It's been a while, New York Knicks fans, but it looks like you've finally got yourselves the team you deserve.
As they continue their perfect start to the season, the message the Knicks sent in beating the Spurs last night should be loud and clear: This team is for real.
Throughout the Knicks' first five games, you could have argued that they got a bit lucky. They met the Sixers without Andrew Bynum, the Mavericks without Dirk Nowitzki and the Magic without Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu.
But even the harshest of critics can't argue against what the Knicks did last night, as they took on one of the most dominant teams of the last decade—on the road, no less—and won.
It was the first time since 2003 that the Knicks had won in San Antonio, and head coach Mike Woodson's first victory over the Spurs in his entire coaching career.
This is a San Antonio team that has been one of the league's most unstoppable forces in the regular season for the past couple of years, and had already gotten off to yet another hot start in 2012-13.
New York now stands at 6-0 for only the second time in franchise history, and they look a far cry from the dysfunctional Knicks of old.
What's most impressive about the win at the AT&T Center, though, is that it came on an off night from early-season MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony.
Though he only managed nine points on the night, it's the way Melo accepted his shot wasn't falling and instead tried to contribute in other ways that made the difference. He trusted his teammates, and with this team being as deep as it is, they got the job done.
Stephen Jackson of the Spurs was particularly impressed with that, too:
"I think last year Melo would have forced a lot of shots. This year he’s trusting his teammates and it’s shown out there, especially tonight. It’s amazing how they went from two guys shooting all the balls to a team that everybody has confidence in everybody else." (via Marc Berman)
New point guard Raymond Felton took on the task of making up for Melo's lack of scoring, putting up 25 to accentuate his great individual start to the season. And to think only months ago people didn't see him as a worthy replacement for Jeremy Lin.
The experience of the Knicks' aging supporting cast—supposedly too old to play in today's NBA—shone through as well, with Jason Kidd in particular saving the game with his clutch play in the fourth.
What the Knicks have here is exactly what Jackson says—a genuine team, built on the principles of trust, ball movement and defense, with plenty of players capable of stepping up when need be.
If there's anyone to credit for this sudden change of heart from the Knicks, it's Coach Woodson. The team is 24-6 since he took over for Mike D'Antoni back in March, and from day one he has demanded full effort and accountability.
Clearly, the talent has always been there to some extent, but New York just needed the man who could squeeze the best out of this team, and so far Woody has been just that.
It's just been an all-around great start to the season, and considering the efficiency these wins are coming by, this beginning should be reasonably sustainable.
Now that's not to say that the Knicks will dominate the league all season long, but when you rank in the top two in offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency and turnover ratio, that really does mean something.
There will be cold patches moving forward—make no mistake about that—but ultimately this is a team that has turned the corner.
The Knicks can't truly be called contenders until playoff time rolls around, but as far as the regular season is concerned, this team should be up there all season long.
The return of Amar'e Stoudemire will obviously raise some questions, but with the way Woodson has his team playing right now, a player as talented as STAT couldn't ask for a better situation to return to.
Such a drastic addition to the lineup will obviously take some work. But with some more Woodson magic, there's no reason to believe he can't instill the changes in Stoudemire that he did in Melo and J.R. Smith.
But for now, let's just enjoy the ride. This team has the talent and focus to continue being one of the East's elite, and they've just shown us that they mean business.
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