NY Knicks' Grit Deserves More Credit Than All the Hot Shooting

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 7, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: The New York Knicks bench celebrate a fourth quarter three pointer against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on November 2, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

We are now 18 games deep into the NBA season, and the New York Knicks are still winning.

It's either one of the hottest team-shooting streaks in recent memory, or the team's simply better than we initially thought.

There's no problem with praising what they've done from behind the arc. It's been incredible, like they're shooting pop-a-shot at Dave & Busters. But it's not the reason they're sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings a week into December—not the only reason anyway.

In New York's 20-point win over Miami, their intensity level compared to Miami's was night and day. It seemed like the Knicks were listening to house music in their pregame headphones, and the Heat were bumping Beethoven's greatest hits.

With regard to their overall performance thus far, it hasn't been so much that the Knicks are making threes as it is they're making open ones. In order to create open looks, it takes poise and unselfishness. They're taking them in rhythm and with room to release.

The Knicks aren't exactly running down the court and jacking up 26-footers off the dribble. Instead, we've seen dribble penetration from Raymond Felton lead to a dish to the wing for Jason Kidd, who makes the extra pass to Steve Novak.

This team plays hard and plays well as a cohesive unit. I'd like to think of them as aggressively disciplined. They attack when they're hot and remain patient when they're not.

The Knicks average the least amount of turnovers in the league at only 10.4 per game. If you've been a fan for the past 10 years, you probably think I'm joking. But after years of low basketball IQ (Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, etc.), New York finally plays well as a team.

And it's rare that I credit a coach for improved play, but Mike Woodson needs his props. He has done a standout job pushing buttons on the sidelines and with the team's mental approach as well.

J.R. Smith's shot selection didn't improve because Woodson gave him the red light. Woody encourages Smith to put em' up. I keep saying I think there's some magic in that immaculate goatee of his with the way he's been able to get his players to buy in and consequently execute on the floor.

These guys genuinely like each other and appear to play for one another, a cheesy quality that only translates in the win column.

Though somewhat of an unrelated point, not enough credit has been given to general manager Glen Grunwald. Check out this track record:

He signs Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak off waivers; signs J.R. Smith midseason; acquires Raymond Felton; signs Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, Ronnie Brewer and Rasheed Wallace—all for discount prices.

It's like he made the greatest Cosco run of all time. Whether he's lucky or a damn genius, Grunwald collected a bunch of random puzzle pieces that happen to fit together.

Every player on the team has a role, and Coach Woodson has allowed each member to excel in it. You wouldn't have thought the pieces were there to start the season, but the sudden change in culture and attitude has made a noticeable difference.