Re-setting Expectations for the Knicks

The Knicks might have the most imposing three-man frontcourt in basketball. And their coach has led some of the most impressive offensive teams of the last decade-plus, including Steve Nash's Suns and Team USA.

So why is New York struggling to crack the 85-point barrier most nights?

The first quarter of this compressed season has exposed some major flaws in the Knick roster. Toney Douglas was supposed to fill in at point guard until Baron Davis was healthy enough to play, but it quickly became obvious that he's not up to the task. That led Mike D'Antoni to try rookie Iman Shumpert and Carmelo Anthony as initiators of the offense... which didn't work either. Shumpert may develop into a true point, but he's not there yet. And while Anthony is a very capable passer, he doesn't have a point guard's mentality; to 'Melo, setting up the best shot usually means taking it himself. Meanwhile, Amar'e Stoudemire started the season encased in rust after spending much of the summer and early fall rehabbing a back injury, and Landry Fields opened the year looking as lost as he did against the Celtics in last year's playoffs.

But things could improve... and fast.

Landry Fields has been much better in the last week and is putting up numbers comparable to the first half of last season when he was a two-time Eastern Conference rookie of the month. Stoudemire showed flashes of his 2010-11 form in Friday's win over the Bobcats - a positive indication that he isn't hurt - and he'll have a chance to play "lead dog" for the next couple of games as Anthony is sidelined. And the arrival of Baron Davis - which could be any day now - should allow the team to play Douglas and Shumpert in roles where they'll be more comfortable and better positioned to succeed.

I'd buy low on all of the above right now.

To answer a question someone posted in Working the Wire this week, I don't think Davis' arrival will hurt Fields or Shumpert much. Initially, Davis probably won't be playing heavy minutes anyway. I think Fields will remain in the starting backcourt - D'Antoni had Davis and Fields running with the starters in practice this week - with Shumpert backing both positions and Toney Douglas moving down to fourth in the guard rotation.

Fields could also get some playing time at small forward when Anthony rests; many people think the three is his natural position anyway.

About the decision to sit Anthony this weekend: I think the Knicks are making the right call. In the last two weeks,'Melo has suffered injuries to his ankle, his left wrist and his right wrist and thumb. And while he's tried to play through the pain, he's shooting .313 from the floor over his last five games. And let's be real - the team is likely to struggle in Miami whether Anthony plays or not. This is a perfect time to give him a much-needed rest and hopefully get him back on track.

I also think this is a great opportunity for the Knicks to feature Stoudemire. Anthony's ball-dominance isn't the only reason Stoudemire has struggled; I think the shift back to power forward - due to Tyson Chandler's arrival - has forced Stoudemire to work further away from the basket, and Chandler's presence has created spacing issues that the Knicks' three-point shooting slump have just made worse.

 It's far too early to tell whether or not the Knicks will live up to the considerable pre-season hype. But I don't think this team is as bad as it has looked.


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