NY Knicks' Final Checklist Before 2012-13 Opening Night
The team enters the season facing high expectations to perform. These expectations come from both the huge media market in which they play and the promising roster the front office has put together. Added to stars such as Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are veterans such as Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd.
There likely isn't much the Knicks can do from now to opening night to drastically change their fate, but that doesn't mean there aren't things left to do. There are still decisions left to be made and choices to be asserted.
1. Decide Carmelo's Position
Things certainly got more complicated for the Knicks when Amar'e Stoudemire went down for a few weeks with a ruptured cyst behind his left knee. That leaves the brunt of the load to Carmelo Anthony. The question is, at which position will he bear that load?
Melo was very effective at power forward at the end of last season when Stoudemire was out, but starting him there means using a small lineup that is already missing Iman Shumpert.
It also means a lot more defensive pressure on Tyson Chandler and historically-average defender Melo. There would still be big men coming off the bench, but the team's rebounding would have to greatly step up.
It's going to shape the direction the Knicks go until STAT is back, and it's a big question for Coach Woodson.
2. Determine New Starter
Even once the team decides which position Melo will play, the starting lineup still won't be set yet. There are many players that could fit into the last spot.
If Anthony plays at the fourth spot, it is likely a third guard would play. That could be Jason Kidd to complement Raymond Felton with experience and shooting. It could also be J.R. Smith to complement Ronnie Brewer. However, it seems Woodson likes what Smith brings off the bench, and James White has looked good in the preseason as well.
However, if Carmelo starts at his regular small forward slot, a whole new set of players will be vouching for the starting power forward position. That could be won by Kurt Thomas or Chris Copeland.
The Knicks have options, which is more than they could say two years ago, but they need to make the right decision based off of those choices now.
3. Finalize Depth Chart
As key as the starters are to winning any matchup, the bench is often the deciding factor between two teams. To the pleasure of Mike Woodson and Knicks fans, the team has options coming off the bench this season.
Injuries to Stoudemire and Marcus Camby make the depth chart a bit more complicated though, and Woodson has work to do here. J.R. Smith and Steve Novak were keys to the bench's performance last year and should expect to get significant time for a while.
However, players like Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni are still uncertain despite great performances in the preseason. Another wild card is free agent signing Rasheed Wallace. The amount of time they see, and the size of Woodson's team, remains to be seen, but will be crucial to the Knicks' chances.
4. Establish and Maintain Defensive Identity
Much of the success New York experienced under Mike Woodson last season came from a shift in the team's defensive identity. Long known for their futility in the exercise, New York became much more aggressive and effective.
The continued success of the unit this season relies on the work of three men. The first of the three is Tyson Chandler. The defending Defensive Player of the Year, Chandler is the defensive leader and is indispensable to what the Knicks want to do at that end of the floor.
The second is Carmelo Anthony. He was much more active on defense at the end of last year and led the way for his team. His leadership in terms of effort will be crucial. Finally, the task falls to Mike Woodson to keep everyone at a high level of intensity.
Losing perimeter defender Shumpert hurts the team a lot, so the rest of the team will have to step up.
5. Emphasize Novak's Movement
Last season, Steve Novak was an absolute star at Madison Square Garden due to being the most effective three-point specialist in the league. He wasn't a star on defense or in the paint, but what he did he did well.
However, Novak was much less useful in the playoffs against the Miami Heat when he couldn't seem to get open. He went from taking 5.2 shots from behind the arc every game to just 1.8 per night. If he wants to replicate his success from last year and justify being re-signed, he will have to show much more off-ball movement in order to gain some separation.
If Novak is able to create more space for himself, he will continue to knock down shots, helping his team by spreading the floor and giving them immediate points. Novak knows how to take a useful step for a shot, but New York needs to see him using screens and lanes more often this season.
6. The Unchecked Item
This is the item on the list which can't be checked off until Thursday, and likely won't even be checked off for a bit after that. The item is reassuring fans that the team is headed in the right direction and made the right calls during the offseason.
Reassure fans that letting Jeremy Lin walk was the right call. Convince fans this squad isn't too old to perform, despite being the oldest roster in NBA history, and can blend experience with youth. Convince fans that Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton were the right call at point guard. Show fans that the continued faith placed in Stoudemire is justified.
One win or one loss won't totally shift this team's reputation either way, but a win on opening night against their new geographical rival would go a long way towards checking off this box for the first time in a long time.