Knicks on the Rise

I cannot remember the last time that I actually turned off a New York Giants game in order to watch a Knicks game but I did just that just a few short weeks ago. Yes, you heard correctly, the New York Knicks. I mean honestly, I’d rather watch a car ac­cident than another play involving Matt Dodge, but the Knicks have been my saving grace this season. Although the entire city of New York was ready to mug LeBron after standing us up, we’ve managed to assemble a nucleus of dynamic young talent that will finally enable the Knicks to pursue a cham­pionship. The signing of Amar’e Stoudemire and his ability to perform thunderous dunks has singlehandedly brought fans back to the Garden. It is the play of another vital pick up this off-season, however, point guard Raymond Felton, that has provided the spark the Knicks needed in order to perform in Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense. Felton’s ability to orchestrate the offense and run pick-and-rolls with Stoudemire has earned him a chance at an All-Star spot.

Although Felton and Stoudemire are the catalysts for the Knicks, the young trio of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields has enabled them to become one of the best three-point-shooting teams in the league. Despite the fact that the Knicks defense has more holes than a pair of old Starburys, the ability to lead the league in points scored per game (107.5) has given them the force to defeat elite teams such as the Spurs and Thunder. The sole defensive force on the Knicks as of now is Ronny Tu­riaf who, despite his height disadvantage, has done an excellent job boxing out, re­bounding and blocking shots. The gritty play of Turiaf and Fields satisfies the intan­gibles necessary for the offense to function. Their play is nicely complemented by the three-point ability of Chandler, Shawne Williams and Gallinari. Stoudemire’s ver­satility to shoot outside jump shots has caused opposing defenses nightmares as he either scores or draws a foul virtually every time he touches the ball. D’Antoni’s system calls for transition points and the ability to shoot three-pointers, but if the Knicks do not improve on their atrocious defense which is allowing 106.7 points per game (28th in the NBA) or add another scoring threat via trade, the prospects of a future championship run look dismal.

Enter Carmelo Anthony. The Brooklyn-native and former Syracuse star knows the surreal feeling of playing in Madison Square Garden and has expressed interest in com­ing to New York in the near future. As Carmelo’s contract expires and the Nuggets attempt to deal the superstar before losing him to free agency, two teams have emerged as primary contenders: the New Jersey Nets and the Knicks. Earlier this month, the Nets were inches away from closing a deal with the Nuggets in what would have been a blockbuster trade involving the Detroit Pistons, but since then, talks have collapsed and the Nuggets have gone as far as threat­ening to trade Carmelo to the Knicks in re­sponse to the Nets leaking information on prospective deals to the media. The Knicks lack a first-round draft pick for this year’s draft, a monumental piece that the Nug­gets want in order to part with Carmelo. Knicks General Manager Donnie Walsh has been shopping around Anthony Randolph, a 21-year-old forward with tremendous po­tential, and Walsh has gone as far as meeting with Randolph’s agent to discuss the future of the player. The ultimate hindrance pre­venting Carmelo from going to New Jersey is his decision to sign a three-year contract extension with the team that trades for him. Initially, news surfaced of Carmelo’s refusal to sign with New Jersey, but in a recent in­terview he denied rumors that he has openly stated he would not sign with any specific team. “I don’t know, I mean I can’t really answer that question [about where I want to play next year]. It’s tough for me to sit here and say, ‘Oh, I want to play in New York’ [or] ‘Oh, I want to play in New Jersey’ [or] ‘Oh, I want to stay here in Denver.'”

Ultimately, the inability of the Knicks to expectedly sign two superstar players this off-season has led to the team solely rely­ing on the play of Stoudemire. The presence of Carmelo would mean that the Knicks would have two of the most dominant of­fensive forwards in the league with a strong supporting cast and an all-star caliber point guard in Felton. Carmelo has stated that the ultimate factor in his team choice is that the group of players can contend for an NBA Championship and, with a well-rounded cast of role players and superstars, the Knicks provide that opportunity. Although the Knicks will have to part with a combi­nation of Gallinari, Chandler or Fields in the trade for Carmelo, this would go down as one of the best trades in Knicks histo­ry, helping us fans forget about a decade’s worth of terrible ones. Should Carmelo de­cide to bring his talents to Madison Square Garden, the Knicks will transform from a middle-of-the-road team to one of the elites in the Eastern Conference overnight.