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A Lot of Questions for the Knicks Going Forward

By Mike Silva ~ May 19th, 2013. Filed under: New York Knicks.

The Knicks championship dreams died last night at Indiana’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It seemed all season it was the basketball gods will for this squad to make it to the NBA Finals and bring home their first championship since 1973. No Knicks team excited New Yorkers like this group, perhaps not even the ’94 and ’99 squads that made it to the Finals. These Knicks had a superstar like those teams, but the surrounding cast was athletic, shot the lights out of the ball and a persona (thanks to social media) where you felt a connection. No matter the injury or obstacle it appeared they would persevere. The 90s Knicks were tough, rugged and gritty- a lunch pail team that identified with the underdog. This team was glitter and glamour, more finesse than rugged. They could blow you out of the building with their three-point shooting at any given moment. Quite frankly, it was a fun team for which to root.

Unfortunately, the “live by the three, die by the three” mentality became undone in the playoffs. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Rick Pitino’s “Bomb Squad” in 1988: great regular season, but undone when it came to physical half-court playoff basketball. Pat Riley used to say “no rebounds, no rings” and it rang true for the 2012-2013 Knicks. It was clear after Game 6 this team needs to diversify its offense and institute some toughness and rebounding. They also can’t do it by relying on past-their-prime players like Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby.

So what do these Knicks do? It won’t be easy to improve the roster in a big way due to their salary cap situation. I am not captologist (nor will I pretend to play one on this blog), but it probably comes down to re-signing J.R. Smith. They then will have to find value via the draft, free agency and Europe to fill the defensive and rebounding needs. With Stoudemire’s immovable contract and the lack of available cap room even without Smith, Glen Grunwald is going to be asked to be every bit the Executive of the Year candidate he was this past season.

You can’t expect Carmelo Anthony to carry the offensive load as he did this season. Not only would I consider moving Anthony from the power forward, position where he is getting banged up, but I would think it’s time to have a legitimate second post scorer that can help with the offense One issue all season is that Anthony has to work for all his points; nothing came easy. The Knicks don’t have a David West or Roy Hibbert down on the blocks. Tyson Chandler is good for defense and some pick-and-rolls, but he isn’t anywhere near a reliable post presence. The problem is I don’t really think this player is acquirable with or without Smith’s contract on the books. In the end, it really may come down to the Knicks living and dying with the mercurial Smith at shooting guard.

I don’t really care about J.R.’s nightlife, celebrity dating or tattoos. What I do mind is the apparent lack of focus and composure when he was needed the most. I don’t take Twitter seriously when it comes to athlete’s behavior, but from the outside it didn’t appear that Smith understood how the playoffs requires a different level of focus and dedication. His high-risk/high-reward persona is a huge risk with any contract the team offers.

What are the non-Smith options? There still is the Chris Paul sign-and-trade dream that some have outlined the past few months. Does Paul believe in the Clippers? Does he want to be second fiddle to the Lakers for the rest of the prime of his career? Paul would be the perfect copilot for Anthony, but the machinations needed to make it a reality render this conversation moot.

What about Tyson Chandler? Can the Knicks package him for a scoring and defensive power forward? He was clearly hurt, but all-season he was soft and lacked composure against some of the top teams. Funny, but doesn’t David Lee look awfully good over Stoudemire these days? You can never question the PR importance of Stoudemire coming to New York in the summer of 2010, but from a basketball standpoint Lee might fit in better with this group.

And on that Stoudemire note, what can be expected of him? He probably needs to accept running the second unit due to his minute’s restrictions. He has two ticking time bomb knees that were surgically repaired this season. He doesn’t play defense, nor is he a particularly good rebounder for someone of his size. With his lift and explosiveness going south he has become a very ordinary and flawed basketball player. Forget about living up to the remaining $40 million owed, does he have any value to this club?

Then there is the coach. Mike Woodson has done wonders cleaning up Mike D’Antoni’s mess. At least under Woodson there seems to be accountability and better effort. You get the feeling, however, that Woodson is overmatched versus other top coaches. Frank Vogel clearly was better on the sidelines this series. Woodson has shown to be rigid and incapable of making the type of adjustments you see in other great coaches. Is this a learning experience or who he really is? Remember, his tenure in Atlanta was full of 50+ win seasons and early playoff exits.

What is a Knicks’ fan worst nightmare? Is they have signed up for another two seasons of 55-win regular season basketball with second round ceilings for their team. They have the Heat dynasty in front of them and two well-coached teams in Chicago and Indiana right with them. They easily could be the fourth-best team in the Conference come next season, with a large gap between them and number three.

There are a lot of questions for the Knicks going forward. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any easy answers. The Knicks’ hierarchy is going to need another A+ summer to keep this thing moving forward, or it the 2012-2013 season might be the best experience of the Carmelo Anthony era.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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