I’ve finally recovered enough to take a deep breath and look back at the last few months. There were insane hight, excruciating lows, unexpected heroes, a ton of injuries, somehow exceeding and falling short of expectations at the same time, on and off the court drama, and more twists and turns than I can even count. In other words it was your typical Knicks season.
So was the season a success or a failure? Before the season started everyones expectations were pretty much the same. 50 wins, top 4 seed and 2nd round of the playoffs. The Knicks ended up with 54 wins, the 2nd seed and the 2nd round of the playoffs. So why do I have the feeling this was a failed season?
Lets start off with some quick highlights of the season. Amare get injured before the season started so the Knicks get Rasheed out of retirement. Rasheed looks better than he has in years. Until he gets injured and has to re-retire. Kurt Thomas plays a gutty 27 minutes with a season ending foot injury. Shumpert comes earlier than expected from his ACL injury, looks pretty terrible for a while and then slowly evolves into one of the Knicks best players. Chris Copleland has some huge games and ends up getting inexplicably benched for multiple games after said huge games. JR Smith has 6 amazing weeks which is enough for voters to ignore the rest of the season and grant him the 6th man of the year award (he played the most minutes out of any Knick on the entire team, but he comes in 3 minutes into the game so he’s the 6th man. Whatever.) Amare comes back and to the surprise of no one the Knicks go on a losing streak before he gets reinjured and they go on a huge winning streak. (Yes I know there were other factors like Kidd getting injured and JR going through a 30 game slump (6th man of the year!) but it does seem like we’re developing a pattern here doesn’t it?) Pablo Prigioni entering the starting lineup and the Knicks finishing the season 18-2. Here are the list of players that didn’t get injured during the season: JR Smith. Steve Novak. Pablo Prigioni. That is all.
My point is the Knicks exceeded expectations considering all the injuries. That’s before you look at the playoffs though. So the Knicks finished the season with Felton and Prigioni as a 2 guard lineup, lots of ball movement and 3 point shooting. They then immediately go away from that the second the playoffs start with no explanation. The Knicks did go up 3-0 against the Celtics, but 2 of those wins were very ugly and featured a lot of iso-ball. JR is spotted at clubs every night and after elbowing Terry (he gets suspended but Wade’s flying elbow in game 2 of the conference finals goes unpunished. Go figure) he can’t hit a shot for the rest of the playoffs. Kidd goes through such a bad shooting streak (missed every attempt for 11 straight playoff games) that he looks terrified to shoot, even letting the shot clock expire for a 24 second violation instead of shooting at one point. The Knicks get past Boston and then for some reason decide to go even further away from what worked at the end of the season. Pablo was replaced by Kenyon Martin, and his minutes were cut while Copeland and Novak got no minutes. He also decided to work Amare in because putting someone in the middle of a 2nd round playoff series who hasn’t played in months always works out, instead of putting in Camby who apparently was healthy for over a month but for some reason Woodson didn’t want to play. So all season the Knicks won by ball movement and 3 point shooting (they broke the all time record for 3 pointers made, smashed it actually) and Woodson decides to bench anyone who can hit a 3. It took until game 5, down 3-1 for Woodson to go back to what works and the Knicks eventually lost in 6 games. I can’t help but feel that if Woodson goes with what worked instead of panicking and changing the rotation/strategy that this series would have went very differently and that’s why I feel this season was a failure. The conference finals were absolutely reachable.
It came out later that Melo had a tear in his shoulder and JR had fluid in his knee. They are still saying Tyson had no major injuries, but it sure looked like he did. In fact if he didn’t the Knicks should be in complete panic mode because he got abused. Would it have made a difference if those 3 were healthy? Maybe. But JR would still have gone clubbing and Woodson would still have had one of the worst playoff coaching performances I have ever seen.
So where does that leave us? Well anyone hoping for a different look next year is going to be really disappointed. There will be no CP3 and everyone except Qrich, James White and possibly Barron and Prigioni will be back next season. Any space we have will be spent of locking up JR (I mean when you have 9 straight terrible playoff games you have to lock that guy into a 4 year contract) which leaves the Knicks with a 3M mini-mid level and veteran minimums. The Knicks might even sign JR’s little brother, the guy who shot 29% in last years summer league and doesn’t like to pass! Immediately after the Knicks got eliminated Amare said he wanted to talk to the coach about his role. Totally appropriate to start complaining about playing time when you are on a team mandated minute limit and look like garbage during those minutes. Oh and the team is saying they aren’t sure if he’ll be healthy enough to start NEXT season. So with 2 years and 45M left on his contract I think we can give up any and all conversation about him being traded. So basically the Knicks will have the same team next year and will have to pray that Tyson really was injured, Woodson learned from his errors this year, Melo will be healthy, JR can keep the drinking til 5am the night before a game to a minumum, Kidd and Camby to provide ANYTHING, Shumpert and Copeland continue to develop and one of the vets we sign is unexpectedly good like K-Mart and Sheed of this year. Most of this has to happen for the Knicks to compete next year because Boston will have Rondo back, the Bulls will have Rose and the Pacers will have Granger so the east will be significantly better next season. I know this was a pretty negative post, I’m still bitter about the loss, but on a lighter note the Knicks did have their best season in over a decade and had more playoff wins than the last 12 years combined. Hopefully a number of the things I listed above do happen and we get to see the Knicks in the conference finals next season.