New York Knicks media day picked up right where last season fell off—with a variety of questions regarding the Knicks’ ability to take it to the next level or, dare it be said, the NBA Finals.
From Carmelo Anthony to Amar’e Stoudemire and mostly everyone in between, there was a palpable lack of commitment to so lofty an expectation. There were other things on these players’ minds—good things for sure, like being in top physical and mental condition, working on games and getting to play in New York or with these teammates.
It was a light day, appropriately so, easing everyone—players, team personnel and media—into the long season ahead. There were jovial moments. These Knicks don’t lack in personality, but beneath the smooth and cheeky veneer, there seemed to be both doubt and faith in battle.
What’s the goal, here?
Give Steve Mills, who was rather shockingly named to replace GM Glen Grunwald a few days ago and is a leftover from the Isiah Thomas days, credit at least for this: He was arguably the boldest at the podium outside of Iman Shumpert today.
Per knicksnow.com, the Knicks’ source for the media day video links in this article, Mills told the media, “Our goal is to win a championship this year…and we think we have a good chance to do that.” It was refreshing to hear after a steady stream of tempered enthusiasm.
Carmelo Anthony was deliberate in his reservations about taking home a title: “I’m not going to put that pressure on our team or myself and say that it’s championship or bust,” he said.
“I would love obviously to go all the way, but to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals which was the next step for us.”
How many more steps does Chandler think this Knicks team is going to need or have? He’s thinking long-term, apparently.
Realistic as it is to pine for that Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Miami Heat (or Indiana Pacers or Chicago Bulls?) and take it from there, it would be comforting to hear some more championship conviction even this early on.
Who is playing power forward?
The Knicks are at their best with Anthony at power forward. He was at the 4 for most of New York’s 54 wins—the most since Jeff Van Gundy’s first full season as coach (1996-97).
But five Knicks are (or can play very capable) power forwards: Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin and Metta World Peace. Who is going to get minutes where and when?
Did Chandler let the cat out of the bag?
“With [Bargnani] at the 4, it allows ‘Melo to go back to the 3, where he’s obviously bigger and more dominant than most of the 3s in our league,” he told reporters.
Let’s hope not. How much more dominant does the scoring champion have to be?
The Wall Street Journal’s Chris Herring asked Metta World Peace which forward position the former L.A. Laker would rather play, but Raymond Felton interrupted, expounding on how World Peace can defend from any of the five slots.
True, but we are still left without a definitive answer.
Coach Mike Woodson confirmed, via MSG.com: “I don’t know. I’ll use this training camp to evaluate that. I can experiment with it a little more. [I’ll] make the decision…as we near our first game with the Bucks.”
Health and injuries
Both Stoudemire and J.R. Smith had offseason knee surgery and fielded the requisite questioning. Their answers were not dramatic, but they did leave room for some concern.
It looks like Stoudemire isn’t even going to participate in training camp. From his surgery, he said, “I was able to somewhat recover. Still recovering now. I should be ready to go when the time comes.”
His career is hanging by a thread. At the least, STAT is on a minutes restriction to the end of it. Still, he did contribute last season during his time on the court (21.8 points per 36 minutes).
Anthony was asked about his shoulders. Chandler was asked what happened at the end of last season and if he is back to form. Both felt they are as ready as they will ever be.
Loss of veteran leadership
Jason Kidd. Rasheed Wallace. Marcus Camby. Kurt Thomas. Loads of experience. High basketball IQs. Determined players. And two titles in there, too.
They're all gone this year, creating a void of veteran leadership. Both Anthony and Chandler were put to the task of assuming greater roles leading the team on media day.
Anthony is really now the de facto veteran leader of the Knicks. Perhaps Chandler some, too. That's about it.
Aside from everything else Anthony has to shoulder, now this. He has to take hold of the ship's wheel, motivate others, scold others and lead by example.
"I've learned a lot from Jason and Rasheed, just having them guys around and being around those guys. Everybody has to be a leader."
Hopefully, Anthony takes a little more charge in 2013-14. Every team needs that to win it all.
The passion of Iman Shumpert
This is the first time Shumpert gets a fresh start. First there was the lockout in 2011-12, and then there was the ACL injury starting off 2012-13.
Shumpert powered through the end of the regular season and through the postseason in 2012-13, putting up the best average numbers of his career and flashing game-changing (and season-changing?) potential.
Forget Bargnani and World Peace for a moment. Is Iman Shumpert the X-factor? Can he push the Knicks over the top? They certainly are going to need something like that to get out of the East.
Carmelo Anthony in 2014?
Anthony was pressed about his upcoming player option by our own Bleacher Report's Howard Beck. His response was gruff—and there may be a Freudian slip in there. Surely, Melo will be opting out. This season may have a lot to so with what he'll decide after that.
Beck: “As you look out over the next 10 months, heading toward next summer…what are the things you are going to want to see to let you know that this is the best place for you to be for the duration?”
Anthony: “That’s a different conversation for a different time… It’s not something I’ve been thinking about… When that time comes…we’ll address those options.”
This was the most reserved Knicks media day since the Stoudemire-Anthony era began. Years before were greeted with unending possibility and bubbling enthusiasm. A real chance at winning a championship was in the air.
Suddenly, Knicks players have spotted some writing on the wall. They've noticed some limitations—their top level of play and timing itself. LeBron James is in the way of an NBA Finals in much the same way Michael Jordan was 20 years ago.
This could be a good thing. Some sobering reality to bring the Knicks to Earth, help them focus. Perhaps it will even curtail some of the errant shooting.
There are three important things to keep an eye on this training camp, and health is at the top of the list. More than anything else, a long-term injury (or nagging injuries) to Anthony, Chandler, Smith, Felton or Shumpert will be debilitating.
Bargnani has a recent (two-year) history of elbow and wrist problems. If you see Stoudemire out there, that would be some kind of good sign.
Secondly, what is Woodson going to do with this lineup. Who will be the starters? Who will play power forward? This will be exciting to watch develop.
Finally, integration of the new guys, particularly World Peace and Bargnani, but also Beno Udrih, Cole Aldrich and the rookies Tim Hardaway, Jr and C.J. Leslie.