As we enter the second week of November, the NBA has already given us plenty to talk about.
Starting with the James Harden trade this season has been a slew of unpredictability. The Ray Allen-Kevin Garnett spat and the Lakers struggles also highlighted what we both love and hate about sports.
The biggest surprise so far, though, has to be the last remaining undefeated team in the NBA: the New York Knickerbockers.
This is a team that has struggled to find its identity ever since trading for Carmelo Anthony in February of last year. Before that trade, the Knicks had a good, young core of players that covered a variety of skill sets. Raymond Felton was having his best year as a pro running Mike D’antoni’s up-tempo offense. Danilo Galinari shot the lights out and established himself as a legit scoring threat in the game. Timofey Mozgov showed promise as an interior defender despite being turned into an adjective by Blake Griffin. Also, Wilson Chandler showed promise as a young Gerald Wallace or even a Rudy Gay.
Fast forward to today after the Knicks have been an exercise in futility for the past two seasons despite having two of the most prolific offensive talents in the game, but it seems that GM Glen Grunwald has finally put a roster together that has the fortitude to sustain a championship run.
The Knicks biggest problem has been their lack of a leader on the court. Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are alpha-male personalities but neither of them are natural leaders. This much can be seen in the many faces of the Knicks last season. They started out with promise then got shaken up by injuries. Jeremy Lin emerged as a potential savior for about a month until he went down. Then Anthony came back and took over before the team was ousted by the Heat in round one.
So, it was clear to the Knicks brass that they needed some big time changes in the personality of this team. They definitely had the talent on both ends of the floor to be a dynamic team, but they lacked leadership, which ultimately let them down in tight games. Glen Grunwald went out and replenished his roster with veterans and “system fitters.” Felton flourished with Stoudemire in New York a couple years back so there was already a familiarity with that move. Marcus Camby and Tyson Chandler give the Knicks the most depth at the Center position of any team, by far. However, the two biggest acquisitions for this team are a combined 77 years old.
Rasheed Wallace has had time to nurse all his nagging injuries and comes out of retirement to join New York. Say what you want about him being a volatile personality, Wallace has always been regarded as one of the smartest players in the game. His innate understanding of offensive and defensive spacing along with his experience in Playoff situations make him a key component in the Knicks success.
The second acquisition, which may turn out to be one of the most significant of the offseason, was Jason Kidd. They say goodbye to Jeremy Lin and his pick-and-roll, high turnover, high assist offensive set and they say hello to one of the best leaders from the point guard position that the game has ever seen. In my opinion, the Lakers would have been much better suited going after Kidd than Nash because of his championship experience and his reliability in staying healthy.
Kidd brings composure and leadership to a team devoid of both the last two years. Wallace brings intelligence and swagger. Anthony and Stoudemire will obviously bring the scoring. What has it gotten New York so far? They are 3-0, all double digit victories. They lead the NBA in scoring defense, are third in scoring offense and as long as they stay healthy it is clear they have assembled a collection of talent that complements each other very well. Miami and Boston may have some competition in the East after all.