For the New York Knicks, 2010-11 was a season of ups and downs, winning streaks and losing streaks, new starts and old disappointments. It was a new team from day one: Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and Landry Fields—all five starters in the first game were different than the starters in last season’s opener, and only one, Gallinari, was even on the team then.
Fans at first held their emotions in check after winning the offseason door prize, Stoudemire, and when the Knicks didn’t exactly bust out of the gate, going 3-8, there wasn’t much public angst. After all, New Yorkers were used to it.
You heard it all year long: The Knicks hadn’t made the playoffs in seven years and hadn’t had a winning season in 10. It looked like it was going to be eight and 11. Same old, same old Knicks.
But then, they strung together a few wins. And in one of the memorable “moments” of the season, the Knicks went 13-2 as Stoudemire went off, scoring those 30 points nine games in a row. Suddenly, the Knicks were 16-10.
Halfway through the season, the Knicks overhauled their lineup and were new again, with three new starters (and sometimes four): Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Ronny Turiaf (Toney Douglas, Jared Jeffries).
By the end of the season, New York would more than comfortably make the playoffs and notch 42 wins.
In between, and even before and after, there were many memorable moments along the way, including of course the big Carmelo Anthony trade, that Boston Celtics thriller in mid-December and a couple of last-second, game-winning shots, to name a few.
Outsiders might look upon the Knicks’ season as a failure. They were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs 4-0, at home. But the once-starving Knicks’ fans know this was unquestionably the best season in years, with dividends yet to come.
Here are the top 25 memorable moments of the Knicks’ 2010-11 season.
One of the nicest surprises for the Knicks in 2010-11 was rookie Landry Fields, who made an immediate impact.
In his first three games, Fields went for 11 points at 50 percent shooting each time. He added a very respectable 22 rebounds, including 10 in his second pro game, which notched him the double-double. But that was just the beginning.
In an 11-game November stretch, Landry, in what could be called "going off," scored in double figures eight times and crashed the boards in double figures five times—giving him four more double-doubles— all in the first month of his NBA career. He was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for his efforts.
And again in December.
This continued, albeit more tempered, through January and then February, when he recorded his season-high 25 points.
Fields faded toward the end of the season, however, and was non-existent in the playoffs. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the slide began with Toney Douglas' three-point explosion against the Memphis Grizzlies on St. Patrick's Day. But it's a little more than that: The rookie was tired. It's a long season.
Expect Fields to be prepared for next season though, and that's thanks to his attitude. He needs to work on not just the continuing development of his solid game but also his endurance over the summer. If Fields can play deep into 2012 the way he did in late 2010, expect the Knicks to have a better regular and postseason record on this alone.
Fields is the type of player you can count on improving, too. His positive and teflon-like attitude has already carried him through some challenges. As you see in the video, the Landry Fields' selection drew a chorus of boos from the Knicks' faithful.
He shrugged it off in no time, becoming a instant fan favorite, which everybody knows is not the easiest thing to do in the Big Apple. But Landry Fields and New York make a good match.
The single biggest move for the Knicks this year was the Amar'e Stoudemire acquisition—moreso than the Carmelo Anthony trade, until further notice. Amar'e helped pave the way.
Stoudemire single-handedly changed the reputation of the Knicks' franchise from perennial punchline to postseason player. The Melo move was (and is) meant to take them further, potentially all the way. But this year, all the groundwork was laid out in October through most of February by Stoudemire and the gang.
As with Landry Fields, Amar'e's reception was less then tepid. New Yorkers, salivating at the chance of a Ritz in LeBron James, had to settle for what they thought was a more ordinary saltine. They braced themselves for less-than-mediocrity and another under-.500 record.
Many in the media, including Foxsports.com, said the Knicks continued their legacy of "overpaying for good-not-great talent."
There was still talk about the Knicks getting LeBron to pair up with Amar'e, but no one really believed at the time that the Knicks would actually land two superstars in one season.
False. False. And False.
