The New York Knicks and New York Rangers are both in the midst of successful seasons, both in the thick of the playoff race, but both have been struggling lately. Of course, the bar at the Garden has been lowered the past decade or so, so just qualifying for the postseason is reason to be excited. While the duo is on course to keep playing into the spring, even though 2011 hasn't treated them as kindly as the end of 2010, they're going about things differently. The Knicks feature Mike D'Antoni's seven-seconds-or-less offense (while Eddy Curry lingers on the bench with his seven-sandwiches-or-more philosophy), and the Rangers' bread and butter is a blue-collar work ethic with a strong defense.
The Knicks have their one high-priced free-agent acquisition, Amar'e Stoudemire, playing at the top of his game. He's carrying the load of the team on his shoulders, and has been nothing but phenomenal in his short time in New York. His partner in crime, Raymond Felton, is having a career year, dishing out the ball with accuracy, aplomb and expertise. He's the floor general, running the offense. Both have been great team leaders on and off the court. Meanwhile, for the Rangers, their star player, Marian Gaborik, hasn't performed up to his capabilities this season, though he lived up to his billing last year. He's been the anti-Stoudemire, disappearing for games at a time. And the Blueshirts have been short a "point guard," or puck-dishing number-one center all year. Which goes hand-in-hand with Gaborik's shortcomings.
While the Knicks can usually run up and down the court and score all night, their effort is sometimes questioned and their commitment to defense is often less than desired. Though they surely are tougher and more resilient than their Aughts predecessors, a night-in, night-out grind while clamping down on the defensive end is what's missing from the Knicks this year. They rank second in points scored, at 106.5, and second in three-pointers made per game, with nine, but they're 19th in rebounding (41 per game) and allow the third most points per game (106).
The Rangers, on the other hand, have the grinding thing down pat, it's the offensive explosion that is lacking. The Blueshirts rank eighth in the league in both goals against average (2.40) and penalty killing (84.2 percent), but they're a woeful 18th in goals per game (2.64) and even worse on the power play, all the way down at 24th (15.3 percent). With their lack of offense, just one breakdown or turnover can turn into a loss, as we've seen in their last batch of games. They leave themselves no room for error with their ineffective offense, and now they have no room for error in the standings, as ninth place is looming awfully close.
The Knicks lack an effective center, one who can clog up the middle, haul in the rebounds, contribute on offense, while blanketing the opposition's center, taking the pressure off Stoudemire. Timofey Mozgov's done it for one game, while Ronny Turiaf isn't the answer. The Rangers have the equivalent of a center with their goaltending duo (Henrik Lundqvist's recent slump notwithstanding). They anchor the defense and usually give the team a chance to win every single night.
Both teams are building with young, homegrown players, with a handful of free agents sprinkled in. Of course, Carmelo Anthony may be riding to the rescue any minute now, which would change the dynamic of the Knicks. But they're both facing a mid-season crisis: The Knicks need to play with the Rangers' tenacity and defense, while the Rangers need a little of the Knicks' offensive magic. They play in the same building--can each team acquire their missing ingredient through osmosis? Is there any way we combine the two teams to form a Madison Square Garden Frankenstein monster of success? Put one part Ranger work ethic, one part Blueshirt team defense, one part Mike D'Antoni offense, one part Knick star power and put it in a blender and come up with two consistently successful teams? The answers for each team are right in front them. They just need to look to their roommate.