The Knicks currently sit happily as the second seed in the Eastern Conference and are perched comfortably atop the Atlantic division with an impressive 32-18 record. A few years ago just the thought of the Knicks being over .500 was something I didn’t dare ever expect to see while I was in my twenties, so yes the Knicks have obviously made some huge strides this season. However, call me jaded, but a part of me never really was sold on the Knicks being out of the woods.
We’ve all heard the predictions about the Knicks slumping once the threes would stop falling, but it seems that ever since Rasheed Wallace’s injury things really seemed to have snapped back into focus. Before Sheed went down against the Lakers on December 13, the Knicks were 17-5 and widely lauded as being one the most dangerous teams in the league. Granted, Sheed was just one part of a roster full of functional players that all seemed to fit in perfectly, but ever since his injury the Knicks are only 15-12 and looking painfully pedestrian at the half way mark of the season.
Before Sheed went down I always figured his minutes would dissipate once Amare came back regardless of how cumbersome Amare looked coming off of the bench. Obviously Amare has exceeded expectations and played…well as STAT loves to say: “phenomenal” So why exactly have the Knicks looked so bad with Amare essentially replacing and surpassing Sheed’s old minutes? It’s baffling to me but not too many beat writers and fans are probably going to use Sheed’s absence as an excuse for the Knicks poor play as of late. And let’s be honest, many of these past few wins have come against some pretty lowly teams. Aside from Melo’s statement game against Boston, the Knicks haven’t really done much to solidify themselves as a playoff ready team. And speaking of Boston, on Bill Simmon’s latest podcast with Marc Stein and Ric Bucher when speaking about the serious teams in the East, the Knicks were merely an afterthought to that esteemed panel of NBA junkies. That’s perfectly okay with me though because there is always a benefit to being under the radar, or I dare say being a dark horse.
Perhaps the Knicks really did play extraordinarily over their heads the first quarter of the season. It was nice to have the Knicks finally garner some respect after a decade of being the joke of the league and even banished from the national television schedule at one point. The good news is that there is an entire second half of basketball on the way and all signs point to Sheed returning after the break. Once he is back, it will be very interesting to see if it breaks the correlation between the Knicks recent slump and his presence.