NEW YORK, NY– The Christmas Holidays and New Year have brought many cheers to the Madison Square Garden faithful so far in the form of playoff hope, solid play and most of all a winning record at 18-14. It has been quite some time since the Knicks and the playoffs have been spoken about during this time of the year. Usually, the Knick playoff talk would come during the preseason and fade away about this time of year.
Led by Co-captains Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, the Knicks have had their best run of the year going 8-4 for the month of December and moving currently into the 5th/6th seed in the Eastern Conference. During that month the 100 million dollar forward now known as "STATS" in Madison Square Garden has averaged 29.8pts, 10.5 rebs, 2.6 blks and 2.5 ast, while shooting over 55% FG and 82% FT. Yes, he has averaged almost 5TO's a game but if it equates to wins he can work on that facet of the game as they go along. The Chants of MVP have filled the Garden often and deservedly so. While leading the Knicks, he also now owns the team record for scoring 30 points for nine consecutive games, breaking Willie Naul's Knick record of seven games. Stoudemire has willed the Knicks to many a victory by leading the team and the NBA in fourth quarter scoring. In addition, Stats has led by example through his intense work ethic and hunger to win. It seems to have rubbed off on his peers as the season progressed and it shows in their play. Raymond Felton, who seemed slow to get a full grip of the pick and roll and new system finally showed that he is now accustomed to it by putting up 18.9pts, 11.2 ast and 2 steals over that same span. After a couple losses to the Knicks this season, ex-coach Larry Brown praised the newest Knick point guard. "What he brought to our team is something you can't replace He played hard every day, hurt, practiced hard and is a great teammate. It's worked out good for everybody. The people in NY, the way they love basketball and respect the game, they'll appreciate what he does."
Felton's and Stoudemire's numbers might make it seem like it has been a two man show but other Knicks have shined brightly over the month as well. Wilson Chandler (18pts, 7rebs, 1blk, 1stl), Danilo Gallinari (15.4pts, 4rebs), and Landry Fields 10.5pts, 8.5rebs, 2.5ast, 1.5 stl and 39% 3pt) have been integral parts of what has been going on so far this year in the Big Apple. With a winning record, the Knicks have been even more impressive by winning games on the road. There current 10-6 record is a respectable one. Coach D'Antoni spoke of Amare's and Felton's play, " Amare keeps being superb. He was unbelievable tonight again and anytime you have a guy on your team like that on your team you have a chance to win. I think Raymond has gone to another level with his play."
Rookie forward Landry Fields has turned many heads with his steady play and his ability to get it done has kept him implanted in the teams starting lineup. He is also now one of the top three candidates for the Rookie of the Year award along with favorite Blake Griffin and oft-injured John Wall. This current group of Knicks seem to have grasped Coach D'Antoni's system well and have put up team highs and are in the top 5 in many team stats throughout the league. One thing the team has done is beat the sub .500 teams as they have a 13-6 record. While some look at this as a sign the Knicks aren't truly for real must understand that last year they would lose to these same teams. So if beating these teams now puts the Knicks in the playoff contention, so be it.
This is not the only identifiable statistic that the Knicks are amongst the top 10 or even the top 5 in the league. The Knicks are currently 2nd (6.8) in blocks, 1st in scoring(107.4), , 11th in assists (21.8), 11th in steals (7.9), 6th in FG %(.469%) , 1st in 3pt shots made(9.2) , 9th in 3pt %(.375%) and 2nd in FT %(.804%) . These numbers have made the difference in games and in the win/loss column. Stoudemire is leading the league in 4th quarter scoring (7.2pts a game) while Gallinari is leading the league in charges taken.
Unlike last year, the Knicks have lost all their games by an average of only 9.2pts a loss. If you take away the 2 blowouts versus the Bucks and Heat this year and the average goes down to 6.1 pts a loss, showing one thing the Knicks have done differently was compete to win games this year.
With things looking positive going into the new year, the Knicks seem a move or two away from really causing some headaches to opposing NBA teams. With the constant Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, the Knicks might want to address their interior defense and rebounding by looking into players such as Marcus Camby or even Anderson Varejao to help shore up the interior a bit. Gutting their team right now might not be the best thing unless they get another star in the process.
Yes the Knicks are playing with more swagger as the current players are calling it. With more than half of their games in January coming against the upper echelon of the leagues team, it will take more than just swagger to bring down the like of the Spurs, Heat, Thunder, Hawks, Jazz, Rockets, Trailblazers and Lakers in January.