Here is where we are at after 15 games.
1. Carmelo Anthony
Remember those headlines a month or so ago about Melo’s scoring days being over? Yea, just scratch that from your memory and thank God for that. The reason Carmelo Anthony is an early contender for league MVP isn’t because of moving the ball around more. No, its because he has been an absolute dominant offensive force of the likes most Knick fans have never witnessed before. That’s fine with me. Last year as the season began to fall apart I was haunted by all of the hyperbole thrown around by critics of the Melo trade. “He’s a ball stopper!” they said. “Look at how much better they play when he’s not there” they said in the peak of Linsanity. “He’s never won a playoff series,” they were quick to remind us. So far this year all those claims have been forgotten, well except the last one of course. In my 2 decades of watching the Knicks I’ve seen some incredible players such as Ewing, Spreewell, and Houston but to this day I’ve never watched a Knick ever dominating a game as much as Melo has. This is the reason why the Knicks traded for him. By the way, has anyone actually missed Mozgoz, Gallo, or Chandler since they left? While his stats have looked amazing so far (3rd in league scoring at 26.1, 7 boards a game, 24.26 PER, and only one game this year where hasn’t scored 20) what I’m reminded most of Melo is about how he sounds a lot like a Knick player I actually never got much of a chance to watch: Bernard King. Aside from the classic King games MSG would air in the evenings that my dad would ironically wake me up on school nights to “school” me, I didn’t experience the hysteria King gave New Yorkers in the 70s but I would like to think that it felt like what it does today. The most important aspect to Melo though isn’t just his scoring, it’s the fact that it has finally translated into wins- something critics said would never happen under “Melo Ball.” The work that the Woodson and the rest of the roster obviously plays a major role on those wins but either way, each day it looks more and more like the Knicks had a plan that finally is working.
2. The Return of Novakaine
I probably got laughed at when I drafted Steve Novak about 6 rounds too early. At the time I was actually laughing back thinking that I was sure to dominate the 3 point categories (3’s made and 3 Point Percentage). Based on Novak’s shooting last year and a story about Novak working on creating his own shot (just pump fake Steve) I was certain he’d have an even better season. And just like most fantasy basketball plans of course I was comically way off. The low point of Novak’s season was against New Orleans where he went 2-10 in three point shooting. Not only was I close to dropping him from my fantasy team, I even questioned whether or not the Knicks should trade him before his value would drop further. His three point stats at this point didn’t just look sub-Novakian but actually quite bad at 16 for 47 shooting (.340%). In the next game against Dallas he played the fewest minutes all year and only took one three, which he made. His time on the floor increased in the loss against Houston, but his shooting was much better by hitting nearly half of his three point attempts signaling a return to form. Since his egg against New Orleans Novak has went 20 for 30 from downtown at .567% shooting, made two discount double checks, and even recorded the most hysterical fast break by a Knick since….Of course I just realized that I had Novak benched during this nice run, but that’s par for the course of my fantasy basketball exploits. It’s simple, when the Knicks hit threes they win and for that to happen the NBA’s biggest three point threat needs to light it up. Welcome back Steve.
3. Brooklyn Rivalry
I’m not going to spend too much time reiterating what I already wrote about before this week so I’ll wrap this one up pretty quickly. Knick rivalries are what created some of the most poignant moments in Knick history. Those rivalries are the best part of being a Knick fan and it’s depressing how vacant rivals have been in this contemporary era. It wasn’t until LeBron left for Miami that I even felt comfortable calling the Heat a rival again. Last year the Knicks also had some run-ins with Boston and Indiana that rekindled some of the bad blood between franchises, but it was largely fans being overly sensitive to some hard fouls and tweets that got our attention, and not anything that compared the tension that existed in years past. This isn’t the case with Brooklyn though. Everyone from fans, players, and owners knows what is at stake by having two basketball teams in the city and both franchises would want nothing more than to wipe the other one off the map. The goal of each team is to win the hearts and minds of New Yorkers and 4x a year fans will be treating to a Mad Max-like battle to determine who the better franchise is. Loyalties will be tested and great moments in Knick lore surely will be written.
