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Are the New York Knicks good enough to be considered serious contenders to win the NBA title this upcoming season? According to their All-Star Power Forward, they very well might be. Amar’e Stoudemire spoke to NY Daily News writer Frank Isola last week. One thing Stoudemire happened to mention was the team’s championship aspirations. Stoudemire might be getting ahead of himself. But then again, maybe he’s not.
As it stands right now, we don’t even know if there is going to be a season due to the labor dispute and current lockout. However, we will keep our fingers crossed and pretend there will be (for the sake of my article), or at a worst case scenario, there will be a strike-shortened season (like we saw in 1998-1999).
Stoudemire expressed his excitement in the Knicks’ recent hiring of Mike Woodson. Woodson figures to work alongside Head Coach Mike D’Antoni this year as his primary assistant. In order for the Knicks to be serious about contending for a championship, they have to dramatically improve on defense. Given Woodson’s reputation as a defensive-minded coach from his head coaching days in Atlanta, he is expected to be an integral piece in retooling the Knicks’ defensive scheme that was one of the worst in the league. The Knicks already have one of the league’s most prolific offenses with Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups leading the attack of D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense. Any improvement on the defensive side of the court will enhance the team’s ability to progress deeper into the playoffs and contend for a championship.
Finding a bonafide starting center capable of playing solid defense and rebounding is essential to any Knicks title talk. Names such as Tyson Chandler, Samuel Dalembert, Nene, and perhaps even Greg Oden, are all going to be available once the free agency period gets underway. Adding one of them should be a top priority. Acquiring additional depth for the bench is also paramount. Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Rony Turiaf, Bill Walker, Rookie Iman Shumpert and the starting center to be named later, all figure to get the most significant playing time, obviously aside from the big 3. Barring a change of plans, Fields figures to be return as the starting two-guard, but he could receive competition for minutes from Walker and/or Shumpert. Shawne Williams remains in the picture and can factor into a significant bench role like he did last season if the Knicks agree to retain the unrestricted free agent.
If you were to take a look at any championship winning team and do some research, you will find more times than not the team consists of a successful combination of the following: A star player or two, quality coaching, productive role players, scoring prowess, defensive tenacity, rebounding big men, team health, good free-throw percentages, clutch play, a blend of youth and experience, occasional luck and the right moves made by front office personnel. That is quite a lot of things to go right for a team. Yet every year, one team is able to have it all work out in their favor. Sure, like most things in life and in sports, it certainly is easier said than done. But if the Knicks actually are able to make the necessary amendments to their team, all of a sudden, the Knicks’ championship hype will quickly be deemed legitimate.