The New York Knicks remain the only undefeated team left in the NBA after a 5-0 start, and with a key point in their early schedule coming up in the next few days it only makes sense to take a look at how they've been able to get out to such a hot start.
They haven't had a terribly difficult schedule so far with but one marquee win so far this season coming against Miami. But they do have a few solid wins, including two over Philadelphia and one over Dallas.
The biggest thing we've yet to see is New York go on the road for any extended period of time. They've played a road game against Philadelphia, but that's little more than a drive down the road, and the farthest they have traveled was for their win over the Orlando Magic.
New York has done it on both ends of the floor, which has made it possible for them to win by double digits in every game they've played in so far. Shots have been falling and the defense has been fierce.
Offensively, their three-point game has been above-and-beyond amazing so far. They've hit 60 threes, which is only seventh in the league, but they've done that in at least one game fewer than the rest of the league, aside from New Orleans.
At 43 percent they're the second-best team from the three-point line this season, and usual chucker J.R. Smith is an amazing 72 percent from downtown thus far, while guys like Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton and Ronnie Brewer have been overachieving by quite a bit in their first five games for the Knicks.
Defensively it all comes down to Tyson Chandler, who is looking like the front-runner for the Defensive Player of the Year Award yet again.
He's not blocking an ungodly number of shots (Carmelo Anthony is actually out-blocking him), but his mere presence in the paint is making guys think twice about bringing it in on him. His reputation precedes him.
What's most impressive about the Knicks, and whether it's Chandler's presence or something else, is that guys who don't usually play intense defense are suddenly giving a damn. Carmelo Anthony is diving for loose balls and J.R. Smith is now avoiding defending like a bull fighter more often than not.
How long that lasts is still up in the air, but it's been an impressive start nonetheless.
So, who deserves the credit for all this? Should Carmelo Anthony get the props for playing out of position and dominating? Perhaps Chandler gets some love for constantly bringing the intensity on defense. Heck, I'm even ready to give credit to Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd for coming in and proving people wrong early on.
As far as the actual players go the credit probably needs spread around. However, I think the main portion of the credit has to go to Mike Woodson.
Not only has he continued on his hot finish from last season, he's blown past the Jeremy Lin controversy of the offseason and pulled this team of old fogies together to play some really good basketball.
The most impressive thing he's done is something he's done his entire career; play his guys out of position. He's got a point guard starting as his shooting guard and a small forward playing power forward in Kidd and Anthony.
That's something he started doing with Al Horford and Josh Smith on the Hawks, and something he's made his own now that he's with New York. It's made it so Carmelo can have a huge advantage over bigger, slower defenders and jump out as one of the top scorers in the league.
Beyond that, he's got his team playing hard basketball, something that was in question with Felton after he lazed around Portland last season, and J.R. Smith, a guy who is notorious for loafing at times.
What makes Woodson's job so interesting is that he's yet to face his most difficult challenge, which is deciding what to do with Amar'e Stoudemire once he is able to come back.
If it means taking a positional advantage away from Anthony, it might make more sense to bring him off the bench. No matter what the decision is, Woodson is expected to make the right one.
Should New York continue to play well and Woodson make the right decision with Stoudemire, he and his circle beard could end up taking home the Coach of the Year Award when the season wraps up. At the very least he's the early-season favorite.
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