Posted Oct 1 2010 4:15PM
The Knicks were a whole lot more interesting in the last two months than they were over the last 10 years. Which is quite a reflection on the last decade (the lost decade?).
This summer they went out and got players, as opposed to the recent past, when they went out and got grief. Free-agent signings and trades brought All-Stars and players with solid credentials. The basketball pulse suddenly quickened, and the imaginations of a battered fan base began to stir, and the Knicks finally had something to sell to a city that, until now, wasn't buying it.
We'll introduce a bit of reality here, though, before going any further. Amar'e Stoudemire, the new big man in town, is not Patrick Ewing. Raymond Felton, who'll provide relief at point guard, is not Walt Frazier. And Anthony Randolph, blessed with fast-twitch muscle and vertical leap, is not The Pearl. Just the same, they're not Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury and Jared Jeffries, either, symbols of an era the Knicks hope to leave well in the rearview.
It wasn't the summer of the Knicks' dreams, because they didn't sign LeBron James. What developed was more like a Plan B, as in Better Than Nothing. Instead of competing for a championship right away, they'll settle for the playoffs, a place the Knicks haven't seen in six years. Instead of landing a superstar worthy of billboards and the insufferable hype that only New York can produce, they'll settle for a group of guys who'll keep fans from leaving before the buzzer, while hoping their coveted megastar will arrive in the next year or two.
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They only have one proven commodity on the roster, and that's Stoudemire, a fluid power forward who runs the floor and knows how to score. The intrigue lies within those who have barely scratched the surface of their young careers: Randolph, Felton and also Danilo Gallinari, one of the few holdovers from a roster that was bulldozed to make room for new development.
The Knicks are hoping at least one of those three players is poised for a massive breakout season and turns into an asset that the Knicks keep for themselves, or use as trade bait.
"We have to see what happens," said Donnie Walsh, the team president. "I know we got one star in Stoudemire. I like the others. But I'm not sure how much better they'll get. I hope a lot better. I just really don't know yet."
It's important the Knicks find out soon, because they'll be chasing free agents or making trade proposals next summer as well. The rebuilding of this franchise wasn't just a one-summer project. The task for the Knicks is to develop as many assets as possible to use as trade bait, because they sacrificed two future No. 1s in their haste to clear cap space.
So they'll look for a star from within, for the time being.
Can Randolph be the guy? The consensus opinion of many GMs is he was underused in Golden State by Don Nelson, and now steps into a situation where he'll get 30-35 minutes a night. Randolph has a balanced game from 20 feet in and, in coach Mike D'Antoni's system, could become a solid No. 2 scorer. But again, because Nellie was stingy with Randolph's minutes and role, we don't know.
What about Felton? He was very consistent for the Bobcats for five years, averaging 13.3 points and 6.4 assists and wasn't reckless with the ball. He isn't blessed with the quickness of the league's top-shelf point guards, however, and you also wonder why the Bobcats didn't try harder to keep him.
And Gallinari? He's only 22 and took some impressive steps last season after missing all but 28 games of his rookie year with a back injury. He averaged 15 points in 2009-10 and showed a dependable 3-point shooting touch (38 percent). But he's 6-foot-10; not the kind of player you want shooting 3s.
There's also the issue of defense and whether the Knicks satisfied that area of need in the off-season. Stoudemire is notorious for taking naps on D; same too for Randolph, one reason why Nellie kept him under wraps. Whether the Knicks make the playoffs will depend on their ability to stop somebody and if the system by D'Antoni emphasizes defense. Granted, the roster from a year ago has changed almost completely, but only two teams were scorched more than the Knicks.
"I think we're greatly improved, and we think the team can dramatically improve as the season goes on because of our age," said Walsh, whose team averages just over 24 years old.
Absolutely, the Knicks are new and improved, and when compared to the last decade, how can they not be? What we're about to find out is how much they improved. And whether it was worth all the trouble they went through.
Under Contract: G-F Wilson Chandler, G Toney Douglas, F Danilo Gallinari, G-F Bill Walker, C Eddy Curry (Player option)
Free Agents: F-C Earl Barron (Unrestricted), F Jonathan Bender (Unrestricted), G J.R. Giddens (Unrestricted)
NBA Draft: Andrew Rautins, Landry Fields, Jerome Jordan
Free Agents: F Amar'e Stoudemire, G Raymond Felton, G Roger Mason, Jr., F Shawne Williams
Trades: F Kelenna Azubuike, F Anthony Randolph, C Ronny Turiaf
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