New York Knicks Need to Beat an Elite Team to Earn Respect

Sammy Makki@sammymetsfanAnalyst IJanuary 3, 2011

MIAMI - DECEMBER 28:  Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks is shown during action against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 28, 2010 in Miami, Florida. the Heat defeated the Knicks 106-98.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

The Knicks are having their best season in a decade, as they've gone 19-14 in their first 33 games. It's their best start since beginning the 2000-2001 season 21-12.

Although that's the case, they've gotten next to no credit whatsoever this season. There are many reasons for that.

Most people, including all the critics, still don't believe that the Knicks are improved, basing their turnaround on the fact that the Eastern Conference is so weak. That is a fair point; the Knicks are the sixth seed in the conference and the last team over the .500 mark. Most of the time, they'll face teams like Sunday's opponent, the Pacers, who have losing records and are not as good as the Knicks.

But the Knicks have had their chances this season to beat the "elite" teams and by losing to the majority of them, they've further allowed people to disrespect what they've accomplished.

Out of the 10 "elite" teams in the NBA (according to media outlets), the Knicks have gone 3-6. They got two wins against the Bulls and one against the Thunder. They lost all their games to the Celtics, Heat, Magic, and Hawks.

That's a problem. Not because it will most likely mean a first-round playoff exit—after all, how far did you expect them to go?—but it isn't helping their cause at trying to become relevant again.

After virtually every win they get, no matter whom they face, there's a reason why their opponent lost, rather than why they won. It's either because their opponents' best player is injured or because their opponent is playing on a second game of a back-to-back.

They haven't gotten any credit for any win, even earlier in the season against the now 9-25 Nets. The excuse was that the Knicks pulled away after Devin Harris left the game with an injury.

It's really ridiculous, considering they're five games over .500 in a league where everyone within the same conference plays the same schedule.

The Knicks did get two huge wins against the Thunder and Bulls in the midst of their tough December schedule to allow them to enter 2011 with a good record. Most people were predicting the Knicks to be out of the top eight in the East by now. Instead, they have a pretty nice six and a half game lead over the 76ers for a playoff spot.

The Knicks, though, have to eventually beat a tough opponent. Now, in all likelihood, it won't come on Tuesday night against the NBA-best Spurs (29-4), but they have a chance on the upcoming West Coast trip.

They go to Phoenix to play the Suns, who, although they are having a bad season, score almost as many points as the Knicks. If that doesn't prove anything, they have a good shot at beating the Lakers at the Staples Center; the Lakers have been off their game of late, but of course that'll be the excuse used should the Knicks beat them. Trips to Portland and Utah, both tough places to play, follow that.

From now through the 12th, the Knicks will have five shots at proving they can get a win against an elite team. Can they actually win three of them, or will they allow the critics to continue bashing them? We'll find out in another season-defining stretch of games for the Knicks.