But not based on individual comparisons. The similarities center around each team's dynamic. The '94 team and current team have been built nearly the same way, starting with their franchise centerpieces who power the ship.
The Centerpiece: Carmelo Anthony vs. Patrick Ewing
Ewing and Anthony are the superstars—the go-to scorers. They've taken the heat for losses and gotten the credit for wins.
And there wasn't much behind Ewing in terms of scoring support. Just as today's Knicks are overreliant on Melo, the 94' Knicks rode Ewing's back to the finals.
They each have drawn similar criticism as well—two dominant offensive forces who just couldn't get their teams over the hump.
For most of his career, Ewing and the Knicks struggled with Reggie Miller and the Pacers and Michael Jordan and the Bulls. But in 1994, Ewing made his big move and guided his club to the NBA Finals. And with the tiny window the Knicks have now, that's what fans hope Anthony does in 2013-14.
Though they played different positions, Anthony and Ewing have shared similar challenges as the franchise centerpiece of the Knicks.
The Streaky, Erratic No. 2: J.R. Smith vs. John Starks
If you threw J.R. Smith in a time machine back to the early '90s, he might look something like John Starks without the tats.
It's amazing how many of the same adjectives you can use to describe both of them. Like Smith, Starks was a lethal scorer when on—a heat-check player with no sign of a conscience or regard for shot selection.
Starks was also a hot-head and, like Smith, mentally unstable.
Starks could win you a game or lose you one—a very dangerous type of player. Those who were around undoubtedly remember Starks' Game 7 implosion in the NBA Finals, when he finished 2-of-18 and 0-of-11 from three.
Those who were around last April might remember Smith's disastrous second-round performance. As the Knicks' No. 2 scorer, Smith shot just 29 percent on 15 shot attempts per game, killing the team's chances of advancing past the Pacers.
But we've also seen both players take over games after finding the zone.
Like Starks, you either love Smith or hate him, depending what side of the bed he wakes up on that morning.
It's awfully tough to win with a guy like Starks or Smith as No. 2 options. For most of the '94 playoffs, Starks was able to channel his bad temper and high energy into suffocating defense and timely points.
That will be the key for Smith, who lets frustration build and affect his play.
Smith is playing the exact same role that Starks played for the Knicks in 1994—a fiery guard who can score in bunches. Both have fought fines, suspensions and all sorts of criticism. But Smith's and Starks' fearless scoring styles and admirable swagger make you forget about their flaws when they're in the moment.
At the end of the day, the Knicks won't win in the playoffs unless Smith locks in.
When the Knicks acquired Metta World Peace this offseason, they also assumed a new identity. The strength of this team isn't offense anymore; it's toughness, physicality and aggression.
Between World Peace, Kenyon Martin, Tyson Chandler and Anthony up front, along with Raymond Felton and Smith, this is a physically imposing and experienced group.
The '94 Knicks team that made a run to the finals was successful by embracing the "badass" mentality. Some referred to Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason as the "Bruisers," who, along with Ewing, made coming into the lane an adventure for opponents.
Nobody got free baskets on New York's defense, whether it was an average Joe like Scott Williams:
Or a star like Michael Jordan:
This was a team that made opponents pay for coming inside. Rarely did anyone attack the rim without hitting the floor afterward.
The '94 Knicks controlled the paint and played in-your-face defense. And that's what World Peace, Chandler, Martin and Anthony must bring to the table this season.
Adopting '94 Team's Mentality
The Knicks' current frontcourt should look to adopt the same philosophy used by the '94 team. Relying on Anthony and Smith to make shots throughout four playoff series just isn't a realistic strategy, just like a Ewing-Starks tandem wasn't strong enough to consistently outscore opponents.
They needed to demonstrate a different element of basketball to give them a competitive edge.
The Knicks have an awfully tough group now, especially up front. They're not going to win with talent—not when Amar'e Stoudemire is taking up roughly $20 million a year of cap space and teams like the Bulls and Heat have kept their cores intact.
New York needs to embrace a rough-and-tough style of defense, because it just doesn't have enough reliable offensive options.
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