Who would have thought the Knicks would be the last team to lose this season? Or currently post the best record (8-2) in the NBA?
I sure didn’t
And this isn’t because they’re incapable of this feat but the fact that this remarkable start has come without All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire. It’s truly refreshing to watch the Knicks get the job done playing “team basketball” without any hero ball, fame seeking, or short term fixes (Jeremy Lin cough cough). The Knicks have put the NBA universe on notice with wins against the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Indiana Pacers that they deserve to be consider title contenders this season. And with their firm grasp over a very competitive Atlantic Division, here are three reasons why their hot start is legitimate.
1. Carmelo Anthony
The Knicks’ success starts and ends with ‘Melo-it’s that simple.
That’s why they gave so much to bring him to the Garden. Everyone knew what they were getting: multiple time All-Star with one of the best offensive games in league. Indeed the past season and half has not been ideal but now we’re getting to see a more focused Anthony wants to be more than just a “scorer.”
Tyson Chandler has notice a change in Anthony’s mentality as well:
“He’s a completely different player,” Chandler said. “I think the USA experience did wonders for him. I think he’s hungry to take it to the next level and win . . . He’s doing all the little things it takes to actually win from practicing hard, focusing at shootarounds, playing defense, communicating on the basketball floor. He’s a real leader out there. It’s fun to watch. He’s the biggest part of our success.”
Anthony realizes he has no excuse this season. He has the coach he wants, the offense he likes, and team built around him that wants to contend. It’s time go out perform and that’s exactly what he’s doing right now.
2. Defensive Edge
The Knicks are currently third in points allowed (91.4) and it’s because of their two headed defensive monster, Tyson Chandler and Rasheed Wallace. Since arriving to the Big Apple, Chandler has always been vocal on the court with defensive schemes but now with Wallace there’s another voice helping:
“Last year, a lot of the times, my voice was the only voice out there,” said Tyson Chandler. “I may be focusing on the left side of the floor, and I can hear Rasheed’s voice from the bench. That alerts me, and I’m able to get everyone else’s attention.”
Despite not being able to physically impact the game like he used to, Wallace has provided effective defensive instructions that will help this team stay competitive with any team on any given night. It’s very obvious defense wins championships and now the Knicks are playing the brand of defense that will hopefully take them to the promise land.
With Stoudemire down, the Knicks needed other players to step up and replace his scoring. And multiple players have answered this calling. J.R. Smith has provided the Knicks with instant offense averaging 15.9 points and scoring 17 or better in half of his games so far this season. Raymond Felton has given the Knicks much needed stability at starting point guard and has also chipped in with scoring. Even Jason Kidd at the ripe old age of 39 has made noticeable impact both on and off the court.
But the biggest X-factor so far this season, has been the Knicks’ willingness to live and die by the three. They led the league in 3-point field goal attempts (27.7), makes (11.2), and are fourth in 3-point field percentage (.404). The Knicks have made teams pay for doubling and focusing their attentions on Anthony, “We’re not looking for our shot. We’re looking for the best shot possible” says Smith.
The Knicks are looking like a championship caliber and the scary part is they will only get better with Stoudemire back at full strength. If the Knicks keep playing unselfishly there’s no telling how deep their playoff run can be this season.