Monday, November 19, 2012

Why Early Season Injuries Are a Blessing in Disguise for NY Knicks

So far in the 2012-13 NBA season, the New York Knicks have been one of the early surprise packages.

It is amazing to see a team that struggled so greatly with chemistry last year play such flowing basketball and post such a good record with as many injuries as they've had.

When you look at the Knicks' injury report—which includes $100 million man Amar'e Stoudemire and impressive young guard Iman Shumpert—it's shocking that they've still managed to get off to such a hot start to the season.

But as brutal as the injury situation looks so early in the season, it's actually turning out to be a blessing in disguise for New York.

For starters, the pieces seem to be fitting together a lot better than they would be with Stoudemire out there.

As he did during his Player of the Month performance back in April, Carmelo Anthony has moved over to the 4 in Stoudemire's absence and is leaving his mark with his play there so far.

When he's not matched up with a seven-footer like Marc Gasol, Anthony has been a much better defensive player in the post than he's ever been on the wing, and that's a huge part of why he's made such strides on that end of the floor.

Offensively, Anthony at power forward causes matchup problems and forces opposition teams to adjust to the Knicks, rather than the other way around.

Because Melo has the quickness of a wing player and the strength of a big man, he's found it easy to raise his game on the inside, making use of his fantastic back-to-basket skill set.

Stoudemire's absence also allows for Jason Kidd to join the lineup as a shooting guard (with Brewer moving to the 3), which has been helped tremendously with ball movement.

Along with Felton, the Knicks now essentially have two point guards on the floor for most of the game and, as a result, are now second in the league in terms of offensive efficiency.

Having Kidd and Brewer out there together (who both can guard multiple positions well) also makes the Knicks a very flexible defensive unit.

Along with Stoudemire, new signing Marcus Camby has also missed time as he recovers from a calf injury, allowing for the emergence of Rasheed Wallace as a key part of the Knicks' bench.

Had Camby been healthy, he may well have taken most of the minutes behind Tyson Chandler, but instead we've had the chance to see Sheed do his thing in the post and on defense.

Camby, of course, would not be a bad option, but with Wallace's more developed offensive game, the Knicks now have a new wrinkle in their second unit.

On a similar note, the injuries to the two starters (Stoudemire and Shumpert) have allowed Mike Woodson to take a good look at what he has available to him on this roster.

We probably wouldn't have seen much of players like Brewer or Pablo Prigioni had everyone been healthy, but now we know exactly who they are and what they can provide.

Even if they fall out of the rotation or receive fewer minutes as everyone returns to full health, it's helpful for Woodson to understand how his pieces fit together so he can plug players in in certain situations.

Many ans appear to be worried about how the Knicks will react when Stoudemire returns to the lineup (which should be in about a month), but, strangely, the fact that he's missed time may actually help things.

With the Knicks playing as well as they are, they'll be cushioned by a good record when STAT comes back, allowing for Woodson to be experimental with his rotations without much risk.

Though you never want to lose games, the Knicks will be able to afford to sacrifice their highest quality play while they try to find the perfect way to organise their rotation.

Had Stoudemire started the season healthy, the spacing issues he has with Melo and Tyson Chandler would be more prevalent and would probably have resulted in a slower start to the season. Such a start could have caused a scare in New York and may even have led to a rash decision to fix things.

On top of that, Stoudemire's injury also gives Woodson an excuse to give STAT a shot coming off the bench, which appears to be a popular idea.

At this point, Stoudemire has suddenly become a luxury for the Knicks rather than a player their hopes rest on. Considering that they have already been one of the league's elite teams so far, the addition of an All-Star can only make things better.

If Stoudemire comes back in December as expected, his return may coincide with a particularly favourable part of the Knicks' schedule. December sees them play a six-game homestand, with most of the games coming against non-playoff teams from last year.

In the case of Shumpert, it will be a little easier to integrate him into the lineup, mainly because he's a very similar player to Brewer.

The only real worry will come in determining who should play the most minutes, but that's a problem most teams would like to have. One thing is for sure: Shumpert will provide a boost no matter what.

Ultimately, with the Knicks playing as well as they are now, things are actually shaping up nicely for both Stoudemire and Shumpert's return.

So often over the last few years, the Knicks have faced midseason crises that have hurt the team, such as the Melo trade that gave away the bulk of their depth in 2011 and the resignation of Mike D'Antoni in 2012.

This time round, though, there will be a midseason boost in the form of Stoudemire and Shumpert, which will help big time down the stretch.

Stats used in this article were accurate as of Nov. 19, 2012.


Chad Akebono Rowan Josh Hendricks Darren M Jackson Ivan Serati Umer W Chheena

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