2017-18 Knicks Talking Points, a Brief Look Ahead
Far removed from the malcontent of last season, the Knicks finally seem to be settled with a core group of players that should both intrigue and excite fans and coaches alike. Carmelo Anthony has said goodbye to New York and hello to Oklahoma, and whilst the destination for Melo caught most off guard, the move itself was undoubtedly a long time coming, and sees the Knicks removed from the largely unproductive vision of recently let go team president Phil Jackson.
The exit of Melo has a brought a fresh and excitable atmosphere to the team, with the focus seemingly solely on the youthful core that fans have been wishing for since the team’s 54 win season and subsequent Eastern Conference Semifinals exit in 2012-13. Yet, despite the newfound optimism, coach Jeff Hornacek will find his hands full this season with the infamous New York media looking for a new scapegoat post-Melo.
Confirmation that Kurt Rambis will no longer run the Knicks defense will surely create
mounting pressure on the ex-Phoenix coach to prove to fans that the terrible effort on the defensive end of the court last season was far more to do with Rambis, and to a lesser extent Melo, than it was with his own ability to coach and motivate the team. Three major points of criticism from the media last year are now gone: Melo’s place in a rebuilding squad, Phil Jackson and the the triangle offense, and Kurt Rambis and the team’s tepid defense – the focus now switches to the team’s overall cohesion and the ability of Hornacek to produce a product on the court that is visibly improving despite the star power and perceived talent that the team has.
Day one of training camp has passed, and all reports so far are positive towards the
relatively unknown quantity that is rookie guard Frank Ntilikina. Veteran Point guard Ramon Sessions didn’t hold back when he described the 19 year old Frenchman as looking like a ‘young Kyrie Irving’, a seemingly odd comparison at first given Frank’s apparent weaknesses at both ball handling and finishing at the rim – but it’s hard to disregard completely the words of a vet such as Sessions who has bounced around the league and seen countless high level NBA talents.
Further optimism should be on the cards for the Knicks, with the three Euros Hernangomez, Kuzminskas, and of course Porzingis putting in convincing performances at the most recent Eurobasket tournament. The team does have an overabundance of big men, and on the surface it seems unlikely that all of them will see regular minutes, but there are worse problems to have on an underpowered squad. If Maurice Ndour and Marshall Plumlee were able to find good minutes during stretches of the 2016-17 season, then there’s no reason to think that Hornacek shouldn’t be able to get these guys on the court to get valuable game time.
That being said, with luck, the tank race for a top pick at the end of this season won’t be as stressful as the ‘useless’ wins we saw at the end of last season. Why? Because truth be told, I’m all in on Knicks’ games actually having some relevance come the final stretch this year, even if it means not getting a top 3 pick in the draft – after all, we all know how much the draft lottery hates New York.