New York Knicks

New coach, talent gives Knicks chance to succeed

Despite the amount of talent on their roster year in and year out, the New York Knicks have continually underperformed every season. 

This year, the talent is once again there except they are operating under a new coach and system. Not to mention, Phil Jackson was hired as the new president of the organization and has complete control of all basketball moves.

This has amounted to a shake up of the Knicks roster to better fit Jackson’s triangle system. First order of business was to keep superstar Carmelo Anthony. But then came the surprising trade of Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas in exchange for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, and Shane Larkin. Jackson also drafted Cleanthony Early, who very well may become the steal of this draft.

So all this plus J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire, and company leaves the Knicks with a talented roster. The question is, can they make the playoffs?

 New head coach Derek Fisher may not have been the fan’s number one choice but they are stuck with him and the complex triangle offense.

The triangle offense has proved to be successful before under Jackson and company with the likes of Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. Knicks fans are hoping their very own Carmelo Anthony can replicate Jordan and Bryant’s roles in the complex system and lead the Knicks to a deep playoff push. But the key to this will be patience.

Not to say the preseason is indicative of the regular season, but the Knicks looked way out of sync committing 28 turnovers. Not a good start for a franchise whose fans have little to no patience for mediocrity. Yes, they understand Fisher is a rookie head coach and is trying to implement a new system but patience can only last so long.

The triangle can be a beautiful thing if executed correctly, so hopefully the players and fans give Jackson and FIsher a chance to really iron out what they have envisioned for the Knicks franchise.

The Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks agreed to a six-player trade last Wednesday that landed center Tyson Chandler back in Dallas, where he won an NBA Championship in 2011.

The trade sent Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas in exchange for Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, and Shane Larkin in addition to the 34th and 51st pick in this year’s draft.

The Mavericks gave up two starters – Calderon at point guard and Dalembert at center – but received the best player in the deal in 2013 All-Star and former Defensive Player of the Year Chandler, giving the Mavs a much needed defensive boost.

Last season, Dallas was excellent on offense, averaging 104.8 points per game, but lacked in defense ranking 26th in the league in rebounds per game with 40.9 and 20th in points allowed with 102.4.
Chandler, who played in just 55 games with the Knicks due to injury, averaged 2.9 offensive rebounds per game, 6.7 rebounds per game and 1.15 blocks per game. While his presence on the court is an established fact, his health since leaving the Mavs’ championship roster in 2011 is suspect: Chandler has missed 43 games over the last two seasons.

However, as great of an asset as Chandler is on defense, the Mavericks will miss Calderon on the offensive side of the ball. Calderon was a consistent threat from the land beyond, with a regular season 3-point percentage of .449. Yet, Calderon was often criticized for his defense, missing action in ‘crunch-time’ when defense was a necessity.

The trade to acquire the 32-year-old center shows that the Mavs are focusing on building a roster to win now. The organization is excited about the upcoming season after taking the 2014 champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games in an intense series.

For Coach Rick Carlisle, acquiring Chandler is a step in the right direction.

“The guy is such an injection of enthusiasm and energy,” Carlisle said. “There have been few players that I’ve seen in 30 years in this league that have become so respected and so beloved in a market as Tyson has here in one year. He just has the exuberant enthusiasm that’s infection, and it rubs off on everybody.”  

Chandler believes that he can not only match his performance of 2011, but improve.
“Absolutely, I think I can be better,” said Chandler. “I finished the season healthy. I was already looking forward to this summer because I felt like there were so many things I could improve on.”

After missing out on landing big names in free agency for two straight years after their championship run, Dallas is now in a favorable position to try their luck at landing Carmelo Anthony also from the Knicks.

Chandler has wasted no time in recruiting former teammate Anthony for his current team.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team and the organization,” said Chandler. “But I’ll tell you one thing: Dallas isn’t a bad place to be. It’s a great opportunity, and clearly we’ve done it in the past. It’s not a hard place to sell. I’m going to do whatever it takes.” 

NBA: Eastern Conference playoff primer

In the Heat’s statement win against the Pacers two weeks ago and in the playoff setting victory in Boston last week, it became obvious that the roll Miami has been on isn’t about any win streak. Rather, it is about rounding into playoff form. It is about getting ready for the ultimate goal, hoisting the elusive and coveted Larry O’ Brien Championship trophy in June.

