Nobody loves football more than me but in terms of the New York City, straight up, there is nothing that gets people more excited than when the Knicks are playing well. This is a basketball town that is starving for a team to take seriously and this season they have it…in a big way.
17-18 isn’t good enough at the All-Star break. Yet let’s remember a few key realities, this team has not had a single second to practice together as the unit they will be in the second half of the season. These first 35 games have been a mish-mash of: playing without Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire, being led by three different primary point guards and having new additions like JR Smith and Baron Davis learn on the fly.
The fact that the Knicks play one game between now and March 4th is a godsend. They could have a mini-camp and get some type of cohesion going. They may be 17-18 but they are 3.5 games out of first place in their division and 3.5 games out of the 6 seed in the East. Without question, the primary goal is to avoid a 7 or 8 seed and match-up with Chicago or Miami in the first round. There is no reason the Knicks, as currently constructed can’t accomplish that, they have the ability to assert themselves as the third best team in the Eastern Conference and work towards being on Miami and Chicago’s level.
We saw last night, the Knicks are still a clear cut behind Miami. That is okay and understandable. Hopefully, they aren’t worrying about getting on that level until the 2nd round of the playoffs or the Eastern Conference Finals. Right now it is about proving they are better than the 76ers, Pacers, Hawks, and Magic and I believe they are, especially once they get some practice time under their belt.
March is going to provide quite the test for this team. Their schedule is nothing short of brutal. 17 games from March 4th to March 31st, with at least 10 of them being against sure fire playoff teams. They need to come out with a 10-7 or 11-6 record and make their move up the standings.
There are no excuses for this team. Amare Stoudemire needs to pick his play up and be the All-Star power forward he has been his whole career. Carmelo Anthony needs to be the top five player in the league he is capable of being. They have more than enough of a supporting cast now, led by one of the best centers in the NBA in Tyson Chandler, a rising star at point guard in Jeremy Lin and a deep, high-powered bench led by JR Smith, Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis.
Is this a team a championship contender? You are damn right they are. They are going to get into the tournament and once they do, anything can happen especially with the players on their roster. There is no reason this has to be a Cinderella run from the 7 or 8 seed, this team should be able to claw their way to a 3 or 4 seed and gear up to take down one of the big boys of the East in round two. Chicago can be beat in a 7 game series. They don’t have a second scorer. Miami can be beat in a 7 game series. LeBron James will disappear the bigger the moment gets and they don’t have a half-court offense…even though they play some kind of defense as we learned all too well last night.
Either way, get excited New York City the next few months should be fun.