Phil Jackson, NBA, atbnews, Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah, New York Knicks, Brandon Jennings

For the last three years the New York Knicks have been the punchline of the NBA. If they were talking about bad and dysfunctional teams the Knicks would definitely come up. Some of these no name guys were so bad, that I wouldn’t have blamed Spike Lee if he suited up for the squad. And as a loyal fan since the days of Patrick Ewing and John Starks I’m tired of this crap. I’ve gotten into heated arguments with friends, acquaintances, co-workers and family in the defense of one of the most storied franchises in the NBA. I would always say “Trust in Phil Jackson….the Zen Master”, the man has coached 11 championship teams in the NBA. I don’t care if he coached Kobe and MJ, that’s still hard to do. 11-2 in the NBA finals? Stop this…if anyone can evaluate talent it’s him, he may not have the scouting credentials, but he’s been around so much talent that he doesn’t need them. This summer our prayers have been answered and the squad has upgraded heavily at their positions of weakness. There is a great feeling of optimism in Gotham City this year and for good reason too.

During the Knicks last successful season (2012-13) we were the #2 seed in the eastern conference (54-28). We had a strong core of Melo, Amar’e, Raymond Felton (Before he fell off a cliff) JR Swish (6th man of the year) and Tyson Chandler (DPOY). We had a lot of ageing veterans on the team such as Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby. We were a jump shooting team for the most part and during the playoffs we could not hit any and lost to the Pacers in the second round. I remember telling all my friends “Knicks in four” boy was I wrong. Whenever you have an ageing team health will be a concern and unfortunately things just didn’t work out. The Knicks have been in decline since; with only Carmelo Anthony left from that team. This has been the Knicks record the last 3 years: 2013-14 (37-45. Missed the playoffs by one game), 2014-15 (17-65. Last in the East), and this year they were 32-50. The only good that has come out of these three losing seasons was acquiring Kristaps Porzingis “The Unicorn”.

I love the Knicks and from last summer I was telling anybody who was willing to listen that the Knicks would make a huge splash this summer. Our squad is too nice, we got Derrick Rose for nothing and he’s on an expiring deal. Everybody thinks he’s just a husk of his former self. He’s not the type of guy to just sit by and let the world forget about his greatness. That’s what I like about this incarnation of the Knicks, everybody has a chip on their shoulder. Joakim Noah(Who is From Manhattan) was benched before he got injured, Courtney Lee has bounced around from team to team never having a place to call home. Those three players are not only talented but have high basketball IQ, who know  they have no choice but to perform. When you throw in Brandon Jennings on a one year deal coming off, injury is the ultimate wild card. When healthy he is a legitimate starting calibre point guard, he dropped 55 in his rookie year.

Derrick Rose is excited and has high expectations for the season. Here’s what he had to say:

“They’re high. I mean, with these teams right now, they’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams, and they’re trying not to build that many super teams, and Adam Silver came out with the statement and this and that,” said Rose. “And the expectations I think of us, we just want to win. Talking to Melo and all the guys who’ve been around. You’ve got Brandon who just signed for one year, he’s got to show why he’s there. I’ve got to show why I’m there. Joakim has to show why he’s there. Everybody’s trying to prove themselves. When you’ve got a group like that, it’s like, alright, I know everybody wants to do that, but we’re going to break this down as simple as possible, and try to win every game. I think winning takes care of every category, as far as being an athlete. You look at endorsements, being on the floor, almost everything — I think winning takes care of all that. And if you’re in the league, winning takes care of all the mistakes, or if you have any problems on teams.”

The rest of the NBA should be worried. Here is the Knicks projected starting 5:

PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Joakim Noah
Key reserves: Brandon Jennings, Lance Thomas, Sasha Vujacic, Kyle O’Quinn

The bench doesn’t have the names that a bench like Cleveland or Golden state has, but all these guys fill their roles admirably. There are going to be a lot of open shots and ball movement for this team, plus they have three guys who can command a double team in their starting five, plus a living microwave off their bench. Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee are the glue guys who will do the dirty work and make sure that the triangle offense is orchestrated properly. I’m saying it from now, there’s only a handful of teams that can match up with the Knicks. The Knicks can go big or small and they can throw out two dangerous point guards together. People may say that “There is only one basketball” but the pressure is on, everybody just wants to win. Every player of significance on the roster is walking around with cold and ringless fingers.

The Knicks’ bench is still somewhat thin, they could use a couple more decent contributors to strengthen the roster. Here are the three players who would make the most sense.

Donatas Motiejunas: He’s a big body with solid low post moves and a reliable three-point shot. Not much of a rebounder, and his defense has plenty of room for improvement. But the Lithuanian lefty is still young, whose best years are likely ahead of him. The injuries and nixed trade to Detroit has hurt his value, its actually crazy to think that he is still on the market. He’ll be playing to increase his value which could make signing him a low risk and high reward situation.

Chase Budinger: In the triangle offense you need high IQ bigs and perimeter shooters. Budinger is a 35% three-point shooter with size and length. He has bounced around a bit and has not received consistent minutes in the last few years. A change of scenery may just be what the doctor ordered.

Norris Cole: With two injury prone point guards you need a solid and reliable third string. Norris Cole backed up Chalmers on two Miami Heat Championship teams, so he comes with experience, poise and defense. He defers to teammates but can also run a steady offense in case of injury to Rose or Jennings.

2016-17 Season Projections:
Regular Season: 51-31. 3rd in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks are in one of the weaker divisions in the NBA with only Boston and Toronto as real competitors. On paper the Knicks are the better team, but the cores of both teams have been together for multiple years. The Knicks don’t have a cakewalk for the division title but it is definitely a realistic possibility.They have enough talent to weather a major injury to one of their main guys for a stretch of the season without falling too deep into the standings. The Knicks will make a deep run into the playoffs but may not be able to win it all with both the Warriors and Cavaliers as guaranteed obstacles. I have the Knicks losing to Cleveland in the Conference Finals in six. It’s too early to tell but the Knicks will definitely be a playoff team, and if they play to their true potential don’t be surprised if  Lebron’s NBA finals streak is snapped like Bane did Batman’s back. The only way the Knicks fall further into the abyss is a season-ending injury to a couple of their main guys. Despite the injury-prone personnel on the roster I find that still to be a long shot.

X- Factor: Kristaps Porzingis is what really tips the scales for the upcoming season. If he just plays on a similar level to what he did last year the Knicks will be more than happy. But he’s special and his potential is limitless. If he comes into All-Star form this year, the NBA should be afraid and maybe D-Rose won’t sound as crazy as everybody thinks he does.

Wild Card: Brandon Jennings is playing to prove he is a starting caliber PG in the league. Being successful in a controlled system like the triangle will go a long way to proving doubters wrong. Shooting and spacing are vital to it working correctly, which makes Jennings a key cog to the machine. If he can fill a JR type role from a few years back that will be good enough. Lance Thomas is another wild card, the former Duke player has high IQ and does all the little things to help his team win. His defense, rebounding and floor spacing will be huge for the team when they match up against contenders.

Good or bad the city is buzzing and 3 months is a long time to wait. But I guarantee this year in Gotham will be one to remember. I’m sure Stephan A. Smith and Spike Lee will be pleased.