It's a new year, but the New York Knicks hope to see much of the same. New York has started the season 21-9, and currently sits on top of the division.
However, the new year will also bring many changes the team will have to battle through. Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert will return. Raymond Felton will try to get back on the court and Carmelo Anthony will try to stay healthy.
Through all of this, Mike Woodson will try to lead his team to continued success. That goes through some tough and interesting games throughout the month of January that the Knicks will have to battle through in order to confirm their fast start.
In the first showdown between the two division rivals of the season, Boston will travel to New York to take on the Knicks.
If everything goes according to plan for New York, the game will be a passing of the baton. New York leads the division and has been playing superb basketball. Boston has been struggling with an aging lineup and is starting to fall behind. If the Knicks can take the win, they will start to pull away with the division and establish themselves as the new kings of the Atlantic.
If everything goes according to Boston's plan though, the game will be about making the race closer and making a statement. Boston wants to show that they still have one more playoff run in them and can still hang with anyone out there. Rajon Rondo will need to lead the team, but he will need to hit shots to keep pace with the hot hands of New York.
On January 11th, the Knicks will attempt to finally beat the feisty Chicago Bulls. In the first two meetings, the Bulls took two decisive wins and are the only team to beat the Knicks twice this season.
The Bulls took the wins on the back on physical play and tough defense. This time around, Stoudemire will attempt to solve the Bulls by increasing the interior presence for New York and playing with a bigger lineup. Furthermore, the pick-and-roll will be vital to spreading the floor.
A final note is the Knicks will need to stay calm as Melo, Tyson Chandler and Mike Woodson were all ejected in the most recent defeat. The team has had issues with technical fouls and getting aggravated, so keeping their nerve will be vital to pulling out a win.
When these two teams faced off on November 15th, the Knicks took an important road win 104-100 against the San Antonio Spurs. At the time, it meant confirming a hot start and remaining unbeaten.
This time around, it means confirming the hot start and showing that it can continue. The game will not only serve to see if the two teams have maintained their early elevated level of play, but also to see if Melo and Stoudemire can coexist.
The game will likely be the first big test that Melo and Stoudemire face together, so it will provide a chance for the two to show a real slow in the offense. If the two can lead the team to a win at home, it will show real potential in the duo.
In terms of the direct matchup, the Knicks will attempt to take their third in a row against their crosstown rivals after dropping the opener on the road. The Knicks will likely heavily rely on Melo, who was instrumental to obtaining the first two wins.
In terms of the division, the game means even more. For the Knicks, a win could mean definitively taking the ascendant on Brooklyn and establishing themselves as a top two team in the division. For Brooklyn, it will simply mean getting back into it.
To kick off the new year, the Knicks will face the Portland Trailblazers at home. On paper, the matchup doesn't seem to be the most enticing of the month, but it's about what the game will mean for the Knicks.
On this night, Amar'e Stoudemire is expected to make his big return to the court. Carmelo Anthony is still day-to-day, so it is still to be seen whether the two will finally grace the court together or not. Either way though, the game will mark a turn in the season either way.
Stoudemire will attempt to show off his new post-moves either way, but if Melo plays it will be their chance to show the world that they can play together. Either way though, the Knicks will try to bounce back after a heartbreaking loss to the Sacramento Kings.