Following the new Knicks
…not to be confused with the New York Knicks of the past!

As a devout New York Knicks fan, I was geared up for the 2010-11 season to be a BIG one. Obviously, LeBron was the goal, but overall improvement of our team was the greater desire. So this season I am going to keep track of these New Knicks, and let you know how the revolution is going on a month-by-month basis.

In the past decade the Knicks have been low on the food chain in terms of victories, yet high ranking in the league in terms of payroll ($120M US at one point, considerably above the league salary cap of $50M US at the time), off court drama (or should I say, “in court” dramas?), draft boos (I still love the Balkman pick, but at the time it had everyone’s head shaking!), disgruntled stars (I can’t believe someone actually thought pairing grumpy Stephon Marbury with arrogant Steve Francis would actually work!) and over the top contracts for no longer able to perform players (I salute you Jerome James).

Hope? We didn’t have much. I just used to hope we didn’t lose like this all the time. As an old team, with a league high payroll, no draft picks (seriously, great job on that Isiah), and not enough blue chip talent ready to make a difference (bar David Lee), the Knicks have been in turmoil for years.

But this year, regardless of the current record, things are VERY different in New York. Let’s explore further.

2010 Team salary: $58,102,438US (some $60k over the salary cap, as opposed to $70,000,000 over like we used to be)

Expected cap room for 2011-12 season: as of today $16,500,000 But with expected increases in the cap, the Knicks may be looking at anywhere up to $18,000,000 in cap space.

Expected cap room for 2012-13 season: as of today $17,000,000 They are only on the books for $22m, so let’s add a max contract of $17m from next season, as well as roughly $4m in other smaller contracts (Knicks currently have 8 players on contracts smaller than $2.1m), and that brings us to $43m, which by then will be around $17m under the salary cap ;)

This salary cap summary is so important because besides preparations for this season, the Knicks have not had the luxury of cap space in years, although we’ve had the luxury tax… ZING! The flexibility we have moving forward in the next few years gives us the chance to add significant pieces, as opposed to being forced into lateral trades like the past decade (Larry Hughes anyone?). We may not be able to add superstars, but the options are now broader.

The Amar’e Factor: From the moment he signed his $100,000,000 contract with the Knicks, Amar’e has been making himself the face of the franchise. His leadership in training camp exceeded all expectations, and his physical preparation has been something we haven’t seen before in NY. For decades our players have been scared to speak to the media due to Dolan’s strangle hold. Within minutes of signing with the Knicks, Amar’e was screaming out how he’ll call Tony Parker and Melo and see if they want to join him in NY. Preposterous, yet refreshing!
Amar’e brings the Knicks respect, by his consistent play, and his giving of respect to others.

Young Guns: In the past our team has been like a retirement village for ex-stars (Holla at me Penny!) but right now we are the 4th youngest team in the league, with an average age of 26.3 years.

In the past decade the biggest young guns we’ve had included the following: Frank Williams, Mike Sweetney, Trevor Ariza, Jackie Butler, Channing Frye, David Lee, Nate Robinson, Renaldo Balkman, Mardy Collins and Jordan Hill. None of these players have been able to blossom for us except for Nate and David Lee. Nate however, talked his way out of our team (not without playing the most dominant game as a Knick of the decade, Frye put in a good 1st season and then disappeared the next, which left us with David Lee. If you wanted to know the most consistent Knick of the decade, the answer is D Lee, but we still needed a bigger marquee name to elevate our club.

Right now our roster includes Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas, Bill Walker, Landry Fields, Andy Rautins and Anthony Randolph, a plethora of young talent. Gallo, Chandler, Fields and TD have been huge factors for our team, and I will cover them more in depth below.

So each month I’ll update you with the latest happenings in NY under the following categories (Does anyone else hate Cook’s character on Skins? Sorry getting sidetracked…)

Oct/Nov Record 9-9

Overall Record 9-9

7th in the Eastern Conference

Monthly Migraines

- Obviously the 6 game losing streak was not a good time in my household or in my class at school.

