Culture of Hoops

The New York Knicks: (Currently) Exceeding Expectations

J.R. Smith and the New York Knicks are playing really well right now, but they haven't really been tested by opponents yet. If they beat the San Antonio Spurs, maybe this is a real thing

Only five games into the 2012-2013 NBA season and the New York Knicks find themselves the only undefeated team in the league – all five games being played sans the services of Amar’e Stoudemire or Iman Shumpert. When Stoudemire returns, immediately, I anticipate an impending imbalance within the structure of the offense. Of course, quite the opposite could occur. Amar’e could come back and fit right into the scheme of things, avoiding any speed bumps altogether. We won’t know until he returns. The argument has lost its flavor and has become quite bland. Mike Woodson seems to have the attention of all his players, a feat perhaps too complicated for new Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, and if Stoudemire’s return does by chance produce any unwanted hiccups, Woodson possesses the competence to quickly remedy the situation.

The last time the Knicks had a start similar to this one (The 1993-94 NBA season that starred Pat Riley, John Starks, Patrick Ewing, Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, et al.) they finished the campaign as Eastern Conference champions. New York unluckily suffered defeat at the hands of Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in that season’s NBA Finals. Note that this New York squad were 7-0 before having to tack one up in the loss column.

With a mega busload of games remaining, one can only sit and support the Knicks one game at a time. Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, and friends seem to have gelled much faster than many anticipated. Most important, they appear to “want it.” It’s written on their faces; the mindset is to minimize the number of Ls.

J.R. Smith is a player to pay close attention to… I know Mike Woodson is. Smith has the tendency to showcase his erratic side at the flip of a switch, one that flickers on its own accord. A bipolar, malfunctioning switch that Smith is slowly learning to troubleshoot. In the beginning, he was slightly perturbed for not being considered for a starting role, but Smith is now warming up to coming off the bench. He’s an offensive/defensive spark and contributes mightily to a New York squad that is giving its fans a team to appreciate rather than a team to loathe.

The Knicks have been truly tested only once so far this season – that being the impressive victory over the champions from South Beach. Philadelphia (twice), Dirkless Dallas, and Orlando are teams that, given certain respective circumstances, should pose no real threat for a team of New York’s caliber. That said, never underestimate anybody, that is, in basketball, and of course, in life. On the road, against an unidentifiable Orlando team without Jameer Nelson, the Knicks had to piece together a very dominant fourth quarter to defeat the Magic.

This Thursday night, the Knicks will travel to Texas to square off against arguably the best in the west, the San Antonio Spurs.  San Antonio (7-1) looks as they usually do (consistent and very intelligent) behind veteran coach and legend, Gregg Popovich. Tim Duncan, who looks to have been exposed to a fountain of youth, is currently playing out of his aging skin (18.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.6 BPG), thus explaining, not wholly, San Antonio’s current run of impeccable form.

Mike Woodson and his team will have quite a task on their hands, but surely the Knicks are ready to accept this challenge, for it mustn’t be taken lightly. A win in San Antonio will do wonders for their motivation, their desire, their appetite. It will also nudge those that still remain in the middle, those that do not believe, those who still question whether or not this team is for real or if this is just a big tease, in the right direction.

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