For the past few weeks my Novak shirt held a precarious position in my closet...I was too scared to bring it out until he had inked a new contract with the Knicks. When that glorious moment came, I proudly rocked that shirt on the streets of Beijing, much to the confusion of the Chinese passersby who expected to find L-I-N on the back of the blue and orange. Novak is back, Lin is coming back, J.R. Smith is back...hell, even Marcus Camby is back. Is it too late to get Spreewell on the phone? He's still got kids to feed, right?
All kidding aside, I loved the Camby signing. The Knicks needed rebounding in the worst way, and Chandler will need someone competent to spell him next season after a career-high in minutes last season (not to mention this whole Olympics business). Considering the panic many people felt at the start of the offseason, when it seemed likely the Knicks would get prison-shanked by the league regarding Novak and Lin's Bird rights, it seems that we are pretty damn near approaching the best-case scenario for the roster going into 2012-13.
...then, I checked out the national basektball writers.
These articles weren't hard to find. An analysis of the Knicks' offseason made the front page of SI.com: check the article by Zach Lowe.
Then I saw another article on Yahoo Sports:
In the wake of the Camby signing, I expected analysis along the lines of "Knicks needed rebounding, signed a quality rebounder." How wrong I was.
Most analyses of the Knicks by national writers are equal parts fascinating and perverse. Usually a fanbase with a 40-year championship drought, winners of one playoff game in the past decade wouldn't attract the kind of gleeful dumpage that the press likes heap on the hopes of the Knick faithful. How many other franchises would warrant a barrage of "don't get your hopes up" articles by signing a backup center?
The common theme which runs through each article is "The Knicks still aren't as good as the Heat." Astute, very astute. The Heat, in case you missed it, won the NBA championship, and followed it up by signing Ray Allen (a.k.a. the poor man's Novak). Obviously every team is chasing the Heat, and every team operates with the ultimate goal of winning a championship. The Heat's nascent "South Beach Douche Dynasty" gives other teams in the East little hope of competing for a title...I get it, we all get it. But I remained confused...should the Knicks' stop trying to improve? Should they forfeit their games until Lebron and Wade retire? Their are other prizes for a downtrodden fanbase besides the Larry O'Brien trophy. How many Knicks fans today even remember winning a playoff series? Or an Atlantic title? I would feel pretty damn good about either of accomplishing either of those goals next season.
The Knicks are clearly hamstrung by Amare's contract going forward, especially since his body seems to be breaking down fairly rapidly. Still, the Knicks' 2011 offseason looks to be a miracle in hindsight. Chandler was worth every penny. The Lin and Novak scrap-heep signings still defy belief. And the Knicks managed to parlay a non-lottery pick into Iman Shumpert, who exceeded most of our expectations as a rookie. The Knicks have quality depth up and down the roster.
Of course, in the eyes of the writers that depth is a bad thing. The Knicks have a mismatched roster incapable of playing together...ever! It took Lebron and Wade the better part of two seasons to learn how to play together effectively. The Lin-Melo-Amare group has had -what - five games? If a team can't develop chemistry in five games, what hope do the Knicks have in a full season?
Zach Lowe writes that he sees a regression coming in the Knicks defense. Last season the Knicks surprised everyone with their defensive efficieny. Chandler revolutionized the team's defensive mindset on his way to winning Defensive Player of the Year. Melo clearly played harder on the defensive end under Woodson. Next season Woodson will be back as coach, and Chandler will be back anchoring the middle, with Marcus Camby backing him up and hopefully minimizing the Knicks terrible rebounding deficiency...add all that up, and clearly you get regression.
The 2011-12 Knicks season was absolutely amazing to behold...often maddening, often inspiring, certainly never boring. This season's Knicks team looks poised to iron out some of last year's rough patches and challenge the Celtics for the Atlantic Division and home court in the first round. This should be the most enjoyable Knicks campaign since the 90's...if only I can avoid the media taking a big ol' dump on my hopes.