Preseason moves rapidly and the season will soon be upon us. The fact is the New York Knicks can’t take preseason too lightly. Anyone who has played on any playground, any team in any state knows losing is just not fun. Winning is more than a fly-by-night experience; it must run in the athletes blood. LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, understood the importance of winning.
To date, I have been and watched every Summer League game in Las Vegas and every preseason game. Unfortunately, they looked similar — sloppy, unorganized, with many blaring weaknesses in the team. There are many questions new GM Steve Mills must begin asking himself now. First and foremost, is this a championship team?
My response: an emphatic no!
To win a championship there are many questions that need to be answered.
Will the Knicks surpass their 50 plus win last season?
To do this, the Knicks will have to remain healthy. If preseason is any mirror of the season, it’s unlikely with the current roster unless Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani, Raymond Felton, elevate their games and Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler remain healthy.Amar’e Stoudemire is the sleeper. I spoke with noted a orthopaedic surgeon who says there is a chance if the surgery was mild, he could come back and have a good year. But the Knicks staff keeps everything under tight wraps as no answers or records were made available, and the doctors dance around any real answers. Amar’e will remain the wild card until we see him on the court.Will the Glen Grunwald demotion affect this team?
Glen Grunwald did many good things during his tenure, but he dropped the ball last season. Bargnani has a chance to be the complement Carmelo and this would represent a great addition. So far in the preseason, he has not found his shooting touch and is not a capable rebounder. He reminds me of former Maryland All American, Knick player Tom McMillen. Tom came to the Knicks as a number 1 pick after Willis Reed retired. The fans saw and wanted him as a 6’11” center, but McMillen, who had a long solid career before becoming a congressman, was really a three or a four. Tom’s rookie year showed his poorest shooting year at .432% in 11 years he never shot under .460%. Coach Woodson played Bargnani at center the last game, and must learn he simply is not a center. If he plays him there, he will lose his confidence and the fans will boo him. He needs to play opposite Carmelo where they can continue to build their chemistry, which is the best thing I have seen this season.
If Grunwald was looking to make an impact move, there could’ve been other players available that would have made more sense on this team than Bargnani.
Will Andrea Brignani make a comeback?
I think he will be a solid addition to the offense and help Carmelo’s game. He is not in season form yet and his shooting has been off, but he goes to the basket well and will force teams not to drop off into the paint leaving Carmelo with more room, more open shots.
When will James Dolan announce that Alan Houston is the new general manager?
It might just be a matter of time. Remember, he could have brought in Mills and left Grunwald at GM, but they obviously know the talent is not there. As Mills filled the president slot, they knew a new, more aggressive GM was needed to keep Carmelo. Everyone likes Allan Houston. I like Allan Houston, but that is not enough. Many of the top GMs were not NBA player. In fact, some of the most respected (and some of my favorite) GMs weren’t even NBA players:
1. Daryl Morey- Houston Rockets
2. Sam Presti- Oklahoma City Thunder
3. R.C. Buford -San Antonio Spurs
4. Massa Ujiri- Toronto Raptors
5. Pat Riley- Miami Heat
Does Allan Houston have the background to deal with Morey and Ujiri, two of the top horse traders in the NBA? Unlikely. I’d rather bring in an experienced man. This is New York, I would try to get my one through four. We had and lost Riley. Since he has three championships to the Knicks’ zero. A good GM is needed.
And there are other player-related questions, too.
Will Amare Stoudemire, remain injury free?
I think we will get sound bites from Amar’e and he will miss games due to knees, back , etc. But if he is ready and can stay healthy for the playoffs, he is the unknown factor all teams need to win.
Will Raymond Felton become an elite point guard?
I hope so, but through several years of playing in the NBA, the answer is certainly not. Felton is too conscious of what everyone thinks. The two-point-guard backcourt of him and Pablo Prigioni is one of the Knicks’ most efficient lineups, but it causes other complications. It affects the growth of Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr., and when J.R. Smith returns, there will be three natural two-guards playing out of position.
Felton averaged 17 points his last go-round with the Knicks. He needs to bring that aggressive game back to the Garden every night, even if the team and style are different.
Will Carmelo Anthony lead the Knicks or will he exit New York?
I love Carmelo and think he is the one Knick who came to camp ready. He could save beat writers a lot of headlines and fans a lot of misery if he just ended the speculation and agreed to re-sign. This year will show what type of man he is. He’s not out of the woods yet, though. Recall his ‘Melo-drama during his time in Denver.
Is Coach Woodson the Right Coach?
Mike Woodson has a good demeanor for this team, and he’s arguably the best coach the Knicks have had in several years. He is more than a good X-and-Os man, he is a father figure to many of these players. He is a great communicator, but is also growing on the job and needs to step up his game, along with some of his palyers. He needs to play a true two guard, give up the two-point-guard offense, be tougher on Raymond Felton, and either find or develop a back up center. Letting Earl Barron go to China may have hurt this squad. Barron would have offered a capable and experienced backup. In the last game he played Cole Aldrich only 16 minutes. With Chandler out, he should have played him 30 minutes. No player can thrive when they are always looking over their shoulder and are brought in and out of game. Ike Diogu went from Siberia playing only 6 minutes in prior game to scoring 21 against the Celtics. He may not be as athletic as Josh Powell, but he has a nose for the basket and plays tough.
So, Coach, who will it be? Can you get J.R. Smith under control? Can you win 50 games and not burn out your starters? Who will be your back up center? Will you give Aldrich a real chance, or who are you going to bring in? Can you make Shumpert a top tier two guard, an All-Star? Can you get this team to play defense for 48 minutes? Without Jason Kidd to help you out, who will control the pace and atmosphere of the game? Your work is just beginning, Woodson.
There are still so many questions to be asked with the season aground the corner. Hopefully we will get the answers as the season begins.