7 Things We Learned About the New York Knicks After Week 1
They've been led by a resurgent Carmelo Anthony, who seems poised to prove his doubters wrong with a new team-oriented style of play. He has led the charge on both ends of the floor, with maximum effort being put forth while guarding and involving his teammates on offense.
There have been other pleasant surprises as well, like Jason Kidd shooting 57 percent from the field, and Rasheed Wallace showing signs of life.
Overall, the Knicks look flawless through the season's first handful of matchups, and it will be up to the rest of the league to adjust to New York's overpowering attack.
Let's run through the team's top stories as they prepare for the second week of the 2012-12 NBA season.
Ball Movement Is a Huge Part of the Offense
What seemed to stupefy every viewer who watched the opening minutes of the Knicks season against Miami was how the basketball flew around the court, from Knick to Knick, with passes crisper than the air outside MSG Friday night.
Teamwork. Sharing. Concepts the Knicks have been unable to grasp since what seems like the beginning of time, were suddenly the foundation of their game plan.
And boy did it make a difference.
The 'Bockers out-assisted the defending champs 27-18. What was more surprising than the numbers, though, were the faces. Raymond Felton led the way with nine dimes, but on his heels was notorious chucker J.R. Smith with six.
Carmelo Anthony totaled just two assists, but the stats don't tell the entire tale. Anthony was quick to work it around when there wasn't a shot available to him, and the ball rarely "stuck" with him for more than a few seconds.
Vintage distributors Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd each chipped in three assists, locking up the squad's demolishing of LeBron and D-Wade's wrecking crew.
Smith has followed up with seven dimes in his two performances since the Miami game, and Felton is coming off an eight-assist game against Philadelphia on Monday. Prigioni and Kidd have remained consistent in involving their teammates, and as a result, New York has made it to Week 2 of the NBA season with a goose egg in the loss column.
The team's 3-0 start is its best since the 1999-2000 season.
'Melo Meant What He Said
Before the season, Carmelo Anthony finally began to address his flaws as a leader. He was brought to Madison Square Garden to lead the Knicks to championships, and the team has floundered miserably since his arrival.
'Melo touched on this during media day last month. “At the end of the day it’s about winning basketball games,” he said to Newsday. “I’m done trying to score 30, 35, 40 points for us to win a basketball game. I don’t want that role anymore.”
In a separate interview, he told ESPN New York that, ultimately, it will be his trust in the players around him that propel the Knicks to success this year.
"I think at the end of the day for all of us, if we can trust one another out there on the basketball court it will make things a lot easier," he said. He referenced his Olympic experience as the model for triumph.
"Being with the guys that were on that team this summer, it really put that in perspective," he said. "It's easy when you have 12 of the best guys in the world on one team but that same mindset (should translate to New York)," he said.
"To incorporate that now, to my own team, it makes things a lot easier for myself."
So far, it's worked.
Every player on the floor has an equal chance of scoring the ball. And when 'Melo does have the ball, he's sending it through the basket at a scary rate. As a player whose biggest knock has been a lack of offensive efficiency, Anthony's numbers in the first three games have been astonishing.
He has scored 23 points on average, with a PER of 24.48, bettering his mark from a year ago of 21.15.
The way he's moving the ball is something we haven't seen in Melo's Knicks tenure. If he keeps it up, New York's unstoppable offense just might be the reason why they'll be favored to finish second in the East.
The Defense Will Be Among the NBA's Best
By holding the Miami Heat's explosive offensive assault to just 84 points to open the season, the Knicks set a tone: They won't be pushed around like they were during last season's playoffs.
The offseason addition of Ronnie Brewer has played huge, thus far—the ex-Bull has a steal in each of the team's three games and has been a pest to opposing ball-handlers.
Tyson Chandler has manned the middle in his usual fashion. Despite playing through illness early on, the seven-footer has recorded three blocks in the last two games against the 76ers.
Jason Kidd has six steals in the team's three games, while Pablo Prigioni and J.R. Smith have each added four in the last two games.
More important than any number, however, is the effort being displayed by each player, but most notably, Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony has gotten done some of the dirty work, including this excellent defensive sequence which includes a hard block on Philadelphia's Nick Young, followed by a fearless dive over the Sixer bench for the loose ball.
The overall intensity of the D is unprecedented as far as Knicks teams go, and the additions of Marcus Camby and Iman Shumpert later in the season will only further solidify that end of the Garden floor.
Jason Kidd Is a Lot More Important Than We Thought
When the Knicks agreed to bring Jason Kidd on board last July—maybe a decade too late—many presumed the veteran would be no more than a father-figure to Jeremy Lin, as he'd groom the 23-year-old into the next New York basketball star.
