Even with the acquisition of Amar'e Stoudemire in the offseason, many fans and critics didn't believe he would be enough for the Knicks to improve this season.
When the season finally started after the "Summer of 2010" came and went without signing LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, the Knicks won three of five but Stoudemire was struggling. He was missing free throws and he wasn't playing well with new point guard Raymond Felton.
Then the Knicks went on what could end up being the best six-game losing streak possible. It's never good to go on a prolonged losing streak, but only positives came from the one the Knicks went on.
First of all, losing six in a row in the beginning of the season, especially in the Eastern Conference, isn't a big deal. More importantly, it allowed the Knicks to flow together more.
Stoudemire was only used to receiving feeds in the paint from Steve Nash. The pick and roll wasn't working at all and the Knicks had no spacing. Danilo Gallinari was mired in an awful slump to the point he didn't start one game.
The reason the Knicks lost six in a row was because they were trying things out. It wasn't going to lead to wins but it was essential to learn the new system with Stoudemire, Felton, and even surprising rookie Landy Fields.
Once the Knicks embarked on a four-game West coast trip, things began to click. Felton-to-Stoudemire was a whole lot better. Gallinari played better and started drawing fouls. Landry Fields improved his game even more, starting to rebound the ball along with his scoring.
The defense is still and always will be an issue with the Knicks. Mike D'Antoni doesn't put any emphasis on playing defense and if it weren't for defensive-minded players like Toney Douglas and Ronny Turiaf, the Knicks would be in big trouble.
Now, though, the Knicks are a potent offensive team. They're fourth in the league in scoring, averaging nearly 107 points per game. They're playing with more confidence and Stoudemire is playing like the All-Star that he has been. The Knicks can score with any team in the league and that includes the Lakers and Celtics.
If they could play a little bit of defense, they will win even more games. The other issue the Knicks are having is they can't win at home. While they've won five straight road games to improve to 7-4, which is tied for the most road wins in the league, they're only 2-5 at home. They need to build a home-court advantage.
There's no explanation for the poor play at the Garden. They draw a sellout every game and their fans are chanting "defense" from the opening tip-off. Teams aren't worried about playing at the Garden like in the 1990s with Patrick Ewing stealing the show. That's a problem and they must turn it around on Tuesday night against the Nets who are 2-7 on the road.
But the Knicks have definitely improved and are looking like a playoff team. Right now, they're 9-9 and in seventh in the East. Tuesday's game is huge as the Knicks can finish above .500 and in the top eight after the first month.
Looking at the poor Eastern Conference, the Knicks are better than at least six teams. The only teams not in the top eight right now that can compete with the Knicks are the Bucks and perhaps the Nets.
Also, the Knicks seem to only be getting better. With a little better play at home, continued success on the road, and some better defense, the Knicks can make the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Where they go from there is the question, but you never know.
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