One year ago, the team was coming off the exciting signing of Amar’e Stoudemire, while preparing for the season and a run at Carmelo Anthony. Last summer, the Knicks were not only at the center of the NBA world, but in the crux of the overall sports landscape.
But with the possibility that an 82-game season, or even a shortened season, seeming unlikely, the Knicks can only wait patiently, but assuming a collective bargaining agreement is reached, can next year’s Knicks team build off this past season’s Knicks team and ultimately compete for a championship?
This past decade served as a traumatic experience for Knicks fans, and the overall brand that is New York basketball. A franchise plagued by disappointment, underachievement, and shaky management found itself building something this past season. A playoff berth that ended in a sweep at the Boston Celtics’ expense only showed a glimpse of what the Knicks had been missing this past decade.
Certainly the acquisition of Stoudemire fueled the Knicks’ early success as did contributions from Landry Fields and others, but the acquisition of Anthony was what was supposed to place the Knicks over the top, but it did not. In fact that team started off 7-10 with Anthony, and ultimately finished 42-40—mediocre.
While fans expected the Knicks to surge out of the gate and dominate, most experts knew that last season was a transition year for the Knicks considering it would take more than 27 games for two offensive juggernauts in Stoudemire and Anthony to get reach their full potential.
Nonetheless Anthony put up his typical numbers averaging 26 points while shooting 47 percent, and Stoudemire single-handedly carried the team prior to Anthony’s arrival. But the ultimate goal of winning was not achieved.
As much as Anthony and Stoudemire are two of the most individually talented players the game has ever seen, they must learn how to play to each other’s abilities; certainly a difficult task considering both have been featured as the lead scorers throughout their whole careers.
Leading to the big question mark on the bench, Coach Mike D’Antoni, D’Antoni is on the hot seat, and many would argue if not for a lockout, D’Antoni would’ve been fired already. D’Antoni’s overall record as Knicks’ head coach stands at 103-143, last season being the only season he topped the .500 mark.
Next season is the last on D’Antoni’s four year contract, and a contract extension seems unlikely. Knicks’ brass may opt to go for a new head coach and a clean slate with this new Knicks squad, but I doubt they fire D’Antoni until after his contract is up. I wouldn’t bet on D’Antoni receiving an extension unless the team made huge strides, but he needs to find a way to get the two superstars to mesh together.
Shifting gears back to next season, the Knicks’ roster will be virtually the same roster, with the exception of rookie Iman Shumpert who should help with perimeter defense; this remains an incomplete roster with many holes, while lacking a style which will produce success.
The Knicks still need to find a starting point guard capable of playing the position for the long term future, rumor is they could go after the recently dealt Raymond Felton, or possibly pursue a bigger fish in Chris Paul. Chauncey Billups is suited more for a half-court style offense, plus he’ll turn 35 by next season’s start.
The Knicks need to find a more productive center as Ronny Turiaf is more suited coming off the bench as a defensive presence. The Knicks may be gearing for a run at Magic center Dwight Howard, but as of now that’s a long shot.
Eventually if the Knicks are serious about contending for a championship, they will also need to find a long term head coach, capable of implementing a system which will take advantage of the roster and position the Knicks for a championship run.
Many have brought up the name of former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy; others presume Phil Jackson will come back from retirement to coach the team he once played for. The past three seasons may have led the Knicks’ brass to conclude D’Antoni is not the long term answer.
To answer the question bluntly, no, the Knicks are still ways away from contending for an NBA title, but they do have the cornerstones that are Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in place. Roster upgrades and a head coaching change are needed, but let’s not forget the NBA is currently in a lockout that will end later rather than sooner.