On Saturday night, many hearts were broken in the city that never sleeps. Madison Square Garden is still weeping as its team has returned home without a chance of playing a game 7 or a shot at the Eastern Conference Finals. Exactly one year ago, as my beloved Miami Heat dispatched the NY Knicks in 5 games en route to their second franchise title, I gave real advice to Knicks fans.
I told all fans not what they wanted to hear, but I told them the truth and most of them didn’t want to admit it and I was right. I have been the biggest critic of Carmelo Anthony for most of his ten-year career and after last year’s playoffs I said the only way Carmelo would get the Knicks out of the first round was if he started to take his career seriously. What’s taking your career seriously? Melo needed to lose weight, he needed to work hard and take some pride in playing defense, I said that he needed to step up and take responsibility for his team; I said he needed to be a leader.
Well he did almost of these and look at that, the NY Knicks were the #2 seed in the playoffs, won the Atlantic division and made it to the conference semifinals. Yeah Knicks fans we all know, “they SMACKED the Heat three times this season.” We all get it, this season the Knicks played better than they have in about 15 years realistically. No one wants to hear the sob story about how much it hurt to get knocked out of the playoffs when some of you actually thought you were good enough to win this year.
But you see, that’s the problem; the Knicks were good and not great. Good teams win games, great teams win games they weren’t suppose to. The Knicks have yet to put it all together to be a great team and it sucks because their roster is full of very talented players. So what happens now? Who gets the blame for this season, or shall we say postseason? Melo? Mike Woodson? JR Smith? Tyson Chandler? Who? Moves have to be made to either keep this team together or break it up, so realistically who stays and who goes?
Is Carmelo to blame for this failure or was this season exactly what was supposed to happen? Most Knicks fans will tell you no, but all in all, yes, this is all Carmelo’s fault. I told you Melo did almost all of the things that he needed to do to make this team better and the one thing that he is shying away from is being a leader. Scoring the most points doesn’t make you a leader and for the most part that’s all he really is good for. As a college freshman in 2007 I watched my favorite player lead a team that had a starting lineup of Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Drew Gooden, a kid from Akron, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas to the NBA Finals.
Outside of that kid from Akron most would take the Knicks lineup any day, but Carmelo doesn’t have a leadership bone in his body, so getting back to the NBA Finals may take a very long time for the NY Knicks. Carmelo is due $46.8 million over the next two seasons and no matter how you slice it, Melo won’t be worth nearly $85. 7 million that his contract extension was worth if he doesn’t at least get the Knicks to the Finals. So should Melo stay in NY or not? To be honest it still isn’t clear whether he really can handle such a large market like New York, much like Dwight Howard in LA, just not as bad. Melo is the piece that the NY fans are banking on, so moving him is out of the question at this point; they gave up too much to get him and paid him too much not to have something on his ring finger.
Mike Woodson probably did the best coaching job of his career this season. He made one of the NBA’s oldest rosters seem like the scariest team to play in the league. Woodson was just the kind of coach that we all thought that players like Melo and JR Smith needed. But is that really true? Did Woody do right by all of the Knicks or just some? Novak sitting on the bench a lot this season was a smart move, JR Smith not being a starter, but playing starter’s minutes was smart, playing three point guards a decent amount of time who all have plenty of playing experience, also turned out to be a smart move.
Realistically Woodson did a lot of things well, but he wasn’t the tough defensive coach he is known for, this season if it weren’t for the play of Tyson Chandler, the Knicks defense would have been the same as it was under Mike D’Antoni. Woodson turned into the cool guy who was going to let his stars do as they please and it worked for the most part because the Knicks were winning. But be real, Woodson being so easy going with the Knicks stars is the reason that those particular players seem so much like Woodson’s Atlanta Hawks’ teams. Woodson will surely be back next season.
JR Smith, whew I’m not sure a player has gotten so much praise and then so much hate just days after. JR Smith had the best season of his career and only made $2.8 million; JR was probably the most cost effective player in the league this season. Knicks fans boasted how good JR was all season and for the most part many of them ignored how poor Smith’s habits are on the court and off the court. JR takes bad shots all the time and gets too much praise for knocking them down so often, but when it all mattered he couldn’t make the shots that counted the most.
JR is a very talented player and if he decides not to test the free agent market, he can return to the Knicks for $2.9 million, which is a great price for his production. But realistically we know Smith wants to make more money and the Knicks really can’t afford to bring back Smith for more money unless they know that he is going to really step his game up, but signing Smith means they won’t have the money to possibly sign rising young star Iman Shumpert. Honestly if the Knicks brass have to choose between what JR does and what Shumpert’s ceiling will be in the future, I say keep the money and hold it to pay Shumpert instead of paying JR.
Tyson Chandler, in all honesty, no Knick played better than he did most of this year and outside of being worked out against one of the best centers in the league had a career year. People can say what they wish about Chandler, but of all the problems the Knicks had the last thing Knicks should do is blame Chandler for getting knocked out the playoffs for doing a poor job against Roy Hibbert.
What about other stars on this team that play poor defense against players at their level or below it? Those players usually get a pass so why doesn’t Tyson get a pass. Knicks faithful just don’t make any sense; Chandler is set to be on this team for the next two years and I doubt they make it to the Finals in the next two years without him. Tyson will make $28.6 million over the next two seasons, which isn’t too bad so to think about the production that you get for Tyson before you make it seem like he is the absolute worst Knick.
More than likely the Knicks will be here next season unless a lot of people involved with the NY Knicks organization have a wake up call. New York is one of the biggest markets in the NBA and when New York does well the league does well so this year was great for the league. Knick fans please take this and hope that your team takes heed to my words, I only want the best for you and this style of play just isn’t it.
Photo Credit: Knicks Now