Prior to the 2012 playoffs, the New York Knicks had not won a playoff game in 11 years. While they managed to steal Game 4 from LeBron James and the Miami Heat, they still haven't won a playoff series since 2000.
And they haven't seen the NBA Finals since their miracle run from the eighth seed in the lockout shortened 50-game season of 1999.
After what could be generously characterized as a rebuilding decade, the Knicks have finally built a team that looks worthy of contention.
They still have their Big Three in place for at least two more years, and general manager Glen Grunwald completely revitalized the backcourt in the offseason. There is now a talented triumvirate running the point. They also replaced Landry Fields with Ronnie Brewer, who came over from Chicago with his brand of dogged defense for a song.
Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas are back in the Knicks' frontcourt and bring a wealth of experience. They remember the 1999 NBA Finals all too well, and they'll be as hungry as the legions of long-suffering Knicks fans to taste playoff success again.
The roster for the 2012-13 Knicks has been constructed to win, and win now. This group is experienced—and old—and needs to vanquish the Eastern Conference elite before the sun sets on them.
Here are four reasons why fans can't settle for less.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has taken over the New Jersey Nets. Jay-Z chipped in $1 million to the franchise, and now they play in Brooklyn and have a modicum of street cred.
Prokhorov has already fired a few salvos at his cross-city rivals. He snidely dismissed the Knicks in a TV interview on FOX 5, referring to them as the "second team in New York" (via ESPN New York).
He went on to say that the Brooklyn Nets "can put finally put New York on the map. It's about time." Yes, the Knicks and their home at Madison Square Garden (aka the "world's most famous arena") have failed to give New York City much recognition.
The Knicks winning an Eastern Conference championship in the first season that the Nets infringe on their turf would be oh so sweet. Plus, it would have the added bonus of getting Charles Barkley to choke on his hatorade.
Much has been made of the Knicks having the oldest roster in NBA history. Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby are 38 years old. Jason Kidd is 39 and Kurt Thomas is 40.
They also have the oldest rookie in the NBA in 40 years—35-year-old Argentinian Pablo Prigioni. Even Chris Copeland, who snagged the 15th roster spot, is a 28-year-old rookie after playing for six years around Europe.
And their Big Three aren't getting any younger. Carmelo Anthony is 28 years old, Amar'e Stoudemire is 29 (until November 16) and Tyson Chandler is 30.
These three are no spring chickens and the Knicks certainly don't have many draft picks banked in the future. Success must come swiftly.
The regular season hasn't even started, and already the Knicks are plagued by injuries and health issues.
Wallace can't get into game shape after being retired for the past two seasons. Camby has been nursing a sore calf. Chandler bruised his knee and J.R. Smith's Achilles is barking.
Brewer is only just recovering from minor knee surgery, and Iman Shumpert is out until around January while recovering from major knee surgery. Even marginal players on the training camp roster like Chris Smith couldn't stay healthy (he was waived after undergoing knee surgery during preseason).
Stoudemire suffered a ruptured cyst on his knee and will be out for at least the first week of the regular season, and perhaps more than a month (according to a source quoted by Frank Isola of the NY Daily News).
There were many injuries around the NBA last season, but that could at least be blamed on the uncertainty created by the lockout, which stunted offseason conditioning, shortened training camp and compressed the season.
There's no such excuse this season. Fans have to be wondering if the Knicks have hired the New York Mets' training staff. This roster needs to be on the mend ASAP and stay healthy through the playoffs, because it has an expiration date on it.
Stoudemire is owed $65 million over the next three years, and Chandler is owed $42 million over that same span. Kidd and Raymond Felton are also inked through the 2014-15 season.
If some marked success doesn't arrive this season, the team could look to trade some players during the 2013-14 season while they still have value. At least this would usher in a youth movement for the future.
But most importantly, Carmelo Anthony is signed for $41 million over the next two seasons, and has an early termination option for $23.5 million in 2014-15 (per HOOPSWORLD). The clock is ticking on the Knicks' marquee superstar.
There is some debate as to whether Melo is truly a "winner" or merely a mega-talented diva who is more interested in stacking up stats than raking in rings.
His playoff record doesn't inspire much confidence. Aside from the Denver's 2009 run to the Western Conference finals, Anthony's teams have a 6-32 record in the playoffs. That sheer ineptitude speaks for itself.
But after basking in the glow of his second gold medal at the London Olympics, Carmelo may be seeing things in a new light.
At the team's media day on October 1, Anthony stated to the media: "If I have to sacrifice on the offensive end, I’m willing to do it. It’s easy for me to sit here to say it. But this year for me it’s going to be doing what I need to do to help this team win" (via Ian Begley of ESPN New York).
That's exactly what Knicks coaches—and fans—want to hear. To invoke the words of former UCLA football coach Red Sanders, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." That's especially true in New York (thanks, George Steinbrenner).
Time is of the essence, and this franchise has been starved for real success for too long. The team needs to seize the moment and set their sights on the NBA Finals in 2013.
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