New York Knicks: 5 Questions Heading Into the Preseason
New York Knicks: 5 Questions Heading Into Preseason
The New York Knicks will begin their preseason against the Washington Wizards on Thursday night at 7PM. However, before that game takes place, let’s take a moment to think about the Knicks’ offseason.
New York has acquired several players such as Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, and Ronnie Brewer (to name a few), while resigning key players of last year’s team including as J.R. Smith and Steve Novak. The Knicks let Jeremy Lin walk and sign with the Houston Rockets, making way for Felton to return to the Big Apple after a brief stint in New York in the early part of the 2010-2011 season. During his time as a Knick, Felton put up 17 PPG and 9 APG.
Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler won gold in London as parts of Team USA in the 2012 Olympics. ‘Melo was among the highest scorers on the team, despite not receiving the amount of minutes as the likes of Kevin Durant and LeBron James, while Chandler was the sole true center, and one of the leading defensive presences, of the squad.
The Knicks have a revamped rivalry with the relocated Brooklyn Nets- the brand new Barclays Center will be christened on opening night with a game between the two teams, both of which believe that they own the state. The Nets have been very outspoken about the rivalry, claiming that they are the real team in New York. Anthony and Smith have made news with reporters recently, as well, but for different reasons than their Brooklyn counterparts. ‘Melo told the press that he wants to be a “better teammate” this year and “share the ball,” while Smith was quoted as saying that he “would prefer to start [this season].”
It has been an eventful offseason for the Knickerbockers, and 2012-2013 has a bright outlook. As the preseason sets to tip off against the Wizards (10/11), Boston Celtics (10/13, 10/20), Toronto Raptors (10/19), and the Nets (10/24) the Knicks still have questions surrounding the team. Here are five questions that will be answered over the course of the five game preseason:
5. Who Will Back Up A'mare Stoudemire at PF?
The Knicks have a guard heavy roster, but lack formidable big men other than Tyson Chandler and A’mare Stoudemire. When Stoudemire checks out, who will be the first sub in for him? The Knicks have a defensively challenged 3PT assassin in Steve Novak, who is a deceiving 6’10. What Novak lacks in defense and rebounding he makes up for with his 3PT shot, so he is a possibility. A’mare’s athleticism makes him a much better rebounder than the former Marquette Golden Eagle, and although Stoudemire often seems disinterested on defense, he is still better than Novak.
New York could also use Marcus Camby which, when coupled with Chandler, would allow them to have one of the best defensive big man duos in the NBA. However, Camby is 38 years old, and could struggle with guarding younger and faster players. Camby and Chandler would most likely block a considerable amount of shots, but both struggle to score on the offensive end.
Rasheed Wallace is out of shape, according to Coach Mike Woodson, so it is likely that he won’t be much of a factor this preseason. Wallace still has not participated in a team practice with the Knicks, due to his poor conditioning. Woodson talked about the reason for his missing practices: "It's conditioning. He's just not there where you want him to be. He'll get there eventually."
It looks as if it’s a “pick your poison” situation for New York filling the backup PF spot. What will the Knicks choose: Novak for offense? Camby for defense? The first preseason game against the Washington Wizards will likely answer that question.
4. Will the Knicks Have Chemistry?
I see the New York Knicks' season going one of two ways:
1. Anthony and Stoudemire click, the rest of the team plays their roles well, and Mike Woodson leads the Knicks deep into the play-offs. 2. Stoudemire clashes with Anthony over touches, there is tension in the locker room, and Woodson loses control of the team.
Whichever way the team goes, it will likely be attributed to Mike Woodson, who is in his first full year as head coach after taking over for Mike D’Antoni last season. Woodson was able to get Anthony to play defense last year, which is something that was rarely seen prior to last season. However, Woodson didn’t get Stoudemire enough looks offensively, resulting in his PF’s hand being gashed against the glass casing of a fire extinguisher in Miami.
Woodson has the ominous task of keeping two superstars content with touches, but he will have great help in leadership from veteran players such as Jason Kidd. Kidd will act as a mentor to Raymond Felton, as well as coming off the bench at the PG position. The consensus around the league is that if the ‘Melo-A’mare tandem fails for a third time, it will be the end of the pairing.
3. Who Will Start?
J.R. Smith told reporters recently that he “would rather be a starter” this season. Smith has only started 25 games over the duration of his eight year career, but wants that responsibility this season.
Smith shoots the ball- a lot- and is more fit for the Knicks’ second unit, which can lack explosiveness and energy coming off the bench. However, with the injuries to SG’s Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer, Smith’s desire to start could be fulfilled. "My goal was to come in here and be a starter, and play with those other four guys on the floor,” Smith said. “It is frustrating after a while that people see me as a sixth man, sixth man, sixth man, when you believe you're a starter. But at the same time, you have to understand this is a team game and you have to put individual goals aside."
Whether or not Smith starts this preseason, I believe that when Shumpert returns to the court, J.R. will return to his role of coming off the bench.
2. Will Carmelo Anthony Be a Good Teammate?
Last season, Carmelo Anthony led the NBA in isolation plays (34.4%). Despite being an elite offensive talent, Anthony said that this season he is going to be a better teammate. "This is my 10th year," Anthony said. "I think everybody pretty much knows I can score the basketball. But for me, I’m done trying to score 30, 35, 40 points for us to win a basketball game. I don’t want that role anymore. It’s what I do best. But in order for this team to be successful with the guys that we have we need a more well-rounded team."
The fact that Anthony is willing to sacrifice his stats for the betterment of the Knicks is a great sign for this upcoming season. However, how will he do it? One place that he could begin is by developing chemistry with A’mare Stoudemire. The all-star duo has struggled to mesh offensively but, even going into their third season together, the team remains optimistic that it can work.
‘Melo and A’mare the types of players that need to ball to be effective. But if Anthony develops the mentality of his Olympic teammate (and good friend) LeBron James, and makes the right “basketball play,” then A’mare’s numbers will rise, along with the Knicks win total. For New York to have any chance at dethroning James and the heralded Miami Heat, Anthony and Stoudemire will need to play at the all-star level that both have proven they are capable of.
1. Will Raymond Felton Be In Shape?
Raymond Felton played the first half of the 2010-2011 season in New York, where he put up 17 PPG and 9 APG. He was traded to the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony, and played behind his fellow UNC Tarheel native, Ty Lawson. After that season, Felton was traded to the Portland Trailblazers, and played last year out of shape.
This season Felton has entered camp in great shape, “looking like 2010 Ray,” according to several sources. One of those sources is his former collegiate coach, Roy Williams. “He took less money to go to New York, he could’ve gotten more money somewhere else,” Williams said. “He wants to be in New York. He is motivated. The people in New York should remember how good he was for half a year because he played his buns off. He played his buns off.”
Felton will be replacing international superstar, Jeremy Lin, who had his breakout season in NY last year. When asked if he thought he was better than Lin, Felton had this to say: “I am a competitor. I am a point guard just like he is, so do I think I am better? Of course, I am going to say that. I think I am better than any point guard. That’s the way I am supposed to think.”
I love Felton’s confidence. Hopefully this year Felton will do what Lin (who said he was only 85% healthy when he sat out the first round of the playoffs) could not: lead the Knicks on a deep playoff run. Even if Felton is 15% healthy, I know that he will be out there on the court under the brightest lights in all of sports. I wouldn’t want anyone else running the point for the Knickerbockers.
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