The Knicks made their return to the NBA Playoffs after a six-year absence this season, with the free-agent signing of Amar'e Stoudemire and midseason acquisition of Carmelo Anthony leading the way. Yet they'll have to wait at least one more year to get their first playoff victory since 2001, as the Boston Celtics swept them out of the playoffs Sunday afternoon.
While one can debate the merits of breaking the bank in the trade for Anthony, a few things remain clear, in the immediate aftermath of another ultimately season without playoff success.
Sports Illustrated colleagues Jack McCallum and Zach Lowe agree both Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni deserve another full season helming the Knicks as President and head coach, respectively. McCallum succinctly makes Walsh's case when he writes, "He was asked to sweep out the garbage contracts and create cap space, and that is precisely what he did. Execs with his wisdom and years of experience are not easily found." And Lowe asks Knicks fans eager for a front-office makeover to relax a bit: "There might be better people out there for these jobs [...] but you have to identify those people instead of just screaming for changes."
The on-court issues are also easy to identify. In Stoudemre and Anthony, the team has two brilliant scorers who struggle defensively. They lack a big man who can competently protect the rim, as well as a go-to perimeter defender. And unless they trust Toney Douglas to figure out the professional game, they don't have a point guard ready to take over for Chauncey Billups should the 35-year-old move on next season or get traded in-season; his expiring contract, worth $14.4 million, could be valuable in a trade. Bandwagon Knick lays out two ways of looking at the Knicks' situation:
You can see the glass as half-full (two elite offensive superstars and a veteran point guard with more moves to be made), or half-empty (an aging point injury-prone point guard and two superstars who are defensive liabilities that may not be rescued with the meager resources available in the off-season).
Regardless of where the Knicks are headed, their fans can at least enjoy this season for offering hope. The fans at Madison Square Garden applauded the team as it walked off the floor following the sweep, which "delighted" Seth of Posting and Toasting, SB Nation's Knicks blog. With a full training camp and regular season together next year, New York should have a better showing in the playoffs. And if they don't, the reaction at MSG will be markedly different.