The New York Knicks 2012-13 season ended in widespread disappointment, the blame stick being passed around from Carmelo Anthony to J.R. Smith to Mike Woodson all the way to Rihanna for the team's second-round exit from the playoffs.
A No. 2 seed out East and a potential threat to the Miami Heat, New York came into that postseason with championship aspirations. The Indiana Pacers stymied those hopes in six games, suffocating New York's offense with a stalwart defensive scheme en route to pushing the Heat to a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals for the ages.
While it was fair for New York to feel disappointment, the instant reaction seemingly overshadowed 2012-13 being the team's best season since the turn of the century. The Knicks won their first Atlantic Division crown since 1993-94, were a top-two seed for the first time since that same season and made the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000.
Still, New York City won't ever be satisfied with a second-round exit—especially not when the crosstown Brooklyn Nets are trying to construct a superteam. Carmelo Anthony implored management to add another scorer, which they did, trading for Toronto Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani. The former No. 1 overall pick has been maligned in Toronto for his dipping offensive numbers and nonexistent presence defensively or on the boards, but it's easy to forget that two years ago he was a 20-point scorer with stretch-4 tendencies.
Bargnani is joined in the new additions fan club by Metta World Peace. The Queensbridge kid and former St. John's standout's career will come full-circle in New York, years after the team passed on the Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest for the immortal Frederic Weis in the 1999 draft.
Neither player is enough to push New York into NBA Finals favorite status, but this roster again shapes up to be among the best in the East.
With NBA.com announcing the Knicks' 82-game slate Tuesday, let's check out what's in store for the MSG bunch and give a super early prediction on what's to come.
2013 New York Knicks Schedule
|Sun 3||vs. Minnesota Timberwolves||7:30 p.m.|
|Tue 5||vs. Charlotte Bobcats||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri 8||@ Charlotte Bobcats||7:00 p.m.|
|Sun 10||vs. San Antonio Spurs ||12:00 p.m.|
|Wed 13||@ Atlanta Hawks||8:00 p.m.|
|Thu 14||vs. Houston Rockets||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 16||vs. Atlanta Hawks||7:30 p.m.|
|Tue 19||@ Detroit Pistons||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed 20||vs. Indiana Pacers||7:00 p.m.|
|Sat 23||@ Washington Wizards||7:00 p.m.|
|Mon 25||@ Portland Trail Blazers||10:00 p.m.|
|Wed 27||@ L.A. Clippers||10:30 p.m.|
|Fri 29||@ Denver Nuggets||9:00 p.m.|
|Sun 1||vs. New Orleans Pelicans||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu 5||@ Brooklyn Nets||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri 6||vs. Orlando Magic||7:30 p.m.|
|Sun 8||vs. Boston Celtics||12:00 p.m.|
|Tue 10||@ Cleveland Cavaliers||7:00 p.m.|
|Wed 11||vs. Chicago Bulls||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 13||@ Boston Celtics||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat 14||vs. Atlanta Hawks||7:30 p.m.|
|Mon 16||vs. Washington Wizards||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed 18||@ Milwaukee Bucks||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 21||vs. Memphis Grizzlies||12:00 p.m.|
|Mon 23||@ Orlando Magic||7:00 p.m.|
|Wed 25||vs. Oklahoma City Thunder||2:30 p.m.|
|Fri 27||vs. Toronto Raptors||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat 28||@ Toronto Raptors||7:00 p.m.|
|Thu 2||@ San Antonio Spurs||8:30 p.m.|
|Fri 3||@ Houston Rockets||8:00 p.m.|
|Sun 5||@ Dallas Mavericks||7:30 p.m.|
|Tue 7||vs. Detroit Pistons||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu 9||vs. Miami Heat||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 11||@ Philadelphia 76ers||7:30 p.m.|
|Mon 13||vs. Phoenix Suns||7:30 p.m.|
|Tue 14||@ Charlotte Bobcats||7:00 p.m.|
|Thu 16||@ Indiana Pacers||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri 17||vs. L.A. Clippers||7:00 p.m.|
|Mon 20||vs. Brooklyn Nets||2:30 p.m.|
|Wed 22||vs. Philadelphia 76ers||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri 24||vs. Charlotte Bobcats||7:30 p.m.|
