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Are NY Knicks Any Better off Than They Were Last Year?

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Are NY Knicks Any Better off Than They Were Last Year?
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With the economy in the shape that it is and people forced to work themselves to the brink of exhaustion (or beyond), who's got time for honeymoons anymore?

The New York Knicks and their trio of stars (Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler) were forced to follow the same path as many Americans have been traveling of late—putting those honeymoon plans on hold.

After a year-plus of waiting, the Knicks finally had cause for celebration early in the 2012-13 season.

Under Anthony's leadership, the team showed an unselfishness on the offensive end that coupled with team's depth on the perimeter and made it nearly impossible to stop. The team saw similar success on defense with Chandler, veteran Jason Kidd and coach Mike Woodson leading the charge.

The team stormed out to an 18-5 start, which was unmatched by its Eastern Conference peers. The Knicks poured in over 103 points a night during that stretch, while limiting their opponents to just 96.1 points per game. 

And their achievements were hardly the factor of a favorable schedule. They hung two defeats on the defending champion Miami Heat. They knocked off conference rivals in the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers. The Knicks doled out similar pain to the best from the West, defeating the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets.

But the party decorations are now littered across the closet floor. The early-season championship talks might soon get a person committed if they were to utter the same words now.

The honeymoon period is clearly over.

ESPN's "NBA Countdown" crew broke down the Knicks' struggles after their 99-93 loss to the Heat on Mar. 3.

Since that torrid stretch, the Knicks have been nothing more than room temperature. They're 20-20 since and trending in the wrong direction with the playoffs right around the corner.

After finishing 2012 at 12 games above .500 (21-9), the Knicks are floundering above the .500 mark by the slimmest of margins in 2013. They finished just a game above that line in both January (7-6) and February (6-5). They're a losing team halfway through the month of March (4-5).

New York has cooled considerably from deep, shooting just 34.3 percent from three in 2013 (via nba.com). With the long ball such an important factor in the Knicks offense—more than a quarter of all of their field-goal attempts have come beyond the arc—their errant shots would be concerning on their own.

But when coupled with the team's growing injury list (Anthony and Chandler have joined Stoudemire and Rasheed Wallace on the injury report, via CBSSports.com), there's little debate over why this team is struggling.

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The Knicks can ill-afford a lengthy absence from Anthony, who leads the league with a 34.1 usage rate and has taken some of the ball-handling duties away from Raymond Felton.

But could this Knicks team actually be in worse shape than last season's group? The one that finished the regular season 36-30 and lasted just five games in the playoffs.

There are far more reasons to answer that question with a "yes" than Knicks fans would ever care to admit.

The 2011-12 Knicks barely snuck into the postseason, but they played some of their best basketball over the season down the stretch. They won 18 of their final 24 games. They were widely seen as a serious threat to the eventual champs or at the very least expected to give them a bigger challenge than they eventually did.

The Knicks weren't injury free last season: Rising star Jeremy Lin played his final game on March 24 before undergoing knee surgery—but they weren't quite as potentially destructive as this current outbreak. Even if Anthony and Chandler aren't sidelined for a significant stretch, having Stoudemire and Wallace out for the season has ravished Woodson's frontcourt rotation.

Now these Knicks have the firepower to pack a far greater punch than last season's club could even imagine. If the basketball gods start working in their favor down the stretch, New York still has the potential for a lengthy postseason surge.

As for right now, though, things look a lot worse than they did 12 months ago. And the Knicks are running out of time to turn things around.

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