The NBA season is here... finally. With that in mind, it is time to flip through the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store -- especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year's NBA Blog Preview (don't worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks ... months ... this preview IS never-ending, afterall).
New York Knicks
Last Year/This Year: 42-40/27-27
Last Year vs. Magic: Lost 112-103 in Orlando; Lost 116-110 in Orlando; Lost 111-99 in New York; Won 113-106 in New York
This Year vs. Magic: Lost 102-93 in New York on Jan. 16; Won 108-86 in New York on March 28; Tonight in Orlando
Magic Connection: None
The Previews: Seth/Posting and Toasting
The image above and the feelings come out of the listless effort Orlando put in against New York last week shows the potential New York has. The way the Magic dominated the Knicks last year and on Martin Luther King Day earlier this year shows, perhaps, the reality of the Knicks.
New York is one of the biggest mysteries in the NBA -- although maybe not as big as this whole Stan Van Gundy/Dwight Howard mess. A combination of Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony should give the Knicks enough talent to compete in the Eastern Conference. But the two players' need to have the ball in their hands and the mismatched way the roster was put together for Mike D'Antoni led to troubles.
New York has really been rejuvenated twice in this roller coaster of a season for Knicks fans.
The first rejuvenation came with the emergence of Jeremy Lin. The Magic will not get to experience "Linsanity" as Lin is out for tonight's game, and likely the rest of the season, with a knee injury. Lin injected some much needed life into a lifeless offense that was struggling to get by with injuries to Carmelo Anthony and, at various times, Amar'e Stoudemire.
The second rejuvenation came with the dismissal of Mike D'Antoni and the ascendance of Mike Woodson. Woodson completed the transformation of the Knicks from a purely (and somewhat inefficient) offensive team into a pretty decent defensive team. New York, believe it or not, is seventh in the league in defensive rating in giving up 97.7 points per 100 possessions.
This transformation was effected by the acquisition of Tyson Chandler. Much like Dwight Howard has done in years past, Chandler erases a lot of mistakes from some of the Knicks' weaker defenders. It is not very difficult to argue with Orlando's uneven effort this year, especially on the defensive end, that Chandler is the front-runner for the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award. That is pretty shocking to hear.
Woodson has helped bring that change as D'Antoni's unofficial defensive coordinator and now the head coach.
Still, there is a tinge of disappointment about this Knicks team. After all, Anthony and Stoudemire are two of the top players in the NBA and have a decent inside-outside contrast to be effective. This is a team that many, especially the Knicks organization, expected to compete for a top spot in the East and perhaps even win the division.
That has not happened for New York. It has not clicked yet.
This season it may never fully click for New York.
How the Knicks Will Beat the Magic: Lots of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony absolutely tore up the Magic with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting and some deft playmaking. What New York is doing now with Anthony is what Denver did with Carmelo for most of his career. The Knicks have given him the ball and are letting him work. And quite simply, the Magic do not have anyone that can guard Anthony one on one. That means for the Knicks to have success in tonight's game, Carmelo Anthony has to be a scorer but a willing passer. He has to be their playmaker. What the Knicks did extremely well was get the ball moving around the perimeter. They found Steve Novak and Josh Harrellson and J.R. Smith on crisp ball rotations. That was absolutely key for New York's blowout win last week.
How the Magic Will Beat the Knicks: On the other end, it will take a much better effort than Orlando gave in the last meeting. And it will take getting Dwight Howard the ball. That was something Howard was irked at after the last loss. But the Magic really do need to play through Dwight. Mike Woodson will have New York switch every pick and roll on the perimeter except for the ones involving Howard. That puts the onus on Stan Van Gundy to get Howard involved on post ups and pick and rolls -- that shouldn't be awkward. Energy is going to be key. Orlando simply did not show up the last game. They have to this time to stand a chance.