Tommy DeeThe Knicks start camp two weeks from today, and in all seriousness this is the most excited I’ve been for an upcoming season in some time. When I first stepped into camp, back when it was held at Skidmore up in Saratoga (one of my favorite places on earth, Saratoga that is, although Skidmore is nice too) a lot of the discussion surrounded how on earth the Knicks were going to be able to trade Eddy Curry. Moreover, it was a season that was going to be filled with a lot of losses, but also there was talk of integrating defense and of course Mike D’Antoni’s offense. In fact, I remember pulling Donnie Walsh aside after pretty much everyone had left to ask him his thoughts on the systems and how each player was going to be put in the best place to succeed. I asked him the concepts of spacing and enjoyed hearing how he thought Nate Robinson could excel and how Danilo Gallinari could develop.
There were other parts of excitement and entertainment like watching writers swarm players and coaches for a quote and watching the Knicks PR staff literally scramble to hide Eddy Curry when the media was finally let in. There was the conversation with Darko Milicic who still to that day couldn’t believe he was drafted by the Pistons so high, and Tony Douglas explaining the idea of doing what he do.
I love training camp and this year is no different. The expectation level, for me is managed, but is as high as it’s ever been. This team has to become a force in the east. They have to play inspired ball and they have to make fans feel as if what they are watching meets the caliber of the price of the ticket. Sadly, that is reality.
For me on the outside looking in there are several key factors and it all begins with Amar’e Stoudemire. If he really wants to stake further claim that in fact the Knicks are back then he has to prove that he is back… 100%. Last year as we know was a very difficult one filled with trade rumors and family tragedy, as well as health issues, but if the Knicks are going to be a dominant force in the east it’s time for Amar’e to shine.
The same obviously holds true for the most polarizing figure in NY sports since A-Rod- Carmelo Anthony. Hate him or love him this is the franchise player and the best one this team has had since Patrick Ewing circa 1997. Too many Jeremy Lin fans want to crucify him and too many people want to believe he walks on water. The bottom line is this for me. I respect the guy for wanting NY, but if he doesn’t perform he will be booed mercilessly like Rodriguez was. It is what it is. I don’t know what the phrase “plays the game the right way” means, which is something that I’ve argued about, especially those who write for the NY Times, but Melo has a lot to prove and for his sake I hope he comes into camp riding the momentum he had this past summer when on several occasions he was the best player, not just on the floor, but in the world.
The secondary cast has improved in my view, especially in the back court. I like Jason Kidd for this year and I think Ray Felton allows for this team to go when they need to and play in the half court when transition isn’t there. Another player who wants to be here. We will see what happens with Ronnie Brewer and if Iman Shumpert can return with the same bounce. If he would be a free mid-season acquisition and depth and energy to the back court.
To me the best off season move was bringing in Marcus Camby for depth. Yes it cost some young prospects, but I think we all understand the Knicks are all in for this year.
The countdown is on…