We’re trying out a new feature here, The Knicks Blog Roundtable. We’re going through a five-pack full of questions just in time for the weekend, as we assess the current state of the Knicks ahead of Friday night’s tilt with the Bobcats.
Q: How concerned are you about Tyson Chandler?
Dee: Getting concerned, but the team as a whole has benefited from the inclusion of Kenyon Martin on the defensive end in a major way. It was a move that got plenty of laughs but Martin has been awesome. He simply fits them better all-around than Amar’e does. As for Chandler you never like to hear about numbness in any sense, but they are taking their time with him which is smart. Definitely concerning, but I wouldn’t say overly concerned. Wait, what?
DiMenna: Kenyon Martin’s emergence has kept me from breaking out in the type of cold sweat I usually reserve for first dates or confessional booths, but I’m starting to get a bit nervous. I’ve just never believed that the words bulging and discs should be that close together for any reason. I think the Knicks’ recent surge is giving them the benefit of playing it smart with Chandler, and distracted us from the fact this is really all we should be thinking about, but it’s at the point where I’d really just like to hear everything is OK so I can get out from under my blankie and go on with my life.
Falkenbury: I think the one thing this six game winning streak has done for the Knicks is allow them time to truly figure out what they are going to do about this Chandler injury. The more that time goes by without his status getting any better, it seems to me that this injury is worse than the Knicks are letting on. It reminds me a little of the Wallace injury and how the news was handled in regards to his recovery. At first it was a sore foot, then a stress reaction and eventually a fracture. I really hope the bulging disc injury is not more serious but I’m losing hope slowly that it isn’t. If not for Kenyon Martin’s strong play at Center, this would be a much bigger story and potential disaster then it is right now.
Q: Has J.R. Smith turned a corner?
Dee: We’ve been begging him to get to the foul line and he has. Over 60 times in the last 7 games in fact. That just helps your rhythm across the board. It shows you’re being effective, you’re into the game and you’re being aggressive. You absolutely need that out of a slashing wing player. It also helps that he can shoot the eyes out when he’s got it going.
DiMenna: I so, so want to believe that this is true, but I’m slightly dubious. The good news is that nothing he’s really doing is necessarily unsustainable. He’s doing most of the things we’ve all been dying for him to do for some time, attacking the basket, getting to the line, forcing less bad shots. No one’s ever denied that Smith has the talent, just the aptitude, but if he really is putting it all together it legitimately could be game-changing.
Falkenbury: Old habits die hard and I think until I see this kind of play from J.R. in the playoffs then I will remain a bit skeptical that a corner has been turned for good. What he has done these past six games has been great. All Knicks fans love seeing him take advantage of his ability to not only hit a step back jumper but drive to the rim and either make the shot or get to the line. For too long it seemed that Melo was the only player who went to the rim for the Knicks consistently and now that Smith is starting to go to the rim, he has become a more dynamic offensive player. He is making defenders think twice about guarding him so close, since they will be afraid that he’ll go around them. What that will do for Smith then is lead to extra space for him to take his jump shots when he wants to. I really hope that he has turned a corner, but lets see it continue when the lights get their brightest in the playoffs.
Q: What do you want to see over the last 12 games?
Dee: Just stay healthy. They are peaking at the right time.
DiMenna: I’d like to see Chandler back at some point, as I’d rather not see us entering the postseason where he hasn’t played in weeks. Otherwise, I’m hoping Shumpert continues to improve, as that’d be another boost, but mostly I’d just like to see them enter the playoffs on the uptick. Oh and I’d like everyone to still have knees. Can everyone just have fully functioning knees?
Falkenbury: I want to see this team continue to play hard on the defensive end. Offense can come and go at any time but defensive effort should never take a night off. If the Knicks keep their defense at this level heading into the playoffs, they will be a very tough out.
Q: Preferred first-round opponent?
Dee: I don’t care, honestly. Never do. All you can do is be playing your best basketball at the right time and play who’s in front of you.
DiMenna: I’m of a similar mind to TD, but I think I differ from some in that I’d actually like to see the Celtics. One, I think it’s a juicy first-round match up, and though it may provoke a little more of the gnashing of teeth that some would like to avoid, there’s a certain part of me that would relish the chance to end this particular era of Boston basketball with a swift first-round exit. It would be satisfying.
Falkenbury: Bring on the Hawks and break out the brooms. The Knicks will party like it’s 1999 if they are lucky enough to draw the Hawks in the first round.
Q: Are Carmelo’s recent shooting woes any cause for concern?
Dee: It’s amazing that he’s had such a good year and he’s struggling from the field. I was more concerned about the knee but he looks strong and he’s an absolute horse on the block. They really have a dynamic offense when J.R. is shooting well. They playoffs are about being healthy, playing with confidence and executing in big moments. I think Melo is ready to tell the world he’s ready to bust out in the playoffs.
DiMenna: It’s sort of been a slightly under discussed aspect of the Knicks that Carmelo has actually been struggling from the field for a while now (He’s down to .435% shooting on the year). That being said, as much as Melo is the point of discussion for the Knicks he’s also the thing I’m least worried about. I actually think we pretty much know who he is at this point, and what we’re going to get from him. I definitely think Carmelo Anthony can be the top scorer on a championship team, the question is do the Knicks have the right parts around him to make a legitimate run? I suspect I know the answer to this, and it sometimes makes me softly weep, but the good news is we’re definitely going to find out.
Falkenbury: I really don’t worry about the amount of shots he takes and misses as long as he gets his points and stays healthy. The way he has played this season outside of the low shooting percentage that Brian references above to me has been MVP worthy. I know most basketball experts roll their eyes at Melo being a serious MVP candidate these days but he has played strong when healthy all year. His defense has been better, not perfect, but better and his presence on the low block offensively has been of the keys for the Knicks during this recent winning streak. I agree with Tommy, Melo is ready for the playoffs this year to be his time to shine and him staying 100% healthy is the only thing that truly concerns me.