The New York Knicks are a team in transition -- far from a finished product -- and the schedule-makers did them no favors to start the season. The 'Bockers will open at home on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls then travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers Thursday evening.
I must be honest: When I saw this gauntlet looming on the schedule, my first thought was, "How will the Knicks possibly contain Jarrett Jack?" The wily veteran guard torched New York last season to the tune of 16.0 points per game, including a 31-point effort in a back-breaking loss to Cleveland on March 23. Quite simply, Jarrett Jack is an unconquerable foe.
*checks updated rosters*
OH MY GOD, JARRETT JACK ISN'T ON THE CAVS ANYMORE! NOTHING CAN STOP THE KNICKS FROM WINNING BOTH GAMES! 2-0, BABY!
End of preview.
What's that? You want more in-depth coverage? Fine...your majesty.
For the time being I have elected to go back to the Chinese naming method used during the 54-win 2012-13 campaign. If the Knicks start winning again, I should really get all of the credit. If they get their asses kicked, you should probably go ahead and blame the players and coaches.
Wed., Oct. 29 -- Chicago Bulls
Chinese name: 公牛 (gong-niu) Lit. "male cow"
Believe it or not, the Knicks won both contests against the Bulls at the Garden last season. There must have been some quantum mechanical bullshit going on, because I cannot for the life of me understand how a team that traditionally annihilates New York can pick up an all-time Knick-killer (Mike Dunleavy) and lose their aura of invincibility. I guess two wrongs sometimes do make a right.
The story of this game will be the re-return of Derrick Rose, who buried the Knicks with a buzzer-beater last season despite shooting 7-23 in the game. You know the story by now -- looked great in the preseason, but he also looked great last preseason. Who the hell knows what he will bring?
The true test for New York's defense will likely be their old bugaboo, the three-pointer. While the Knicks did look somewhat improved on D during the preseason, they fell into their old habit of pretending the corner three doesn't exist. That didn't hurt them as much last season against Chicago, a poor three-point shooting team (34.8 percent, 24th in the NBA) who somehow shot even worse against the Knicks (32.6 percent). They have some new shooters in Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. Will the Knicks bother covering them? It could decide the game.
Carmelo Anthony famously turned down Chicago this past offseason for Dolan's millions. Are the Bulls looking for revenge? Is Melo looking to show Chicago what they're missing? Will the Knicks form equilateral triangles, or isosceles? Either way, a win here would be nice, since they will face an even tougher test the following evening.
Prediction: Knicks 102, Bulls 80
Thurs., Oct. 30 -- @Cleveland Cavaliers
Chinese Name: 骑士 (qi-shi) Lit. "riding officer"
For my money, the Knicks' most improbable non-Linsanity upset win of the past few seasons came on Dec. 6, 2012, when a Melo-less crew went into Miami and beat a full-strength Heat team by 20 points. New York's best player on that evening was Ray Felton, who piled up 27 points and seven assists. That was quite an improbable victory.
A win in this game would be infinitely more improbable. Quicken Loans Arena will be an absolute madhouse in Lebron's regular-season return. It will be a evening of catharsis, as the franchise who drove away the game's best player through their own inability to surround him with NBA-level talent celebrates the fact that they lucked into winning three of the next four draft lotteries and were able to guilt-trip their former star into coming back.
How can the Knicks even prepare for this team? Cleveland may not be the bar-none title favorite at the moment, but they have way too much offensive firepower for New York to handle on a sleepy January evening, let alone a raucous, intense season-opener.
This feels like one of those nights where keeping the game competitive throughout would qualify as a victory. In that case, I'm picking New York to win by 25.
Prediction: Knicks 107, Cavs 82
Bonus: World Series Game 7
The Knicks haven't fared well in championship series over the past four decades or so, and their bullpen isn't quite what it used to be, but they should be fresh from not having played baseball for their entire history. Never underestimate the value of keeping your ball club fresh.
Prediction: Knicks 98, Giants 5, Royals 3