The Knicks are off to an outstanding start to the season, exciting New Yorkers everywhere. It was the first time since 1992 the Knicks started 8-0. But the team is taking the season one step at a time, not feeding into the hype. Its first goal is a division title. But what makes this team so fascinating?
First there’s coach Mike Woodson. Looking at last season, before Woodson, the Knicks had a powerful roster, including three superstars: Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. Their success didn’t demonstrate this. What was lacking? Chemistry and defense. Although there is still speculation about the team’s chemistry, Woodson brought the ball movement and the trust on defense that the team needed. Under Woodson’s tutelage, the Knicks have become a more defensive-oriented team. The Knicks have developed into a dominant home court team. Also, there’s Woodson’s lack of favoritism; he holds all players accountable, no matter if they are starters or are bench players. Woodson approaches his players if he sees something in their game or attitude he doesn’t approve of. This attitude has developed a team-oriented Knicks.
What else can we attribute to the newfound fluidity of the Knicks roster? Veteran players Jason Kidd, 39, Kurt Thomas, 40, and Marcus Camby, 38, Rasheed Wallace, 39, bring maturity and experience to the team, doubling as players and coaches. The veterans don’t get overly hyped by wins or beaten down over loses. They have been helping the Knicks through the low points that are inevitable throughout a basketball season.
Among the veteran players, Kidd has made the greatest impact. It is undeniable that Kidd is one of the best NBA guards ever. Although he is no longer at the peak of his career, Kidd has brought offensive-fluidity and maturity. His age has not deterred him from successfully making three-pointers, moving the ball, and getting assists and steals. Kidd is vocal, doubling as a player and coach on the floor. The basketball I.Q. Kidd possesses is unbelievable.
Not enough can be said about the Knicks superstars: Anthony, Chandler, and Stoudemire.
Anthony has been playing at an extraordinary level. In the past, he was labeled as a selfish and poor defensive player. Many questioned his team play and his ability to work together with others. “It’s all about the win,” Anthony has repeatedly said. “I’ll do whatever I have to do to help the team.” These words wouldn’t mean anything if they weren’t backed up. But Melo has gone above and beyond expectations. You can see the thirst to win in his eyes and in his intense play. His ability to create, ability to make big shots when needed, trust in his teammates, and intensity on defense has made him an early contender for MVP. “Many games come down to the fact that the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, and the other team doesn’t,” said Allan Hahn, MSG Network’s Knicks studio analyst.
Chandler came to the Knicks in the 2011-2012, coming off of a championship win with the Dallas Mavericks. Chandler’s defense was a major reason for that title. He has brought that defense with him. His leadership and vocal nature has helped others improve as all-around players. This behavior granted Chandler the title of defensive player of the year for his efforts in 2012. He was the first Knick to ever acquire this title. Chandler also has an offensive role. Chandler has made the alley-oop, especially from Felton, a major play for the Knicks – as well as mastering tipping out the ball for offensive rebounds.
There has been a great amount of talk about Stoudemire. Stoudemire suffered an early injury and missed more than 20 games. Though, there has been more talk beyond Stat’s propensity to injury. His ability to succeed on defense and ability to work well with Anthony have been constantly called into question – especially since the Knicks have had much success without Stoudemire. No matter how you define Stat, you cannot deny his team-oriented nature, his determination, and his ability to overcome adversity. Woodson has been working with him on defensive rotations and he has been improving. Stat’s offense will come with time. He has become a bench player coming back into the rotation and his minutes are being monitored. The future is unclear, but it is undeniable the team needs his height and prowess in the paint. Stoudemire is willing to do anything to help the team.
This Knicks talent runs deep. The other starters and bench players consist of JR Smith, Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert, Chris Copeland, Ronnie Brewer, and James White. Raymond Felton is the starting point guard, whose grit and intensity make him the perfect, New York point guard. Smith has been the sixth man off the bench, always stepping up when the team needs him. He hit two game-winning, buzzer beaters in the month of December. The bench as a whole has always been there when the team needs them. They step up when getting the opportunity and are crucial to the New York Knicks.
The Knicks are a team of overcoming adversity. Injuries constantly bedevil New York. From Stoudemire, to Shumpert, to Wallace, to Camby, to Anthony, to Felton: players are constantly having to sit out games. The beauty of the Knicks is that they run so deep that there is usually someone to pick up the slack when key players are injured.
There are so many components to the early success of the Knicks, and fans hope they can keep up the pace. It will be fun to see New York going through the inevitable ups and downs of the long NBA season. Fingers crossed the Knicks will come out on top, thriving on their strengths rather than being brought down by loses and low points.