Jason Kidd retired. We lost Chris Copeland to the Pacers. We traded for Andrea Bargnani. And it’s just been released that A’Mare Stoudemire had another procedure on his knee over the summer.
Nothing is ever easy with this squad. That’s part of being a big market team; the drama is an essential part of the identity. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at storylines that will play out heading into the 2013-14 season.
1) Ron Artest is back in New York!: This acquisition happened during the summer league when Metta World Peace was amnestied by the Lakers
(enjoy that 8th seed again). The Knicks quickly jumped at the opportunity to bolster the bench. Artest is excited to finally play for his hometown, be closer to St. John’s, and Knicks fans are thrilled to have him. Assuming that Melo moves back to the 3 spot this year, Artest will be an integral part of the 2nd unit. Him and Shumpert on the floor at the same time poses a major annoyance for teams.
2) Will Melo stay?: Next summer, along with his 2003 draft mates, Melo will be an unrestricted free agent. So let’s just address the orange elephant in the room; the Knicks, cannot, under any circumstance give Melo a max deal if they plan to maintain the championship contenders hype. I sincerely hope Melo takes a humility lesson from Lebron and re-signs for way cheaper than what he knows he can get. The “will he stay or go” is going to get brought up frequently, especially is the Knicks have a hot streak as they did last season.
In terms of floor play, Coach Woodson might move Melo back to the 3 since the Knicks acquired Andrea Bargnani. Will this work? Yes and no. Melo has shown that he can defer to making the extra pass and efficiently post up on the block. However, between Bargnani, Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler, this is a front court that will be playing through injuries a lot. I personally would like to see Melo stay at the 4, with Artest/Shump at the 3, and bring Bargnani off the bench.
3) Where does Tim Hardaway Jr. fit in: I’m truly torn on this draft pick. As a Knicks fan, you don’t forget the torment that the Miami Heat put us through. On the flip side, the Knicks have incorporated a point guard heavy backcourt. Hardaway Jr. was 1 of the better guards left on the board back in June. Off the bench, Hardaway Jr. definitely provides the speed and athleticism that are lacking in Felton and Prigioni. He’s also a very good perimeter shooter. Consider the pedigree he comes from and know that his development will be under a microscope. With the addition of Beno Udrih, it’s hard to predict how many minutes the younger Hardaway will play. 1 of the bigger frustrations among Knicks fans was that Coach Woodson wasn’t always proactive in making lineup adjustments when they needed to be made.
4) Can JR. Smith bounce back?: 6th Man of the Year. Many highlight reel dunks and clutch 3s. He hit the Cruz salsa. #Youtryingtogetthepipe. Earl Smith III had 1 of the most exciting seasons that we’ve seen from a Knicks player in a long time. Woodson was able to reel him and keep him focused as leader of the 2nd unit. He was also ready to start when needed. But then the playoffs came. In the offseason, he revealed that he played through a knee injury much of the post-season. Once his deal was settled, Smith got his knee repaired. The speculation this season is not only can he repeat his regular season performance, but can he help Melo carry these Knicks to an Eastern Conference Finals.
5) Is A’Mare Stoudemire on his last leg?: I say that in the most literal way. The Knicks defense was statistically worst last season when STAT on the floor with Melo.. There was the question of could they play together and they did; just not very well. Due to his propensity to injury, STAT has yet to play a full season since his $100 million contract signing in 2010. This could be added to the list of worst contracts of the 2000s. Be that as it may, the Knicks are
stuck with committed to STAT for 2 more years. He spent the summer traveling and also got married. At times, it appears that his off-court life is more active than his time in the gym. STAT’s health and how much he’s going to play will come up often in the NY media. I’d be surprised if he plays 30 games.
What are the other story lines you see with this Knicks squad? Any early predictions?