6 Reasons for the New York Knicks' Fast Start
The New York Knicks have showed fans some fantastic signs here early in the season, as they've gotten off to a very fast start.
They're winning, and they're doing it in style, looking like a completely different team to the one we've seen over the last couple of seasons.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons for the Knicks' hot start, and plenty of people within the organisation who deserve credit for it.
Let's take a look at the top six reasons why New York has done so well in its initial stretch of games.
Point Guard Play
If you watched the Knicks at all last season, you will know that one of the primary roots of their problems was their lack of a true point guard.
Only during Linsanity and the few games that Baron Davis was healthy did the Knicks have any semblance of a floor general out there, and unsurprisingly, the Knicks looked their best with those two guys playing.
The return of Raymond Felton—who had a borderline All-Star season during his last stint with New York—has made a huge difference. Felton has built a great rapport with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, and has been an efficient scorer as well in the absence of Amar'e Stoudemire.
Alongside Felton, another pass-first player who starts in the backcourt, is Jason Kidd, who is filling in at the 2. Having the second point guard in the starting lineup has initiated some great ball movement, and like Felton, Kidd's shooting touch has helped, too.
Though he hasn't seen as much court time as the other two, Pablo Prigioni has also been helpful, adding a willing passer to the bench unit, who utilizes the talent around him in J.R. Smith, Steve Novak and Rasheed Wallace.
Essentially, the Knicks' three-headed monster at point guard has glued together the plentiful talent on this roster, making chemistry problems a thing of the past.
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With injuries providing a scare to the Knicks early on, all the work the front office spent building a deep roster this summer has paid off.
Both Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert are missing time, but with all the talent on this roster, there have been ample replacements for the Knicks to get by.
From one through 15, there are rotation quality players on this roster, and even some surprising ones are stepping up.
Since being thrust into the small forward role, Ronnie Brewer has showed us a much improved offensive game, to go along with the shut-down perimeter defense we all knew he could provide. Not bad for a veteran's minimum signing.
Meanwhile, Rasheed Wallace has also stepped up, and despite only just coming back from retirement has helped out on a team that is short of size for the time being.
Most impressively, however, has been the play of J.R. Smith off the bench. With All-Star forward Stoudemire out injured, Smith has looked like an All-Star himself, ensuring that the Knicks haven't missed a beat on offense.
Having this much talent and quality coming off the bench has made the Knicks a tough team to compete with even when their best players are off the floor or injured.
Let's get one thing straight: the New York Knicks have not had things easy during their opening few games.
Not only are two of their starters from last year out injured, but also all but one of the teams they have played so far made the playoffs last season.
On top of that, the Knicks have had victories in tough situations such as a home-and-home against Philadelphia and a road game against San Antonio, whom they hadn't beaten at the AT&T Center since 2003.
With all that said, though, the Knicks have had a bit of luck in regards to key opposition players being out when the Knicks have gone up against them.
You can only play who you're matched up against, but there's no doubt that things are a little easier when the likes of Andrew Bynum, Dirk Nowitzki and Anthony Davis (each their respective team's best player) are watching from the sidelines.
For a team that has been playing small lineups to this point (mainly due to the absence of Amar'e Stoudemire) the presence of these big men on the other side could have made things a little different.
An Identity Has Been Established
To truly be successful in the NBA, a team needs to understand exactly what its identity is, and how they plan to beat teams on a nightly basis.
This sounds basic, but the Knicks haven't had a clear identity over the last two years, and it has hurt them. In 2012-13, however, they do, and as a result they are making good on the talent this roster has.
What exactly is the Knicks identity? They are a team founded on strong defense, that looks to get by on offense by embracing ball movement and utilising their All-Star scorer Carmelo Anthony.
The three-ball has been important so far, clearly, but that has been a product of the way the Knicks are passing the ball. Good looks are consistently being found, and players are hitting the shots they should hit.
Defensively, it's all about communication and working together on rotations, with the Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler shoring up the middle. With everyone buying into this, it has been tough to score on the Knicks, and as a result they are one of the league's most efficient defensive units.
The Knicks have also valued the basketball, making smart decisions and refusing to turn it over, with a league-leading turnover ratio at 10.1 (as of Nov. 21st, 2012).
Melo Is Leading the Way
When Carmelo Anthony told us about the changes he was going to make this season back at media day, there was reason to be doubtful.
Anthony has been a great player for much of his career, but most can agree that to take things to the next level he needed to add defense and become a more team-oriented player, to go with his unmatched talent on the offensive end.
After a near decade of doing otherwise, Melo is finally stepping up as a true leader, and as a result has blazed the way for the Knicks to have such a successful start to the season.
His numbers aren't quite at his career best, but with the visible increase in effort in all facets of the game, he has become the player that New York traded away so much for back in 2011.
Seeing Melo play so confidently and in such a dominating fashion has lifted his teammates as well, creating an all-around great atmosphere at Madison Square Garden.
So far, Anthony has to be in the early MVP discussions, as the out-and-out best player and leader of what has been the league's best team.
Mike Woodson Is Getting the Best out of This Team
Of all the factors that have gone into the Knicks' hot start to the season, the most prominent is the influence of their new head coach Mike Woodson.
Following an 18-6 end to last season after Mike D'Antoni had resigned, Woodson was made the full-time head coach this offseason, and it looks like that was the right move.
Simply put, Woodson has proven himself to be the perfect man for the job in the Mecca of basketball.
Not only has Woodson been unfazed by the pressure he's under as the coach tasked with trying to lead the Knicks to their first title in 40 years, but his results have been even better than expected.
It all comes down to the fact that Woodson has the complete trust and respect of his players, to the point where he has managed to get Carmelo Anthony to play defense and J.R. Smith to play smarter on offense.
The Knicks are now playing his brand of basketball, and are taking a no-nonsense approach similar to Woodson's when they take the floor.
The players themselves have said great things about the extent of Woodson's impact. Here's what Smith had to say:
"He's everything that I've ever dreamt of having a coach. He really wants to see his players do well, win, lose or draw, he just wants the best for his players. Playing for him has been such an honor and a privilege." (via KnicksNow.com)
Getting such praise from a player like Smith, who has clashed with coaches in the past, speaks for itself.
Coach Woodson is the man the Knicks needed to turn things around, and his fingerprints have been all over this hot start.