8 Reasons the Knicks Are Valid Contenders for the NBA Title
The Knicks are title contenders for a number of reasons, other than the fact that they're undefeated.
They've added and subtracted, and despite having a small window, are in position to make a run.
So far, James Dolan actually looks like a genius for bailing on Jeremy Lin. The veteran talent acquired has led to a win-now environment, and the expectations have been raised.
Here are eight reasons why New York could represent the East in the NBA Finals.
The Knicks Have a Superstar
The Knicks finally have a superstar capable of carrying a team through the trenches, which becomes essential throughout a best of seven series.
For Carmelo Anthony, it's a matter of knowing when to play "hero ball", and when to let the game come to him.
So far this year he's played with balance. He's not shooting just because he knows he can get the shot off. He's shooting with purpose.
Melo is coming off a tremendous basketball summer, playing great in London and coming into camp in shape. He's averaging nearly 27 a game through five so far, performing at an MVP caliber level.
He took Syracuse to the National Championship game, and won it. Why not New York?
It's no longer a bunch of kids trying to figure out what it takes. The Knicks now have mentors, instead of on-the-job learners.
Did you happen to see what happened to Landry Fields his first two years in the playoffs? It was like watching a guy beat himself up. Brutal.
There won't be nerves, or over-thinking with guys like Jason Kidd, Rasheed and the rest of the crew.
And for whatever reason, Felton looks like a different player in orange and blue. He seems more mature, more poised, more... better.
With the Knicks this year, they'll actually be able to act like they've been there before. Because they have.
They Have Shot-Makers
The Knicks are comprised of multiple "heat check" scorers who can put up points in bunches. And when the light is on, there's nothing anyone can do about it.
Though not necessarily high percentage basketball, sometimes you just have to ride the wave.
Both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith are capable of scoring 25 in any given night. They're also capable of scoring 15 in any quarter. What happens if that quarter just happens to be the fourth?
The Knicks can beat anyone because of their offensive firepower. Sometimes, the rim just expands for them.
Commitment to Defense
Over the past few years, the Knicks knew they were giving up points. Their goal was to score 110 and hopefully negate the inevitable 100 that was about to be dropped on them.
And whether they're a better team defensively or not, they at least seem to think they are. It gives them motivation to confirm their belief.
But they do have some excellent defensive pieces in Ronnie Brewer, Tyson Chandler, and in my opinion the most promising perimeter defender in the league, Iman Shumpert.
And I'm sure the thoughts from Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace are all welcomed with open arms.
That opening night smackdown they laid on Miami meant more than just a W in the win column.
The Knicks now know they can beat the Heat, which they did for 46 minutes of that game. That's huge.
It seemed like last year they were just trying to stay alive in the series. And this was before Game 1 even ended.
With confidence, the Knicks will be looking to attack instead of counter.
The East isn't exactly the scariest pool of talent this year, which should lead to a high regular season win total for New York. More wins equals higher seed, higher seed equals higher confidence.
See what I did there?
If you've seen any of their televised practices or just watch them interact on the bench, it's fairly evident that these guys genuinely like each other.
Everyone seems to be willing to fill a specific role. Minutes and shots are routinely sacrificed.
The unselfishness has created better looks, and better looks mean more points.
Everything has been clicking for New York. Players seem to have each others' backs, and it's translating to a better brand of basketball.
Who cares if they're old and fragile. That's why they got a lot of them.
The Knicks' bench is deep. J.R. Smith. Jason Kidd. Steve Novak. Eventually Ronnie Brewer. Basically a microwave and some silverware. But they all provide a service that helps achieve the shared goal, whether it's making threes and boxing out or heating up Chinese food for lunch.
Of course Rasheed Wallace is over-the-hill. But in 10 minutes a game, he gives Tyson a rest, picks up some good fouls, hits a three and grabs some boards. In a limited role, he can be effective. Same with Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Pablo Prigioni.
With more reliable players, the Knicks will have more flexibility when looking to adjust mid-game.
Mike Woodson's Goatee
I'm telling you, this is no ordinary patch of facial hair.
When Woodson gets into his pregame zone and starts going over the game plan, winds start swirling, papers fly everywhere, there are some lightning bolts. It's just too well-groomed to be ordinary.
I think there's some magic in that thing, and it's coming to New York.