New York Knicks: Looking at 5 February Story Lines
The month of January is over and the New York Knicks are still enjoying their best season in a decade. This has been the turnaround season every Knicks fan has been waiting for, as the team is poised to makes the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
Although the team is above .500 and in the playoff picture of the Eastern Conference, it did suffer a six-game losing streak in January, its second such streak this season.
Their star forward Amar'e Stoudemire got banged up all month and their breakout point guard Raymond Felton seemed to wear down.
Now, as we move on in this NBA season, how will next month look for the Knicks? Will their roster look the same? Will they fall out of the playoff picture?
Here's a look at those questions and more in a preview of what to expect and look for in February.
Is Timofey Mozgov The Big Man The Knicks Are Searching For?
Rookie center Timofey Mozgov has had a difficult first season making the transition to the NBA in the States. He apparently impressed the Knicks coaching staff in preseason by earning a role as a starter to begin the season, but didn't show any signs of being able to contribute while getting his chance.
He suffered throughout the month of November, mostly having trouble with ball handling and control. His turnovers and noted foul troubles forced coach Mike D'Antoni to replace him with Wilson Chandler, which wasn't a bad thing.
For a while, Mozgov wasn't seen or heard from. Until Sunday's game against the Pistons, Mozgov hadn't appeared in 10 consecutive games. Not even as a reserve in meaningless minutes of blowouts.
It wasn't like he impressed anyone sitting on the bench, but with Chandler out with an injury and Shawne Williams serving a one-game suspension, D'Antoni had no choice but to use Mozgov against Detroit.
It shockingly worked out after Mozgov started 0-for-4 from the field. He finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds in a Knicks 124-106 victory.
Now the question becomes, was this a one-game fluke or can Mozgov contribute for the months to come? After all, the Knicks have been dying for a big man to help Stoudemire out.
In all likelihood, it was a shock of adrenaline but perhaps hearing the Garden crowd chant "Moz-gov" at the end will spark some much-needed production for the Russian rookie.
How Will Knicks Fare Against Tough Opponents?
The Knicks have had a typical above-average season so far. They've won the majority of games they've had to against awful teams and haven't fared to poorly against the elite.
They've won some nice games on the road like in Chicago and New Orleans, but at home, they've had five quality wins. At the Garden this season, the Knicks have beaten the Nuggets, Thunder, Bulls, Spurs, and Heat. That's not bad for a team that hasn't had any wins of note over the last decade.
In February, the Knicks will only have 10 games with the All-Star break in the middle of the month. Four of their games will be against tough opponents and it starts with their first game on Wednesday.
The Knicks will try to earn another quality home win as the Mavericks come in for their only visit of the season. Dirk Nowitzki and his Dallas team has a had a spectacular season as their 32-15 record is good for third in the West.
On February 11, Kobe and the Lakers make their lone visit to the Garden and the Knicks will try to split the season series with the two-time defending champions. That game will be featured on ESPN and so will a matchup in Miami against the Heat to close out their February schedule. The Knicks will attempt to even their season series with the Heat, who are second in the East.
The Knicks also have another tough game against the Hawks this month at home. The good thing is, three of the four games against elite teams are at home, where the Knicks have won 11 of their last 15 and are 13-9 overall. At least earning a split of those games would be nice.
Will Amar'e and Felton Completely Run Out of Steam?
The Knicks have had a great season considering expectations and their star acquisitions of the offseason, Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, have been awesome, but can they sustain their success?
It's pretty clear that of late, both of those guys have lost some energy. They are the Knicks two leaders in minutes played, both averaging over 37 per game, and the wear and tear has shown.
Felton's shooting has been off of late, although he's come around over the last couple of games. Stoudemire doesn't only look tired at times, but he's getting beat up on the court physically.
It seems that in every game, Stoudemire is getting banged in the knee by an opponent and going down. He stays down for about a minute and then gets back up and stays in the game. Against the Pistons on Sunday, he played with a sore right knee but made the decision to play about an hour before game time.
The word "knee" and Stoudemire isn't a good thing to hear. His biggest issue coming over to the Knicks in the offseason was his knee injuries in Phoenix. If you add knee soreness to the fact he's only getting an average of not even 11 minutes per game rest, it makes you wonder if he'll completely wear down before too long.
Hopefully, the Knicks could either find lightning in a bottle with Mozgov, or make a trade to help Amar'e get well-needed rest.
The same goes for getting a legitimate backup point guard to give Felton a breather here and there.
Will Knicks Remain In Playoff Picture Through February?
Ever since becoming head coach of the Knicks, Mike D'Antoni's goal was to make the playoffs. In his first two seasons, the goal wasn't reached. Unless the Knicks fade off into the sunset in these final months, they should finally grant their coach his wish.
The Knicks are 25-22 and have a five-game lead over the ninth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks with 35 games remaining in their chase to play meaningful games in April.
With only 10 games in February and six of them being at home, the Knicks should still be in the top eight in the East. In fact, something would have to go terribly wrong and the teams below them would basically have to go undefeated to catch them. Remember: the Knicks are sixth, meaning even if they drop two spots, they're still in it.
With all of that being said, there are some teams at the bottom of the picture getting hot right now. Most notably, the Philadelphia 76ers. Unbelievably, the Sixers are 15-8 at home, but only 6-18 on the road. Still, they're in seventh and the Knicks face them in back-to-back games on Friday and Sunday, trying to hold on to their sixth seeded position.
The ninth-seeded Bucks are charging with a three-game winning streak as well.
The big month will obviously be March. The Knicks will have 18 games that month and that'll determine their playoff fate. But they'd like to enter March on a high note.
By February 24, Will The Knicks Look Any Different?
Of course the top story line has got to be the upcoming trading deadline. How can any story trump that one? The only thing you hear—unfortunately—is how the Knicks roster may look different by February 24.
The big fish of course happens to be one Carmelo Anthony. Can the Knicks actually end all talk and speculation by trading for the Denver Nuggets superstar? That's a topic for big time debate these days.
After about a half dozen trade rumors of Carmelo to the Nets went awry, and their Russian billionaire owner backed out—for now—the Knicks have been the top destination for him. He's supposedly claimed or hinted that New York is the only place he wants to play outside of Denver.
Who knows if he's going to be traded at this point? One thing is for sure, you'd think: if he's not traded, he'll sign with the Knicks in the summer around the time LeBron went to the Heat last summer.
If Donnie Walsh and the Knicks do make the trade for him by the deadline, the Knicks become contenders in the East. If they can't trade for him, will their roster look any different? Perhaps.
Walsh has said he's still interested in trading for a big man. The Knicks can always go after the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol, who has drawn interest from Walsh.
Or, the Knicks can keep things the way they are and try to at least make the playoffs this season. If Carmelo isn't the player the Knicks trade for, don't expect a huge roster turnover, no matter who else they acquire.
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