It’s that annoying time of year again for comfortably idle underachievers. Yes, I’m talking about New Years. Never mind the hassle of New Year’s Eve, which by the way is an entire separate post, and just focus on the difficult part of every new year where we each reflect on how far we whiffed it on last year’s goals. Yes the maddening cycle of talking ourselves into doing something that statistics show we are going to screw up in four weeks is a healthy process, but still a dismal one. Lucky for me I could deflect my 2013 resolutions and pass that buck onto the current Knicks roster because why the heck not? I bet a lot of players have their own unique resolutions but either way I deemed it perfectly rational to make up my own for them.
Resolution: Make the All-Star Team
Jamal Magloire, Theo Ratliff, Chris Gatling, Dale Davis, Tyrone Hill and Antonio Davis. What do these frontcourt names have in common other than being famous albatross contracts that got shuffled around the league like hot potatoes? Believe it or not they were all NBA All Stars at one point. Even crazier? Tyson Chandler never was. While it’s true that the today’s All-Star game is recognized more for being an orgy of corporate infused marketing and an annual popularity referendum, it still means something to this Knick fan. It’s been a long time since the Knicks had more than one representative in the game (Houston and Spreewell back in 2001) and it still irks me to no end that no Knick was present in NYC’s last All-Star game. It isn’t just my misplaced fandom that wants Tyson to make this year’s team, but also the fact that he deserves to be at that game. There is a reason he was a lock for the Olympic team and that’s because he is one of those rare players that doesn’t need the ball to impact the game. I’m not just talking about defensively either. Tyson may have traded many of last year’s blocks for tip-outs, but what hasn’t changed is his ability to make guys around him play harder and constantly motivated. It’s a reason I think Melo has had such a magnificent season. Not every player is an alpha. In fact some players need an alpha to let them loose, and I think we are seeing in Melo what we saw in Dirk the last time Tyson played on a contender. The Knicks are also going to great lengths to get him in as seen via social media campaigns and an affable appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show recently. The time is now for Tyson to finally become an All-Star.
Resolution: NBA Finals or Bust
Melo’s already thrown himself into early MVP conversations, and that’s great, but what is more benefiting to the Knicks is a deep playoff run. I’ve written how important this is time and time again and I’ll use this space to reiterate it: THE KNICKS MUST GET PAST THE FIRST ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS! Melo has adjusted well to his “big boy” pants, as Kobe famously put it, and a part of having the keys to the franchise is putting the team on his shoulders. Melo is a different kind of player this year. His determination to win and win big is palpable every game. We’ve heard all the knocks against him. “Ball Stopper,” “Playoff loser,” and “Coach Killer” but thankfully those cries have been muted for now. However, I think we all know that the minute things get ugly his critics will gleefully go back to callously dismissing him as another gun for hire. Melo knows this better than anyone and it probably explains why he is as focused as ever on winning.
Resolution: Evading the Sophomore Slump
Shump has seemed awfully present for someone that hasn’t been on the court all season. Thanks to being ubiquitous on social media, his ultra fan friendly demeanor, and his wild flat top, he’s pretty hard to forget about. For Knick fans though none of this frivolity matters. What Knick fans remember is one of the best rookies seen since, well, maybe Mark Jackson to be quite honest. (That speaks more to the Knicks embarrassing draft history though) Shump’s energy is only rivaled by his explosive defensive intensity, which is something that New Yorkers will always love. Any sports fan will be weary over a great rookie campaign thanks in part to the dreaded “Sophomore Slump.” The regression many rookies experience after the game tape catches up to them has stopped many athletes dead in their tracks. Remember Marko Jaric? Things will already be difficult for Shump considering the severity of his injury and the development he’s missed by not being on the court with future Hall of Famers like Kidd and Wallace (possibly?) When Shump is back on the court the room for error will not be as wide as it was last season since the Knicks are leading their division and pushing hard through the Eastern Conference. Hopefully he can pick up right were he left off because if he does, even Coach Woody will have to give him his minutes over some of his beloved veterans.
Resolution: Stop trying to prove you’re better than Lin
Raymond is going to be out awhile so maybe his resolution should just be to get healthy but I can’t ignore the fact that his shot selection has been insanely frustrating. Frustrating in the sense that he takes too many shots, and the ones he hits are the same ones Knick fans shriek in rage at shortly before sinking them. Perhaps this time away from the court will force Knick fans to appreciate his 15.8 points and 6.3 assists each game. Felton hasn’t done a good job keeping in his grudge against Jeremy Lin- especially in each game against the Rockets this season where he has gotten outplayed each time. It seems to me that Felton has always been a bit embarrassed by the fallout the Knicks received when they replaced Lin with an “out of shape” “over the hill” bench player from the Blazers. So far he’s played well but what he does need to do is to shoot less. He’s not a typical second or even third scoring option, and he’s the only one in the league that hasn’t gotten that memo yet. The minute Felton learns to shoot less, improve his shot selection, and continue mastering the pick and roll, he’ll be much more valuable to the team.
