Was this the greatest single week in the history of New York Knicks basketball?
No, no it wasn’t. But at times it felt like it, especially in the immediate seconds following not one, but TWO blowout victories over the Boston Celtics. Now the Knicks have won eight in a row and are peaking at the right time.
There have been contributions up and down the lineup since our last rankings, but none more striking or exciting than that coming from the sacred limbs and mind of Mr. J.R. Smith. Was winning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week enough for Smith to unseat Carmelo Anthony atop our rankings?
1. J.R. Smith (Last: 2) – In the words of Marv Albert, YUUUSSSS! (that means “yes”, by the way).
This is the first time someone not named Carmelo Anthony sits at the top. This doesn’t mean that J.R. Smith is the Knicks best player or that he’s better than Carmelo Anthony (although…ehh nevermind). Smith deserves this top spot for the week not just for putting up ridiculous numbers (three straight 30-plus point games off the bench, a 12-board output Sunday against Boston) but for the way he decided to go about doing it.
Players have reinvented their games before, but J.R.’s 180 has not just improved his game, it’s turned him into one of the league’s most dangerous offensive players and turned the Knicks back into a serious threat to Miami in the East. Smith always had the athleticism to become a complete offensive player, and why he hasn’t played with this “Getting to the hole no matter what” style before is why half of the league wanted nothing to do with him in the first place. Almost anyone with eyes knew it was there, but couldn’t figure out why Smith decided to only shoot 3s and take long contested 2s and punch people in the nuts and whatnot. However the hell Mike Woodson unearthed this, if he did, is reason enough to make him the coach of the year. Or maybe Smith realized he could make a lot more money by playing like this. Hmph.
2. Carmelo Anthony (Last: 1) – Melo wasn’t incredibly efficient in our ranking period, shooting 38-for-97 in the past four games, but has supplemented his scoring with some solid rebounding. He’s averaging nearly nine a game in the Knicks’ past five, and can register his third straight double-double tonight vs. the Heat.
3. Raymond Felton (Last: 3) – Felton has come alive a bit in the scoring department, and his recent shooting numbers suggest he should be looking to shoot a bit more. We don’t want Felton to chuck and take shots away from the suddenly efficient Smith or the far superior Anthony, but he’s shot 50% or higheroverall and from downtown in the past four games. Keep firing away. Also, five total turnovers in the past four games.
4. Jason Kidd (Last: 6) – Kidd hit one shot against Memphis last Wednesday, but it was – naturally – the biggest shot of the game by a country mile: the Knicks were possibly on the precipice of blowing a lead that was like 87 points at one time, but Kidd made a clutch 3 and got fouled while hitting it. Like in Brooklyn, Kidd missed the ensuing free throw. Whatup with that, J-Kidd? But Kidd moves up and gets this high in the rankings because of his continued stellar defense and ability to fill up the stat sheet consistently despite not shooting/scoring.
5. Tyson Chandler (Last: 4) – Chandler may play tonight against Miami, but it would just make sense to sit him another game, with the Heat pulling a San Antonio and half their good players not playing.
6. Pablo Prigioni (Last: 7) – The Knicks are 8-0 since Prigioni was inserted into the starting lineup. No further analysis or opinion needed.
7. Iman Shumpert (Last: 10) – Nice little jump for Shump (DON’T STEAL THAT, CLYDE). Someone needs to convince Iman that the first quarter lasts for 48 minutes, because our flat-topped hero keeps draining jumpers early on. The Grizzlies disrespected his range and overall offensive game and he made them pay, helping the Knicks jump out to that large early advantage. He’s shooting 42% from 3 this year: let’s keep this under wraps, folks, so that these teams keep leaving him open.
8. Kenyon Martin (Last: 5) – I was really looking forward to K-Mart unleashing a few hard fouls on The Heatles tonight. Apparently the Heat were expecting this too so they decided to keep LeBron and Co. far, far away from Martin. Kenyon’s numbers didn’t exactly follow suit from last week’s renaissance, but that’s all good – 16 fouls in the last four games makes us smile.
9. Steve Novak (Last: 12) – It remains to be seen whether or not Novak will get any looks once the playoffs start, but let’s all hope he does. He hit 11-of-23 overall and 9-of-18 from behind the arc in the last four games, playing right around 18 minutes a game. The Knicks will sign up for that from him in the postseason right now.
10. Chris Copeland (Last: 8) – Copeland was mostly quiet last week but ran wild against Boston on Sunday with 22 points in 20 minutes. He probably won’t see much time in the playoffs given the defensive struggles, but can sure give the Knicks some offense in a pinch if needed.
11. Amare Stoudemire (Last: 9) – I really like Amar’e and will always appreciate his coming to the Knicks back in the Summer of 2010, but the Knicks keep seeming to go on these long winning streaks without him, no?
12. Marcus Camby (Last: 13) – It seems as though my hope for Camby playing a small but vital defense/rebounding role in the playoffs is a pipe dream.
13. James White (Last: 14) – No dunks this week from Flight, right?
14. Kurt Thomas (Last: 11) – Best moral support from the bench a playoff team could ask for.