Upon being introduced, Stoudemire said, "Totally comfortable, totally confident that my leadership qualities will uplift all of us to do something great this upcoming season...So again, the Knicks are back." (Foxsports.com)
The Knicks are back, and it's thanks to Amar'e Stoudemire more than anyone else.
With Amar'e Stoudemire signed, the Knicks swiftly turned their attention to finding a point guard and some size, and the now redundant David Lee.
While there were some initial reports of a STAT-Lee co-existence, the writing was on the wall—and the ink wasn't even dry yet.
Lee, the best New York could offer and the most consistent Knick over the past three years, was shipped to Golden State the day after Amar'e joined the team.
The Knicks received Ronny Turiaf in return (along with Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike).
Turiaf, along with rookie Timofey Mozgov, would be the big men in the middle for most of the Knicks' season. When Mozgov was dealt in the big Carmelo Anthony trade, Turiaf's importance to the team increased.
Turiaf went on to have his worst offensive season since his rookie campaign but was effective enough on defense, and in adding some size to a small team, to help take the Knicks to the playoffs.
He was pretty cheap, too, at two years and $8 million, contributing to the cap space that would later help land Melo and still leave more room for further signings from the rich 2012-13 free agent class.
Now with Stoudemire, Fields, Turiaf/Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari set, Knicks president of basketball operations, team architect and payroll slasher, Donnie Walsh turned his attention to getting a fifth starter—an all-too critical floor general.
Three days after the David Lee trade, Walsh found his man in Raymond Felton.
In less than three weeks, beginning with the NBA draft in June, Walsh picked up four-fifths of what would turn out to be the best Knicks starting five in 10 years, with Gallinari the only holdover and some cap space to boot. When does it get better than that?
As for Felton, he turned out to be, frankly, great. So great in fact, it is doubtful the Knicks would have done as well in the W-L column, maybe not win 40 games and maybe not make the playoffs in the end. His contributions should not be underestimated.
Without Felton, it would have been almost entirely up to Stoudemire to carry the team through two-thirds of the season, receiving the ball from an even more unknown.
Felton and Stoudemire gelled straight out of the gate, and they combined with Mike D'Antoni to instantly create the most exciting and No. 1 offense in the NBA for the first three months plus of the season.
How often did the point guard score in double figures during his time in New York? The question is: How often did he not? Only five times in 54 games. His season high was 35, against the Golden State Warriors.
Oh yeah, he's a point guard. So he had double figures in assists 27 times too, including a high tally of 17. All together, Felton had 22 double-doubles for the Knicks and one triple-double if you're counting. That's some serious getting it done.
Throw in some D, as evidenced in this top 10 Felton plays video, and you have a critical, complete, complementary player who truly helped make the Knicks' season what it was, second only to Stoudemire.
Amar'e Stoudemire went for 19 points and 10 rebounds in a sign of what was to come. Wilson Chandler pitched in 22 and eight from the bench. Six Knicks scored in double figures.
New York played some strong defense late to seal the win.
The offense would stay with the Knicks throughout the season, but their defense would not and would become a frequent target of analysts and fans alike as the winter wore on.
Stoudemire's leadership, upbeat attitude and even-keel was on display after the game one win, "You want to beat the teams you feel you're supposed to beat, so tonight was a big win for us." (CBSSports.com)
It was the first win of what now looked to be a new Knicks era.
The Knicks lost their second game of the season, on the road against the 2009-10 Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, 105-101.
Knicks' fans took it in stride. The Amar'e Stoudemire honeymoon period was still in effect. And the Madison Square Garden crowd welcomed him with a rousing ovation for the home opener, against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Wilson Chandler delivered again from the bench with a ferocious 22 points and 16 rebounds, but Stoudemire had an unspectacular evening with 18 points, five rebounds and slippery hands. He coughed the ball up six times.
A tight game most of the way opened up into a 90-82 Knicks' lead with five-and-a-half minutes to go, but the Blazers came back with a 9-0 run to take the lead and not long after, the win.
