10 Things We Learned from New York Knicks’ 2012-13 Season
Things We Learned from New York Knicks' 2012-13 Season
This should be a familiar feeling for New York Knicks fans by now. The disappointment following another tumultuous season is something the Knicks faithful have grown accustomed to over the years. However, this particular postseason depression feels a bit more soul-crushing than usual, for a number of reasons.
For one thing, the entire Knicks organization from top to bottom has been talking 'championship' since last offseason, which makes their second round elimination that much more disappointing. Part of the blame for this has to fall on us fans. For a fan base often heralded as having more basketball knowledge than anyone else in the game, you would think we would learn to temper our expectations at least a little bit.
Instead, Knicks fans everywhere (myself included) managed to convince themselves that the oldest team in NBA history would be able to not just make it to the Eastern Conference finals, but have a legitimate shot at taking down LeBron James and the Miami Heat. All this in spite of an aging front court riddled with injuries, an over reliance on the three-ball, inconsistent effort on D and an incredibly underwhelming playoff track record from our biggest superstar.
Instead, what the Knicks ended up with was a much more plausible second round exit at the hands of a bigger, tougher and younger Pacers squad. If the Knicks were any other team, simply making it out of the first round would have gone down as a win for a franchise that hadn't won a playoff series since Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still on the air. But since they're the Knicks, these playoffs will ultimately be viewed as a major disappointment when considering the sky-high expectations surrounding the team.
But hey, what is life if not one great big learning experience? Let's take a look at some of the things we found out about the Knickerbockers this season.
Same Old Knicks
High hopes followed by crushing disappointment. A whirlwind regular season filled with drama, injuries and hyperbolic press coverage from all angles. The Knicks may have had their first 50-win season since 1999, but what puts this season in the same category as all the others from the last decade is simple: a failure to live up to expectations. Sure, these expectations may have been unfair, but the 'Bockers have no one but themselves to blame for that. Allow me to provide a rough paraphrasing of everyone within the Knicks organization at the beginning of the season: 'Blah blah blah championship.'
Live by The 3...
Do I really need to finish that thought? It's a well accepted fact that over reliance on shooting three's is not a recipe for sustainable success in the NBA. The Knicks did their best to prove that rule wrong this season, finishing up as the most prolific three-point shooting team in NBA history. Unfortunately, their shots stopped falling at the worst possible time, and New York was forced into a rough, physical battle in the paint with Indiana. That's a battle they were always fated to lose.
J.R. Smith Has Another Gear
J.R. Smith has always been known as a streaky shooter. When he's cold, you wonder why he's even on an NBA roster. When he's hot, you don't think he'll ever miss again. One thing he's never been known as is a patient, efficient, cerebral basketball player who looks to attack the rim, draw fouls, create for his teammates and ultimately be a difference maker late in games. He was all of those things during a stretch of sensational play late in the season, a stretch that ended up securing him sixth man of the year honors. For a brief time, Knicks fans thought they were witnessing the late emergence of a superstar. Perhaps the man they call 'Swish' was finally growing up and realizing his full potential as a basketball player...
J.R. is Still J.R.
In the end, the poster boy of inconsistency eventually proved the believers wrong and the doubters right. What goes up must come down, and it certainly did. J.R. was non-existent in the playoffs. Worse than that, he was a detriment to his team. Smith shot a woeful 28 percent from the field during the conference semi-finals, including 23 percent from deep. The return to old habits on the court combined with his usual off-court antics showed the world that yes, J.R. is indeed still J.R. To be fair though, if Rihanna asked me to go clubbing, I'd probably have a hard time saying no too.
Amar'e Stoudemire is Officially Past His Prime
I know, I know, you didn't need me to tell you that. It's been readily apparent for a long time that Stoudemire is not the player he used to be. But as a huge fan of the big man's game, I have remained firmly in a state of denial that he would overcome this latest string of injuries in a similar fashion to the setbacks he suffered during his days in Phoenix. I think it was around the second knee surgery this season that I forced myself to accept that Amare's All-Star days are finally over. The development of a post game is encouraging, and will surely help him remain productive throughout the twilight of his NBA career. Nonetheless, when you build a career around posterizing people, some small eulogy has to be in order when your explosiveness is decidedly gone.
Iman Shumpert is a Future All-Star
Fear not, Knicks fans! For when one star falls, another rises in it's place. We all saw the potential that Shumpert possessed during his rookie campaign, but after he tore his ACL in the first round of last year's playoffs, it was only natural that some began to question his long-term value and ability to rebound from such a devastating injury. But as the great ones always do, Shump came back swinging. He's already back to playing the lockdown defense that made him one of the best young perimeter defenders in the league last year, but now he's added to his offensive repertoire to boot. Shumpert's three-point shooting percentage is up almost a full 10 percent from his rookie campaign (from .306 to .402). If Shumpert continues to improve at such a rapid pace, it's scary to think how high his ceiling might be.
Pablo Prigioni is Knicks Secret Weapon
The math on this one is pretty simple. The Knicks won all 12 of Prigioni's first dozen games as an NBA starter. He started for 16 of the Knicks' final 17 regular season games, a stretch that included their epic 13-game win streak. That's beyond coincidence. I think the key here is ball movement. Prigioni is infamous by now as a pass-first guard. He is also well known as pass-second, pass-third and pass-fourth guy. Anyone who watched the Knicks this season can tell you that when they moved the ball on offense, they typically got easy shots and consequently won games. When their offense broke down into the Carmelo Anthony/J.R. Smith show, not so much.
Steve Novak is a Bench Barometer
Just as big an indicator of the Knicks success this season was their ability to hit three's. This aspect of the game clearly goes hand in hand with ball movement, as it's awfully hard to hit outside shots without first moving the ball and finding the open man. As I mentioned before, when the Knicks moved the ball, they typically won games. When the Knicks moved the ball, they also typically made three's. No one was a greater beneficiary of this unselfish play than Steve Novak. Fittingly enough, there was also a very strong correlation between the games in which Novak hit at least two three's, and the games in which the Knicks came out on top.
Carmelo Anthony Has Another Gear
It's always been known that Melo can score. That's never been in question. But to score at a consistently efficient pace? To show good decision making in when to defer to his teammates? To crash the boards and provide 100 percent effort for a full four quarters? These are all traits that Carmelo Anthony has historically and blatantly lacked. Until this past April, at least. I could go into much greater detail, but instead I'll just leave you with this: 131 points in three games. That more or less sums up Melo's ridiculous stretch of play to close out the regular season. For once, Carmelo wasn't just scoring. He was doing so efficiently, and in addition to all of the effort plays that helped put his team over the top. Unfortunately for Knicks fans, this type of MVP-caliber play didn't last, and once the postseason began, Melo proved once again that...
Melo is Still Melo
Allow me to present this argument in the form of a list. Playing hero-ball, refusing to pass out of double-teams, forcing shots when they aren't falling, not making teammates better, stopping the ball on offense, shooting inefficiently, settling for bad shots, giving more effort on offense than on defense and crumbling under pressure when it matters most. These are the uglier aspects of Melo's game, but also the ones which become most evident under the bright lights of the NBA playoffs. This time around proved no different, and Melo showed us once again why he will never win it all. It pains me to say it, but until he proves me wrong, it just doesn't seem as though Carmelo Anthony has what it takes.