The NBA is officially back, pending a vote by both the owners and the players. This means that we can finally get back to talking about actual basketball that we know, for sure, will take place. With the season being less than a month away it is time to take inventory of what the Knicks are going to be facing this season; it appears aside from the grueling schedule which will include at least two sets of back-to-back-to-backs, the Knicks will also have to overcome the issue of chemistry in order to succeed this season.
The Knicks stumbled a bit out of the gate to begin last season, however once that group of largely new players learned to play with each other, they started to gel together and win games. Then, when Donnie Walsh pulled the trigger on the Carmelo deal the Knicks pretty much hit the reset button and had to begin this process all over again. This was clearly represented in their win-loss record.
The team was 14-14 after the Carmelo Anthony trade as well as an unfortunate 8-10 in 18 games that Anthony, Stoudemire and Billups played together. Simply put, the Knicks did not have the same opportunity as they did early on in the season to solidify as a unit and establish their team identity. It also has to be noted that several key players including Billups and Amar’e suffered late season injuries, which were a big part of the reason for the Knicks stumbling to the finish, as well as the first round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
The shortened season could be a blessing or a curse for this Knick team. On the one hand, it should give them ample opportunity to play together and establish enough chemistry to make a run in the playoffs; on the other hand, playing that many games in such a short amount of time could be catastrophic for guys like Billups and Stoudemire, who both have a history of injuries.
This is where we will see Mike D’Antoni really challenged as a coach. D’Antoni is a guy who has a track record of playing rather short rotations, but If he wants to preserve a healthy roster for the playoffs he is going to have to have to manage the minutes of his stars. If not, this season could end up being a huge disaster for the Knicks, and could spell the end of the D’Antoni era in New York.
It is also worth mentioning that if the Knicks plan on adding another star like Paul, Williams or Howard next season—which for all intensive purposes it feels like they are headed that way—than whatever chemistry is built this season will have to be reestablished with whatever parts remain after the next big move.
The questions remain, if the Knicks can stay healthy, and pull together over the course of 66 games this year—and those are big ifs—than we could be looking at a serious contender, both in the regular season, and deep into the playoffs.
Whichever way this season shakes out, one thing is for sure: this season is going to be a memorable one, for better, or for worse.