Craziest Season Ever!
What a ride! Whether you were happy or sad, the Knicks gave us all a lot to follow this season. In what I can only describe as the craziest season I have ever witnessed in my 28 years of being a Knicks fan, New York was the headline of many sports news stories both good and bad. It was a strike-shortened season filled with free agent signings, an array of injuries, coaching changes, upsets and disappointments all wrapped around a once unknown Asian-American Harvard graduate that sparked a worldwide phenomenon known as “Linsanity.” With their season ending Wednesday night in Miami, in yet another first round playoff disappointment, the Knicks put their fans through a whirlwind of emotions and brought a spotlight to New York that has been missing since the days of Patrick Ewing and company. Although another losing season, Knicks fans can tell you that there is a lot to look forward to for the 2012-13 season. But before we get into that let’s talk about how this season unfolded.
As the summer rolled around I was struck with heart-breaking news that there might not be an NBA season due to a lockout. The players and owners were stuck in heated contract negotiation battles that played out through October and pinned the idea of a lost season in every fans minds. Luckily towards the end of November negotiations came to an end and a strike-shortened NBA season was slated to begin on Christmas weekend. Every owner in the league scrambled frantically to sign any available free agents to help solidify their respective teams, knowing full well that there would not be any time to truly develop chemistry. Some can argue that the Knicks acquired the most coveted free agent by signing the newly crowned world champion center, Tyson Chandler.Already starting two all-stars in Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks looked like they added that final piece to complete their “Big 3” that seems to be essential towards making a playoff run (i.e. Boston’s Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Miami’s James, Wade and Bosh.) Unfortunately for the Knicks, it does not come that easily. Forgetting to address the immediate need for a PG proved to be detrimental to the Knicks early season. To end last season the Knicks had a veteran point guard in Chauncy Billups but they had to release him to open enough salary cap room for the Chandler signing. The Knicks scurried to find help for their newly appointed starting PG Toney Douglas and picked up veterans Mike Bibby and Baron Davis, whom was still rehabbing his back injury from the prior season.
The Knicks opening day starting lineup was Douglas and Fields in the back court and Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler filling out what was considered the best front court coming into the NBA season. The Knicks came out of their Christmas Day opener with a victory over their division rival Boston Celtics, but after that, all seemed to go haywire. In the opener, the Knicks saw huge potential in their rookie Iman Shumpert, but he was the first to be bitten by the injury bug that seemed to set up camp in the Knicks locker room this season. Having to fill the voids left by injury and incompetency, Knicks management brought in a couple of guys who had been waived by their teams to open the season. Steve Novak and Jeremy Lin were supposed to be bench fillers as they were relatively unknown among NBA fans. But on the day Novak was signed, New York’s former coach as well as Novak’s coach in Houston for a season, Jeff Van Gundy claimed that the Knicks just signed the best shooter in the NBA. It was a bold statement about someone who was now playing for his fifth team in as many years, but Van Gundy is a smart man and you will hear why as you read on.
This season was considered Mike D’Antoni’s last chance to have a successful season if he wanted to remain the Knicks head coach. It turns out that he was willing to try and do anything to find camaraderie among his team that would prove to be successful.
After an 8-15 start, D’Antoni’s “hot-seat” was scorching so he looked to the end of his bench for some answers.Enter “Linsanity!” He was a day away from being cut by his third team of the season and he had absolutely nothing to lose. He took advantage of that mentality by completely abusing the former New Jersey Nets by putting up a then career high 25 points. From that day on, Jeremy Lin became a household name and he took the NBA by storm. Jeremy and the Knicks assembled a 7 game winning streak a quickly became relevant once again. For the time being, D’Anotni’s job seemed secure and the Knicks looked to make a playoff push with their newly found PG.
Off his extremely auspicious season across seas in China, J.R Smith came to the Knicks with the hope to solidify their bench. As “Linsanity” grew to be the topic among every sports medium, the Knicks quickly compiled a new popular look on their bench that became known as “Mobb Deep.” With 3-point specialist Steve Novak, the entertaining but often erratic Smith, the defensive stud Jared Jeffries, the high energy Iman Shumpert, and the newly healthy veteran Baron Davis, the Knicks bench looked better than a lot of NBA team starting lineups. After injuries to Anthony and Stoudemire during this new and exciting stretch, some of Mobb Deep had to step up and fill in voids in the starting lineup. Everything seemed to be working just fine until the two superstars returned. Bill Nye would have been furious with the lack of chemistry from there because nothing seemed to work no matter what D’Antoni tried. They dropped 6 games in a row and D’Antoni couldn’t take it any more, so he handed in his resignation forms and said adios to the Knicks.
The Knicks had a back up plan and his name was Mike Woodson. The once noteworthy coach of the Atlanta Hawks, Woodson was brought in at the beginning of the season to help improve the Knicks defense. He did that and more. Once he took over the reigns of a slowly dissipating Knicks team, a new found effort seemed to be shown between the players. They went on a quick 6-game winning streak becoming a .500 team once again and they didn’t stop there. During this hot streak for the Knicks, Jeremy Lin suffered a devastating knee injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Once again the roll players were called upon to salvage their roller-coaster season.
The Knicks defense went from being a much improved defense from a year ago to the best defense in the NBA from the point that Woodson took over. Chandler showed why he was the most coveted free agent by completely shutting down the middle and making everyone around him play better. His tenacious defense led Chandler to become the first New York Knicks player to ever win Defensive Player of the Year. Chandler also finished the season with the best field goal percentage, not only in the NBA for the season but the third best of all time behind Wilt Chamberlain two separate times. Steve Novak was the other Knicks stand out roll player. Novak finished the regular season with an NBA best 47% from 3-point range. Steve Novak added a bolt of electricity through the Madison Square Garden faithful every time he touched the ball. It was really exciting to watch him perform his best “discount-double check” when he hit the big 3’s.
With these two star performers and Carmelo Anthony playing his best basketball ever as a member of the Knicks, all seemed to be looking alright.
With the team fighting off a late season injury to Amare Stoudemire they slowly prepared themselves for the playoffs. Late in the regular season, the Knicks were in a heated push to the playoffs with only two seeds left and three teams battling. The Knicks showed their heart and tenacity under Woodson by finishing the season with an 18-6 record and a 7th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Regrettably, that put them face-to-face with their long time rival and NBA hated, Miami Heat.
This was the first time that long time friends and former High School opponents Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony ever faced each other in the postseason. To make a long story short, the Knicks got their asses handed to them in game 1, where they not only lost their rookie phenom Iman Shumpert to injury, but they lost any hope of winning the series. Game 2 followed with the same frustrations and then Amare thought it would be wise to use glass as a punching bag. Game 3 came and went with no change in the outcome. As the fourth game approached, the Knicks grew some cojones and won a tight match-up which only delayed the inevitable and possibly ended Baron Davis’ career with a devastating knee injury. Does anyone see a common theme throughout this article? After losing game five, the Knicks were eliminated and left to think about their future.
A Future with many questions. Who will be the coach next season? Did Woodson do enough to keep his job, or will the Knicks recruit Phil Jackson? Will Jeremy Lin be the starting PG next year or will the Knicks try to bring in Steve Nash? All I know is that New York has all off-season to get healthy and regroup. Address the issues that require addressing and focus on becoming the Knicks team they should be. My emotions as a Knicks fan were played with all season but I never gave up hope.
There’s always next year!