Sam SpiegelmanNew York Knicks owner James Dolan expects his team to win the NBA championship this season, according to league sources.
“He told them he believes they have enough talent to win it all,” a source told ESPN.com. “He expects it to happen this year.”
Well, the Knicks aren’t even considered the best team in the Eastern Conference. That honor belongs to the Miami Heat, the NBA’s two-time defending champions who have a talented roster as well, and one that includes the league’s top player, LeBron James.
Not only are the Knicks not favorited in the East, they’re projected to be contending with a handful of other teams for the No. 2-4 spots along with the Pacers, Nets and Bulls, who the Knicks fell to 82-81 last night.
The Knicks won 54 games a season ago and took the No. 2 spot in the East, but that was before the Bulls returned 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose, before the Nets added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and the before the Pacers — who beat the Knicks in the second round of the playoffs — got healthier and added depth to their rotation.
The Knicks do have talent, though. How it well mesh remains a question, at least early on this season.
The team added Andrea Bargnani, who has struggled early and has already heard boos from the Madison Square Garden crowd. Metta World Peace and Beno Udruh appear to be strong rotational players, as is rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. who was drafted this summer.
The Knicks are currently without J.R. Smith, the recipient of a large contract this offseason. Smith has sat out two games of his five-game suspension, but also underwent offseason knee injuries and that will continue to be a problem early on in the year.
A team with Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Smith definitely has enough talent … to compete. The wildcard, of course, is what Hardaway, World Peace, Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire can contribute along the way.
But does that roster stack up with one including James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Cole Beasley? One that features Deron WIlliams, Joe Johnson, Brooke Lopez, Pierce and Garnett? One with Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah? One with Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West and Granger?
That remains to be seen, of course.
As does Anthony’s play this year. Anthony has the skill-set to be the league’s top scorer and perhaps an MVP. Of course, he is in a contract season, which means he’ll put up top-notch statistics in order to maximize a deal. Could a superb season from Anthony translate to another No. 2 seed in the East and an even deeper post-season run?
Dolan’s comments will do nothing but cause a stir among the Knicks’ locker room and put pressure on Mike Woodson and the coaching staff. It’s a ridiculous claim like that of Jerry Jones that gets its own two-minute segment on “SportsCenter” or when Rex Ryan calls the Jets a Super Bowl contender each year. It’s a distraction and an expectation that quite frankly is a long shot for his Knicks.
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