(Long Island, NY) Their record may not show it. And the casual follower may scoff at the notion. But if you have been a steady customer at MSG (speaking of the arena and the television network), then there is no denying that at least some of this year’s New York Knicks are playing inspired basketball.
It is troubling that the starters, who fill up most of the overflowing salary cap, have played with the least energy. That is with the exception of Quentin Richardson, who has had a nice rebound season from his confusing 2005-06 under former head coach Larry Brown. Eddy Curry looks more and more like the bust that Chicago dealt away then the potentially dominating seven-foot center they drafted out of high school. Stephon Marbury has had flashes, but has not been consistent and should bring more to the table. He often tries to create instead of setting up his teammates. An effective and winning point guard simply does not do that. Steve Francis looks, for all intents and purposes, washed up.
The most successful young player from last season, Channing Frye, has had the toughest start of all of his brethren. Possibly he is just rusty from his season-ending knee injury and will once again show some of his strengths from last year.
But he is the exception rather than the rule. His fellow draft picks, Nate Robinson and David Lee, have been huge coming off the bench. In the games the Knicks have made interesting after falling behind by double digits early, it was the second unit who fought back. And little Nate has been a Garden favorite with his shooting and hustle. Lee had a double-double in the 102-82 home win versus Washington on Thursday, which included many offensive rebounds and put-backs. He is doing a great job all year, and takes care of the little things on the court that all teams need.
This year’s first round draft pick, Renaldo Balkman, had his best game against the Wizards with 18 points. He has been getting dirty by diving for loose balls, which is something rarely seen from the first unit.
Isiah Thomas has publicly stated that he will bench anyone and play who is deserving, regardless of stature and salary. At the rate the Knicks are going, it won’t be long before the youngsters hear their names being introduced prior to the game.