Why New York Knicks' Hot Start Shouldn't Be a Huge Surprise

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Why New York Knicks' Hot Start Shouldn't Be a Huge Surprise
USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are red hot to start the NBA season, but as great as they've been, it really shouldn't be all that surprising.

Don't take that wrongly; after the decade the Knicks have had, it is a shock to see them winning at a high level again, but the signs were there for all to see going into the season.

To start last season, the Knicks were playing terrible basketball and looking nothing like the team we see out there today. What you have to understand, though, is that those were Mike D'Antoni's Knicks, not Mike Woodson's.

When Woodson did eventually take over in March, things changed in an instant, starting with a huge 121-79 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

In a matter of months, Woodson led the Knicks to the playoffs despite worries that they wouldn't make it, as they finished the season with an 18-6 run.

Just as they are now, ball movement, defense and a heavy dose of Carmelo Anthony were the keys to the Knicks' success back then. 

The Knicks were also 11-1 at home to end the season, a precursor to their perfect record at Madison Square Garden to open up this campaign.

For anyone who was watching the Knicks to close out last season, this opening quarter has just been more of the same. The only real difference is that there is a revamped supporting cast in town.

Though the Knicks' core remains just as it was last season, the front office made it a point to add depth and experience in the offseason—another reason to believe they'd be good in 2012-13.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The play of Melo and the Knicks has surprised many, but it really shouldn't have - the signs were there for all to see.

With very little cap space to work with, Glen Grunwald managed to bring in a some fantastic signings, headlined by point guards Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.

One of the Knicks' major problems in 2011-12 was the point guard position, so with New York fixing things there in the offseason, it only makes sense that their chemistry has improved tenfold.

But of course the departure of Jeremy Lin dominated the offseason headlines instead, as did the age of this Knicks roster.

People just didn't think Felton would be able to replace Lin, despite the fact that he had shown what he could do in blue and orange back in 2010. Felton was coming off the worst season of his career, but he was clearly motivated to be back in New York and that has shown in his early play.

As for the Knicks' age, it was astonishing to find that this is actually the oldest team in league history, but too big of a deal was made of that. The bottom line is that the older players on this roster were only ever going to play secondary roles—they aren't being relied on for particularly heavy minutes.

The MVP-level play of Melo so far this season has been fantastic to watch, but again, you only have to look back a few months to see where it came from.

Anthony was heavily criticized for his play in 2011-12, but the bulk of his problems came from nagging injuries and a strained relationship with Coach D'Antoni. Once the injuries cleared up and D'Antoni resigned, however, Melo was looking like the star we knew he was.

Melo ended the season winning the Player of the Month award for April and simply dominating the league for the last 24 games, just as he is now.

After losing some more weight in the offseason, Melo then took his form to the Olympics, where he put up record-breaking numbers coming off the bench.

Now, it has been somewhat surprising to see Anthony acting as a better teammate and leader this season, but with the veteran presences around him, maybe it shouldn't be. Besides, he did explicitly tell us that his focus was on winning this season rather than simply putting up big numbers.

Admittedly, no one expected the Knicks to be atop the Eastern Conference at the quarter-point of the season, so that is a surprise.

But really, this is a weak conference right now (especially with Derrick Rose injured and Dwight Howard leaving), so New York being in the top two or three in the East is no miracle.

Make no mistake about it, the Knicks are exciting and are playing an excellent brand of basketball to open the season. It's just that "surprising" really isn't the word to describe things on the whole.

This team is for real. They are winning by design and they've been doing it for a while now.

Don't be surprised if this continues long into the regular season—and beyond.

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