The 27-point comeback win in Cleveland few days ago only confirmed this as the Heat during the fourth quarter had put on an assertivedisplay of championship-caliber swagger, confidence, and resilience. They are quite literally the embodiment of a prototypical championship offense and defense. Yes, the Heat is surging at the right time. (Quite possibly in historical fashion considering they are only seven games away from the longest winning streak in NBA history). However, Miami is not the only team on full throttle right now; there are several others. As countless NBA coaches, analysts, and gurus say, momentum could be the biggest asset in the NBA playoffs. Let’s take a quick look at which playoff and championship contenders are markedly surging or imploding at this very moment, starting with the Eastern Conference.

Eastern Conference

Miami Heat

Do I need to say anymore?

New York Knicks

With recent injuries to Carmelo Anthony and the absence of Stoudemire for about a month, the Knicks have struggled as of late. A healthy Carmelo and a rekindled defense will do the trick. Anyhow, the Knicks are definitely not surging at the moment.

Indian Pacers

Great team! They’ve been playing relatively well. But, don’t tell me that the loss to Miami will not the hurt the psyche/mentality of the Indiana Pacers and their resolve to defeat the Heat

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets only tease with a few quality wins, but never show any consistency- probably not the recipe for playoff success. On the bright side, Brook Lopez is shaping into the star he is capable of becoming.

Chicago Bulls

Yes, they’ve been playing poorly. Should Derrick Rose return? Is it even worth it anymore? The Bulls really aren’t going anywhere this year.

Boston Celtics

They’ve fared reasonably well without Rondo. Then again, come playoff time, its superstars that truly matter. The Celtics will be missing one.

The Indiana Pacers: The best team nobody talks about

Whenever my roommate and I play NBA 2K, it’s usually a long process to decide which teams to play with.

We’re competitive people, and we take our gaming against each other very seriously. No one wants to be the one to lay their head on their pillow at night feeling defeat. This is NBA 2K after all.

In the grudge match we had last night, I chose to play with the Indiana Pacers. I was met with a few jeers and jabs from my roommate, and he started looking for a lower-tier team to play with against me. I wasn’t having it.

“Use the Knicks. Be the Knicks," he told me.

The New York Knicks are his favorite team, and the team he usually uses on NBA 2K. I had never played with the Pacers before.

I was beating him, 74-53, when he quit with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Now, the meaning of this video game victory is not to boast about my abilities to press buttons on a game controller. It’s to note the lack of coverage the Pacers have received. My roommate himself didn’t know how talented the team is, and even Paul George’s All-Star selection wasn’t enough to put the Pacers on the map.

It’s no secret that the NBA is a star-driven league. Stars sell apparel. Stars put people in the seats. Stars make commercials and get movie deals. And where are stars born? In big-market cities.

The big markets have always been the media favorites of the NBA. Even with the success the San Antonio Spurs have had in the last decade, you rarely meet a Spurs fan that isn’t actually from San Antonio or at the least the state of Texas.

But quietly, in the Midwest, there's a very dangerous small-market team to worry about. The Pacers are closing in on the second seed in the Eastern Conference. And these guys are good.

Being unable to draw stars to Indy, the Pacers have had to be shrewd in the draft. They took a chance on Roy Hibbert with the No. 17 pick in 2008 and took largely unknown Paul George with the No. 10 pick in 2010. Tyler Hansbrough, the No. 13 pick of the 2009 draft, is a great energy guy off the bench. Of the current starting lineup for the Pacers, no player was drafted above the 10th pick in the NBA draft. 

They acquired David West via free agency (at a time when many believed West was too beaten up, past his prime) and George Hill via a trade for Kawhi Leonard from San Antonio. 

And this starting five is excluding All-Star forward Danny Granger (17th pick in 2005), who has been injured for the majority of this season and didn’t see action until two games ago against Detroit.

These aren’t your household superstar names.

These Pacers are leading the NBA in rebounding and defense, but that’s not all they're good for. They’re a talented bunch. They space the floor. They have shooters. They have stars and closers with Danny Granger and Paul George. They’re big down low with David West and Roy Hibbert.

The Pacers' frontline is big enough to cause matchup problems, and their perimeter defenders are long enough to match up with most players in the league. The backcourt is quick enough to match up with most guards in the league as well.

