Ah, to be a Knicks fan. It’s like riding Disney World’s Tower of Terror. The name itself is an apt comparison but the ride is an even better one. Subtle bumps up intertwined with staggering crashes down, those crashes being a lot more frequent and impactful than the bumps. At the end, all you feel is pain and a tinge of regret, but for some sadistic reason, you also eagerly await the next time you ride it.
Did I mention it’s also prone to breaking down? That’s also a comparison.
Anyways, last season for the Knicks was an utter disappointment. Two seasons ago, the Knicks were the pride of the town, Mike Woodson was hailed as a savior, Carmelo Anthony was on his way to his first scoring title, and #KnicksTape was in full force. Unfortunately, last season happened and the Knicks Tape became more of a Knicks floppy disk, the defense looked like five James Hardens were on the court many a time, and Woodson was shucking and ducking his way out of Manhattan. Even longstay coach Herb Williams was shown the door. April in the blue and orange side of town was bleaker than an episode of Game of Thrones. Melo going all meganova on the Bobcats for the franchise record of 63 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. dueling with Dion Waiters were awesome moments that I was excited to watch live and that’s good and all… but when your season can be summed up by the following YouTube highlights such as this, and this, and this… It’s probably not been a good season at all.
Alas, there may be a silver lining in the orange and blue cloud of despair with the arrival of Obi-Wan… I mean new team president Phil Jackson and his pupil Derek Fisher, who will be the man leading the Knicks this year. With them comes the installation of the triangle offense. Seeing the Summer League Knicks run it seemed like a breath of fresh air. It ran with regularity, with fluidity, with purpose; basically everything that last year’s offense wasn’t. Also fun and I like fun; therefore this should make the Knicks a very interesting watch this year.
The Knicks did quite a bit of roster remodeling during the summer. Gone are Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas, Phil having possibly used Jedi mind tricks to get the latter off their hands. In return, the Knicks managed to get José Calderón, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert, and two of this year’s second-round draft picks, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The Knicks fared very well in this deal, I feel. Calderón is an upgrade over Felton in nearly every way possible save for defense. Larkin, completely healthy, will continue to deputize Calderón as he did in Dallas and will be that change of pace point guard. In Dalembert, you have a solid rim protector, not to the level that Chandler once provided for New York, but should still give them some defensive presence in the paint. Many people consider Early to be a steal for New York when he was drafted as the 34th pick and certainly he has impressed in Summer League. Thanasis will probably start the season in the D-League this year but he’s energetic, athletic, and can become a solid perimeter defender. The Knicks managed to get a really good haul for two players who ran their course here in New York. Chandler at times seemed like he didn’t want to be in New York anymore and Felton was a burn victim due from nightly torchings by opposing point guards. And he was fat. And there was thing with the whole “illegal possession of firearms”*cue jokes like “How could he shoot a gun if he can’t even shoot a basketball?”*. And also this moment.
To be fair to Felton, he was probably stretching his jaw muscles for the all-you-can-eat buffet later that night… maybe.
The Knicks also traded fan favorite Jeremy Tyler and Wayne Ellington, acquired in the trade with Dallas, to Sacramento for Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw. They then used their mid-level exception to sign big man Jason Smith from New Orleans, whose mid-range game will be of great service to the Knicks’ triangle.
There’s bound to be a lot of questions asked of this Knicks team so to the benefit of those reading, I’ll do a short FAQ and answer some of them to the best of my abilities.
Q: Can Melo thrive in the triangle the same way that Jordan and Kobe did?
A: Of course he can. I think he’ll need to be more active off the ball than we’re used to seeing but let’s be honest here, Melo would be dangerous in just about any kind of offense you put him in. He’ll be fine.
Q: Will J.R. Smith finally get it together?
A: He’s J.R. Smith.
Q: Will Iman Shumpert have a bounce-back season after a disappointing sophomore season?
A: I feel that he can. He’s at full health now after missing a good portion of last season due to injury. After the Texas trip, he faded liked his high top. He should be energized under this new offense where he’ll be able to do more than just stand at the corner.
Q: Will this be Tim Hardaway Jr.’s breakout year?
A: Breakout is kind of strong, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he will definitely improve on what was a solid rookie season. He showed little problems in adjusting to the triangle in Summer League, averaging near 23 ppg. He has more to his game than the 3-ball. He can attack the rim, pull-up from midrange, is an athletic freak, and if he improves on defense, he’ll be an invaluable asset for the Knicks for years to come.
Q: Will Amar’e Stoudemire be able to play a full 82-game season?
A: Hopefully, he can. He’ll probably have a minute limit of around 25 or so and he may not be able to play the second game of back-to-backs but if that’s what it takes to keep him healthy, then so be it.
Q: Will the Knicks continue to make trades during the season?
A: I don’t know if they will or not. Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert have been bandied about in trade rumors in the past months but I think the Knicks will stay put.
Q: What lineup do the Knicks roll with? Do they still try small ball and use Melo as PF?
A: I think Fisher will go with the traditional lineup. He has done so in Summer League and there’s not much reason to think things will be different in the regular season. Therefore, expect to see a lot of Melo at the 3. There will be rotation amongst the big men and the Knicks have plenty of them. The Knicks also have depth at both guard positions, especially shooting guard. Fisher is placing an emphasis on a consistent lineup.
Q: Will the Knicks make the playoffs this season?
A: It’s the Eastern Conference. Anything can happen.
Q: Fix the bloody defense!
A: Hey, that’s not a question! But yes, they very much need to, specifically their perimeter defense. Allowing 37% from 3 (4th worst in the league) is not desirable.
There’s a lot more questions but the main one that I’m sure many will be asking is “Will the triangle work in New York?” I don’t see why it couldn’t. You can draw a triangle using Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York as the three points. Go and do it! Also, a triangle is in their logo so anything is possible!
The thing with learning something new is that it takes time and effort. Some get it quickly while for others, it could take months. Look at another team from New York, the Giants, for example. They’ve introduced a brand new offense in the offseason yet it took until week 3 of the regular season to show some signs of progress. It will more or less be the same thing for these Knicks. The triangle is a rather complicated offense. It will be a learning process, both for the players and the coach. Team chemistry as well as staying healthy also play important roles towards the learning process; two things the Knicks didn’t have much of last season. However if the Summer League is anything to go by, if the triangle does come to form, the Knicks will be playing entertaining basketball. As long as owner Jim Dolan stays away from anything Phil does involving the team, the Knicks should have the city buzzing once again.