On Christmas day, the New York Knicks and their fans had a lot to be thankful for. They were playing some great basketball, with a record of 20-7, ranking first place in the Eastern Conference. It just seemed like they were clicking on all cylinders, and were a team to be messed with; not only in Eastern Conference, but in the NBA.
That day, the Knicks fell to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers 100-94. Not only did they lose the game, but they also lost their starting point guard Raymond Felton to a fractured pinkie.
Felton has missed 11 games before Thursday, and the Knicks have gone 5-6 in his absence.
Knicks fans and analysts around the league have become skeptical of New York because of this recent slide, including their home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday. The Knicks went from third in the power rankings to ninth over the past couple of weeks without Felton, and many are scared they will not be able to make a legitimate playoff run.
Felton, almost a month since his injury, is very close to returning and is anticipated to be in the lineup as soon as Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Have no fear Knick fans! Our starting point guard is almost back!
This bad stretch of games is just a simple case of an injury plagued team. It is not an easy task to suddenly continue to win games without your starting point guard, especially one that averaged 15.8 points and 6.3 assists per game prior to his injury.
With Felton back, the Knicks offense will be back to normal. New York averaged over 102 points per game with Felton (only 98 without). With him back, Jason Kidd will be able to get much more rest and more effective playing time, especially with the return of Iman Shumpert.
Along with this, you can also expect not only Tyson Chandler, but Amar’e Stoudemire to be much more effective on offense. Chandler has shot only 63 percent from the floor without his starting point guard (where he was around 70 percent with him), and Stoudemire and Felton had great success together in the 2010-2011 season, when Amar’e was a serious MVP contender.
Felton’s ability to slash and penetrate defenses will open up easy looks (and dunks) for whoever may be on the floor with him. Let’s not forget that Felton led a Knicks team to a 20 point blowout of the Miami Heat without Carmelo Anthony!
He is the unsung hero of this Knicks team and you can expect the Knicks to become a serious contender again with him back and healthy.