1. The Camby Mystery
As mentioned earlier this week Camby’s lack of playing time has been baffling. His lumbering up and down the floor suggests he is not in the best shape despite both him and Woodson saying he’s healthy…whatever that’s worth. The thing that makes the Camby situation so peculiar is that before the season began Rasheed was the one that was supposed to be the one occupying the bench. Of course he’s been terrific and has turned into a very serviceable player for Woodson but why hasn’t Camby been given the same opportunity to work his way into the rotation? Even James White and Copeland minutes have dwarfed Camby’s (56 minutes for White and 53 for Copeland vs Camby’s 45). During the garbage time in the Wizards (arguably all 48minutes), Clyde mentioned on air that perhaps Camby didn’t want to play as MSG cheered his name. When pressed on the reason why Woodson didn’t play him, he continued to dodge giving a direct answer by saying “he just didn’t feel that was the move he wanted to make.” Camby was given a three year contract that suggests he should be in the Knicks’ plans so only time will tell if there is more to this story than we know of. Either way the fact remains that he should be on the floor and working his way back into form, especially with the Knicks and Chandler struggling for boards and blocks in the paint- something that has always been Camby’s expertise.
2. Barclays Center
I don’t hate everything about the Nets. As a Mets fan I guess I have a soft spot for “that other New York” team. There’s just something about the arena that gets under my skin. The constant piped in “BROOKLYN!” chants were as pathetic as it was when WCW Nitro used to do the same for Goldberg. It’s painfully obvious no one is chanting Brooklyn and yet it blares from the arena speakers on almost every possession. It’s more than being a bit too earnest, its actually quite pathetic. Look everyone is excited to have basketball in Brooklyn, but reign it in a bit. No one is paying to see Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries and I’m sorry to say it, but it’s a good time to remind people that Joe Johnson is an Atlanta Hawk cast off that only one team was suckered into absorbing his albatross contract. As a New Yorker I don’t want to see any team here resemble the American Airlines Arena. Watching the game, I felt as if it was only a matter of time before we were serenading with those wildly annoying “Dos Minutos! Dos!” announcement. Not counting Williamsburg, of course, Brooklyn is one of the most authentic locales in the union. Keep it that way and let the hysteria grow organically instead of trying to force it down our throats.
3. David Stern’s Wrath
This one doesn’t have to do much with the Knicks but it still was one my biggest “Dislikes” of the year. For those that don’t know the story, basically Stern felt Coach Pop was trolling him by deciding to send his starters home for rest instead of playing them against the Miami Heat on national TV. Stern responded by sending a $250,000 over the San Antonio hours later. I understand Stern’s anger with Popovich. Very quietly I think Stern has actually been more frustrated by Coach Pop than Mark Cuban to be honest. His aversion to media, especially sideline reporters, has been well documented and his dedication to wins over anything marketing related is something that seems to really drive Stern crazy. Coach Pop could have rested his starters earlier in the week instead of against Miami, but as a coach, I do feel that his decisions should always come out of what’s best for Wins/Losses versus what the league wants. He has every right to feel that way especially after hearing for years how “unfriendly” the Spurs were to TV ratings. Coach Pop is a living legend when it comes to coaching so I believe he’s earned the right to do whatever he feels is best for his team of aging stars. I do think that there is a bit of a statement Coach Pop was trying to make after his Spurs were scheduled to play 4 games in 5 nights- something many coaches have complained about publicly, especially last year with Stern’s ambition to stuff a 50 game season into just a few months. It is also worth nothing that other respected coaches such as Doc Rivers and Jeff Van Gundy have thrown their support to Coach Pop it appears that the media, or those outside the game, are the ones that seem to support Stern. The narrative that is David Stern’s legacy has quickly taken a dramatic turn over the last few years. Ever since the Pacer-Piston brawl, Stern has gotten under the skin of fans, players, and owners than ever before. Its unquestionable how much of a role he has played in making the NBA a global brand but it seems to have also come at the expense of those directly involved in the game. My biggest issue with Stern is how unresponsive he has been to issues that fans and players truly care about such as horrible officiating, flopping, the “softening” of the league, and his complete failure to address the fact his league rewards bad basketball via the tanking that occurs in the run up to the draft. Don’t blame Pop on this one.