Now that we are assured that there will be a season it is time to get excited about the 2011-12 Knicks.
First off I am really intrigued to see the impact Chauncey Billups has on the team this season. Billups comes into this season with the second longest playoff streak among starting point guards, only Jason Kidd has a longer one and with Kidd there is a caveat, he was traded from a Nets team that would not have made the playoffs to a mavericks team that did. Billups .656 winning percentage over the last 11 years as a starter is the best among active point guards. The Knicks averaged 108 pts per game last season with Billups running the point and that was with his not knowing the offense or having time to develop chemistry with Amare or the other Knicks who were left after the trade. Billups has proven over his career to be very efficient and effective at running offenses. D'Antoni's best offensive team was the 2004-05 Suns who averaged 110.4 pts per game. I believe that with Billups fully on page with D'Antoni and the other players on this team that the Knicks will blow that number out of the water.
Next I will be watching Shawne Williams closely. This guy had NBA scouts drooling when he left Memphis in 2006. He could always poop from the corner but in addition he was a slasher back in those days who used to draw his defender in and then blow by him for powerful finishes at the rim. At 6'9 and 230lbs scouts were comparing him to Rashard Lewis (the young healthy Rashard Lewis). Williams was a lock to be a top five pick that year, until an arrest for marijuana possession a month prior to the draft caused his stock to plummet. Even so, the Pacers took him with the 17th pick in the draft. That year he became the first Pacer rookie to score double figures in his debut (that's right Reggie Miller didn't do that), scoring 13 points. He then followed that up with a 19 point performance in 21 minutes two games later. Williams played well initially out of the gate, but then discipline problems dried his minutes up to next to nothing and finally a knee injury ended his rookie campaign after 46 games. Still the Pacers saw potential and brought him back. Williams 2nd year got off to a bad start first he came in out of shape, then missed practices and off the court arrests caused the Pacers to suspend him for the rest of the season. The Pacers shipped him to Dallas that off-season where he lasted 15 games before they released him. Williams spent the next year and a half out of basketball and in and out of trouble. His weight ballooned up to almost 300lbs and if not for an intervention by his former coach Calipari we may have never have heard from Extra E again. However Calipari convinced him to get in shape and then convinced Larry Brown to give him a shot on the Bobcats' summer league squad. Williams impressed the Bobcats' coaches enough that they offered him a training camp invite, but another arrest caused Charlotte to back away from him, which is how he got to us. Extra E shocked us by not only making the team but earning a spot in D'Antoni's rotation. But something was missing, sure the corner poops were still there, but the assortment of drives and pull up jumpers that had scouts drooling back in 2006 were gone. In fact Williams looked scared to death any time he put the ball on the floor last year. This off-season Williams said he was dedicating himself to getting that back, by working on his ball handling and his pull up jumpshot. If he can regain some of his mojo, Extra E will go along way to helping solidify our bench and give us consistent production off of it. I will be pulling for him, but I will admit it will be bittersweet because if he can regain the game that had him considered one of the top prospects in the 2006 draft, then his price tag will be a lot more expensive when we try to sign him next year which may price him out of our market. But for now we will have him so let's hope he is successful.
Billups and Extra E two reasons to watch the Knicks this season.