‘Tis the season to be jolly Knicks fans.
As Christmas comes and goes once again, it’s finally a season where the Knicks are exceeding expectations and your holiday lights seem to no longer be powered by your old, bland glimmering bulbs but are powered by LED’s. The future seems bright and long lasting.
Sept. 25, New York traded former star player Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and the rights to the Bulls 2018 second round pick. General consensus was Knicks got nothing in return, two young players who would not be a factor in the long-term rebuild. The Thunder, on other hand, gets an aging “superstar” who, as a third option, would bring immense value.
Fast-forward to Dec. 25, if Oklahoma City offered Anthony to the Knicks for Kanter and McDermott, the Knicks chuckle at the notion.
The Knicks have turned into your 2017 Yankees, young, fun and easy to root for.
Kristaps Porzingis has emerged into that mythical unicorn, scoring over 25 points a night and sincerely getting that winning is what New York craves, and proving it is what pays.
Enes the menace has become a staple and a beacon of hope and what’s good with the Knicks. He is averaging a double-double with no plays being called for him, shoots within his range and fights for offensive rebounds like he’s one lost ball away from being excommunicated. He brings his lunch pail to work every night with a demeanor that screams, “Not in my city, not with my teammates.” He has been there every night to protect his teammates from the bullies of the league.
Courtney Lee has been more than a role player with his efficient shooting and leading scorer on some nights that have propelled the Knicks to victory.
Tim Hardaway Jr., the much-maligned offseason signing who fans prayed that his restricted free agent offer would be matched by the Hawks, is turning into a valuable player who so far has earned contract. With his flashes of a well-rounded game. Hardaway can shoot, penetrate, dish and has a knack for big shots. He has become a strong piece to Porzingis’ castle. Only his injury holding him back.
McDermott proving Dougie McBuckets is more than a fringe NBA player, shooting the ball effectively. Running around screens with a Korver-esque bravado. Providing a weapon off the bench, Frank “The Tank” Ntilikina, the 19-year-old Frenchmen, who was heavily disregarded and was looked as the wrong pick by Phil Jackson. Despite his age, his man-to-man defense is already better than Anthony’s has ever been and better than the last 10 years of Knick point guards.
Watch him carefully and you can see that being an NBA superstar is probably not in his cards, but 16 points, eight assists, five rebounds with elite defense definitely is. Chatter about a great work ethic and desire to win have manifested into some great fourth quarters. This all translates into the ideal lead guard who will orchestrate a team with a unicorn and another stud (down the road) deep into the playoffs in the not too distant future.
Even Michael Beasley has proven his worth. Dropping 30 points in multiple games. Yes, he’s not your high IQ basketball player, but surely is a man blessed with immense talent and on some nights, takes over an NBA game. His game oozing with multiple ways to dump the ball in the bucket.
On the other hand Anthony is averaging career lows in points, shooting percentage and looks like he’s on the wrong side of an NBA career. His defense, which was already considered subpar at best, has deteriorated. Sure, given the green light he will get you 25-plus points, but by the end of the night he will have given up 30. You do the math.
So what is the state of Anthony? He was a really good player, who never got in trouble in the big city, scoring was his foray but at what cost ultimately?
He gave Knicks fans one fantastic season in 2012-13 but, like the Game Six blocked shot in Indiana, overall, he was a failed experience.
I was never a proponent of the 2011 trade that landed Anthony in New York, he had the ability to wait out the season and sign as a free agent with Chris Paul and change the landscape of the NBA elites.
Instead he forced his hand and had the Knicks gutted so he can arrive 27 games too soon.
And in a nutshell that epitomized Anthony, he never got the big picture. Until the day he left, he scoffed at the notion he was not a superstar or elite. Once upon a time, the term elite was asked of one Eli Manning, he got ridiculed for considering himself in that company and then proceeded to put himself in a category all to his own, beating an undefeated Patriots team for an elusive Super Bowl ring.
Anthony never understood that in a New Yorkers state of mind, elite means dragging dead weight to 45 wins a year, not as an anomaly but as a birthright and that alone procures the title of superstar. He worried more about the lights being bright and was quick to lament the roster around him. He was never the man to elevate and lead proved by his best year, having savvy vets past their primes in Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace to set the tone.
Overall it was a middling marriage that brought some memorable nights but in the end a divorce that 30 games into this season seems like the mistake was the marriage lasted way too long.
And as far as the Knicks. Yes, they are a few seasons away from being legitimate contenders, but head coach Jeff Hornaceck, who I wasn’t a fan of, has these guys playing hard, passionate basketball and they’re moving the ball with a good defensive effort on most nights. Players seem to genuinely like one another and have a tight-knit family vibe.
They have young guys developing, with the exception of Willy Hernangomez, and control of their draft picks, one thing Jackson did correctly.
The future at the Garden definitely seems bright.