What hopes do all 16 teams have of hopping in the postseason driver's seat? Take a ride with NBA.com as we outline each team's Keys to Success.
For the last few years, the Knicks have been "The Houston and Sprewell Show". Sure, Patrick Ewing
was around, but all the big buckets were coming from Allan Houston
and Latrell Sprewell
. Ewing is gone now, but this season has been no different. It's hard to choose between the two, but Sprewell's smothering defense and slashing offense give him the edge in the playoffs. Houston can still hit the "big shot" in the postseason, as Miami knows all too well, but Sprewell gives teams more fits, and puts more gray in opposing coaches' hair.
Sprewell's athleticism and toughness make him a menace to opposing guards, but that's not where the stopping needs to be done this year. With Ewing gone, Marcus Camby
has filled the void in the middle, and has filled it well, especially in the last few weeks of the regular season, where he is averaging over 20 points and 11 boards per game. Camby's athleticism makes it hard for opposing centers to keep up, and gives him an edge on the boards. Hopefully for Knicks fans, he can stay healthy for their playoff run.
KEY IN THE KEY:
Marcus Camby's play in the middle is what most will focus on, but keep an eye out for the prototypical "basketball garbageman" - Kurt Thomas
. Nobody on the Knicks takes a harder charge, gives a harder (albeit clean) foul and does the dirty work down low than Kurt Thomas. It's a cliche, but what Thomas does on a nightly basis rarely shows up in the box score, but usually factors into the final score. Thomas' role will probably be larger than usual due to nagging injuries to Larry Johnson
The mid-season trade of Chris Childs
for New York's prodigal son Mark Jackson
had some asking questions. Jackson's defense can be suspect at times, but Jackson's postseason experience is key. Coach Jeff Van Gundy also loves his point guard's ability to control the tempo of a game. Jackson, since he has become a Knick again, has conducted the offense to the tune of over six assists per game, and he knows how to chaperon an offense in the playoff dance.
Playoff games are filled with big buckets, and who better to drain them than Glen Rice
? With defenses getting even more stifling in the playoffs, Rice is the Knicks' best weapon against teams collapsing inside. Per usual, look for Rice to step up his game up come playoff time.
KEY LONG-RANGE GUNNERS:
Nobody knocks down a big three with such a cool demeanor and such deadly accuracy as Knick Glen Rice
. With Houston and Sprewell slashing, and the ever vigilant Jackson getting the ball to the open man, look for Rice to get plenty of looks, ergo, plenty of baskets. Charlie Ward
can also stick the three, in fact he has the best three-point percentage on the team at 39%, so defenses will have to play him honest or suffer the consequences.
KEY INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE:
See This?: Mark Jackson will make sure Houston sees the ball come crunch time.
"Houston, we have a problem." Those words could have easily come from Spurs coach Gregg Poppovich January 15th. Allan Houston
exploded for 31 points against one of the best teams in the league, as the Knicks beat the Spurs 104-82
. Houston's outburst proved he can still take over a game against a quality opponent.
KEY NEWCOMER: Othella Harrington
's mid-season arrival was overshadowed by the arrival of Mark Jackson
, but he is not to be overlooked. With a game that plays above his height, Big O will be called upon to play big minutes when Camby and Thomas get into foul trouble.
Marcus Camby has two dogs named Goldberg and Stone Cold. The Knicks may not piledrive the competition in the playoffs, but they could get to the NBA Finals with their submission-hold type defense.