When you think about the New York Knicks, you usually think about either the past or the future. Their recent past includes a four-year prep period where they did little more than lay the groundwork for the courtship of LeBron James in 2010; their recent future may include the assembly of a dream team built around Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. But what about the present?
The truth is that the Knicks have some pieces to work with right now, starting with Amare, that can help them make a playoff push in 2011. It all depends on how much they want it.
2009-10 Record: 29-53 (third in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs)
Celtics' record vs. Knicks: 269-170 all time, 3-1 last season
Familiar faces: Bill Walker (traded from Celtics to Knicks at deadline last winter)
Key additions: Amare Stoudemire (free agent), Raymond Felton (free agent), Roger Mason (free agent), Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf (all acquired from Warriors in sign-and-trade deal for David Lee), Landry Fields (draft), Andy Rautins (draft), Jerome Jordan (Bucks draft, acquired in trade), Timofey Mozgov (undrafted free agent)
Key losses: David Lee (signed and traded to Warriors), Tracy McGrady (signed with Pistons), Eddie House (signed with Heat), Al Harrington (signed with Nuggets), Chris Duhon (signed with Magic), J.R. Giddens (remains a free agent), Jonathan Bender (remains a free agent)
Burning question: Are the Knicks motivated to win now?
A little bit of talent goes a long way in the Eastern Conference. If Milwaukee and Charlotte can be playoff teams out East, anyone can be with a couple of lucky breaks. And the Knicks, by assembling Amare, Felton and a couple of decent youngsters, just might have enough talent to surprise some people in the spring of 2011.
But they've got to maintain their focus, and they can't get carried away thinking about the future when there are games to be played in the present. As always with the Knicks, there's a temptation to think about next summer — about CP3 and Carmelo and the juggernaut that might be built in Manhattan down the road. But Amare is 27 and he should be ready to win now.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and the Knicks aren't becoming champions overnight. But this season can be one of baby steps.
If Mike D'Antoni can get the most out of the talent he has, a No. 8 seed in the East isn't entirely out of play. The Knicks have a chance at being competitive, but they have to work hard and earn it.
2010-11 outlook: The Knicks need a few things to go right. They need Amare to be considerably better in the Big Apple than David Lee ever was, they need Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler each to make the leap and become stars right away, they need a newfound commitment to defense, and they need everyone to stay healthy. That's pretty much the perfect storm, but if the Knicks are going to be competitive right away, they probably need it all. Good luck to them.
Did you know? Of the original 11 NBA teams that came into existence when the NBA was founded in 1946, the Knicks and Celtics are the only two that still play in their original cities. Eight of the 11 have since folded, while the Philadelphia Warriors moved to California and became the Golden State Warriors.