- But the bigger issue for me is the niggling injury to Ronny Turiaf’s knee. Turiaf has been outstanding for us, and brings more to the table than my grandma (she makes us eat lots), but has missed several games due to knee soreness. He missed a large part of last season for the same reason. Amar’e has also been playing through a sprained ankle, and has re-aggravated it several times in the past five games. Although they don’t seem to be serious as of yet, they have me on edge.

- Blake Griffin

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- As a team, we are still pretty average at rebounding, and if the 3’s not falling we are in trouble. If you check the boxscore for any game we lost, we probably shot 3-100 from distance, and if you check the boxscore for any game we won, we probably shot 15-20. Until that becomes more consistent, I will continue to stress.

- I am also concerned with Turiaf’s beard. I believe a small colony is forming in there.

- The Anthony Randolph situation is a nuisance, people talk him up so much, yet we are yet to experience this talented phenomenon. When he has entered games, he seems just like Count Dracula, only after the numbers.

Monthly Miracles

- Danilo Gallinari had us all worried in Knick-land. His importance to our season was highlighted over and over again last season and in the off season. He then went on to begin the season by shooting slightly better than Cheddar Bob, and seemingly having the self-belief of Nick Anderson post Game 1. I was worried. Hell, I was panicking. Talk of a rift between he and D’Antoni and the woeful shooting numbers made for the possibility of another loooong season.
But things turned around.

After the final game last season, Gallo had his average up to 15.1ppg, the high point of the season. With such a horrible start, I am proud to announce Gallo is already averaging 15.7ppg. Gallinari had two games with 20+ points before the end of November last year, this year he had seven. He averaged 27ppg in the 3 game winning streak on the road, and is currently shooting the 2nd highest percentage from the FT line (92.5%) and pushing his numbers up to 6 FT attempts a game, which is outstanding for a “one dimensional” shooter (he went for 43 straight before clanking the Knick record equaling free throw last week). And his shooting numbers are already back to respectable figures, just 2.3% below his FG% from last season, and 1.3% below his 3PT FG% from last season. Gallinari has proven to be an All Star talent many times, but his inconsistency has also been an issue. His 31pt outing against the Flippers (shout out to my boy Fresh!) was a statement game, as was his 24pt night against the Bulls after his horrendous start to the season. Gallo’s future is bright, his pride as a Knick invigorating. The Cock will not quit!

- Knicks won 6 road games before Thanksgiving (4th Thursday of November) for the first time in 10 years.

- Knicks have won 5 straight on the road for the first time in 10 seasons.

- Knicks were ranked 30th in Blocked Shots as a team last season. Currently, the Knicks are ranked 1st (7.4bpg), and undeniable improvement to a team that has not been associated with defense in a long time. Amar’e, Chandler, Mozgov and Turiaf have given our guards a chance to play tighter perimeter defense, something that has been unheard of in the past decade (check out Crawford’s favourite defensive stance below). Wilson Chandler is averaging .3 of a block less than Dwight Howard, fairly impressive stat.

- Toney Douglas dropping 30pts on the Bulls.

- Knicks won 3 straight on the road in the West Coast for the first time in 13 years. Whether or not you believe the Kings, Warriors and Clippers are quality teams or not, something that hasn’t happened in 13 years is still a good sign. We then bundled that with a sweep of a home-and-home series with the Bobbies, and enjoyed our first 5 game winning streak since 2005-06.

- After the back to back wins against the Bobcats, we called up one of the two Bobby fans in Aus (sup Dwain?) and I unleashed some of my grade 6 kids on his message bank, declaring the Knicks as the greatest. Shout out to Ankush, John and Zack (as well as my other new Knick fan Anushka – I am working on the rest of the class!)

- The first rookie rankings released went like this:
1st place was a tie between John Wall and Blake Griffin, the last 2 number one picks.

3rd place?