|Sun 26||vs. L.A. Lakers||3:30 p.m.|
|Tue 28||vs. Boston Celtics||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu 30||vs. Cleveland Cavaliers||8:00 p.m.|
|Sat 1||vs. Miami Heat||8:30 p.m.|
|Mon 3||@ Milwaukee Bucks||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 5||vs. Portland Trail Blazers||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri 7||vs. Denver Nuggets||7:30 p.m.|
|Sun 9||@ Oklahoma City Thunder||1:00 p.m.|
|Wed 12||vs. Sacramento Kings||7:30 p.m.|
|Tue 18||@ Memphis Grizzlies||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 19||@ New Orleans Pelicans||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 21||@ Orlando Magic||7:00 p.m.|
|Sat 22||@ Atlanta Hawks||7:30 p.m.|
|Mon 24||vs. Dallas Mavericks||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu 27||@ Miami Heat||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 28||vs. Golden State Warriors||8:00 p.m.|
|Sun 2||@ Chicago Bulls||1:00 p.m.|
|Mon 3||@ Detroit Pistons||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed 5||@ Minnesota Timberwolves||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 7||vs. Utah Jazz||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat 8||@ Cleveland Cavaliers||7:30 p.m.|
|Mon 10||vs. Philadelphia 76ers||7:30 p.m.|
|Wed 12||@ Boston Celtics||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat 15||vs. Milwaukee Bucks||12:00 p.m.|
|Wed 19||vs. Indiana Pacers||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri 21||@ Philadelphia 76ers||7:00 p.m.|
|Sun 23||vs. Cleveland Cavaliers||7:30 p.m.|
|Tue 25||@ L.A. Lakers||10:30 p.m.|
|Wed 26||@ Sacramento Kings||10:00 p.m.|
|Fri 28||@ Phoenix Suns||10:00 p.m.|
|Sun 30||@ Golden State Warriors||9:00 p.m.|
|Mon 31||@ Utah Jazz||9:00 p.m.|
|Wed 2||vs. Brooklyn Nets||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri 4||vs. Washington Wizards||7:30 p.m.|
|Sun 6||@ Miami Heat||1:00 p.m.|
|Fri 11||@ Toronto Raptors||7:00 p.m.|
|Sun 13||vs. Chicago Bulls||1:00 p.m.|
|Tue 15||@ Brooklyn Nets||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed 16||vs. Toronto Raptors||8:00 p.m.|
Most Intriguing Matchups
New York Knicks @ Brooklyn Nets
When: Thursday, December 5th at 7 p.m.
It's been said a million times already, but the Brooklyn-New York rivalry never really took off last season. The atmosphere in the arena—especially Barclays—was electric when the two teams played and city bragging rights were traded back and forth, but the contests mostly came and went without much postgame fanfare.
It was the type of manufactured excitement movie studios tried drumming up about White House Down or something. You knew about it, saw recognizable faces involved and perhaps even watched before leaving your seat unsatisfied. Yeah, it was a fun experience and all, but it's highly unlikely anyone would be excited about a sequel without major changes.
Well, meet Mikhail Prokhorov, eccentric billionaire, taxpaying fiend and excitement-generating machine. It was clear the Nets were going to use Prokhorov's wide-open checkbook and Kris Humphries' expiring contract to bring in at least one more star to pair with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.
No one expected two stars. And even fewer expected them to arguably be the two who would most stoke the fires of a Knicks-Nets rivalry. By acquiring Carmelo's mortal enemy in Kevin Garnett and longtime Knicks killer Paul Pierce, Brooklyn essentially took the entire intrigue of the Knicks-Celtics rivalry, coupled it with a borough war and created a cauldron of antagonism.
The Garnett-Carmelo thing was well covered last season. Anthony tried fighting Garnett in the parking lot outside Madison Square Garden after the Big Ticket allegedly said something offensive during a mid-game trash-talking session. It's never been confirmed what Garnett said to set Anthony off, but the Internet went on a rampage following reports KG told 'Melo his wife, entertainer LaLa Vasquez, "tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios."
All sides denied those claims, but you can't just tell the Internet something that outlandish without garnering a reaction. Boston fans later chanted "Honey Nut Cheerios" at Anthony during the Knicks-Celtics playoff series, one New York finished in six games. It's a pretty safe bet that meme will carry over to next season—at least with some Brooklyn fans.
