After starting the season 18-5, the New York Knicks have hit a road bump, playing under-.500 basketball since. What’s the deal?
Well, injuries and age are knocking on the door for one thing. Take the Knicks’ most recent loss against the Boston Celtics. New York was missing their starting point guard, some key role players and had a $20 million man coming off the bench for a couple quarters’ worth.
Good fans, and good teams and players (see: RGIII), don’t like to blame injury for losses. And rival fans surely don’t want to hear it.
But if you do look at all the Knicks’ losses, someone’s missing. They haven’t lost a game with a full and healthy roster, yet.
Of course this is often a fact in the NBA. Many teams go through large portions of the season (or the whole season) without all their players suited up.
But in the 2012-13 Knicks’ case, the team is finally on the verge of having everybody fully healthy and game ready.
All stats used in this article are as of Jan. 7, 2012.
Rasheed Wallace has already made a greater impact than expected.
Out of shape at training camp after a two-year layoff, it looked like he wasn’t even going to make the roster.
Two months later, the Knicks were 16-4 when Wallace hit the floor.
Since he hurt his foot back on Dec. 13 against the Los Angeles Lakers, though, the Knicks look entirely mediocre. They are 6-5 with some bad losses to the likes of the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s Wallace who has stepped up the most at power forward (after Carmelo Anthony) in Stoudemire’s absence, and the Knicks are missing his presence. He’s been listed as “doubtful” on the NBA injury report, but it looks more like he’s going to be out a while.
And who wouldn’t have liked to see ‘Sheed on the floor when Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony tussled? Surely he would have contributed there.
The Knicks are 2-2 since Amar’e Stoudemire’s return, picking up where the Anthony-Stoudemire not-so-dynamic duo left off last season. Before this season, the two were 31-41 when they hit the court together.
There’s been so much “controversy” over Stoudemire’s return. Start him or bench him? Will he disrupt a successful team’s flow?
So until further notice, it looks like the once-great savior of the Knicks will have a relative minimal impact on the Knicks’ bottom line.
Time will tell if Stoudemire can get those average minutes up over 30 and points over 20. The Knicks were flailing a bit before he came back, so the Stoudemire of old, or at least some semblance of him, would certainly help.
When the Knicks’ defense started slipping (they’ve given up 100+ points to opponents in 10 of their last 15 games now) fans hoped Iman Shumpert would hurry up and heal.
The tenacious defender roved the perimeter like a sentinel last season. He played with his hands in ball handlers’ faces, adding nearly two steals a game in a most disruptive manner. Shumpert is the kind of player willing to sacrifice his body for the team.
Tyson Chandler and Shumpert are the two best defenders on the squad.
Shump’s almost back, and the hope is he’ll be able to continue developing as a critical defensive player. That’s where the Knicks need him most.
According to the very latest from Newsday on Jan. 7:
Iman Shumpert believes he's close to rejoining the Knicks and regaining his athleticism and lateral movement..."I feel like I can do pretty much everything," he said.
The biggest injury to hit the 2012-13 Knicks so far, though, has been, of all things, Raymond Felton’s broken pinkie.
Felton came in at the point to manage a team that hadn’t been managed in such a manner all season last year and erased the memory of Linsanity and any guilt over letting Lin go in the process. No small feat.
Despite some erratic shooting just before his injury, Felton had kept most of his field-goal attempts under 15 through the first 20 games and stuck to his main task: protecting and distributing the ball. As a result, the Knicks had one of their greatest starts to a season in the franchise’s history.
Jason Kidd is picking up the slack, but how long will the 39-year old be able to keep up his 30 minutes a game? Kidd is the exact player the Knicks want as rested as possible for playoff time. He’ll be collateral damage if Felton doesn’t make a strong and quick return.
Felton is out for another month. Then, New York will be able to at last see if Felton is the catalyst that makes the Anthony-Stoudemire brew bubble. The three have yet to take the court together.
It’s a given Carmelo Anthony is the most important player on the team and, potentially, its greatest savior since…Willis Reed?
While Amar’e Stoudemire unquestionably reintroduced the Knicks to the NBA, Anthony, especially this season, has kicked it up a legitimate, title-contending notch (or at least a respectable chance at knocking off the Miami Heat in the East).
Anthony sat six games in December with ankle and knee problems and a lacerated finger: The Knicks went 3-3, which isn’t good enough.
Over the course of Anthony’s career, he’s missed about 17 percent of his teams’ games thanks to nagging minor injuries mostly, just like the ones this season.
That’s a high percentage, and based on the past, predicts he’ll miss another eight or nine games this year (of the remaining 48).
The Knicks can survive that. Any more, though, and they will find their grip on a No. 1 or No. 2 seed tenuous. There are six teams finding their mojo right now and they’re within striking distance of New York in the conference standings.