The New York Knicks began this season as a punchline to many NBA analysts. They were a collection of mismatched, over the hill veterans put around a me-first gunner who couldn’t carry a team, the worst contract in the NBA and an impossible to coach bench scorer. Their offense was going to be ran by a downgrade from Jeremy Lin at point guard and they’d be forced to put too much on the plate of his aged backup. Yes, they’d be a playoff team in the watered down East but nothing more than a middling, slightly over .500 group who was destined for another first round wash out.
Many fans of this team have allowed this perception to diminish their enjoyment of the best New York Knicks season in well over a decade. Take a step back. This team is 48-26 with 9 games to go, with a comfortable 5 game lead in the Atlantic Division. They are currently the #2 seed in their conference and have the 7th best overall record in the NBA. Outside of a disappointing stretch in the middle of the season, they have put together a 18-6 run and a 10-0 run, where they have played as well as ANY team in the entire league. A home game 1 is coming back to Madison Square Garden (maybe more than once), how long has it been?
Carmelo Anthony has had an efficient, highly productive year highlighted by his 90 point explosion over the past two games. Does he have flaws? Yes. Is he LeBron James? Of course not. It doesn’t mean that he can’t lead a deep playoff run with this group of talent around him. When Anthony is playing like he is playing right now, the Knicks can compete with anybody…including the Miami Heat. Why?
You aren’t getting the gunning, offense killing JR Smith as your number two scorer anymore. You have a potential 6th man of the Year who is now attacking the basket and has refined his all-around game. You still have Tyson Chandler patrolling the middle. You have a surprising shot of front-court depth and athleticism thanks to Kenyon Martin who has allowed the Knicks to not miss Amare Stoudemire and keep him relegated to an offensive role player if he returns. And for all the concerns over point guard, you have Raymond Felton having a steady, productive year where he is slightly outperforming Jeremy Lin despite Lin playing in the freewheeling, wide open Houston offense. Felton has also been effectively supplemented by Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni who is now 10-0 as a starter for the Knicks. Throw in a continuing to improve Iman Shumpert, who is now hitting his open shots and you have the biggest threat to Miami in the East.
Knicks fans can’t allow the LeBron/Miami dark cloud to hang over this regular season, which has included a pair of phenomenal runs (including one currently going on). The Knicks have positioned themselves to control their own destiny, grab the number two seed and put themselves on a crash course with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Despite the lack of national respect, it is the Knicks who have the best chance to upset the Miami Mega Team, not Indiana…not Brooklyn…certainly not the Celtics. Over the course of a seven game series, the Knicks have both the depth and the offensive firepower to steal a few games and make it interesting. Indiana doesn’t have two guys who can rip off 30 points on any given night with Tyson Chandler supporting them defensively. No other team has the collection of three point shooters who are capable of getting hot and taking over a game.
People are quick to bury the Knicks and crack jokes when they went through a stretch of .500 basketball in the middle of the year but hesitant to give credit when they rip off 10 in a row at the season’s most critical time. Signings like Kenyon Martin are joked about until he is incredibly effective and the Celtics are trotting out Shavlik Randolph and Terrence WIlliams for rotation minutes.
This is a damn good Knicks team from top to bottom and one who is fully capable of having a memorable playoff run. Don’t diminish their accomplishments so far this year just because Miami is in their Conference.