By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
November 20, 2012
Both teams represent cities with “New” in their names, so perhaps it was fitting that the New Orleans Hornets and New York Knicks made sweeping roster changes during the 2012 NBA offseason. Basketball fans who followed these clubs during the abbreviated 2011-12 campaign might scarcely recognize these interconference foes now – they’ve added a combined 16 new players.
While starting 3-5, New Orleans has relied on a player rotation that included offseason pickups Anthony Davis (No. 1 pick in draft), Ryan Anderson (trade with Orlando), Robin Lopez (trade with Phoenix), Austin Rivers (No. 12 pick in draft), Roger Mason (free agent), Brian Roberts (free agent) and Darius Miller (No. 46 pick in draft).
Meanwhile, revamped New York began 2012-13 on a hot streak, now at 7-1 after knocking off defending NBA champion Miami, Dallas, Orlando, San Antonio, Indiana and Philadelphia (twice). Tuesday’s game in New Orleans marks the first stop of a three-game road trip that continues later this week in Dallas and Houston.
The Knicks’ contingent of nine new players is headed by starting guards Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, as well as first-string forward Ronnie Brewer. The Big Apple bench includes grizzled veterans such as Rasheed Wallace, 38; Marcus Camby, 38; and Kurt Thomas, 40. The team’s depth was also strengthened with the additions of wing players James White and Chris Copeland, as well as point guard Pablo Prigioni, who is believed to be the NBA’s oldest-ever rookie, at age 35.
Intriguing matchup: Power forward, Anthony Davis vs. Carmelo Anthony
With New York’s Amar’e Stoudemire sidelined early in 2012-13 by injury, the Knicks have utilized a “small-ball” starting lineup, moving Anthony up to power forward (he’s more often played small forward during his 10-year NBA career). The Hornets are taking the opposite approach, with their super-sized frontline consisting of 6-foot-9 Aminu, 6-10 Davis and 7-foot Lopez. It’s uncertain how often Davis and Anthony will be matched up against each other one-on-one, but Davis and the Hornets’ interior defense will try to limit Anthony’s close-range scoring chances.
Life around the Knicks is never boring, with the glare of the New York City media seemingly intensifying every move the historic franchise makes. The past 365 days have been particularly eventful – even by Knicks standards – including last season’s rise to prominence of Jeremy Lin, an in-season head coaching change from Mike D’Antoni to Mike Woodson and the surprising summer departure of Lin to Houston in free agency. New York, which has not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2000, is trying to move into the NBA’s elite ranks after years of frustration and dubious progress. The Knicks began 2012-13 in outstanding fashion, reeling off six straight victories before a road loss to equally-hot Memphis.
Lin’s unexpected signing with the Rockets opened up a pressing need at point guard, but New York had no trouble filling the vacancy. The Knicks landed a pair of past NBA starters at the position, Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. It was projected by many that Kidd would be Felton’s backup and mentor, but early in ’12-13, the Knicks instead reconfigured their starting lineup to get both players into the first unit. Through eight games, Felton is New York’s third-leading scorer. Knicks newcomers Ronnie Brewer (starting forward), Rasheed Wallace (backup big) and Pablo Prigioni (backup point guard) have also been in the rotation each night. Like Felton, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas are back for their second stints with New York, but Camby and Thomas are only receiving sporadic minutes.
Carmelo Anthony has received a multitude of individual NBA honors, including five All-Star appearances. Team success hasn’t come nearly as easily, however. During his tenure with Denver, the Nuggets made it past the first round of the playoffs only one time, when they reached the 2009 Western Conference finals. Anthony’s teams have gone a combined 2-9 all time in postseason series. With LeBron James winning a title in 2012, many NBA analysts have labeled Anthony as the best active player without a ring. The future Hall of Famer is one of the most multi-dimensional scorers in league history, with a lethal first step, accurate mid-range jumper and the size to post up and score in the paint.
On the rise
The Knicks may have more well-known names on their roster than any NBA club, but one key to their early success has been the unheralded Brewer. Known primarily for his sturdy and disruptive defense, the seventh-year Arkansas product has shot well (8-for-19 from three-point range) and is New York’s fifth-leading scorer.
J.R. Smith may be pro basketball’s streakiest shooter, causing TV analysts to joke that he’s one of the few players who can shoot both teams back into a game. Smith began 2012-13 on arguably the most impressive red-hot stretch of his career, at a blistering 60 percent from three-point range. When he’s on, the former Hornets guard is a dangerous offensive weapon off the bench.
On the sideline
Now in his first full season as Knicks head coach, Mike Woodson has accomplished what many did not believe was possible, transforming New York into a formidable defensive club. During their unbeaten start to the regular season, the Knicks were ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency. Woodson previously was Atlanta’s head coach, guiding the Hawks to steady improvement throughout the late 2000s. As a player, Woodson was a Knicks first-round pick in 1980.
Did you know?
The Knicks are one of only three charter members of the NBA (the others are the Celtics and Warriors) still in existence. New York has won two league championships, in 1970 and 1973.
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