Even before the Carmelo Anthony trade, the New York Knicks have frequently felt like they will take one step forward only to take two steps back. Over the past week or so we have seen an impressive three game winning streak, capped off by a pretty game winner followed by two lethargic, ugly losses.
The same excitement that should be felt watching Carmelo Anthony bury a jumper as the clock ticks down to zero is matched by the disappointment of watching Tyler Hansbrough lead the Pacers to an embarrassingly easy victory over the Knicks in the Garden. How can you think a team that didn’t bother to show up in Dallas a few nights back and was ran off the court, or a team that loses by double digits to a team nearly ten games under .500 at home can steal a first round series?
This is still a work in progress. There have been flashes of chemistry between Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire but no consistency or stability to that chemistry. Chauncey Billups showed he can hit a big shot , but he has also shown he has problems staying healthy and getting back into rhythm after missing time. The role players have followed down a similar course, as they battle out each other for minutes in Mike D’Antoni’s ever changing rotation.
The recent return of Billups, Ronnie Turiaf, and Bill Walker has put the pressure back on D’Antoni to sort out the best use of his newly constructed bench. We are now left to wonder if he can find comfort with a rotation that expands past eight players. More importantly, when he settles on his rotation, he must find a way to motivate them to consistently give the defensive effort necessary to compete in the Eastern Conference.
When you have as much talent as the Knicks, there are going to be moments of greatness but is that greatness more of an aberration hiding a team that was recently slapped together, which still lacks the size and toughness to win a playoff series?
There are still 17 games left for the Knicks to sort out their issues, including a pair of games against the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, and one more against the Chicago Bulls. If this team wants to live up to the hype for them around this city, Anthony, Stoudemire, and Billups must take the lead to demand an end to the lackadaisical defense and sporadic effort.
Nobody expected there not be a few bumps in the road after the Anthony trade, yet that is no excuse for the putrid level of basketball we have seen from the Knicks the last two times they have taken the court.