Well of course it was 2nd Round pick Landry Fields… figure that out folks! That means besides two future All-Stars and NBA superstars (my goodness Wall is fast) the 39th pick, fresh out the 2nd round has performed the most so far this season. Fields is outplaying every other rookie and coming up big in the clutch. Landry is a solid, smart, consistent baller who’s started every game and yet to disappoint. Amar’e refers to him as the one guy who he counts on for energy every night. Fields remains in 3rd spot in the Rookie Ladder suggesting the Knicks got a steal in the past draft, making up for their lack of a 1st round pick and their throw away of Jordan Hill last season.

- The double overtime win over Detroit was amazing, what do you think Rob? Amar’e with 37pts, 15rebs and 7asts made my day! I was scared when we needed DOUBLE OT to down the Pistons, but a win is a win.

Amar’e Rant

He can’t perform without Steve Nash…
He will be the most disappointing FA signing of the year… (*cough* Joe Johnson *cough*)
He will be injury prone…
He does the same as David Lee already did for you…
Bite me. Bite me. Bite me. Bite me.

I’ll admit, when Amar’e nearly opened the season with a “cripple double” (19pts, 10rebs, 9 turnovers – Mike D’Antoni’s words not mine) I was a little concerned. He had an up and down first few games, and it really did seem like he was suffering from the divorce with Nash (pun intended, sorry Stevie). But just like our boy Gallo, STAT has turned it on, and already has himself ahead of his scoring average of last season, now at 23.4ppg (when EVERYONE was SO sure he would score less without Nash). More importantly, he is blocking more shots, and has shown himself to be capable of knocking down clutch baskets, even threes (5 of 9 on the year). Rebounding is as advertised, but his willingness to take charges has impressed me the most when watching Amar’e this season… thank you Pontel!

Leadership has been a big issue here in New York – the triumvirate of Malik “Pull the chair” Rose, Jamal Crawford and Eddy Curry was possibly the HIGH point in the past decade… the high point! So I have been very curious to see how true leadership could impact our locker room.

Following the six game losing streak Amar’e called out the team, and immediately there were articles up on Yahoo Saying Amar’e needed to stop talking and stop separating himself from the team. Amar’e sounded emo and said he was in uncharted waters with all the losing. What happened next? The Knicks slapped up a 5 game winning streak. David Lee said we had a “pretty good week” once, following a 3 game losing streak. It’s the little things that us true fans notice. Amar’e punctuated the week by being named NBA player of the week in the Eastern Conference (while Westbrook took out Western Conference player of the week, along with the Boadie from The Wire look-a-like award)

His most recent comments about never being taught how to play D in the NBA besides off Gentry were a little cringe worthy, but at least he isn’t eating Vaseline and crying on YouTube, or commenting in court like our last “franchise player”. With his weak side defense at an all time best, and his desire (and ability) to improve as a player, I think we need to take the good with the bad, and really these comments weren’t as bad as some made out. He is no Dikembe Mutumbo, but he has been known to throw a block party (note the game saving block against S-Jax) or two since joining the city of Gotham (averaging 2.1bpg).

November Heroes

Amar’e Stoudemire – 7 double doubles, lot of monster blocks, jams and effort every night
Raymond Felton – Stuck it up the Bobcats and also putting up very un-Duhon like numbers (18ppg, 8apg, 4rpg, 2spg!!), to the point where my wife wants to order his jersey!
Danilo Gallinari – His heroics on the road trip were timely and exhilarating
Wilson Chandler – Opened the season on a tear, in his usual “I could care less” fashion (check it here and here)
Ronny Turiaf – This is the guy you want over at your house on a Friday night with a Corona in his hand telling some old war stories from your childhood
Landry Fields – The Gallo look-a-like has commentators confused, as well as the defense

November Villains

Roger Mason Jrn – Putting up more donuts than Krispy Kreme

Toney Douglas – I put him here reluctantly, but Toney has been amazing and then woeful sometimes, get it together DWTTD
Anthony Randolph – Has been exiled to the bench and told to develop in training after some very non-eventful appearances
Eddy Curry – Just get yourself into game shape, please

Until next time, keep supporting the Knicks, and continue to enjoy the Miami Heat meltdown


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