The All-Star break is upon us, and the New York Knicks are looking better than they have in years.
The Knicks’ 32-18 record is good enough for second place in the Eastern conference, three-and-a-half games behind the Miami Heat. If the Knickerbockers can stay the course, they’ll win their first division title since Patrick Ewing patrolled the paint at the Garden.
While sports fans in New York are demanding to a fault, few would have expected the Knicks to jump out of the gate the way they did.
The Knicks won their first six games of the season, and by the time they faced off against the Lakers on Christmas Day, their record was 20-7.
However, things have not gone as smoothly for the past two months. The Knicks are only 12-11 since Christmas Day (including the loss to the Lakers), and they desperately need the break to adjust.
Knicks fans will have to put their faith in head coach Mike Woodson, who defiantly told ESPN that his team still has a shot to win the title.
Let’s take a look back and grade the New York Knicks' 2012-13 season so far.
Anthony is averaging 28.6 PPG, which is his highest since his 2006-07 season with the Denver Nuggets. He has single-handedly won a couple of games for the Knicks this season, the highlight being his 45-point performance against the Brooklyn Nets.
Tyson Chandler is arguably the best center in the NBA, especially now that his biggest competition, Dwight Howard, is struggling in Los Angeles. He is averaging a double-double, which is much needed considering that the Knicks are 22nd in the league in rebounding.
I have to admit that I was slightly nervous when Jeremy Lin left for the Rockets, but I am happy to admit that Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton have proven me wrong.
Felton is having a better statistical season than Lin (averaging 14.9 PPG, 6.3 APG and 2.4 TO to Lin’s 12.6 PPG, 6.2 APG and 2.9 TO), and along with Kidd, he’s running the Knicks offense in a way that Lin never could.
Kidd and Felton get points off for injuries and for being too trigger-happy at the ends of games. Felton, especially, needs to keep his cool and not force shots that just aren’t there.
Iman Shumpert is back from injury, but he’s been underwhelming so far. His name has surfaced in trade rumors over the past week, but Woodson has on at least one occasion said that Shumpert will not leave New York.
What happened to the Knicks defense over the past few months?
During the early course of the season, New York was doing a great job of holding its opponents in check, but that’s not the case anymore.
Don’t be fooled by the Knicks’ 95.7 points allowed, which is good for eighth best in the NBA. That number is misleading.
The team's defensive efficiency is 103.0, tying it with the Lakers for 15th.
The Knicks are constantly being bailed out by their potent offense, which is third in the league in offensive efficiency, and New York needs to get its defense back on track before the playoffs.
The Knicks bench is averaging the fifth most points per game this season with 39.0, but that number becomes less impressive once efficiency (12th in the league) and shooting percentage (21st in the league) are accounted for.
Still, when the bench is on a cold streak, the results can be disastrous. The most recent example of this was the 102-88 loss to the L.A. Clippers on February 10, in which the Knicks got next to no production out of Amar'e Stoudemire, Smith and Steve Novak.
Despite the problems on defense, I felt it would be disingenuous to give Mike Woodson and his coaching staff anything less than an A-.
He’s taken the oldest team in NBA history to second place in the conference and he’s made it fun to watch Knicks basketball again.
Woodson has his work cut out for him for the next half of the season. He needs to get the defense back on track, manage Stoudemire’s minutes and make sure injuries do not ruin the Knicks’ playoff hopes.
If he can tackle those obstacles the same way he adjusted the team during the pre-season, the Knicks are going to be fine.