2011 NBA Playoffs: Why Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks Can Be World Champions
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The Boston Celtics are ripe for the picking.
Meeting the reigning Conference champions in the opening round of the playoffs is rarely grounds for such optimism.
But the first round matchup between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics will be far from the whitewash many would have predicted just weeks ago.
Relieved of those vagabond shoes, Carmelo Anthony is finally at ease.
King of the hill.
Top of the heap.
Eastern Conference player of the week.
If seven straight wins wasn’t enough for the league to take notice, the return of a healthy Amar’e Stoudemire will be.
Returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, a couple post-season wins will be granted with a passing mark. But this Knicks outfit has the potential to do so much more damage.
And here’s why.
New Faces, New Feel
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In 2010, it was Amar’e.
In 2009, it was ‘Melo.
This year, the East has a totally different feel about it.
In fact, the No. 8 seed Chicago Bulls were only .500 entering the 2010 playoffs. In contrast, the Thunder needed 50 wins to tie up the final spot in the West.
Suddenly, nothing is certain.
James. Rondo. Rose. Wade. Howard.
All huge names that are yet to line-up against Stoudemire or Anthony in a seven-game series.
One feels this may just be the beginning.
They're going to make a brand new start of it.
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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Did someone forget to tell Danny Ainge?
It almost reads like a bad joke.
Mad hoops fan turns to fellow mad hoops fan.
“What do you do when your two backup centers miss most of the season through injury?” asks Mad Hoops Fan No. 1.
“Tell me. Tell me”, begs Mad Hoops Fan No. 2.
“Trade your championship-winning center to another playoffs-bound franchise”.
Both fans toss their heads back and howl at the stupidity of the notion.
The Knicks might not need to beat the Celtics in the first round. The C's may just have beaten themselves at the trade deadline.
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If the Knicks manage to advance past the Celtics, they’ll likely face the Miami Heat in the second round.
The Chicago Bulls aside, the Knicks may just be the best equipped to combat the South Beach Big Three in the East.
Both teams’ greatest weakness lies at the five position and the Heat have very little artillery with which to hurt the Knicks in that regard.
If James has his outside game going, Mike D’Antoni will have to live with the results. Keep him shooting from the line. Give him nothing in transition.
Perhaps the best approach to containing James is to keep him accountable at the other end of the floor. A red-hot Carmelo Anthony will go a long way toward achieving that.
Both Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire will be looking to set the tone with aggression in the paint. If Stoudemire can force Bosh to sit with early foul trouble, the Heat will become heavily reliant on its habitually streaky outside game.
Staying in front of the lightning-fast Dwyane Wade may be asking a lot of rookie Landry Fields, but the Stanford product should have the size to get a hand in the face of Wade’s jumper.
Oh and the Knicks go much deeper too.
Don’t expect any Toney Douglas-like sizzle from anyone off the Heat bench.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
But right now, the Chicago Bulls are the team to beat in the East.
No one is playing better than Derrick Rose and his highly-talented support cast.
A Bulls-Knicks Conference finals matchup is simply salivating.
The Bulls would no doubt rate their chances. But this is a team that, for all its youthful momentum, has nothing in the trophy cabinet.
Chicago has one truly great player.
Boozer, Deng, Noah–they’re all very good pieces in the puzzle. But they’re not in the same class as Rose.
The Bulls may have the league’s best player right now, but the Knicks have two bonafide superstars of their own.
Anthony is the East’s best finisher.
Stoudemire was MVP favorite through the first 41 games.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Spike Lee can breathe easy.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Still not convinced?
If all else fails, the Knicks could simply hope the West beat each other up on the way to the NBA Finals.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The Knicks are the No. 6 seed.
They’d have to beat the Conference-champion Celtics.
The Big Three in South Beach.
The league-leading Bulls.
Just for a shot at the world champion Lakers?
I want to be a part of it.