The Knicks moved to 6-0 with an impressive road win over San Antonio, 104-100. They did it despite an off-night from Melo (three baskets, two turnovers, nine points), 25 points from Raymond Felton, and mostly thanks to their greatest new strength: defense. Two years ago, the Knicks gave up 105.7 ppg, which was 28th in the NBA. Last year, the addition of Tyson Chandler was crucial: They permitted 94.7 ppg (11th). This year? Another leap – 89.8 ppg, 2nd best in the league.
I don’t know if it is a cause for celebration (76 games left!) but it is a reason to begin to feel optimistic about the season. I’ve been slow to fall back in love with the Knicks, a team I’ve rooted for since 1985, following the Jeremy Lin debacle. One of the reasons? I know Amare Stoudemire is going to return from injury and completely change the team. Through six games, the Knicks are averaging a league-low 9.7 turnovers per game. What they’ve got right now clearly is working. Nobody’s expecting a 60-win season, but what if this play through six games continues through, say, 20 games? Then what?
No knees Stoudemire currently has the worst contract in the league, and it probably is immovable. Back in May we looked and possible trade ideas for the Knicks, but two of those players (Johnson, Okafor) have already been dealt. When Amare returns, Mike Woodson will be faced with daunting questions: Can you have a guy making $19.9 million come off the bench (I say yes)? Can Amare play in the same frontcourt as Chandler and Melo (I say no)? In what scenarios can you play him? And if you don’t give him minutes, how long before the New York media begins to goad him into saying something that might wreck the team chemistry?
The Knicks visit a hot Memphis team tonight, but then play slumping Indiana, young New Orleans and lottery-bound Dallas before the big showdown with Jeremy Lin in Houston on the 23rd. They close out the month with Detroit, Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Washington, and sure, 13-2 (or even 14-1 if you think the Bucks are a fortunate 5-2) is beginning to look possible.