Don’t sleep on how impressive the back-to-back, road/home sweep is for the Knicks. It requires a lot of effort and determination to summon the energy to go into Chicago and beat a very good Bulls team that prides itself on defense and then fly back to New York City and summon the same kind of effort to stave off a letdown loss to a Wizards team the Knicks should get fat on this season. There is a different kind of energy in New York this season. Dare I say there is a sense of urgency to every game the Knicks play. The energy isn’t just coming from the players though. Watching these games there seems to be even more fire from Coach Mike D’Antoni, who will call a timeout and rip into his guys the moment he senses they are slacking off.
As a fan, I couldn’t be more thrilled. The Knicks are playing an exciting brand of basketball and, most importantly, they’re playing winning basketball. The last two games we’ve seen much better ball movement and a lot more activity on both ends of the floor. While the Knicks will never be confused for the Spurs or the Celtics, they are playing inspired defense. There’s that word again: effort.
What’s most exciting as a Knicks fan is that there is still work to be done. The Knicks are winning ballgames without an eruption from Amar’e Stoudemire. They won on opening night and played two very good teams close despite Danilo Gallinari being hampered by his injured wrist. They’re scoring 100+ per night with almost no contribution from Anthony Randolph or Kelenna Azubuike, with the former being cited as the secret ingredient the pessimists were missing in their season previews predicting a season of “same old Knicks.”
So how are the Knicks winning? For starters, they’re getting starter quality production from Toney Douglas and Wilson Chandler, two players who have embraced their roles coming off the bench. Chandler carried the Knicks offensively while Gallo struggled to find his stroke, but he has settled into a nice Swiss army knife type role in the past few games. The backcourt combo of Douglas and Raymond Felton has been so much fun to watch. That combo is so dynamic and presents playmaking ability for the Knicks and matchup issues for the opposition.
Of course there has also been important contributions from Ronny Turiaf and Landry Fields, both of whom bring something to this Knicks team that previous Knicks teams have lacked. These guys simply do not care about the MVP stats. They go out there and play hard and look for ways to contribute to a win, whether it is making the right cut, blocking a shot, crashing the boards, or tipping an offensive rebound out to the top of the key for a reset. I could go on. Both players aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and will do whatever it takes to contribute to a win.
I know what you’re thinking: “This doesn’t sound like a recap of the Wizards game.” Well, you’re right. The reason why I went this route is because the win over the Wizards epitomizes what this Knicks team is all about at this point in time. Personally, I expect Amar’e to start finding his groove soon and put up some monster points in the near future. I’m also expecting to see the halfcourt offense run through Gallo eventually (more on this in a future post.) But for now, just check the box score for last night’s win over the Wizards. It was a total team effort with great ball movement and everyone chipping in on the offensive end.
So that’s why I chose to not only recap this game but this very very young season. It has been a pleasure to finally have a Knicks team that is truly a team and not filled with players looking for their own shots. Playing together is how a team can reach greater heights than expected based on the individual parts.
I know I may be getting ahead of myself, but I don’t care. It’s so much fun to be able to type “Knicks” and “optimistic” in the same sentence again. I simply cannot wait to wake up at 9am PST on a football Sunday to watch the Knicks take on the 76ers.