A Non-Gimmicked Streak: The 3-0 New York Knicks

It’s possible…

[It’s not]

…that the Knicks…

[I mean, they’re the Knicks, so we must consider we are all being set up]

…did this right?

[See, not even the most positive can be sure].

Well…lets assess this from all sides.

——-

If you were a person that believed the Knicks would be better this year, this is as good as any time to puff out your chest and stand tall.  Melo, Chandler, Kidd, and the rest are sitting at 3-0, twice beating their division rival, Philadelphia 76ers, and the defending NBA Champion, Miami Heat.

Not only are they 3-0, they have done it in fashion:

– They are currently 3rd in the NBA in points scored, with 104.7.

– They have had the strongest defense in the league, with opponents averaging 85.3 points per game

– They are shooting a league 2nd best 45.3% from 3PT.

– The Knicks have been careful with the ball giving up only 11 turnover a game, 2nd in the league.

– On top of that, they are giving up the least amount of actions that cause turnovers: only 8 steals + blocks allowed per game.

– Jason Kidd has fit right in as the “designated passer”, keeping the flow of the ball – a strong knock on how the offense was run with Anthony in D’Antoni’s offense last year.

– Ray Felton hasn’t been spotted eating straight from the Cool Whip container on the bench…yet.

Most importantly, they have done this without Amare Stoudemire.

—-

Many think the modern “Big 3” era started with the Celtics, but if you are just looking for a team built around three major players, the Spurs have been at it for much longer.

After the short-lived “Twin Towers” teams with Tim Duncan and David Robinson at helm (The Admiral, Navy, Helm…get it?), the Spurs became Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili and a bunch of role players.

They may have been the first Big 3, but they naturally evolved there with good drafting and a movement from one era to the next.

The Celtics are seen as the first Big 3 because two were not home-grown: Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen both arrived via trade to combine with Paul Pierce.  These were the big stars, but in reality, the only reason they became a championship team was because they had a 4th, Rajon Rondo, who grew to prominence in their title season.

The Heat are the strongest evidence that a manufactured Big 3 works.  Lebron James and Chris Bosh both signed (traded officially) to join Dwyane Wade.  It took two years, but they eventually were crowned champions last year.  While they had help from their supporting cast, unlike the Celtics, this team had no outstanding 4th player to help them .  They also differed from the Spurs because it was not a homegrown team.

What we can see here is that the Heat are actually an Outlier, the one that is different from all, and not a set blueprint for winning championships.  And while teams like the Heat were copying the Celtics, they only did so in philosophy, not execution.

—-

Which brings us back to the Knicks.  On the eve of the “Lebron Sweepstakes”, Knicks fans had dreams of scooping three free agents from a pool over the next few years that included Lebron, Bosh, Wade, Melo, Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, as well as other stars that were soon to become available.

Instead, all they got in the interim was Amare, while still eying that elusive Big 3.

After trading for Melo and making a possibly short-sighted move for Chandler (wiping the contract of Chauncey Billups from existence), they finally had that to start the ’11-12 campaign.  Many were unsure of if they fit; many more calling out that a point guard was not part of this Big 3 they eventually got.

What followed was much struggle and pain.  Without the few week stretch of Linsanity, much of the season was filled with heartache, under achievement, and the firing of Mike D’Antoni.

More importantly, people started to wonder if the pieces truly did not fit.  They went after Melo and some more went after Lin.  After Jeremy Lin left town, most were left wondering how this team could move forward.  GM Glen Grunwald started building up the pieces around the “Big 3” and while many (including myself) were enraged at them letting a key piece on offense (and depth) go, it seems like he has made many right moves.

But the one they inadvertently may have made is taking Amare Stoudemire out of the starting lineup.

Melo has looked incredibly strong at the 4, throwing elbows and being unstoppable underneath the basket.  Tyson Chandler no longer has a similar part next to him that prevents him from doing what he does best.  Ronnie Brewer has looked good as a complimentary piece at the 3.  Most importantly, Felton and Kidd are throwing around the ball and being efficient and productive together.

Amare doesn’t fit the starting lineup anymore, and this start proves that.  Being a complimentary player may help him as well – he won’t repeat his strengths with the strengths of Chandler and Melo as often, and will have more bench time to rest his knees and back.  Eventually they may need him to be a star again and he will be waiting in the wings.  Amare wanted to be the MVP with the Knicks, now the Knicks need him to be the Most Valuable Player he can be…on the bench.

—-

Focusing on Amare shows just how strong this Knicks team is right now, but do they have longevity?  If they can scale down the things Kidd has to do and his minutes, as well as keep some of their older players healthy and rested, they can continue this run.  Do I think they are suddenly one of the top teams in the East?  Not yet.  They exploited current weaknesses on the Heat and the lack of Andrew Bynum on the 76ers.  They are all wins though, and would have still been at both of their best, as long as the Knicks are playing as they are now, at their best.  Will they hold up?  No idea.  But for a long-suffering Knicks fan who loved Lin, they sure are winning me back.

Now if only normal Knicks fans could afford to see the new Garden….

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