Knicks: Contenders or Pretenders?
By Eddie Castro
Who says it’s too early to think playoffs? Well, as we hit the month of March, the NBA playoffs are around the corner. Last week, Brooklynites rejoiced as the hometown kid returned home. Carmelo Anthony finally landed in the “Big Apple.” To evaluate the “new-look” Knicks first week, I would give the team a C+. In Melo’s debut, the Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks. The Knicks’ achilles heel has been putting away teams they should beat. Following the Knicks victory, they “laid an egg” as they lost once again to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the leagues’ worst team. However, this past Sunday the Knicks went into Miami and got a crucial hard-fought victory against the Miami Heat in what Carmelo Anthony called “a statement game.” Even though Carmelo Anthony has averaged 27 points in his first three games with New York, one veteran who has not been talked about is point guard Chauncey Billups. Billups hit a daggering 3-pointer with less than a minute to go in the 4th quarter to help the Knickerbockers pull the victory and withstand the Heat. Chauncey Billups is far from just a “throw in,” which is how many people looked at it upon his arrival in New York. He may not give you the minutes former Knick Raymond Felton provided for half the season, but Billups is a very intelligent player who has hit big shot after big shot, owning up to his nickname, “Mr. big shot.” People tend to forget, Billups is also a former NBA finals MVP. (With the Pistons in 2004)Even though the Knicks won a huge game this past Sunday, it is obvious that the Knicks lack size. The only big man the Knicks had in their roster was the 7- foot Russian rookie, Timofey Mozgov, who was traded to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony deal. No disrespect to Ronny Turiaf, but to match-up well against the power house East teams, you must have size to play with the Bulls, Heat, Magic, and even the Celtics even though the departure of Kendrick Perkins may hurt them. The East is stacked with big centers and talent all-around. Coach Mike D’Antoni says that he feels his team can make some noise if they make the playoffs, “We got to take it one game at a time and not overlook any teams.”
The Knicks are currently 6th in the Eastern Conference and with consistency perhaps they can catch the Hawks who are in front of them for the 5th seed. Philadelphia however, is breathing down New York’s neck fighting for higher seeding.As we head toward the last full month of the NBA season, can the Knicks pull enough victories to lock in a playoff berth? The bottom half of the East is tight and with new players still getting to know the D’Antoni system as well as playing with each other, it will be a very important month for the Knicks who haven’t made the playoffs since 2004. For now, the Knicks are a lock for a playoff berth, but how far can they go? Yes, they are still in the midst of the rebuilding process, but this playoff run may be the beginning formula of what the Knicks need to have for starters. The Knicks, with the play of Stoudemire and Anthony, have the capability of making serious noise in the playoffs. Can they put it all together to make a decent run with 25 games to go? I think the Knicks can surprise a lot of people in the East and can preserve as a “sleeper” team in the playoffs come April. Sports Notes : (NBA Basketball) ; As we go to press, the Knicks play the New Orleans Hornets. Is point guard Chris Paul next on the Knicks wish list? Will there be some CP3 chats from the Garden fans? Perhaps. The Knicks then look to get revenge at home against the Cavaliers on Friday.(NFL Football): The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement expires tonight at midnight, can the NFL and the NFL Players Association come to an agreement and avoid a lockout in the upcoming season? (MLB Baseball) : 30 more days till Opening Day. Baseball is indeed on the horizon.