Since day one, Amar'e Stoudemire embraced the challenge of restoring the Knicks to respectability. Between then and now, we've learned a lot of things about the team's captain. Some good (he sure does have confidence )and some not so good (his defensive deficiencies are painfully persistent).
But on Sunday, April 3, we found out something else about Stoudemire.
He's no liar.
The Knicks ARE back.
(To the playoffs, anyway.)
For the first time since 2004, pro basketball will be played in the World's Most Famous Arena in the latter half of April. And Knicks fans are ecstatic.
Since it's a given that the Knicks will only go as far as Amar'e and Carmelo take them, it makes little sense to dedicate substantial space to them. Now, after losing six games in a row, the Knicks have gotten five straight W's.
Carmelo has emerged as the alpha male on the offensive end, and Amar'e—believe it or not—has been exerting more energy on the defensive end. Consider that during the Knicks' 97-92 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, Amar'e rolled his ankle chasing Thaddeus Young on a breakaway. There was no chance Amar'e was going to catch him, but you know what? He tried.
Likewise, it's safe to say that there are two versions of Toney Douglas. There's the somewhat careless, ball-stopping, shot-chucking second-year player...and there's Toney the Tiger, the guy who gave the Knicks 20 points—including four three pointers—and 11 assists back on March 18 in Detroit. Clearly, the Knicks need a dependable scorer off the bench, so the Knicks only real chance at assembling a decent playoff run rests on Toney the Tiger's ability to play GREEEEEEEEEEEAT!
So, let's focus elsewhere. And let's ask...
Aside from the aforementioned three—and aside from a miracle—what would it take for the New York Knicks to extend their season from late April to Memorial Day? What about representing the Eastern Conference for all of the marbles in early June?
As unlikely as it might be, never say never.
Without further ado, since it's been seven long years for Knicks fans, here are the seven factors that will make or break the 2011 New York Knicks' NBA Playoff run.