Amar'e Stoudemire: Are His New York Knicks Stuck in Sixth-Place Limbo?
New York City athletes have a fickle history with bold predictions.
Joe Namath predicted a Super Bowl III victory. Mark Messier predicted a win over the Devils in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Both are legends.
Former New York Mets outfielder Benny Agbayani predicted a five-game victory over the Yankees in the 2000 World Series. He is a clown, albeit a lovable symbol of that Mets era.
Although I am not a New York athlete, let alone a person who has an iota of physical athletic ability, I am about to make a bold prediction myself.
Carmelo Anthony will not be a New York Knick this season.
Maybe that isn't so bold, but I predicted a Colts vs. Vikings Super Bowl matchup this season, so I need something safe to regain any self respect.
Knicks GM Donnie Walsh knows that his best chance at a title involves meshing Carmelo Anthony with the pieces he has now and go from there. Carmelo Anthony has done everything to imply that he wants to play for the Knicks. A match made in heaven will occur this summer...hopefully.
With all that in mind, there is still a season to play, and Donnie Walsh is probably going to dance with the girl he brought to the hall. Half the season is gone, and the sixth-seed Knicks are on a playoff island that's more isolated than Revis Island, Gilligan's Island and the Lost island combined. The fifth-seed Magic are four-and-a-half games ahead of the Knicks and currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. The seventh-seed Bobcats (Bobcats?!?!?!) are five games behind the Knicks, and New York holds the tiebreak advantage over them.
Will the Knicks ever climb out of this black hole and vault into the four-five matchup, or are they destined to face a dangerous third seed? Or, will they utterly collapse and fall to the seventh or eighth seed, perhaps even missing the playoffs altogether?
Let's take a look at the Knicks' upcoming schedule to see what hand they've been dealt here.
First, let's review John Hollinger's playoff odds for the New York Knicks, who are currently 22-19 and sixth in the East.
Chance at Playoffs
Projected Final Record and Seed
43-39, sixth seed
Best Possible Record
Worst Possible Record
Projected Fifth Seed and Record
Atlanta Hawks, 51-31
Projected Seventh Seed and Record
Milwaukee Bucks, 39-43
Projected Records for Nearest Competitors
76ers: 38-44; Pacers, 37-45; Bobcats 34-48
Upcoming Schedule: January
A rough stretch that features three road games against future playoff teams and a home game against the Miami Heat. The Knicks should win home games against the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons, who are 0-20 and 4-18 on the road, respectively. Then again, we all thought the Kings and Suns were pushovers this week at home, so anything goes.
Sorry to be formulaic here, but it's tough to see the Knicks beating the Spurs on the road tonight, especially knowing that San Antonio will be highly motivated after its embarrassing loss to New York in December. Playing on the second night of separate back-to-back sets against Oklahoma City and Atlanta is a scary proposition, and the Knicks just don't match well with Miami at all, who should be healthier by the 27th. Expect wins over Washington and Detroit, though.
We can only hope that Donnie Walsh doesn't panic and pull the trigger on a short-sighted Carmelo Anthony trade that rids the Knicks of two of Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari after getting flak from the media. Walsh doesn't seem like the type of guy to make panic moves, though.
Predicted Record: 2-4. Total Record: 24-23.
Upcoming Schedule: February
Home games against Dallas, Atlanta and the Lakers and a road trek to visit South Beach are daunting, but every other game is winnable. The Knicks also have a home-and-home series with Philadelphia; winning both games there would help knock out an outside candidate for the sixth seed.
Aside from the obvious reasons for the Knicks' recent stretch of poor play (Ray Felton's poor outings, lack of consistent down-low defensive presence, ghastly three-point shooting), New York just seems really fatigued. They will get plenty of rest in February with the All-Star Weekend, but also, they only play one back-to-back set.
This particular set doesn't really count though, because the Knicks play the Lakers at home on the 11th before driving 30 minutes to Newark and playing in front of a 50/50 mixed crowd of Nets and Knicks fans.
Predicted Record: 7-3, Total Record 31-26.
Upcoming Schedule: March
Eighteen games in 30 days during March, but look a little closer and it's not so brutal. The month ends with five home games in a six-game stretch, with the road game a winnable one at Charlotte. The dark side of the month is that the Knicks play six back-to-back sets, and four of the teams the Knicks play in the second game of those back-to-back sets are the Hornets, Jazz, Mavericks and Celtics.
Still, I like the Knicks to stay afloat, especially with the pressure of trade rumors off everyone's backs. Of note, they have some very winnable contests at home against Cleveland, New Jersey, Memphis, Milwaukee and Indiana.
Predicted Record: 9-9, 40-35.
Upcoming Schedule: April
Of the five Eastern Conference teams that the Knicks open April against, it's guaranteed that three, most likely four and perhaps all five will not make the playoffs. After that, the Knicks host Chicago before visiting Boston to close the season.
I think the Knicks will want to finish strong as they play some teams just finishing the season out.
Predicted Record: 5-2, Final Record 45-37.
Common Sense and Conclusions
To those hypochondriac Knicks fan out there worried we might screw this season up, let me put my argument in another light.
The Knicks have three games remaining against New Jersey, Philadelphia, Indiana, Milwaukee and Cleveland.
If the Knicks go 11-4 in those games, all they would need to do is win just 11 of their other 26 games to get the sixth seed.
Which team currently below the Knicks is your candidate to finish at .500? Philadelphia? When's the last time a .500 or better team didn't have a guy who averaged 15 per game? Charlotte? Can't find an identity. Indiana? The Pacers are the best bet, but their power forward position is in shambles. Milwaukee? Another decent candidate for a run, but will it be too late by the time Brandon Jennings is back?
However, the Knicks would probably need to win 50 to get the fifth seed, and seeing them go 28-13 to finish the season is a long shot at best. Chicago, Atlanta and Orlando only need to finish five to six games above .500 in the second half of the season to reach 50, and the Knicks don't have the firepower to get there.
So what can Knicks fans truly hope for next season, with their team most likely stuck in sixth-seed limbo? Improvement from the players we have. Let's hope Landry Fields starts contributing double doubles more consistently and trusts his three-point shot more, and that Danilo Gallinari becomes more multi-dimensional on both ends of the floor. Let's hope that Wilson Chandler emerges as a potential 20-point-per-game All-Star, and that Toney Douglas can adequately back up Ray Felton and control the pace of the game.
If each of these individuals improves his game, and Carmelo Anthony is added to the core next year, we'll have one hell of a team. Right now, it's best to wait...even in limbo.