As much as he might deflect the topic, New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson has to know that the early-season injury to Amar’e Stoudemire has been something of a blessing in disguise for his team. It has been well documented during the Knicks’ phenomenal start to the season and subsequent rise to the top of the Eastern Conference that Carmelo Anthony‘s switch to power forward in place of the injured Stoudemire has yielded some stunning results.
The Knicks sit at 8-1 going into Wednesday night’s fixture with the Dallas Mavericks. They have been by far the biggest surprise of this young season, and as always with New York, when the team is good, the excitement reverberates throughout the sport of basketball.
The small ball style being employed by New York is made possible by a hybrid forward like Anthony and was used to great success last season by LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Both Melo and LeBron are too quick for most power forwards and too strong for most small forwards. Their skill sets provide matchup nightmares wherever they are on the floor, but it seems that their use as a point/stretch forward at the four spot with just one true big man in the lineup has brought a whole new dimension to their teams.
For Anthony and the Knicks, it has allowed them to spread the floor, giving more space inside for the excellent pick-and-roll play being executed by Tyson Chandler and guards J.R. Smith, Ray Felton and Jason Kidd. Melo still gets the majority of the touches, but the other players on the court have more space to operate thanks to just having one big posting up, taking up space in the lane.
With all the success that this lineup has had, people are rightfully questioning what Stoudemire’s role with the team will be when he returns. The Knicks haven’t had much success when both he and Anthony share the floor and it appears that Stoudemire may have to settle for coming off of the bench for the foreseeable future. Still, having an All-Star forward to bring off of the bench isn’t a bad problem to have is it?
Not to be outdone by their cross-town rivals, the noisy new neighbors over at the Barclays Center have enjoyed a nice start to their season as well. The Brooklyn Nets sit at 6-3 ahead of their Wednesday night matchup with the Golden State Warriors. New arrivals Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche have fit nicely into the rotation along with the play of star guard Deron Williams and center Brook Lopez. Kris Humphries has also remained solid, and this Brooklyn team looks very cohesive on the floor.
Team ownership has done everything in their power to field a competitive team and promote it to Brooklyn, and it seems that they have done that job well. The Nets probably won’t be winning the NBA title any time soon, but they have a hard working team with a deep bench that should win a lot of games. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they will at least berth a top four seed in the playoffs this year and if they can make another splash in free agency or via a trade, they could well jump right into serious contention as early as next year.
The preseason hype that surrounded Brooklyn has only grown thanks to their play early on in the season and it seems that all those concerts that Jay-Z played and all that money they are paying Joe Johnson is paying off in terms of bringing some serious excitement to the community. Majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov told Nets fans he would bring them a title and while it might not happen on his exact timetable, it certainly seems that Brooklyn has a solid base of players and fan support to build toward that goal. In their first season back in New York City, Brooklyn, along with the Knicks, have ensured that the country’s biggest city has two competitive teams.
This basketball renaissance has been a long time coming for New York, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it couldn’t have come at a better time. After years of being irrelevant from a basketball point of view, NYC now boasts two of the East’s top four teams. With the huge amounts of excitement that brings to the league, it’s not only good for the city, but for the entire NBA.