How Will The New York Knicks Recover From Getting Swept In The First Round Of The NBA Playoffs?
I’m remarkably surprised at how well fans of the New York Knicks are taking the sweep of their team at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Not because I thought the Knicks would do better against the Celtics, but because it’s New York for heaven’s sake and if there’s one thing you can count on New York for, it’s to overreact to the slightest little bump in the road.
New York sports fans aren’t particularly patient. They don’t have do well at thinking looking long-term or thinking big picture. They don’t have the ability to see their team struggling but remain confident in the fact that they could use their struggles to build a stronger championship-contending later. In short, they don’t handle losing very well.
But I must admit that they handled the team’s sweep about as well as, if not better, than most other cities would. Rather than complain about Carmelo Anthony not producing a title in his first playoff stint with the team or bitch about Amar’e Stoudemire suffering from back spasms for most of the series or call out the Knicks’ role players for their lack of production, they seemed to cast an eye towards next season and recognize that the team simply making the playoffs should be considered a win this year. So they applauded the Knicks’ efforts during the regular season and in the playoffs this year—to their credit, the Knicks played hard ’til the end—and then shut the door on this season almost before the Celtics stopped celebrating their series win.
However, now it’s time to start asking questions about the team moving forward. Namely, how will the current team recover from this sweep and come back a stronger team next season?
There are a number of things the Knicks need to do as a team. First, they need to sit down and figure out exactly who they are as a team. Are they a team that’s built around getting ‘Melo tons of touches—or are they going to look to pound the ball into the middle with Stoudemire? Are they going to run the ball more as coach Mike D’Antoni likes to do—or are they going to slow it up and get everyone touches? Are they going to focus on improving defense—or find ways to score more points so that they don’t have to be solid on D to get wins? Part of answering those questions is getting ‘Melo more comfortable with his teammates, but the other part is sitting down and forging an identity so that fans know exactly what to expect when the Knicks take the floor.
The second thing the Knicks need to do is fill some personnel gaps. We’re not talking about landing Chris Paul or Dwight Howard here, either. They need to go out and get bigger bodies to patrol the paint. They need to start grooming a point guard to take the reins from the aging Chauncey Billups, assuming Billups even decides to return to the team next season. They need to make sure they have long-range shooters in place that they feel comfortable with. And, depending on what style of play they decide to run, they need role players that compliment ‘Melo and Amare.
And the last thing they need to do is simply build up some camaraderie as a team so that they don’t look as clueless out on the court as they did this year. ‘Melo frequently complained about not understanding all of the inner-workings of the team’s defensive schemes. Stoudemire seemed upset at times about the fact that he wasn’t putting up the same type of numbers that he was before the trade that brought ‘Melo to the Knicks. And the Knicks went from an overachieving team before the trade deadline in February to a team that was expected to win after it, which put a lot of pressure on them to produce and ultimately stunted some of their growth as a team. So they need to make sure they continue to grow together so that they don’t repeat some of the mistakes they made at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.
If they can do these three things—and do them all well—Knicks fans have a lot to look forward to in the future. If not, they could face the same fate in the playoffs next year. And something tells me their loyal fans won’t be as forgiving if it happens again.