The New York Knickerbockers have been playing some inspired basketball lately. Yes, they have had a few hiccups along the way, but recently it seems they have found their way to playing competitive and exciting basketball on a nightly basis. And while coach Mike D’Antoni is not known as a defensive mind, he certainly has guided this team in the right direction.
The real strength of this team is their depth. Every night they have 10 or 11 guys getting minutes, which is invaluable to a run and gun team like the Knicks. Last Sunday’s game in Detroit, where the Knicks were shorthanded, was the hallmark of the season so far. Playing without their energy guys in Ronny Turiaf and Toney Douglas, the Knicks outlasted an inferior Detroit Piston team in double OT. The starters played a majority of the minutes, but guys like Roger Mason and Shawne Williams were scraped off the bench and contributed positive minutes.
Combine this depth with the growth of players such as home grown Knicks Danilo Gallinari (15.5 ppg) and Wilson Chandler (16.8 ppg), the guts and toughness of Raymond Felton, and the savvy of rookie Landry Fields and you have the makings of a very exciting team.
The one big difference about this team is the man in the middle and the prize of their offseason, Amar’e Stoudemire. The Knicks took a calculated risk giving this superstar player more money than any other team, but it has certainly paid off. They haven’t had a game changer of this magnitude since #33 donned the orange and blue. Not only has Stoudemire performed on the court, 24.1 ppg and 8.6 rpg, and 2 blocks, “Stat” has provided leadership on and off the court as well. He is seen constantly encouraging the team during games and not afraid to shoulder some of the blame for the team’s struggles. He has been worth every penny to the team so far, who currently stand at a game over .500 at 10-9.
There are, however, still some kinks to be worked out. Timofey Mozgov lacks the basketball IQ and smoothness needed to play in the NBA, but has shown glimpses. Anthony Randolph has been inconsistent in his minutes this year. The team also has defensive lapses during games. Let’s not even mention the albatross known as Eddy Curry’s fat contract.
Four of their next five games are against sub .500 teams before Melo, the Celtics, and the Heat trifecta invade the Garden. Hopefully the Knicks can fatten up before the heavy hitters come to town and stay on their recent path to success.