Knicks fans leaving the building after the game began to wonder. Same old Knicks? And how do I get rid of these season ticks?!
They would be right, at least for the next eight games, when New York would go two and six.
On November 17th, before facing the Kings that evening, the Knicks stared at a 3-8 record. Behind them were nine years of losing seasons with a lone postseason appearance—and a sweep, at that—and at the hands of the New Jersey Nets, at that. That's pretty bad.
On that night in Sacramento STAT poured in 27. Two games later, he went for 39. And the Knicks were "off," winning five of six for a, um, solid 8-9 record. A glimmer of hope, maybe.
But then Amar'e truly went off, carrying the entire franchise on his back for a nine-game stretch that could be argued the most important in a decade.
Starting with a 2OT win in Detroit on Nov. 28th, Stoudemire scored at least 30 points nine games* in a row—37, 35, 34, 31, 34, 34, 36, 30, 39—and the Knicks went 8-1, pushing their record to an unheard of 16-10.
This was officially a new Knicks team, different than all the others the past 10 years, with a leader who could single-handedly take his team to the playoffs.
Ironically, though, it was the single loss (to Boston) at the end of the streak that ultimately convinced the team and fans that the Knicks were a team to be reckoned with.
* In the process, Stoudemire broke Willie Naulls' team record of seven straight games with at least 30 points.
Looking back, the Nov. 28th double overtime victory against the Pistons was the turning point for Amar'e Stoudemire and the Knicks' franchise. Stoudemire's 30-point streak and a Knicks' eight-game win streak began then, in Detroit.
Both streaks started to finally erase some of the bad memories of the past 10 years, and in this case, New Yorkers' short memories served them well.
The Knicks were relevant again and not only that, maybe should be feared.
Amar'e went for 37 points and 15 rebounds, while Raymond Felton and Landry Fields pitched in two more double-doubles.
Four starters played more than 50 minutes a piece. It takes that much effort to shrug off a decade.
But shrug it off the Knicks did, and they emerged from this game and the following streak, anew.
The Amar'e Stoudemire "M-V-P" chant was in full effect during the 30-point run and rightfully so. Amar'e was the best player in the league at that time, for the highest scoring offense in the NBA.
He was also responsible for changing a crippling culture of losing that grew on the Garden walls like moss.
Stoudemire heard the chant on the road, too.
And even when STAT was clearly out of the running through the second half of the season, fans reminded him of their appreciation with the occasional cheer.
The Knicks had won eight straight games and 13 of their last 14 when they stepped onto the Madison Square Garden floor Dec. 15th to face the Boston Celtics. New York stood at 16-9.
With his eight consecutive games of over 30 points in the books, there was discussion (and chanting) about whether Amar'e Stoudemire might be a realistic MVP candidate. Amidst the Garden cacophony, one could isolate murmurs of playoff talk.
No one was honestly convinced though, until this game came about as close to a win as a loss could come: 0.3 seconds? The Knicks' recent wins were against opponents like the Nets, Raptors (twice), Timberwolves and Wizards, so you can understand fans' hesitancy.
But on that cold night in mid-December, the Knicks proved they can hang with anyone, even the 19-4 Eastern Conference-dominating Celtics.
New York led most of the game, on Stoudemire's dominance and Chandler's (18P,12R) and Felton's (26P,14A) double-doubles. Boston had no answer for Amar'e. He finished with 39, his season high at the time.
The composed, veteran Boston team came back though and took the lead in a 35-point fourth quarter, cementing it when Paul Pierce's push-off, step-back jumper dropped with 0.4 left.
On the ensuing inbound, Stoudemire netted what looked like the game-winning three, but instant replay showed the shot was late.
Even in the loss, the Knicks showed they were on time.
Nothing like a victory against a better arch-rival in front of a holiday-large national audience to keep the fire lit on a hot season.
Rose's 25 and Carlos Boozer's 26 were not enough to overcome the Knicks' starting five, who all scored in double figures and had four double-doubles amongst them.
