Since 2008, Knick fans have dreamed of welcoming LeBron James to the Garden; but as the summer of 2010 passed by, Knick fans agonized at "The Decision", where the Big 3 decided to “take their talents to South Beach”. Knick fans cynically watch with a smile, as the Heat is only a mere one game ahead of the Knicks; both teams are hovering around .500. In hindsight, it's a bittersweet feeling. These same Knicks have shown signs of a bright future on occasion, while also showing signs of a regression to last season's woes.
We have been hearing demands to fire Mike D'Antoni as well as some fans screaming how Amar'e is a bust already. Those two statements, and others like them, are completely outrageous. This roster is filled with new faces and it's going to take time for a group of young guys to develop the necessary chemistry to win in this league. But there are a lot of positive things so far that hint a bright future which is why fans should keep faith and remain optimistic. During their recent 5 game winning streak the team went from 3-8 to a respectable 8-8. Winning those 5 games was no walk in the park as New York had a stretch of 5 games in 7 days, 3 road games on the west coast and a home and away series versus the Bobcats. Regardless of the opponent, winning an away game in the NBA is always a daunting task.
1. Amar'e Stoudemire is worth his max contract and is playing like an MVP caliber player.
22.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 2.1 BPG
His assist and block numbers are career highs and his points and rebounds are exactly what we fans expected, All Star and MVP type numbers. Obviously he knows and fits into D'Antoni's system and once the offense begins to click we can expect all of his numbers to increase. Amar'e has played much better basketball than Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer has yet to see the court in a Bulls uniform. The Knicks came away with the best deal when it came to signing a high priced big man.
2. Raymond Felton has been the biggest surprise so far this season for the Knicks and maybe in the entire NBA.
It looks like we finally found our franchise point guard; Raymond Felton is putting up the best stats of his career (career highs in: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, ft%, 3 pt%, 3 pointers made, and field goal percentage). 18 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals a game is much better than we expected after Felton averaged 12 points and 5.5 assists last season with Charlotte. He has been criticized for his inability to run the pick and roll with Amar'e and for not being a D'Antoni point guard like Steve Nash was for the Suns. But even if that is true, imagine how much better the Knicks and Felton will be once he learns how to play the two-man game with Amar'e. Felton has been a great defender, clutch shooter, and smart leader all season and will continue to flourish in this system. He is getting everybody the ball and making this offense click. We expected Amar'e to fill the stat sheet but Felton is not far behind.
3. Rookie Landry Fields
The starting shooting guard role was the major point of discussion in the off season, Azuibuike was brought in to play that position; but, he is still recovering from injury and is yet to play a game for the Knicks. Roger Mason and Andy Rautins were thought to be perfect for this system where the shooting guard does just that, shoot 3's. But both players are not even in the rotation and have yet to impress the coaching staff. Chandler and Gallo both were mentioned as potential starters but with their size and offense style they both were better suited to play the opposite wing, with Chandler being the 6th man. Both Douglas and Fields impressed fans with their hustle and defense enough to earn consideration for the starting position. But Douglas is still more of a point guard with a shooting guard style of play. Douglas is probably the best perimeter defender on the roster but his combo guard style did not fit the needs at the 2. So as the season began rookie Landry Fields got the nod to be the team's starting shooting guard and has made the most of his opportunity averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds. Fields is the team's second leading rebounder, which is very impressive for a guard. This should not come as much surprise because Landry Fields average 22 points and 9 rebounds last season at Stanford playing on the wing. He almost always the height advantage over his defenders seeing as he is 6'7", which makes rebounding a huge advantage for the team. He makes the hustle plays and is always working hard and getting up and down the court. He is not the conventional shooting guard for D'Antoni's system, but the way he is playing you can't argue he deserves the minutes.
4. Anthony Randolph's Averages Per 48 minutes (11.6 points, 14.3 Rebounds, and 3.18 Blocks)
Anthony Randolph was supposed to be the main piece of the David Lee trade, a player with All Star potential who has been hurt. Fans had high hopes of Randolph have a Gallinari type breakout season but so far he is barely seeing playing time. The first few games he played in a Knick's uniform did not resemble his high flying-highlight reel style we saw in spurts over for the Warriors. But recently he was put in during a blowout and showed signs of a higher basketball IQ, instead of forcing the ball he slowed it down and made smart passes. Although he finished with 0 points and 2 assists, everyone has to be pleased with the improvements in his mental game. Let's hope his erratic play and constant fear of making a mistake is part of his past. Randolph is only 21 and still has that same potential plus he would be a perfect center in D'Antoni's system. He could block shots, rebound, score on the fast break, and be a presence down low on both sides of the ball. The Knicks have already transformed into a high quality defensive unit that can block shots and cause turnovers at will so with the addition of Randolph down low this team could give any offense a hard time.
The future looks bright for the New York Knicks and fans should be optimistic because as the season goes on the wins will start to come in bunches. Amar'e is one of the best players in the NBA, Felton is playing like a top 5 point guard in his first season under MikeD'Antoni, Chandler is the front runner for 6th man of the year award and is playing to impress in hope a new contract, Gallinai is always a threat when he has the ball and is one of the most versatile wing players in the league, and with the vast depth and young talent on this roster we can look forward to a fun season of quality basketball for the first time in this decade.