The 5 Keys to the Knicks' Hot Start in 2012-13

Thomas WalterContributor IIDecember 28, 2012

The 5 Keys to the Knicks' Hot Start in 2012-13

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    At 21-8 through their first 29 games, the New York Knicks have jumped out to first place in the Atlantic Division, second in the East Conference, and have the fifth best record in the NBA.  Led by stars Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks have energized their fan base and have Madison Square Garden rocking night in and night out.  

    With returning starters Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert on their way back from injury, the Knicks look as if they have one of the highest ceilings of all the teams in the NBA.  

    Whether they take advantage of their talent and fast start remains to be seen.  

    Begin the slideshow to find out what have been the 5 keys to the New York Knicks' fast start to the 2012-13 season.

Carmelo Anthony

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    Simply put, Carmelo Anthony is playing some of best basketball of his entire career. 

    He's averaging 28.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, he's shooting .473 from the field and a career-high .434 from beyond the 3 point arc. In addition, he's become very talented at passing out of double teams which gives his teammate an open look.

    Melo has always been one of best scorers in the NBA, but it is, finally, his willingness to do the little things and trust his teammates that has him hearing ‘M-V-P’ chants night in and night out at Madison Square Garden.

    His intensity on the defensive end shows his biggest improvement.  He is consistently pressuring the ball and constantly crashing the boards for rebounds. 

    His stats may not indicate the best season of his career, but it is his different approach to the game that has Melo, and the New York Knicks, at the top of the NBA.

Tyson Chandler

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    Wow.  That’s the one word that comes to mind when you think of Tyson Chandler so far this season. 

    This has by far been the best year of Tyson’s career, as he is averaging a double-double with 12.6 PPG and 10.0 RPG.  Known primarily for his defense, there is no question that Tyson is still the anchor of the Knicks’ defensive schemes, but it is his drastically improved offense that has helped the Knicks tremendously in the absence of Amar’e Stoudemire.

    Thus far into the season, he is the league leader in Field Goal Percentage, shooting .689, has developed a solid chemistry with Raymond Felton on the pick ‘n rolls, and while crashing the offensive glass, has perfected tapping the ball back out to the perimeter to give the Knicks second chance opportunities.

Wily Veterans

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    Raymond Felton, Rasheed Wallace, Ronnie Brewer and, most importantly, Jason Kidd have all played vital roles in the Knicks' strong start.

    Much has been made of how the Knicks are the oldest team in the NBA.  But clearly the Knicks don’t care what people think, as all four of the players above provide valuable experience. 

    Wallace has emerged as a solid role player who does his job well when called upon.  Brewer starts, but can’t seem to make anything as of late and has been used primarily for extremely tenacious defense.

    Raymond Felton came into New York with the attitude of proving people wrong, and it has paid off for him extremely well.  Coming from Portland, where he was out of shape and had disagreements with the coach, Felton was signed this summer and has quickly snatched the role of starting point guard.  He brought the same energy he did prior to the start of the 2010 season when he played so well with Amar’e. 

    Due to his production slippage lately, I believe it will be good for Felton to take some time off and let his injuries heal.  Once back, however, I expect him to be back to his excellent level of play.

    Besides Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd has been the most important player on this Knicks team.  He does the little things well: constantly hits a momentum starting three pointer, makes a monumental steal or creates an open shot for one of his other teammates. 

    When the Knicks played Suns on December 26 was a perfect example of Jason Kidd’s worth.  Up until this point in the season,

    Kidd has been asked to play defense, move the ball and rebound, but with Carmelo and Felton sitting he needed to play a different role.  He had 23 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists.  He is one of the most useful players in the NBA because he can fill any role he is asked to play.  It will be interesting to see what happens to J-Kidd once Iman Shumpert, the Knicks' best defender, returns in January.

Mike Woodson

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    Perhaps the most important of all these reasons the Knicks have begun the 2012-13 campaign so strong is their head coach, Mike Woodson.

    Since taking the reigns in New York, Woodson is an astonishing 39-14.  The biggest change from D’Antoni to Woodson is the new coach’s philosophy on defense.  The Knicks hold their opponents to 96.7 PPG.  Coach Woodson has made sure his team understands his prerogative of holding opponents to under 100 points. 

    This season the Knicks have held opponents under 100 points in 18 out of their 29 games played.  And while he is known for his defense, Woodson has also been able to keep the offense flowing well as the Knicks average 102.2 PPG, seventh in the NBA. 

    Woodson clearly has made a huge impact since taking over head coaching duties.  He has won over the Knicks’ locker room and has them clicking in all aspects of the game.

Dedication to Excellence

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    The fifth reason the Knicks have started out so strongly is a direct result of their coach and the players buying into his system.  Not since the late 90s have we seen the Knicks play this hard night after night. 

    They have lost only eight times, and only once have they lost back-to-back games.  There have been times throughout this season where it would have been easy for them to just crumble, but time and time again they have fought back or stood their ground to win those games.

    In addition, for once, the Knicks seem to beating all the teams who they are supposed to beat.  For far too long the Knicks would play down to their opponents.  Not anymore.  With the exception of Rockets and the Lakers on Christmas Day, the Knicks have beaten every team below .500

    However, the Knicks haven’t just built their record by beating below .500 teams they have also beat very good teams as well: the Heat (twice), the Spurs, the Lakers and the Nets to name some.

    The 2012 Knicks are a poised team who are confident, focused, and looking forward to ending their current winless streak in the first round of the playoffs which has now extended to 13 years.