The New York Knicks have been playing short-handed and will continue to play short-handed as Amare Stoudemire is now out 6 weeks with yet another knee surgery and Carmelo Anthony continues to work himself back from a knee injury of his own. There was no pouting at Madison Square Garden on Saturday as the Knicks steamrolled the Utah Jazz. Yet, now they embark on a difficult road trip which will test their depth and resiliency as a team.
Five games on the West Coast against five teams who are either currently playoff teams or right in the mix to be one, four of those games are on national television. No Stoudemire and maybe no Carmelo for part of the trip (he is listed as probable tonight). Can the Knicks avoid an ugly losing streak that can bump them down from a #2 seed all the way down to a #5 or #6 seed?
We have already seen the Knicks deal with Stoudemire’s absence early in the season, when they raced out to a 18-6 start. They have also shown an ability to deal with a handful of games when Carmelo either isn’t playing or isn’t 100%. The reason they acquired so much depth this past off-season was to deal with the instability of a guy like Stoudemire.
Kenyon Martin, Chris Copeland and Marcus Camby are three names who immediately come to mind. In his limited action since joining the team, Martin has shown he can still make an impact on defense and around the basket. He has enough versatility to guard multiple positions and brings the needed shot of energy for a bench player. Copeland has shown an impressive ability to score the basketball despite still needing to make strides on defense. With a larger opportunity, he could carve himself a nice spot into the rotation as a needed bench scorer with Stoudemire out of the line-up. We know Camby brings defense and rebounding. He needs to provide a solid 8-12 minutes per night at backup center so Tyson Chandler is properly rested.
As for the regular rotation players, JR Smith is going to carry an ever bigger load as a scorer but to lighten the burden on him the Knicks need more consistent production from Iman Shumpert and Steve Novak. Shumpert needs to find some degree of confidence on offense and start attacking the basket more frequently. Novak has been streaky this season but the Knicks need him out there to space the floor.
There is no shortage of weapons on this Knicks roster and they are more than capable of holding their current lead in the Atlantic Division. This week will provide a strong test that hopefully they will rise to the occasion for.