When Donnie Walsh traded Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford in November the New York Knicks automatically made themselves the front runners for the LeBron James sweepstakes in the summer of 2010.
Everyone wrote them off for dead, expecting the Knicks to just roll over and die until that magical free-agent summer when James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh would be available.
Apparently, the Knicks did not receive the memo.
Since those two trades to shed salary for 2010, Mike D'Antoni has led the Knicks to a respectable 5-6 record including an upset of the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden last week.
With various injuries to Nate Robinson and Quentin Richardson the Knicks have played the majority of those games short handed. Making the most out of the extra playing time, sophomore small forward Wilson Chandler and veteran David Lee have shown that they can be productive starters in the NBA.
Plus, upon his arrival in the Big Apple, Al Harrington has been a scoring machine in the low post while Chris Duhon has been the pass-first, shoot-second guard which New York has been lacking the past few seasons.
With approximately one-fourth of the season complete, the Knicks currently stand at 11-12 and are fighting for second place in the Atlantic Division as well as the eighth and final postseason seed in the Eastern Conference.
The knock against the Knicks this season has been that the majority of teams they have beaten are owners of poor records, while they have fallen victim to the better teams around the NBA.
While this may be true, to be competitive and successful in the NBA you need to win the games that you are supposed to. The Knicks need to beat teams that are in similar positions as themselves; mediocre teams that will be fighting for a playoff spot come March and April.
And they have. The Knicks have recently defeated Washington, New Jersey, and Detroit and have played tight games against Atlanta, Portland, and Chicago.
The month of January will let the rest of the league know if the Knicks are contenders or just pretenders. Throughout the duration of the month, the Knicks welcome Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, and Boston to the Garden and head on the road to face Dallas, Houston, and New Orleans.
All of those teams are championship material and will give the Knicks their most difficult test of the season. That stretch will determine if the Knicks will be in position to fight for the postseason.
For the Knicks to pass that test, it is imperative for Richardson and Robinson to stay healthy, while Harrington, Lee, and Chandler need to play at the same level they are currently at. If not, the Knicks will fall victim to the same fate they have become accustomed to in recent years.
Only time will tell how the season will play out for the New York Knicks, but at the very least Mike D'Antoni is keeping things interesting in the Big Apple.