New York played solid, mature, unselfish and distributed (offense and defense) basketball, winning rather convincingly, 103-95.
The see-saw season resumed after the win over the Bulls, and the Jekyll and Hyde Knicks lost back-to-back to the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. They followed that up with a win over Indiana, leaving New York at 19-14.
Fans wondered, which Knicks’ team would show up against the San Antonio Spurs on January 4th – the one that can beat good teams, like the Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder? Or the one that can’t beat good teams, like the Boston Celtics and Heat?
On this night, it was the former, and in undeniable fashion.
The Spurs entered the game with an NBA-best 29-4, and they had already beaten just about everybody who was anybody, from the west coast to the east coast and back, from the Lakers to the Bulls to the Magic to the Mavericks.
The league was on notice after this one – that on any given night, the Knicks can wreck the wrecker.
And wreck the Spurs they did, with an offensive onslaught that tallied 128 before the final tick. After the game, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich wrecked his defense, calling it “pathetic.” (CBSSports.com).
Meanwhile, New York’s defense held San Antonio to just 20 points in the final period. On the other side of the ball, Wilson Chandler led the way with 31, while Gotham’s dynamic duo, Stoudemire and Felton scored 28 apiece.
Just around the same time the Knicks dispatched the Spurs near the turn of the year, Carmelo Anthony trade rumors began to bubble up from the back of NBA fans' minds and into the back pages. Discussions regarding Melo’s future whereabouts, once on the back burner, were now aboil.
It seemed certain he was heading to the Nets, but Melo's driver kept going north on 95, past the Prudential Center, to Madison Square Garden. The Knicks, what?, pulled it off.
Mirroring the sentiments of the greatest sports analysts, a friend texted me: “If you would have told me before the season that the Knicks would have two superstars and cap space, I would have never believed it.” Knicks’ fans all around had similar texting, tweeting and facebook conversations.
Believe it. Thank you, Donnie Walsh and James Dolan (and Isiah?).
For the Knicks, it seemed just in time.
After the big San Antonio Spurs win, New York lost 12 of the next 20, including a payback from San Antonio, and went from six games over .500 to just two (28-26) at the All-Star Break. After their final game of the first half, a win over the Atlanta Hawks, Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni intimated that the team would still need to get to 40 wins to make the postseason.
“We've got a ways to go yet, but at least we'll have a good break and get everybody back and ready to make that stretch run of 28 games that we need to play full tilt," said D’Antoni. (CBSSports.com)
It was over All-Star weekend that the deal went down.
The Denver Post broke the story: “The Nuggets traded Melo to the New York Knicks tonight, a league source said. Denver gets Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks 2014 first-round draft pick, the Warriors' 2012 second-round pick, the Warriors' 2013 second-round pick and $3 million in cash.
Anthony will go to New York, along with Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman.”
It was the most exciting Knicks’ trade in recent memory, but still, a tad bittersweet as big fan favorites and producers who made the team what it was – Felton, Chandler and Gallinari – were shipped to Denver.
The Denver Post broke the news of the Carmelo Anthony trade on the Monday after NBA All-Star weekend. Most of New York was enjoying the President’s Day holiday.
Two days later, the new-look Knicks (version two) opened up the second half of the season at home against the Milwaukee Bucks, in front of an exuberant crowd bursting in anticipation of the Knicks’ intros.
"I never experienced anything like that before," Anthony said. "That was a hell of a moment for the fans to react the way they did." (ESPN.com)
The new Knicks delivered. Anthony had 27 points and 10 rebounds in his debut and two big shots down the stretch after Amar’e Stoudemire (19 points) had fouled out. Chauncey Billups added 21 points and eight assists as New York beat Milwaukee 114-108 and increased their record to 29-26, equaling last year’s win total.
For the moment, trade-doubters were silenced.
