In their last fourteen games, the New York Knicks have gone 6-8. An unsightly downturn when compared to their 18-5 start to the season. Many analysts have already begun to jump ship on the Knicks’ bandwagon, dropping them as low as eighth on some power rankings (despite being just a half-game out of first place in the Eastern Conference).
Luckily for New York, the trajectory of a familiar division foe should give the Knicks high hopes as the first half of the NBA season draws to a close.
The Boston Celtics woes so far this season haven’t come as much of a surprise. Doc Rivers’ teams always seem to start slow out of the gate, people say they’re too old, and then they start to absolutely tear it up. On January 2nd, the Celtics lost yet another game, dropping them to a 14-16 record. However, this was also standout perimeter defender Avery Bradley’s first game of the season after being sidelined with shoulder surgery. Since that loss, the Celtics have rattled off six consecutive wins to move them to a 20-17 record. And just like that, the C’s are back in the thick of things in the East, and look primed to compete with the leagues elite teams.
While the Knicks may indeed be slumping of late, it won’t be long until they’re “shumping” (I watch way too many Walt Clyde Frazier telecasts). After losing rookie Iman Shumpert to a torn ACL in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Knicks lost something very special; a defender that can matchup against any opponent’s best offensive weapon.
Initially, I had assumed that the Knicks defense would struggle mightily during the beginning of the season sans Shumpert, yet the ‘D’ has actually been pretty impressive in his absence. However, with guard Raymond Felton riding the pine due to a finger injury, the Knicks have been exposed as a team that lacks guard play. Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni have played major minutes with Felton out, but their age’s combined total 74 years (wow); simply too much of an onus to put on veteran players.
The return of Shumpert will not only give the Knicks a chance to dial back Kidd and Prigioni’s minutes, but also revitalize the Knicks defense which has been porous of late. Amalgamated with the return of Felton, the Knicks will soon have a surplus of guards to play at both the 1 and the 2 (Shumpert usually fares better as the 2 guard since he lacks the vision and improvisational ability necessary of a true point guard).
So to all of those who are saying that the Knicks have been “figured out,” or “exposed,” perhaps hold your words until the Iman “flat-top” Shumpert returns to the floor, which he is expected to do in Thursday’s London game against the Detroit Pistons. As the Knicks’ guards slowly return to health (along with Stoudemire), expect them to finish the first half strong, just as the Celtics appear to be doing presently.