More intriguing, though, are the basketball implications of this move. A year ago, the Nets acquisition of Johnson and the expected health of Lopez gave some initial credence to them becoming the best team in New York. The inanity of that claim was clear the moment Brooklyn, a team with no spacing and wretched coaching, took the floor.
This season? The Knicks have an uphill battle to keep pace. Garnett and Pierce give Brooklyn one of the most formidable starting fives in the league, even if their combined age is roughly 1,292. They came to Brooklyn with the only goal being to win a championship—hence Garnett wearing No. 2 instead of No. 21.
Each Knicks-Nets game will come with a playoff-like atmosphere, and it'd be near-glorious to see these two sides battle in a No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the postseason. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's just see the sparks fly the first time these two play and appreciate it.
Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks
When: Wednesday, December 20th at 7 p.m.
Speaking of rivalries, Indiana-New York will never reach its Reggie Miller-Spike Lee heights again, but the dichotomy between these two teams makes for fascinating X's and O's basketball. Their playoff series last year saw Frank Vogel's combination of bigs and brilliant defensive scheming choke the life from the Knicks' three-point heavy, isolation-heavy attack—even after Mike Woodson adjusted and started running more pick-and-rolls to start possessions.
Both teams head into next season relatively unchanged. Amar'e Stoudemire will be back and the Knicks' minor offseason acquisitions of Bargnani and World Peace should help a bit, but Indiana has made much-needed strides in adding depth. Former Knick Chris Copeland will give them spacing, and C.J. Watson will have the oh-dear-thank-god effect of keeping D.J. Augustin nowhere near the Pacers lineup.
Danny Granger's return to the lineup also provides their version of Amar'e—an offense-first player making star money, best left as a sixth man.
In the macro, though, these are the same teams you saw last season. Paul George and David West will run a combo meal of coverage on Carmelo, depending on the Knicks lineup. Roy Hibbert's presence in the middle will force Anthony and J.R. Smith into more mid-range jumpers, assuming the latter returns to the lineup in time for this contest. A healthy Tyson Chandler should have a Hibbert-lite effect on Indiana's offense, which will be in an adjustment period early on as George and Granger decide on an alpha dog balance.
The Knicks and Pacers know each other well. Woodson and Vogel know their opposition's pet sets, how to properly defend them in theory and the rotations they like to run at certain points of the game. These are the things you learn over the course of a playoff series, and even if there are some slightly different characters, coaches don't overhaul their game plans as much as you may think.
We'll need to see whether Woodson plugs Stoudemire back in the starting lineup, or whether the Knicks will continue realizing their small-ball destiny. Same with Granger for Vogel. Indiana's starting lineup was a world-beater last season, and New York's wasn't too shabby either. The logic of the situation for both players is to come off the bench, propping up second units with consistent offensive production.
Finding a balance between stroking egos and intelligence is harder than it may sound. Either way, each of these matchups should be fun, close contests this season.
Early Season Prediction
Making concrete assertions about win-loss records and where teams stand within the infrastructure of an NBA championship in early August is the very definition of overzealous. Most of the top teams in both conferences will probably make one or two tiny moves as the summer doldrums move on, and those little pieces of added depth make a bigger difference than most are willing to admit.
We do know this: Barring a long-term injury to Carmelo, the Knicks are making the playoffs and will be a top-five Eastern Conference seed. The Miami Heat remain a plane above everyone else until they no longer have the Best Player Alive, and New York can't really claim superiority to a team that defeated them in the postseason a year ago (Indiana).
Argument can be had once you get to the Nets and Chicago Bulls. Brooklyn is better on paper and Andrei Kirilenko will help protect against an injury to Pierce or Garnett, but 'Melo would be the best player in a potential playoff series. And the Bulls are unquestionably better assuming Derrick Rose comes back to full strength, but after missing an entire season, it's fair to want to see him be great to believe he will be.
Where the Knicks fit in here depends on a few factors. Kenyon Martin's re-signing will help give some frontcourt defensive depth, but New York's middle is built on a very shaky foundation. A Chandler injury means more time with Bargnani and Stoudemire sharing the floor, and possibly 'Melo and J.R. Smith joining them. I'll give you Knicks fans time to hyperventilate.
Working under the assumption of relative health, the Knicks aren't appreciably worse or better than last season. Their conference is just more top-heavy than it was a year ago.
Throw a shoe at my head and tell me to pick already? My projections currently have the Knicks somewhere around 46-50 wins and the fifth seed in the East.
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