As of Friday morning, I spent 75% of my weeknights forgoing healthy sleep in order to watch the New York Knicks, which proved to be a stupid exercise because the Knicks decided to play basketball very poorly those three nights. Aside from J.R. Smith scoring 11 straight points (to the devastating chagrin of Mike Breen) in the fourth quarter against Portland to cut the Blazers’ lead temporarily to four, the second halves the past three games have been sideshows, one-sided beat downs from various Western Conference teams. Great fun.
And worse off, on Wednesday, Knicks’ knees started disintegrating again. Carmelo Anthony – unsuccessful in his much-awaited return to Denver – took himself out of the game in the third quarter. Then, Knick-for-8-seconds Corey Brewer clumsily collided with Tyson Chandler, who hit the deck clutching his knee and pounding on the floor, depositing hearts in throats across Knicks Nation. Truthfully we have no idea how long Chandler will be out, because the Knicks won’t ever be remotely honest about an injury. We’d like to think that since he’s listed as day-to-day that that’s accurate, but it’s wait and see.
And so the Knicks have seen their lead in the Atlantic Division trimmed down to a single game, with the Brooklyn Nets nipping at their heels. But does anybody really, honestly care all that much about raising a 2012-13 Atlantic Division Champions banner in the rafters? Obviously that’s nobody’s end-game, so let’s stop worrying about the standings for just a bit. Yes, it would be nice if the Knicks could win a division and/or grab home court advantage in the first round. But somehow miraculously winning the division without Anthony or Chandler isn’t going to do much good. It’ll mean nothing. The Knicks need those two to be totally healthy in time for the playoffs. That’s the most important thing right now.
That and avoiding Miami in the playoffs until as late as possible, which means that unless the Knicks plummet to 8th, they’ll at least have a first round matchup with someone else in the East. And do the other teams in the East really, truly scare you to death? Of course the Knicks could lose a playoff series to the likes of Indiana, Chicago, Boston, Brooklyn or Atlanta. But, if healthy, there’s also no reason to believe the Knicks would have zero shot against any of those teams. Indiana and Chicago, specifically, are bad matchups and have given the Knicks fits so far this season. I would favor the Pacers in a seven game series right now against our Knicks, but personally I’m not going to shake in my boots entering a playoff series against a team whose best player is Paul George. To say a healthy Knicks team would have NO CHANCE against anyone in the East not named Miami is shortsighted.
However, the Knicks actually don’t have any chance at all if Anthony and/or Chandler aren’t healthy. In order for the Knicks to compete in the playoffs and beat the likes of Indiana, Boston, Brooklyn etc., they need both their best player and their most important player (novel concept, eh?). So while the Knicks’ play over the past few months is alarming and a cause for concern, the Knicks are still right in the mix with the rest of the non-Heat, Eastern Conference muddle. That’s just fine.
And their best chance to separate themselves from that mediocrity and set up a date with the Heat is by getting Anthony and Chandler back healthy. Only then can the team try to regain its play from the beginning of the season. And if they can, they can set themselves up with a chance against Miami. And let’s not worry about that until we hopefully get there.