Optimism, defined as:
“A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation”
Of course this word has strayed from the dictionary of Knicks fans in recent years, but you can’t deny the last three years have offered more cause for optimism than any other in the post-Ewing era. I suppose to a certain extent then we should feel lucky that what was a consistently sinking ship of a team year upon year under the direction of Isiah Thomas has now turned into what is expected of a New York franchise; big players, big results, and most importantly of all, big ambitions. Furthermore, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the last two years of the Melo trade have been disappointing given the reasonably swift post-season exits, because when it’s all said and done, there has been improvement. In 2011-12 the Knicks achieved a .545 regular season win percentage, and in 2012-13 a .659 win percentage; the improvement is clear to see, losing in five games to the current NBA champions Miami Heat is hardly an embarrassment, and even losing to the Pacers in the conference semi’s is understandable given Roy Hibbert’s inexplicably high level of play against a banged up Tyson Chandler and a makeshift center in Kenyon Martin.
he point I am trying to make, is that this year, more than any other year, we have reason to be optimistic about the Knicks. I’ve already mentioned the consistent improvement shown by the team in the last two years. Not only that, but it looks like we’ll actually have a backup center this year to help out Tyson Chandler’s previously futile attempts to lock down the paint all by himself (looking at you Amar’e); whilst Chandler’s terrible defence against Roy Hibbert in the playoffs last season was understandable (due to the fact it reportedly hurt for him to simply look upwards), it was an avoidable situation, rectified by simply having a backup center on the roster. Having Udrih on the team is also a potentially vital piece of the puzzle for us as he is more than capable of putting up 8-10 points a game, and aiding the offence through facilitating ball movement and spacing the floor with his accurate jumpshot. One would also presume that Shump is going to be healthy entering the season which, given his greatly improved jumpshot (as seen last year), could offer an efficient secondary or third scoring option down the stretch, although his ability to finish at the rim still raises questions.
In a more general sense, there are three key areas that will either make or break the Knicks’ 2013-14 campaign:
1) JR Smith – not only on the court with smart decisions and less hopeless contested fadeaway jumpers, but also off the court i.e. not being hungover in the playoffs, and less tweeting at 4am (would it kill you to take your multi-million dollar job seriously for once, JR?)
2) Bargnani – last season Bargnani shot a modest 40% from the field and a tragic 31% from beyond the arc, he also averaged less than 4 rebounds a game (yes, he is 7ft tall) and less than one block per game. Moreover, in the last two seasons he has played less games than Amar’e in the same time period. I don’t really think there’s much else to say apart from Bargnani needs to improve in almost every aspect of his game, whilst remaining healthy for the majority of the season and most definitely into the playoffs; it’ll probably take a miracle, (or the Phoenix Suns medical staff) to make this happen, but here’s hoping – optimism, there’s that word again.
3) Woodson – For those who watched the Indiana series last year and in part the regular season it’s pretty clear that Woodson has some problems dealing with, well, logic. Playing JR Smith on an off-shooting night 38+ minutes a game, subbing out the hot-handed Copeland for once again JR who shot 33% from the field and 27% from three during the playoffs and, most infuriating of all, refusing to play Prigioni any more than 10 minutes a night when it was blatantly obvious that our offence was on a different level with him in the game. We aren’t asking for much from Woodson this year, he’s done a great job on defense, now we just need him to recognise when JR’s too hungover to shoot and how calling isolations out of timeouts rarely, if ever, works.
4) Amar’e takes a pay cut before retiring from the NBA to film his second movie – Please?
No doubt I could’ve extended this list past 3 (4) points, but I think that’s the basics covered, or at least the necessities. Nonetheless, here’s to a highly successive 2013-14 campaign.
Declan Ryan is the newest writer for the Knicks Podcast. You can follow him on twitter at @Dec_Ryan