Resolution: Don’t get cut
This one is fairly simple. Wouldn’t you say?
Resolution: More control over the ball
During the preseason Pablo looked like a Godsend for the Knicks. While being the NBA’s oldest rookie was a bit of a joke considering how savvy he looked on the court, lately he’s actually looked quite natural as a rookie. His turnovers are way too high for someone that is playing 10-12 minutes on the court and it’s probably a big reason why his minutes have took a hit over the last month. Maybe it’s Jason Kidd that is making him look so bad, but his lack of control over the ball is something the Knicks didn’t expect from him. The reason the Knicks took a gamble on him was to be a calming presence off the bench. These past few weeks have been everything other than that. This doesn’t take away from the other things he does well, namely his hustle, but he does have to play like a 35 year old and not like a rookie if he is to have a positive impact on the game. At times it looks Pablo is over thinking things on the court and deferring too much those around him. Woodson has already been vocal about wanting to see Pablo shoot more. I think all Knick fans would be more comfortable with Pablo trading up a few of those errant passes for shots, even if he doesn’t hit them.
Resolution: Keep running from father time
After a disappointing start to the season in which Camby rarely appeared on the floor, he has finally gotten some decent minutes against the Lakers & Suns. He’s grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked 6 shots in 30 minutes of play in the absence of Rasheed and looked as if he can still be serviceable. In retrospect a 3 year contract for Camby is still looking like a bit of a mistake but it isn’t because of bad play. His lumbering up and down the court even makes me start to ache. If you think about it, looking as stiff as the tin man should be expected by a 7 foot 38 year old, but for someone that needs to log in 5-12 minutes a night, maybe he could stretch his career into his 40s ala Cliff Robinson. Camby’s natural gifts, his long swapping arms and nimble rebounding, will always be there for him so it really is just a matter of adjusting to his age. Remarkably, Camby has never averaged less than 23 minutes a game in his 16 year career so perhaps he is still having trouble finding a way to have an impact on the game in a fraction of the time he has been accustomed to playing. Of course Camby can’t be fully blamed for the lack of playing time since Coach Woodson is the arbiter of that. If Camby does play as he has these past few games, then all should be well for someone who has always been one of New York’s fan favorites. If Camby can keep hiding from his age, he will be fine. Still, I don’t even want to imagine how he will look three years from now.
Resolution: Force your way into Coaching
Maybe I got ahead of myself earlier when I mentioned Rasheed Wallace as a possible Hall of Fame candidate. I second guessed this after reviewing his career numbers and thinking about how polarizing he is to those in the media that have a vote on this kind of thing. What can’t be disputed is how great of a teammate Sheed has always been. Even in a full two year absence from the league he managed to pick up right where he left off in his last year in Detroit (just ignore that Boston season). Forget about the Hall and think about the bench. Could Sheed as an NBA coach be possible? According to sources coaching is something that is an aspiration of his. Just think back to earlier in the season when Rasheed spent much of practice running drills and hounding some of the Knicks younger players (yes, there actually are some). Think about how much respect he has from other NBA Players and his unrelenting heart. There would be great irony in one the NBA’s “bad boys” and perennial leader in technical fouls being on the sidelines. I actually used to look forward to NBA greats becoming commentators but after seeing how poorly Shaq fits into TNT’s Inside the NBA I think that Sheed being relegated to media side kick would not only be a disservice to him, but also all of the teams that could use him on the sidelines. As proven by his popularity all over arenas, fans clearly are still in love with Sheed and want him a part of the game. I just hope that he doesn’t get insulted by being pegged as a television character instead of being looked at as a viable coaching talent.
Resolution: NBA Finals
I don’t know what to really say about Kidd to be honest. He’s got it together so perfectly in his advanced age that I really can’t ask for anything more from him. When he’s on the court he’s controlling the game in so many ways even without the ball that it seems like an unfair advantage at times. When he’s off the court the Knicks have looked in disarray. I can only think of one real resolution for Kidd and that’s the NBA Finals. I think part of the reason Kidd chose the Knicks over a comfortable role with the rebuilding Dallas Mavericks is a fire in him that calls on him to be challenged considerably and further cementing his case as on the NBA’s all-time greats. A Knicks playoff run that reaches the Finals will undoubtedly prove that the decision to bring in Kidd was the best offseason move the Knicks made not only for this season, but for the next few as well since it will finally give the Knicks and fans the playoff campaign they have been craving for all decade. Let’s be real though. A Finals run isn’t totally dependent on Kidd, it’s a team effort that each Knick has to contribute to. Kidd does play a major role in the success the Knicks have had thus far though so with Felton out for awhile, Kidd will have even more of a chance to prove that he is still one of the most effective guards in the league.