The Knicks dropped their following game, against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and fans' hopes tarnished a bit. There were definitely murmurs of concern. Fans went from “Should we make this trade?” on Monday to “This trade is good.” to “Should we have made that trade?” by week's end.
“Good trade. Good trade.”
But the Knicks dropped two of the next three, including another to the worst (at the time) team in the league, the deadly Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks were 3-3 since the trade. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets were 5-1. Buyer’s remorse set in.
“We shouldn’t have made that trade. Gave away the whole team. If it ain’t broke…”
Again the Knicks rose up, taking the next three, the third a last second win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Seen in the video at around 18 seconds, Carmelo hits the game-winner from the corner with 0.5 seconds, and for a real moment, fans believed confidently they could go far. They accepted the trade at last.
The Knicks knew March would be tough – 18 games on the schedule, most since 1999, including a reschedule of the October 2ndOrlando Magic game that was cancelled due to falling debris at Madison Square Garden. So far, they were 4-2 for the month coming off that Carmelo Anthony's game winner.
And then the bottom dropped out. The Knicks lost nine of the next 10, clouding their once sure playoff aspirations.
The one bright spot: Toney Douglas’ nine three pointers in a charm-ing St. Patrick's Day win. From this point on, Douglas became more involved in the offense and Landry Field's time, and impact, began to dwindle.
Life's funny. After three straight losses to the thoroughly irritating Cleveland Cavaliers, the Knicks finally get their revenge, and in the process clinch their first playoff berth in seven years, dispelling the last of the remaining "we'll never make the playoffs again -aphobia."
In a smackdown, the Knicks pounced early with 36 in the first period, and finished strong holding the Cavs to just 19 in the last. New York vaulted into the playoffs, 123-107, led by the Knicks’ Big Three: Stoudemire (28), Anthony (25) and Billups (23).
The victory came in the midst of a seven-game winning streak.
In the video, Stoudemire rightfully gives props to his former teammates who helped make it happen.
Two games later, the Knicks achieved another milestone: the 40-win mark. It came against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Anthony popped 31 (five threes) and grabbed 11 in the 97-92 win.
The last time the Knicks won 40 games, it was 48, back in 2000-01, under the stewardship of Jeff Van Gundy.
He finished with 34 in this final regular season victory. Before the night was over the Knicks would lock up the sixth playoff slot and would meet the 2010 Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics in Round 1.
New York lost their final two games to finish 42-40.
New York was pumped for its first postseason appearance in seven years. The Knicks were underdogs, but everyone believed a series win was possible, though probably not probable.
Ironically, though the Knicks lost Game 1, there was even more hope following the match, a thriller no doubt. The Knicks hung tough in Boston, and if it weren’t for Ray Allen’s clutch three at 11.6 seconds, they may have pulled it off.
In the final minutes, multiple players from both teams tried stepping into the hero role.
Amar’e Stoudemire, in particular, put on perhaps his most dominant display of the season down the final seven minutes. The Celtics looked downright frightened trying to contain him, as he stormed to the hoop play after play.
With four minutes left Chauncey Billups hit a three to put the Knicks up 78-75, and New York held the lead until Jermaine O’Neal, who filled in nicely for the injured Shaquille O’Neal over the series, tied it at 82 with just over a minute on the clock.
Toney Douglas came back and sank a three to make it 85-82 with 37.8 ticks.
Boston took a full time out. They needed as quick a play as possible on the inbound, and Doc Rivers pulled out the quickest in the playbook: a Rajon Rondo alley-oop to a completely unguarded (Ronny Turiaf) Kevin Garnett. The play took 0.5 seconds and put the Celts within one.
The Knicks failed to convert and Mr. Three-Pointer himself, Ray Allen, punched in the game-winning trey at 11.6.
The Knicks scrambled, minus timeouts, for a final shot: a rushed, desperate Carmelo three from way out there that clanged off the front of the rim.
After the 87-85 loss, many rightfully questioned why Carmelo took the last shot rather than Amar’e, the hottest hand on the floor, but either way, the feeling was, the Knicks were close to beating this team.
