Knicks’ Road Ahead

The Knicks may very well have already faced the biggest challenge of their schedule’s early portion. Sunday’s victory over Boston showed a lot about the state of the Knicks.

First, they have no real point guard. Toney Douglas’ subpar shot selection (to put it kindly) and blatant inability to set up an offense almost left New York with an 0-1 record to begin the lockout-shortened, 66-game season. Rookie Iman Shumpert, who was also penciled in for some point guard minutes, showed promise in his NBA debut. He displayed a knack for getting to the foul line, going 5-5 from the stripe in 22 minutes, and finished with 11 points. However, going 3-13 from the field won’t fly on what’s supposed to be a championship-contending team. Shumpert did suffer an MCL sprain and will miss 2-4 weeks. He’ll undoubtedly bounce right back into D’Antoni’s rotation upon his return, and with better shot selection, could find himself starting by season’s end.

The team did claim point guard Jeremy Lin on Tuesday for depth, but don’t expect him to be anything more than just that. Lin struggled to find playing time last season in Golden State, averaging just under ten minutes per game. Toney Douglas will still be the guy at the one for the Knicks, getting the majority of minutes there. Mike Bibby’s return from an ailing back should help relieve Douglas, but it’s clear that this is not Sacramento Mike Bibby, or even Atlanta Mike Bibby. The team will have to make due with what they have until Baron Davis returns from his back situation, which could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

The defense had its moments, and definitely displayed signs of improvement from last year’s team that allowed 106 points a game, good for 3rd worst in the NBA. New addition Tyson Chandler will certainly be this team’s defensive backbone, but he cannot be the lone presence on D. Several players, most notably Amar’e Stoudemire, showed defensive lapses — particularly in transition — as the Knicks allowed Rajon Rondo to kill them again and again with breakaway layups.

Finally, Carmelo Anthony showed everyone why Donnie Walsh gave up all those players for him back in February. Melo took control of the game and almost single-handedly clawed away at Boston’s lead late in the fourth quarter, after the Knicks allowed their own 17 point lead to turn into a ten point deficit. He finished with 37 points, but relying on Anthony to win all 66 games on his own is dumb. There are weaknesses, but correctable ones. The Knicks showed a lot of good things Sunday.

Now, after their first win, the Knicks’ schedule suddenly becomes a lot less competitive. Wednesday they’ll face Mark Jackson’s Warriors at Oracle Arena. Golden State had their first loss handed to them on Christmas Day by Chris Paul and the Clippers, but defeated last year’s Eastern Conference one-seed, Chicago, the next night.

Thursday the Knicks will face another championship-caliber team in the Lakers, but with the struggles that they’ve displayed early on, nothing is guaranteed. After that, the team will travel to Sacramento to take on the Kings, then return to the Garden to take on the Raptors and Bobcats. They’ll then tackle a two-game road trip to Washington and Detroit, followed by another game versus Charlotte at MSG. They’ll take on the Philadelphia 76ers on January 11th, just prior to another Western Conference road trip.

Take a look at those teams up there. To me, that’s a 9-1 record through the first ten games, and with everything that’s going on in Hollywood these days, 10-0 is perceivable. Now wouldn’t that have the Garden rocking?

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