Quietly the Pacers have slipped into the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and after the scare they gave the Miami Heat last season, it’s time to take them seriously.

Stat Guy: Shortened NBA Season has set the stage for an exciting second half

Courtney Lee slams the ball against the Toronto Raptors. Lee and the Rockets are relying on their youth to help them navigate the second half of thus shortened season.
Courtney Lee slams the ball against the Toronto Raptors. Lee and the Rockets are relying on their youth to help them navigate the second half of thus shortened season.

Now that the farce that the NBA calls the All Star Game is over( 88 points in a half, seriously?), basketball teams can look forward to the games finally counting as they push for division championships and playoff positions.

We’ll go ahead and get this one out of the way: there will be no mention of that phrase which has gone from quaint to cliché so fast, it made Tim Tebow’s head spin.

The New York Knicks were the talk of the NBA heading into the All Star break thanks to their resurgence at the hands of Jeremy Lin. Having lost two three point games in a row to the Bulls and Celtics, the Knicks turned to Lin and the rest was history. Seven straight wins later, and the Knicks were back in the playoff hunt.

New York Still has its flaws though. Lin can’t stop giving the ball to the other team with eight games with at least six turnovers. He was also held to eight points on one for 11 shooting against the athletic Heat. Five of the Knicks wins in the last 12 came against teams in the bottom quarter of the league, and played the Nets twice. Now the Knicks have an 11 game stretch starting on Sunday that features five roads games against teams with 20+ wins. If the Knicks really are a new team under Lin, the three weeks will prove it.

There are three teams sharing the title of top team in the league. Miami, Chicago and Oklahoma City all sit even with each other at the summit which shouldn’t surprise anyone. The next few teams in the standings might though. San Antonio, which is frequently written off as old have quietly made their way to the top spot in the division, and second in the west. Philadelphia and Indiana have also come out of nowhere to be in the top eight in the league, with the 76ers leading Atlantic division in the East. And Orlando, amid all the talk of Howard shopping his services elsewhere, is second only to Miami in the Southeast division.

With the exception of San Antonio, who is uncharacteristically offensive this season, each of those teams is a top ten defensive team. Philadelphia leads the NBA in defense, holding teams to 87 points per game.

Meanwhile, traditional powerhouses like Los Angeles(Lakers), Dallas, and Boston have been unable to find the same fountain of youth that San Antonio has. Through 35 games last year, Dallas was 24-9, five games over its record this season. The Lakers were three games better last season through 24 games. Boston has suffered the biggest drop off, going from 28-7, to being a game under .500 this season. If the season ended today, the Celtics would be the eighth seed in the East, going to Miami for their first round matchup.

More intriguing matchups exist in the west though. Houston would play host to Dallas in the 4-5 matchup right now. The Lakers would have to make the long trek to the Staples Center against the Clippers, where little brother would try to unseat big brother for supremacy in Las Angeles. And San Antonio would get the revenge series against Memphis, who bounced San Antonio from the playoffs in the first round last season.

Only two months remain of the regular season, with the playoffs looming in May. Teams such as Philadelphia, Indiana, Houston, and Las Angeles(Clippers) are taking advantage of the shortened season, and are letting their youth carry them to the top of the standings. And having finally had a break, the older teams now have a chance to turn the seasons around and make the necessary moves that veteran teams make. This NBA season is shorter than usual, but should make up for that with an exciting, and unpredictable finish.

Jeremy Lin's Magical Debut Week

In just one week, point guard Jeremy Lin went from the end of the Knicks bench to the main event at Madison Square Garden.

After the final buzzer sounded in the Knicks' game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the MSG crowd broke out an “MVP” chant. This time, the reaction wasn’t for Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Instead, it was the perfect ending to Jeremy Lin’s dream week.

"I feel like I'm in a dream right now," Lin said after his career high 38 points and 7 assists led the short-handed Knicks to victory over the Lakers. That performance was the high point for the Harvard graduate during a stellar debut week.

The Knicks season seemed to be in turmoil with leading scorer Carmelo Anthony going down with a strained right groin in the midst of a losing stretch. Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni had to try something different after forward Amare Stoudemire took a leave of absence due to a family emergency. Then, Lin -- who was cut by two different teams in the preseason -- comes in.

