Before we jump all over J.R. Smith, we should think about this for a second. The Knicks have a legitimate superstar in Carmelo Anthony, who has fire shooting out of his ass right now in London. Any man that can drop 37 in 14 minutes in the Olympics without the bonus of NBA Jam hot spots is a viable threat to the NBA’s throne. New York has Team USA’s starting center as well, Tyson Chandler, who is one of the best teammates, leaders and defensive players in the NBA. In one year, Chandler took their defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) from 106.9 in 2010-11 to 98.4 last season, fifth-best in the NBA. They have Smith, one of the ultimate wild cards. They have a coach the players love. They have a city starving for a title. They’ve added a few decent veteran pieces (even if they went shopping for talent at Senior Citizen Bingo Night), and didn’t splurge on retaining role players when they could’ve this summer. New York, at least on paper, has a chance, right?
Smith is confident, telling ESPNNewYork.com, “Right now with the talent we have, what it says on paper is championship all day. But it’s a matter of us going out there and doing it.”
He says he goes into every season with a championship or bust mentality, despite the fact he doesn’t really know what it takes (He’s had just a little bit more playoff success than Anthony, which still puts him in the “historically bad” class.). While having those expectations for every year is awesome, we have our OWN expectations for Smith, and they revolve around a lot of pull-up 26-footers, weird hand signals, glimpses of special talent, but also head-shaking plays.
Danny Granger may not see New York as a threat to his Pacers, the Bulls could be losing their horns, and the Nets might be talking more junk than even Rex Ryan can handle, but New York is at least dangerous. Even the staunchest haters have to give them that. They do have question marks – will ‘Melo ever take the next step? … Would Dolan ever leave? … Will Kidd continue to get in trouble off the court and will Felton eat everything in sight? – but they probably have even more talent, and in this league, talent trumps all.
The Knicks haven’t made it out of the first round since the 1999 lockout season, and even with all of this talent last year, it took 41 points from ‘Melo to avoid another first round sweep against Miami. If they are going to go deep in the playoffs, it won’t come down to talent. It’ll come down to something else, and J.R. Smith finally stepping up his game to another level is a big part of that.
How good will New York be next year?
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