Resolution: Lead every 3 Point category you can think of (except misses)
Full disclosure, Novak is probably my favorite Knick. As a doofy looking white guy who loves to shoot corner 3’s, I can’t help but have a little bit of an investment in Novak’s success. Steve doesn’t do much well but shoot masterfully from behind the arc. It’s like watching some kind of basketball maestro out there at times. Those wild 3’s you can only hit in NBA 2K13 (and feel guilty each time for some reason), that’s what defines his game. If he can lead the league in 3 point percentage, 3’s made, and Hell, let’s throw in the 3 Point Contest while we are at it, Steve will pave the way for legions of out of shape after-work pickup basketball players all over the country. He has brought the role of specialist, something common in baseball, and turned it into an actual job vacancy every team in the league has suddenly sought to fill. Maybe Coach D’Antoni has a bit to do with the league’s current love affair with three point shooting, but either way Steve is unquestionably the best at it and there is no reason to have other names like Matt Bonner and Metta World Peace ahead of him. Right now there’s even a few Knicks ahead of Novak (Copeland’s .452% and Melo’s 62 3’s made) so he’s got some work to do before rightfully being crowned as the league’s undisputed three point king.
Resolution: Don’t break
I’m not sure if anyone has written more than a few lines on Kurt all season other than my riff on being disappointed by his output a month ago, and I’m not going to do it again here. Just don’t break Kurt. At times he looks like he was unboxed from out of one of Wile E. Coyote’s Acme care packages and just a tinker away from breaking. Stay oiled up Kurt.
Resolution: Earn a contract
Ever since his breakout game (29 points, 5 boards, 1 block and 2 steals) against the Rockets, Copeland has been a different player. No longer relegated for garbage minutes, he’s found his way into the offense right on time. It’s also just his luck that at this moment Amare is scheduled to appear back on the court and cut into those minutes he just earned. With injuries to Sheed and some eventual ones for Camby and Thomas probably on the horizon, he’ll still find a way on the floor. I actually am rooting for Copeland. As a well traveled player who has had to work his ass off trying to make it the NBA, I have to cheer him on. I’m a sucker for underdogs and I love athletes that have to work extra hard to keep their jobs. I want Copeland to succeed and I would love for another NBA castaway find themselves as productive players through the Knicks. The Knicks did it last year with Lin and they can do it again this year with Cope. It’s a good reputation for teams to have and stories like Cope’s will always resonate with New York fans. He’s played great lately, but he is still not a lock to earn a contract though Woodson has been summoned him ff the bench much quicker these days. I’m hoping it happens for him this year.
Resolution: 6th Man of the Year
I think JR has finally figured it out. I’ve wrote about it before so I won’t rehash on what I already mentioned. He still is both one of the most frustrating and exciting players to watch, which reminds me of a more talented version of this guy. When he’s scoring at the ease at which he displays and winning games on circus-like shots, it’s not easy to continue to classify him as a bench player. Woodson has got it right by using him as a super 6th man. In this role he’s been one of the best in the league and a devastating weapon off the bench. The Knicks don’t need him taking shots away from Melo though since Felton already has made that his specialty. The Knicks need JR to insert energy and scoring during those lulls in the game where quarters laboriously crawl to an end and teams look lost on offense. What better way for JR to fully embrace this role than by winning this year’s 6th Man of the Year Award? It’s actually one of the ultimate team first awards and it’s something he could easily win if he keeps his pace through the second half of the season. Take that George Karl.
Resolution: Adjust to new role
With Amare expected back any week now, it’s become a foregone conclusion that his eleventh season in the NBA will probably be from the bench. It’s always a difficult and poignant moment when All-Stars come to terms with reduced roles for the first time. It’s rarely embraced and always thought of as a very public demotion. To be clear, Amare is way too talented to be thought as just a bench guy but the current construction of the starting lineup leaves little room for him to be a part of that group. Amare is better maximized when working off the bench much like how JR Smith has owned it this season. The Knicks have meshed too well to tinker around with an offense that clearly is working. Yes you can say that the minute the threes begin to rim out is the same moment the offense gets dumped, but we’ve heard this from the first game of the season. As I written before, Amare could excel in a lineup free of Melo and Tyson. Those 17 points a game he averaged last season and largely viewed as a dramatic drop in production would quickly turn into a hell of an offensive feature off the bench. I do like Amare and want him to succeed. While he wasn’t first on our original free agent wish list, he does deserve credit for being the first All-Star willing to embrace the burden of carrying the Knicks back to respectability- which he did a remarkable job at in his first MVP-like year. The thing is that the Knicks now have a Superstar, and one that is rightfully the nucleus of the team. This isn’t Amare’s role anymore but what the Knicks do need from him is production and ostensibly it seems as if the most production from him will have to come from the bench. His sacrifice will not be overlooked by fans or the rest of the league who might have been too quick to pass on the opportunity to land him.
Resolution: Work on your shot…a lot.
Remember this post? Yea, let’s get back to this. With every brick he’s threw up the more silly I feel for comparing his shot efficiency to Novak. The good thing about Brew is that his defense is his meal ticket and his decrepit shooting hasn’t altered that. His minutes have dropped considerably though and is looking in danger of being cut. There’s only one way he can save his job and that probably is not going to come from defense alone.