Lin led the Knicks to a 4-0 record, averaging 27.3 points and eight assists, becoming the first player in NBA history to rack up at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his first four starts. Geared by national media coverage and social networking, “Linsanity” captivated the basketball world.

"I don't know what to tell you," Mike D'Antoni said. "I have never seen this. It is not often that a guy is going to play four games, the best you are going to see, and nobody knows who he is. That is hard to do."

Can Lin continue this high level of play at a consistent rate throughout this season? It depends on his ability to respond once defenses adapt to his style. Defenses will no longer be surprised by Lin’s savvy point guard play and will limit his strengths. Lin has established himself as a smart pick-and-roll player and team facilitator.

The next stage of Lin’s progress centers on his ability to coexist with returning superstar Carmelo Anthony. There is little doubt on whether he can play with Stoudemire because the forward had a flourishing career playing alongside a similar type of pick-and-roll point-guard in Steve Nash. Carmelo, on the other hand, has a league-wide reputation of being a ball-stopper on offense.

Despite his reputation, Anthony insists playing alongside Lin will be a great opportunity for both players.

"I know there's questions about, 'Can I fit in?' and stuff like that, but this is like a dream come true to me," Anthony said. "It takes some pressure off of me. I don't have to play point guard.”

Jeremy Lin’s outbreak seems to be more than just a media-centered one-week sensation. The undrafted second-year point guard has revived the Knicks' hopes after they initially squandered their preseason hype.

Jeremy Lin fades away against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Jeremy Lin put aside his record-setting scoring to hand out a career-best 13 assists, and the New York Knicks got back to .500 with their seventh straight victory, 100-85 over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

Lin added 10 points, focusing more on his role as a distributor while others torched the Kings for 51 percent shooting. Landry Fields had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Bill Walker and Steve Novak each chipped in 14 points.

Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts, most by any NBA player since the NBA merged with the ABA in 1976. His 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left Tuesday allowed the Knicks to pull out a 90-87 victory in a game they trailed nearly the whole way.

The Knicks (15-15) led this one almost throughout, evening their record for the first time since they were 6-6 after a loss to Oklahoma City on Jan. 14. They host hapless New Orleans on Friday, hoping All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony will return from a strained right groin.

The way Lin’s Knicks are playing, they can wait for him.

The reigning Eastern Conference player of the week played 26 minutes, grabbing a seat next to Anthony — and sharing a few laughs with the star forward — after checking out for good late in the third quarter.

Tyreke Evans scored 19 points for the Kings, who had won four in a row in New York. DeMarcus Cousins added 15 but shot only 7 of 18 and grabbed just four rebounds.

Already the NBA’s biggest story, Linsanity had peaked about 24 hours earlier with the former Harvard guard’s winner in Toronto. The shot was replayed on the overhead video board, triggering a huge ovation as if it had just happened live.

But Lin would have few other scoring highlights, taking only six shots.

Fans, quite a few wearing Lin’s jerseys or holding masks of his face, loved it anyway. They chanted “MVP! MVP!” as he was interviewed on the court after the game and held up signs such as ‘Lin Your Face,’ ‘Linderella,’ and — of course — ‘Marry Me Jeremy.’

“It’s crazy. Thank you for the energy as always,” he said to the crowd.

Lin played last season in Golden State for Kings coach Keith Smart, who praised Lin’s work ethic and attitude, but never imagined “the perfect storm” that would lead to these results.

“It’s good Monday morning quarterbacks are here now, but no one could have predicted this guy being this big in this place here,” Smart said.

Lin opened the game with a three-point play, giving him nine straight points dating to late Tuesday, but passed more than shot as the Knicks scored easily in the first half. Lin beat the defense with penetration and dishes to shooters, or by throwing lob passes over the top.

The Knicks led 25-17 after one quarter, then blew it open late in the second. Novak converted a four-point play, Lin hooked up with Fields for an alley-oop dunk, then made a free throw to cap a run of seven straight points and make it an 18-point game. The Knicks closed the scoring when Lin drove and threw a wraparound pass to Tyson Chandler for a dunk with 1.7 seconds left, extending it to 54-36.

Lin had six points and nine assists in the first half. He found Fields for a layup that made it a 25-point game early in the third, and the Knicks coasted from there.