It's all smiles when you're winning.
The Knicks (8-8) have won five consecutive games, including four road victories over the Bobcats, Clippers, Warriors and Kings. Unquestionably, those are four of the weakest teams in the league, but hey, the once-lowly Knicks are finding ways to win.
The vast majority of the credit has to go to the team's superstar, Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire is averaging 22.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. During the five-game winning streak, he had three double-doubles, including a monstrous 39 and 11 performance against Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
In their search for a partner in crime, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade overlooked Stoudemire and overvalued Chris Bosh. Hindsight is 50/50, I suppose.
Point guard Raymond Felton and small forward Danilo Gallinari also deserve some credit for the Knicks' recent success. Felton is calm and collected as the floor general; he times his dishes well and finds Stoudemire, Gallinari and Wilson Chandler in their preferred areas of the court.
Gallinari scored over 20 points in four consecutive games against the Nuggets, Kings, Warriors and Clippers. The young Italian is improving his all-around game, but needs to have a better understanding on the defensive side of the ball. He allows right-handed scorers (i.e. Stephen Jackson) to drive right far too often.
Other than Amar'e Stoudemire, who has been the key to the Knicks' improvement?
Then there's Mike D'Antoni. I'm sure some fans would like to credit D'Antoni for the recent improvement in the Knicks' play, but I'd prefer to credit a stronger talent pool and the on-court leader, Stoudemire. D'Antoni has always been an overrated coach who forgets that 50 percent of the game is played defending the opposition.
D'Antoni's oft-discussed "Seven Seconds or Less" offense has a significant number of holes in it. Above all, quick shots put your team at a disadvantage in transition defense. Felton has voluntarily slowed down the Knicks' offense, and the club has had better overall results.
Looking ahead to the future, the Knicks are a player or two short. I believe they will make the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed in the East, but will not be able to win a series unless their collective defense improves drastically.
In terms of needs, the Knicks require a legitimate center who can defend and run the floor when necessary. Samuel Dalembert of the Kings could be an eventual fit. Current C Ronny Turiaf is more valuable as a high-energy bench player.
Everything considered, things are looking up in the New York basketball community.
(John Frascella is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land," the first and only book centered on Boston 's popular GM Theo Epstein. Check it out on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble online. Follow John on Twitter @RedSoxAuthor.)