This season, the Knicks will not win their first NBA title since 1973, when Richard Nixon ruled America and Tony Orlando ruled the airwaves.
They will, however, play respectable basketball until at least April, which means that I can write an article about 10 statistics that mark the Knicks season thus far without being smarmy and sarcastic.
(What would this article have looked like in a few years ago?)
1. Number of Knicks wins: 23.
2. Knicks punitive damage payment to Anucha Browne-Sanders in the MSG sexual harassment scandal: $11.6 million
3. Madison Square Garden interns and Stephon Marbury had sex in a truck: one.
4. Future hope: none.
End of article.
The following article doesn't contain numbers nearly as depressing but don't exactly represent a future championship team either. Some do, however, represent an era of hope and change in New York.
Why is Amar'e so sad? Is it because he's averaging 5.7 turnovers per game, or because he's regretting his decision to do a naked, Silence of the Lambs pose in ESPN Magazine's Body issue?
Although Ama're has definitely lit a fire under this Knicks team and has brought excitement back to the Garden, he needs to avoid getting swarmed in the paint by defenders as he faces the basket. The Knicks problem with having only one big man that can consistently score—and not having a consistent, lights-out three-point shooter—comes into play here. Low-post defenders will continue to play zone (like in Toronto) or just man up and take him one-on-one (like Marcus Camby) and plague Amar'e as he tries to drive to the basket starting from 10-15 feet.
Unless Amar'e makes a radical change to his game and starts developing polished back-to-the-basket post moves, or other Knicks step up, this may continue to be a big issue.
Defensive efficiency is measured by calculating the amount of points a team gives up per 100 possessions defended, and the New York Knicks rank ninth in the NBA.
Really? Yes, really.
Coach Mike D'Antoni stated that the Knicks would be focusing more on defense this season, and the team has held its own against the likes of Boston, Portland and Toronto.
Ronny Turiaf has been the team's best defender thus far, averaging 2.7 blocks per game and providing some girth down low at 6'10", 247 pounds. His plus-minus average is 7.3, by far the best on the team. Hopefully, D'Antoni begins to start him (starting Timofey Mozgov was a worthy experiment but he is too raw right now) and give him around 30 minutes a game.
Anthony Randolph will be returning to face Chicago tomorrow and should give the Knicks more length on defense and blocked shots.
Don't expect to see much matador team defense this season, as Walt "Clyde" Frazier so eloquently pointed out many times since the Patrick Ewing era ended.
Wilson Chandler is in beast mode right now, averaging 21 and 10 per game. While I can't read minds like Miss Cleo, Chandler may have been playing more aggressively in hopes of receiving a contract extension with the Knicks, who had a Monday deadline to either re-sign the former DePaul star or potentially let him walk as a restricted free agent in the offseason. The Knicks did not offer him a deal.
Chandler has taken 20 shots and six three-pointers per game this season, dwarfing previous career totals. His success this season can be attributed to ravenous attacks at the basket, as he is averaging 4.3 field goal attempts per game within 10 feet of the hoop, up from 1.5 last season.
For the John Hollinger stat nerds out there (like myself), his 26.13 PER is ranked 11th in the NBA among players who have averaged at least 30 minutes per game. To his credit, Chandler only has two turnovers as well even though he taken the role of Robin to Amar'e's Batman thus far and has seen increased touches.
Danilo Gallinari's wrist injury has hindered his shot. He has made just 5-of-24 field goals this season (2-of-11 from beyond the arc). That's not a long-term issue, because his wrist will heal.
The problem lies in Gallinari's inability to contribute to the team in other areas in lieu of his long-distance shooting woes.
No one is expecting Gallo to be the next Steve Nash, but his 1.7 assist-per-game average last year certainly has not improved (two assists in 60 minutes played so far). He needs to be more aggressive on the boards and defensive end, and become more of a team player instead of hanging 25 feet away from the basket, waiting for the point guard to slash to the hoop and kick the ball outside to him.
Furthermore, other teammates (Chandler, Ray Felton) are picking up the slack for him, and right now the team only has four real scoring options to go to for a bucket (the aforementioned two, Stoudemire and Toney Douglas). In one respect the Knicks postseason chances lie within Gallo's shooting touch.
