The 2012-13 NBA season starts next week, and it's expected to be a good one for the New York Knicks. The team completely retooled its roster during the offseason and is returning to a defensive style, one in which it went 18-6 last season under new coach Mike Woodson. Led by Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, not to mention an extremely deep second unit, there is no indication to suggest that Knicks fans won't be disappointed by season's end.
However, the Knicks are far from the best team in the league. As good as the team looks this year, it is a far cry from the defending champion Miami Heat, let alone the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that won 72 games. No matter how much hype surrounds the team, Woodson and his players are going to have to work hard throughout a full 82-game season and not take one single game off.
Still, taking into account player injuries, the occasional slump and hot streak, Knicks fans need not worry. With the talent they have, they will finish out the season as a playoff team, and not one expected to exit in the first round.
The Knicks get to start the season with a bang, as they open November 1 against the Brooklyn Nets in the brand-new Barclays Center. It doesn't get any easier after that contest, with a game against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden the very next day, followed by a home-and-home against the Philadelphia 76ers.
New York is capable of winning every one of these games, but there's a catch. Star power forward Amar'e Stoudemire will probably miss all of them as he recovers from a ruptured knee cyst that should keep him out until the middle of the month.
On top of that, the Knicks are also on the road for nine of the 15 games they play in November. Not to say that home-court advantage makes a difference, but the fact that five of the games are against Western Conference teams will certainly cause fatigue to be a factor. After all, travel does tend to wear one out.
Still, this team responded well enough to Mike Woodson last season that it'll find a way to be scrappy in the face of minor challenges over the first month of the season. It won't be easy, but it'll round out November headed in the right direction.
December brings another 15 games for the Knicks, this time with a majority of the games being played at home. Assuming no other major injuries occur, the team should be back at full strength by the middle of the month depending on how guard Iman Shumpert's recovery from knee surgery goes.
What also makes this month big for the Knicks is that they play the new-look Los Angeles Lakers not once, but twice, including a game on Christmas Day that will be on national television. That game is at the Staples Center and kicks off a three-game West Coast trip for Carmelo Anthony and Friends.
However, in spite of the fact that the end of the month turns into hell, the Knicks are also in a position to make great strides this holiday season. Nine of the 15 games are against teams that missed the playoffs in 2012, which could result in a winning streak, and the Knicks will also get to twice see how they match up against a Chicago Bulls team that will not have 2011 MVP Derrick Rose running the point.
Whether Shumpert comes back early or not, December could very well be the month that the Knicks establish themselves as the real thing this season.
Fasten your seatbelts, Knicks fans. January marks the month when New York faces the Boston Celtics for the first time during the new season! The longtime rivals will play January 7 at Madison Square Garden and again on January 24 in Boston, the second game being one on national TV. I hate to say it, but the experienced Boston squad will defeat the Knicks both times.
Still, that isn't to say that January will be a bad month for the Knicks. Their 13 games only feature four against non-playoff teams from last season, but it should also be noted that two games are against the Orlando Magic. Given that we saw what the Knicks did against an Orlando team with Dwight Howard in one game last season, chances are they'll make mince meat out of them again this time around.
All in all, January is going to be one where the Knicks may start to slow down a bit, but fans need not worry. Like every team, even the Knicks are due for a struggle here and there.
February brings with it the All-Star break and is an easy month for the Knicks, just 11 games, and they'll use it to certify their status as a team to watch over the final stretch. Eight of the 11 games are against non-playoff teams, and the sole "big" game is against the Lob City Los Angeles Clippers on February 10 at Madison Square Garden.
Yet the Knicks will carry a winning streak from January into February, and it may be their best of the season. With everyone healthy and running on all cylinders, short month be damned. February is when the Knicks will start walking among the lions.
March is when the NBA season starts turning up the crazy, and the Knicks aren't going to be without their fair share. They play 18 games, including five road games out west over a one-week stretch. That said, while the Knicks may start to look fatigued at times this month, there will still be multiple bright spots.
To give one example, the Knicks play the Celtics twice in March. This time, I'm predicting that the series will be split, as Boston's age and lack of depth comes back to bite them. The Knicks, though slowly getting tired, will let their hunger for greatness carry them through the month.
After the final March game against Boston, they'll be able to enjoy a job well done with a soak in a salt bath.
Oh, and you heard it here first. On March 3, the Knicks WILL defeat the Miami Heat, and handily.
April features 10 games and gets off to a tough start for the Knicks, with road games against Miami and the always-tough Atlanta Hawks. Shortly afterward, the team heads to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder. Combine that with the fact that six of the team's 10 games are on the road, and the stage is set for a collapse from injury, fatigue, just plain choking, etc.
However, by this point, the Knicks will have come too far to just lay down and die right before the playoffs. The team will lose three of its first four games this month, but its desire to make the playoffs and succeed there will result in a six-game winning streak to close out the season. This stretch will include victories against Chicago, Washington, Cleveland, Indiana, Charlotte and Atlanta.
Right after the season ends, the Knicks will then take their good season into the playoffs where, if you read my article from a week ago, their good fortunes will follow them to a certain point.
Final Record: 51-31, Knicks make the postseason as a No. 4 seed