The New York Knicks have endured in one of their best regular seasons in team history, finishing with an 54-28 record under Head Coach Mike Woodson. In Woodson’s first full training camp and season under his belt at the helm, the Knicks are one of only seven teams in the NBA that have surpassed the 50 win mark.
Led by superstar Carmelo Anthony, reigning defensive player of the year in Tyson Chandler, coupled with the veteran leadership of Jason Kidd, the Knicks have gone above and beyond this year, despite a few mid-season bumps in the road. However, not taking a single bit of credit away from the core of the team, it’s time to recognize the impact that Chris Copeland has had on this team.
Looking at the Copeland situation from another aspect, it’s about time the Knicks front office and coaching staff deserve an immense amount of credit for what I believe was arguably the best free-agent find of the year in the 29-year-old rookie. Copeland has provided a consistent scoring threat for the Knicks when Carmelo isn’t on the floor, and he’s earned his opportunity to showcase his talents in the playoffs.
Copeland is expected to start at small forward in game one against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, despite how crucial the post-season stage may be. Copeland has found himself in and out of the rotation all year long, but after his recent late season tear, he’s seemingly giving Woodson no option.
In the 12 games this season that Copeland has exceeded the 25-minute mark, he’s averaging an impressive 20.3 points per game. With Carmelo and JR Smith getting some extra rest during the final two games of the regular season, Copeland etched in stone he’s capable of scoring with the best, averaging 32.5 points, five rebounds and one block per game.
By no means was Copeland blessed with the smoothest path that finally led him to the NBA, but his hard work and determination has finally landed him a spot in this league. After growing up in Newark, Copeland spent four years playing basketball at the University of Colorado. Following his stint in college, he played one season with the NBA Development League’s Fort Wayne, before deciding to take his talent overseas, showcasing his skills in multiple countries. Copeland spent five seasons playing for Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and finally, Belgium.
After embarking in numerous NBA tryouts over the past few years, Copeland has found a home in New York. After receiving an invitation from the Knicks to join their summer league team, the rookie earned a spot in the team’s veteran camp. Copeland has proved that he can play at the highest level of basketball in the land, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Kudos to the Knicks front office and to the coaching staff whose helped evolve the once hidden basketball talent of Chris Copeland. It will be interesting to see how the gifted scorer responds from being rewarded his first career playoff start. As long as Copeland stays composed, motivated, and confident in his scoring ability, he will continue to fill a vital role in the Knicks rotation.