As we all know, that's not how the offseason panned out.
Even through the preseason, things were not looking bright for the aging Kidd. He shot 2-of-16 in five games, and the point guard's three-year deal was looking more and more detrimental by the day, as Pablo Prigioni was solidifying himself as the team's backup point man.
Once the Knicks took the court for real, however, Friday night against the Heat, Kidd reminded us all why he'll go down as one of the best point guards to play the game.
He shot 3-of-5—all threes—for nine points and three assists in 23 minutes. More importantly, however, was the calming presence he provided to the Knicks offense. Mostly from the off-guard position, Kidd would arrange the team's offensive intricate attack with quick passes and an under control demeanor.
In three games, he's shot 8-of-14 from the field, including a few drives into the lane against Philadelphia. The team's lopsided finals have allowed for coach Mike Woodson to limit Kidd's minutes, in an effort to preserve the 39-year-old's body over the course of an 82-game season.
They Have the Firepower to Take Down the Powerhouses
The biggest fault of the last two Knicks teams was their inability to take down the top teams of the conference. As a result, the last two playoff appearances against Boston and Miami have equated to a 1-8 record.
This year's squad has been designed to take down those teams, though, with a combination of tough veterans and a potent offensive attack. The only question was whether Mike Woodson's implemented plans—which seemed logical in theory—would actually pay off.
Well, at least in the team's first matchup with Miami, they did.
The Knicks offensive appeared unstoppable. Carmelo Anthony was scoring at will, as well as moving the ball to perfectly capable teammates. Open looks were available seemingly every trip down the court, and with the help of 19-of-36 three-point shooting, handily defeated the defending champions.
Mike Woodson's Knicks proved that they are capable of firing on all cylinders against a top team and are designed to shut them down and win when it matters the most.
The team's next meeting with Miami is Dec. 6, at American Airlines Arena.
Three-Point Shooting Is Still Prominent, Post-D'Antoni
A staple of Mike D'Antoni's Knicks was always the three-point barrage that the team put out on a nightly basis. Many believed that once D'Antoni and his fast-paced offensive system were canned last March, New York would revert away from the long-ball paloozas night in and night out.
Well, after 36 attempts later from downtown, it's safe to say that the Knickerbockers still earn their paychecks from beyond the arc.
The team shot a phenomenal 53 percent from three-point range, ensuring the team's victory on opening night at MSG.
It was no outlier; the team dialed up 27 attempts from long distance the next game versus Philly and shot comparably measly 41 percent.
The next night, New York launched 32 attempts, drilling 13 for another 41 percent clip.
Leading the way are J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, of course, with 62 percent and 46 percent averages, respectively. Career 24-percent, three-point shooter Ronnie Brewer has taken the Garden crowd by surprise by shooting 5-of-9 from three this season or 56 percent. Jason Kidd's 55 percent is also worth mentioning.
The team's 43 three-point field goals through its first three games are the most in NBA history.
Simply put, the Knicks are taking a boatload of threes and are shooting the lights out. As long as the shots keep falling, they'll keep getting launched. They've been an intricate facet of the team's offense through the first three games, and the team has the personnel to keep those shots in the playbook.
Rasheed Wallace Still Has It
Mike Woodson admitted that Rasheed Wallace was never supposed to play in the team's opener against Miami. That was until the Garden crowd began roaring with "RA-SHEED WAL-LACE" chants during the blowout's closing minutes. Woodson couldn't resist.
According to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola, Woodson said, “The first night they started chanting, I wasn’t going to play him. And I asked him did he want to go in, he was professional about saying, ‘I do.’ So we threw him in there."
In the final minutes against Miami, however, Wallace looked, well, like Rasheed Wallace. He drilled a three and added a rebound in the final three minutes against the Heat.
Wallace has appeared in all three games this year, even contributing 14 minutes Monday night in Philadelphia. It was 'Sheed's first non-garbage time burn all season long, and he had some moves to put on display.
Wallace worked the low post for a few possessions, even contributing a few nice buckets down low. He shot 2-of-6 from three-point land, including this desperation heave from Monday's game as the shot clock wound down to zero. He finished with a season-high 10 points.
On defense, he's looked as strong as expected. He blocked two shots against Philadelphia on Monday and came up with a steal against them the night before.
He has posted good rebounding numbers in his limited minutes this season, grabbing one, two and three, respectively, in his three games.
It's a matter of conditioning at this point, but if Wallace can preserve himself over the course of an 82-game season, he may find himself playing important minutes for Mike Woodson's Knicks down the stretch.