They say there is nothing louder than a New Yorker, so if you haven’t heard about the success of the New York Knicks this year, consider yourself one of the few. The Knicks have been making a lot of noise in the early part of this season turning it around from last season. The Knicks have rocketed off to a 22-10 start and are leading the “who can possibly beat the Heat” race in the Eastern Conference. The MVP-caliber play of Carmelo Anthony, Coach of the Year candidate Mike Woodson, and player acquisitions have turned the New York Knicks into a contender.
Carmelo Anthony is playing out of his mind right now. He’s second in the league right now to Kobe Bryant (aka Benjamin Button) in scoring. Carmelo is averaging 28.9 points per game with shooting averages of 47% from the field and a career best 43% from 3-point range. Although he has missed a few games with injury this season, he is having one of the best seasons of his career. During the offseason, coach Mike Woodson was quoted saying, “Anthony’s going to have to raise his game” and that he would have “to push him to be in better shape.” Anthony seems to have taken his coach’s words to heart as he has propelled the Knicks to one of their best starts in decades.
Mike Woodson has brought in a culture that holds even his star players accountable, and their response can be seen throughout their play. Under D’Antoni, the Knicks forgot what it meant to play defense, Woodson seems to have been able to remind them what it means. He has brought in a focus on defense, and when you have the former Defensive Player of the Year, you’re going to see some positive results. By demanding accountability from his players, Woodson and the Knicks have experienced a major reduction in turnovers. Under Woodson, the Knicks are averaging a league-low 10.8 turnovers per game. This same team averaged 16 turnovers per game last year. Woodson’s system demands ball control, something far different from the run and gun offense that existed during the D’Antoni era. This doesn’t mean that the offense has slowed down though. Woodson has put out a powerful offense that has been living and dying with the 3-ball. The Knicks put up a league high 28.9 3-pointers per game and are making them at a 39% rate. This three point shooting has allowed the Knicks to average a very respectable 102.1 points per game. By getting his veterans to buy in and operate within the system, Woodson has the Knicks looking like contenders.
Woodson’s veteran team added multiple players during this offseason that have been crucial to the Knicks thriving. During the offseason, the Knicks refused to match Jeremy Lin’s offer sheet, allowing the point guard to go to Houston. They brought in veteran point guards Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton who have been able to successfully run the offense that Woodson wants. Raymond Felton seems to have been revitalized in New York, and Jason Kidd seems to have slapped Father Time in the face. Kidd’s poised play and veteran leadership have created almost a second coach on the court. While he may not be lighting up the stat sheet, every player on the Knicks commends Kidd for consistently making play after play and efficiently running the offense on the floor. The Knicks have found themselves two point guards more than capable of producing and running the Knicks efficient offense.
Much must be said about the emergence of J.R. Smith. The self-proclaimed partier has “given up on drinking and the clubs” to focus more on basketball this year. It looks as though it is really helping as Smith is one of the best bench players in the league and averaging a career high 16.6 points per game.
The Knicks look like one of the best teams in the league even though they are just introducing one of their top players back to the lineup. While some individuals believe that the return of Amare Stoudemire to the Knicks lineup is a disruption to their rhythm, coach Mike Woodson has more than proved himself able to adapt to his roster. With Stoudemire coming off the bench, Woodson would be able to keep Anthony at the power forward position that he has been thriving at all year. The Knicks could rotate Anthony or Chandler out when inserting Stoudemire, giving them additional rest on the bench. Also, having Stoudemire available gives the Knicks the ability to match the size of any front-court in the league. Mike Woodson has turned this team around and his success will get the players to buy into however he decides to handle the situation. Even though we are only a little over a third into the season, the Knicks are facing some big expectations in the Big Apple.
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