With under a minute to play in Game 1, Chauncey Billups seriously hurt his troublesome left knee and Knicks fans held their breath. Without Billups, chances of the Knicks pulling out the series would fall to nearly nil.
Fans didn't know it at the time, but Billups would wind up sitting out the rest of the series, and if that were not bad enough, in Game 2, Amar'e Stoudemire joined him on the sidelines with an injury of his own.
Just before Game 2, STAT tweaked his back horsing around in pre-game warm-ups.
“I couldn’t hardly move. I was trying to play through it,” Amar’e said. “Once I felt that sharp pain, I couldn’t take it.” (tedwilliamshead.com).
With Billups definitely out, and Stoudemire at least limited, the Knicks turned to Carmelo Anthony, who put on one of the great postseason performances in Knicks’ history.
With Billups out and Stoudemire on the floor getting back treatment, Carmelo Anthony took over Game 2 like almost no one in the NBA can.
He was inside, outside and way outside. He was unconscious, on auto-pilot, and piled on 42 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and a couple of blocks.
Without Billups and STAT (who played only 18 minutes and was gone before the half), the rest of the Knicks team scored 51 in the 96-93 defeat.
Unfortunately, what is also memorable about this game was Jared Jeffries’ under-the-basket gaffe with four seconds left.
Down by one, correctly fearing the Anthony triple-team, the Knicks had Melo pass the ball right at the hoop to Jeffries, who was to quick pass it to an open and charging Bill Walker. It was not a badly designed play, but failed in execution as Jeffries was unable to change the play based on the circumstances. He should have taken it straight to the hoop at Kevin Garnett, who wound up stealing the Walker pass.
And the Knicks went down two game to none. But there was still hope. They looked good. Amar’e would be back. The Knicks were taking the series back to New York. Surely they would steal a game or two at the Garden.
Doc Rivers plan? Take the crowd out immediately, and that is exactly what the Celtics did, jumping out to a 9-0 lead and never looking back.
Ray Allen and Paul Pierce poured on 32 and 38. Rajon Rondo went off with 15 points, 20 assists and 11 rebounds in the 113-96 Celtic spanking.
The Knicks had some answers, 52 bench points for example, but with Stoudemire clearly hampered, New York was out of Boston’s league, and soon after, the playoffs.
In Game 4, Stoudemire returned – sort of – to form with 19 points and 12 boards. Anthony was his usual self and added 32. Another Anthony – Anthony Carter – made a strong showing that had fans asking, “Where was this guy in the other three games?”
But it was all too late.
The Celtics sleepwalked through the final game, with five players in double-figures for points, led by Kevin Garnett’s 26.
And the Knicks’ 2010-11 season ended with a 101-89 dud.
You can say a lot of bad things about James Dolan, but he is loyal.
Three days after the Knicks' were bounced, they picked up Chauncey Billups' hefty $14 million option for next season without a second thought.
It's costly, but probably the right move for a number of factors other than money: skills, brains, experience, leadership, tutelage (for Fields, Douglas and other young players), big-game play, composure, and well, there's almost nobody else.
The Knicks have a good team and can go far in the playoffs if they can stay healthy - especially Billups, who runs the floor and mediates between superstars Stoudemire and Anthony. For a point guard, he also scores a whole hell of a lot.
The series with the Celtics would have turned out differently had Billups been in play. Duh.
The 2011-12 free agent point guard market is weak and exercising the option is the best bridge to the very rich (Chris Paul) 2012-13 market, when Billups' $14 million also comes off the books.
As for Donnie Walsh, the Knicks had until April 30th to exercise his option, but did not. According to the New York Post, however, Walsh has been promised Isiah Thomas will not be back, and that he will get a new contract of at least two more years. Well deserved for the architect of the new-look, newly-competitive, memorable 2010-11 New York Knicks.
Look out Eastern Conference in 2011-12.
Follow me on Twitter @VinGetz