A mountain of pressure was put on Carmelo Anthony to carry the club, especially in this physical second-round series. He gave it his best effort, but it fell short, and he didn't get enough help.
Indiana exposed New York on many levels, chief among them being an overreliance on the jump shot and an inability to handle a paint-oriented opponent that possessed size.
Mike Woodson's veteran guards were overmatched, his energy post players Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin were too one-dimensional, and the isolation-based play of 'Melo and J.R. Smith was often detrimental.
Entering this offseason, the Knicks must take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask whether the team as it's currently comprised can challenge for a title in the near future.
Changes definitely need to be made, but how much and at what positions?
Chief among the dilemmas is whether to keep J.R. Smith long term, and whether to hang on to many of the veteran role players.
Smith put together a brilliant regular season to help the Knicks earn the No. 2 seed; however, his incredibly inefficient shooting ruined New York's chances to advance past Indiana.
Signing the veteran reserve to a few more years would likely cost more than they're paying him now, and it's unclear if the New York brass is ready to commit to a volume scorer who's prone to bouts of ineffectiveness.
If you're asking me whether keeping him is going to help them win a championship within the next couple seasons, the answer is no.
Smith was an exciting scorer and a handy guy to have around during 'Melo's brief injury absences. However, his style of play is part of the reason New York struggled to topple the underdog Boston Celtics and failed to upend the Pacers.
The decision to let him go is only part of the equation.
There's also the question of what to do about guys like Jason Kidd (signed through 2015), Marcus Camby (signed through 2014) and Pablo Prigioni (restricted free agent in 2013).
Not all of them can stay, and they certainly can't be a major part of the team's future plans. Although Kidd and Prigioni were effective for much of the season, they were exposed in the playoffs and are both miles past their primes.
The main obstacle that makes New York's offseason alterations and potential additions so difficult is the massive percentage of payroll consumed by Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.
'Melo is obviously going nowhere. Amar'e is the guy Knicks fans would love to shed. General manager Glen Grunwald would get rid of Stoudemire in a heartbeat if he could find a good deal for him.
Good luck with that.
Stoudemire is owed more than $45 million over the next two seasons, and since the Knicks already used their amnesty clause on Chauncey Billups in 2011, the only way to unload him is via trade.
That's a tall order, because his bloated salary and injury-plagued past aren't attractive to anyone. Most NBA trades need to match up financially, and it's just not worth it for potential suitors.
Ultimately, New York's front office needs to deliver another offseason of tricky maneuvering in order to make the club better in 2013-14. Can it add an affordable forward like Elton Brand or DeJuan Blair to bolster the roster, or will it come up empty-handed?
Change is necessary, because the current composition of the squad can't lift the Knicks through the East.
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