Although shooting, the one dimension in Gallinari's 1-D game, is sometimes automatic, his arsenal needs more polishing and variety.
Raymond Felton might be the best sane point guard the Knicks have had since Mark Jackson was patrolling Madison Square Garden in the late 1980s. That is both upsetting and exciting, since Felton was considered a middle-of-the road NBA point guard in the preseason.
This sentiment might soon change. Felton is averaging 16 points and 5.7 assists per game even though he hasn't established a solid rapport with Amar'e Stoudemire yet, specifically on the pick and roll (see the end of the Blazers game Saturday night for more details).
His quickness, first nationally featured at North Carolina, has now taken the grand stage in Manhattan. Like Chandler, Felton's ability to drive to the hoop for quick layups has given the Knicks easy points. No one is about to confuse Felton with Derrick Rose, the NBA's master at driving to the hoop, but he is averaging 3.7 makes out of 5.3 attempts at the rim this season at a 68.8 percent clip, numbers far surpassing previous career-highs.
Landry Fields has been the Knicks most pleasant surprise this season, leading all starters in free throw and three-point percentage. Most impressively, Fields has done so while committing just one turnover in 89 minutes of play. Chandler has committed just two, and Turiaf and Gallinari just one each.
Stoudemire (17) and Felton (seven) have combined for 24 of the team's 45 turnovers, though, a problem that needs to be rectified.
The Knicks have made just 23-of-79 three-pointers, a 29.1 percent success rate. That's over 26 three-point attempts per game for you mathematicians out there. Chandler is the biggest offender at 19 three-point attempts total, with just five makes. The numbers will improve with time, as Gallinari should find his stroke when his wrist injury heals.
To put this another way, 30.3 percent of the Knicks shots are three-pointers, second in the league behind Orlando. However, the Knicks are also sixth-worst in the NBA with their 29.1 three-point percentage.
The Seven Seconds or Less era is officially over. The Knicks are playing at an average pace (the number of possessions a team uses per game), at 98.1, smack dab in the middle of the NBA.
Unfortunately, the Knicks are 20th in the NBA in offensive efficiency (number of points scored per 100 possessions), though they should do better once Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike come back from injury and form key cogs in the Knicks rotation.
This is telling of how the Knicks will play this season. On offense, when Felton can't find Amar'e on a pick and roll or between 10-20 feet from the basket, the Knicks will look for the right opportunity for Felton to slash to the hoop or slash and kick to a wide-open perimeter shooter for a wide-open three or drive to the basket.
Felton is not going to run like a man possessed on the fast break and find Gallinari for a wide-open three following a defensive rebound all the time; the Knicks will wait for the good shot. While 20th in NBA offensive efficiency is currently disconcerting, expect that number to vault into the top 15 by the end of the season.
Felton leads the Knicks with 5.7 assists per game. Deft dime-droppers Amar'e Stoudemire (3.0) and Ronny Turiaf (2.3) are second and third on the team in that category.
Should the Knicks have the 6'10" Turiaf run the point when Felton is on the bench? Toney Douglas has just five assists in three games, and isn't getting the job done as a distributor.
Then again, the Knicks knew what they were getting in drafting Douglas, who is a combo guard and pure scorer. Douglas has scored 11 points on nine shots per game.
Quite frankly, he's doing his job scoring points and giving Felton a breather, but if Felton goes down with an injury, the Knicks are in serious trouble because Douglas is not a pure point guard.
The Knicks are 22nd in NBA payroll, with $58.1 million committed to the team. When is the last time a New York team was in the bottom third in its league in total payroll? My guess is the Seventh of Never.
Of course, we can't really even count the Knicks paying Eddy Curry $11.1 million to be the only male cheerleader on the Knicks City Dancers.
The Knicks have not won the season series against tomorrow's opponent, the Chicago Bulls, since 2000-01. That season also doubles as the last time the Knicks had a winning record and won a playoff game.
Perhaps I have been excessively morbid during this slideshow, but I truly think there is a light at the end of the long Manhattan subway tunnel.
Enjoy the 1994 flashback, Knicks fans. It was a foul.