it would be a different story. It shifts the paradigm from the Knicks living and dying by Carmelo's play to Carmelo living and dying by his team's performance.
When the Bulls were down two in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals, Michael Jordan didn't demand to take it himself. He fed the ball to Scottie Pippen, who passed it off to Horace Grant, who kicked it out to John Paxson for a title-clinching three, because he was the open man. That's the type of team basketball the Knicks need to play if they want that same result, and that play starts with the best player on the team buying in.