There have been so many questions in the past few years it’s hard to put a number on it. Where will Lebron sign? Will they trade for ‘Melo? Will they keep Lin? These are all questions that we finally got the answer to.
For this season we already have some answers to our questions: What will Pablo Prigioni bring to the team? He showed that in Games one and two he is a pass-first savvy point guard. He can run an offense well, and is more than capable of being a third string point guard for this team. How will Carmelo look after the Olympics? He has looked in shape, and motivated on offense and defense. What will Coach Woodson’s fully formed offense look like? Very similar to a D’antoni offense in a lot of ways, which is a good thing if you watched how well Team USA utilized the offense this summer. Woodson plans on implementing some more low post plays when Amar’e returns to the line-up this Friday.
For every question we know the answer to, there is about five more that we don’t. Let’s look at five of the most significant questions heading into this season.
1) How will Raymond Felton perform this season, and will it be enough to avenge the loss of Jeremy Lin?
All signs point to a good year for Felton. He came into camp in great shape, and has pushed the tempo so far in the preseason. Felton has also developed great chemistry with Tyson Chandler, and I foresee many alley-oops to come. The main knock on Felton is that he is coming off one of the worst seasons in his career. He is not a great shooter, which may become a weakness for this team. Felton also can sometimes make a questionable pass that results in a turnover, but overall has good vision.
The Felton we had a few years ago is not the one we want or will get. It is unreasonable to expect him to average 17 points per game on this team. 12 points and 8 assists would be considered a solid year in my eyes. People have to remember that with the veteran guards on this team it is going to be a committee of different players racking up assists.
This is an easy one. If we can keep Kidd, Prigioni, Camby, Thomas, and Wallace healthy throughout this season, then I expect us to be one of the top 4 teams in the Eastern Conference. I think people are underrating theses guys, and are more concerned with our average age than our overall talent. I have said time and time again that these players are not Juwan Howard’s or Erick Dampier’s, they are players who have been contributing to winning teams for years with little drop off. Yes, Kidd is coming off a so-so season, but he is no longer starting. There are different expectations.
Carmelo Anthony is the backbone of this team, if he goes down, so does the ship, but these role players are exactly that. They all have key roles on this team, and have been brought in by a front office with a purpose: win now.
3) How will Mike Woodson do in his first full season as the Head Coach?
This will be interesting, because he is in a tough spot. He came in for a coach in the middle of the season, and led the team to an 18-6 record. That is a .750 win percentage, which is amazing. The question is more accurately then: can he reproduce his results from the end of last season?
The answer is not an easy one, but there is one thing on his side. This team has improved over the offseason, and not only have they improved overall they have also improved to fit his game plan. Defensive minded players were brought in. Hakeem Olajuwon introduced some low-post moves to STAT, ‘Melo, and Tyson. Major upgrades for Woodson. The only major issue with Woodson, in my opinion, is his past failures in the post-season. Last season, after coming into the playoffs with major momentum we received a major let down. In Atlanta, he never advanced past the second round even with a 50+ win team.
4) What will be this team’s identity?
There are many ways this team can go. It is hard to base it on the preseason games, because the team will play differently when STAT returns to the lineup. Before pre-season many thought that the team was going to play slow, grind it out, half court offense. That has not been the team we have seen. There has been a lot of screen, picks and rolls, and ball movement. That is not how a typical Woodson team plays, but he may be changing his tune.
The team has a lot going for it. They have two scoring stars, but then have two defensive anchors all within the starting line-up. After that there is a bench that
definitely will play with a ton of emotion and heart. If I had to put a label on it, I would define the team’s identity as a multi-facetted team with a defensive focus, and that will be what wins us games in June.
1) You all knew it would be here: Will Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony be able to play effectively on the same court?
Can you say season storyline? This is the biggest question not only of this year, but of the past two and a half years. Can the two star players actually star together? The past does not boast the results a fan would want to hear. They have not only failed to impress together, but they have failed to both be healthy long enough to gain on-court chemistry. Last year, Amar’e and ‘Melo both missed significant amount of time. Couple that with only half of a real training camp, and you can understand why they have not performed well together.
It comes down to this: can Mike Woodson make it work? He has said that it’s his responsibility, and that he thinks he can get it done. This is their first real training camp together, and they both have come in with new game plans. ‘Melo has said he will score less, and trust his teammates more. Amar’e has improved his post game in order to allow for better spacing while the two players are both on the floor. Do I think they are an ideal pairing? I do not. But do I think they can play together successfully? It doesn’t matter what I think. Only proven results can answer this question.