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Looking Ahead to the New York Knicks Off-Season

After the clock hit 0.00 in Miami a few weeks ago, the New York Knicks hopes of a playoff run ended, and the season was officially declared dead. And for the forty-third time, it ended without the Larry O’Brien trophy in James Dolan's grubby hands and a ticker-tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes. As Knick fans watch four talented teams, and two in which we utterly despise in the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics play for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in this year’s NBA Finals, the thought process and look-ahead has begun on what the upcoming season will bring. So in DP tradition, let’s map out a rational course for those of you who are panicking and unsettled about the Knicks future.

Who’s the Boss?

Luckily, the Knicks off-season is off to a good start with the re-signing of Mike Woodson as the Head Coach. While I think Mike D’Antoni is a great coach that was greatly sabotaged and had his coaching tenure here in New York turned into a time bomb waiting to explode, the one thing D’Antoni never did was hold players accountable. Woodson does, and he’s not afraid to give star players an earful (more on that later). A team under Woodson’s control for an entire 82 game schedule with a full training camp is a very, very positive thing.

Two Little Birdies…or not?

Now we get down to business. And quite honestly, nothing can move forward for the Knicks until the Bird Rights for Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak are declared by an arbitration case between the NBA and the Player’s Union. Bird Rights would essentially allow the Knicks to re-sign both Lin and Novak without affecting the limited salary cap space they currently have.

Discount-double check with Bird Rights included?

If the arbitrator rules in favor of the NBA, the Knicks will then be forced to spend their Mid-level exception on Lin, and possibly part of their bi-annual exception on Novak. If this happens, the off-season will force the Knicks to get creative through the NBA Draft and the free agent market bargain bin for players to improve, or even round out, the roster.

However, if the ruling is in favor of the Knicks Player’s Union, then folks, let the party begin! Names such as Steve Nash, Andre Miller, and a personal favorite, Raymond Felton become possibilities as backup point guard, with exceptions available to lure free agents to Gotham city.

And yes, although very unlikely, I’m hoping for the best in this situation.

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Weeeeeelcome Back!

The Knicks retention has been putrid over the last ten years. No consistency in the front office, head coaching spot, and even on the floor. The fact that Toney Douglas is the longest tenured Knick says it all. Nonetheless, with a foundation in place, now is the time to start that consistency. And Re-signing players from last year’s squad will go a long way in doing so.

We already know whatever happens with the Bird rights issue, Novak is a good possibility to return, and Lin will return, if not simply on how much money he generates.

However, then there is J.R. Smith who has a $2.8M player option for the 2012-13 season. Will he pick up that option? My guess would be yes, but we have seen crazier things.

And Landry Fields is a restricted free-agent. Fields is such an enigma as he has shown flashes of being a steal as a second-round pick, and then goes into long stretches of proving why exactly he was a second-round selection.

Honestly, it comes down to the style the Knicks play. During Linsanity when the Knicks were in speedball-mode, Fields flourished. I was the same case under a Raymond Felton led Knicks under D’Antoni’s system. However, in the slowed down, elbow-post/isolation system we’ve seen with Carmelo on the team, Fields has lost his way, and is unable to fill the passing lanes created by up tempo play. After it all, I believe Knicks General Manage, Glen Grunwald, brings him back.

And then there is the rest of the bunch…

Jared Jeffries – I’ve always loved Jeffries. It took several years for the rest of the fanbase to warm up to what he brings to the table, but he truly wants to be in New York and loves being a Knick.

Mike Bibby –Woodson loves Bibby, but I think we’ve seen the end of his Knick life.

Dan Gadzuric – Ummm…yeah. Thanks for the mid-to-late season help.

If Knicks are able to return Lin, Novak, Smith, and Jeffries to an already interesting bunch of Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Josh Harrelson, and Jerome Jordan, that’s a pretty solid retention core, and a not so bad roster.

Momma, I Don’t Feel So Good

It sucked to see Iman Shumpert go down during the first-round. The rookie has so much potential. Whether he is the same player after a torn MCL and ACL remains to be seen. However, the Knicks to need to do everything to get him back on the court without rushing him. Easy to write and read, much more difficult to execute.

And then there is Amar’e Stoudemire. Talk about a season to forget. Personal issues, injuries, and lost battles with fire extinguishers were all lows for STAT’s season. However, as much as he denies it or refuses to make an excuse for the season, he was hurt. The lift we expected from him was gone, and he simply didn’t look like the explosive MVP-candidate he was in his first stint.

The Knicks need Stoudemire to get healthy (for real) next year. No excuses. No shams. And while we are at it, no cornrows. Such a bad look.

I Got you Babe!

The Knicks don’t have a first round pick. Yup, seems about right. As Knicks fans we are used to that as we tend to send valuable selections to other teams for collateral we no longer have. In this case, it was Tracy McGrady. Ugh.

With the opportunity to purchase a late first rounder (see: Toney Douglas) and trade for seconds (see: Josh Harrelson), there are other avenues the Knicks can go to maximize their Draft experience.

In my honest opinion, I would love to see them select another banger/rebounding type to provide help as well as a solid knock-down shooter. Essentially, the Knicks are selecting with the same need as last year, as they must operate as if Shumpert will not return for the upcoming season.

I’m Taking My Talents to…

While the free agent class isn’t a sexy one that will drive interest and sports radio debates, there is a lot of talent on the market that can come at a cheap or reduced price to join this Knicks core. Take a look here. Of the current free agents, below are some names in priority-likeness, I hope Grunwald makes some phone calls about:

I know this is a pipe dream, but it still is fun to imagine.

Raymond Felton - Love the guy's competitiveness.

Steve Nash - Obvious.

Marcus Camby - He really should have never left. I hate you Scott Layden.

Dahntay Jones - Defense! Boom-boom, Defense!

Andre Miller - Always loved his game. 

Trading Places

For the first time in years, I don’t think there is a trade the Knicks can make, whether it be financial or even to improve the team.

The only one I can think off would be a trade involving Toney Douglas. Hey, maybe that nets a return of a late first round pick? Or even a swap for another potentially talented player in need of a change.

Self-Cleansing of…Self?

And finally, in my honest opinion, the biggest change or off-season address needed is for a true collective understanding on winning a championship. We’ve heard in all those fancy MSG-produced vignettes and commercials about the players saying it is the goal, and blah, blah, blah. But is it really?

The first person that needs to heed this as their off-season goal is Carmelo Anthony. George Karl once again laid out the message again regarding Carmelo:

"I definitely think Carmelo Anthony is talented enough to win a championship. I've always said that once he gets that being the goal, winning a championship being the only goal on his plate, he will figure out how to get it done. I think he's one of the most talented offensive players playing in the game of basketball, and he can do every aspect of the game. It's just that, when is he going to commit to doing them every night?"

I totally agree.

Since arriving, the Knicks have been worst (it’s true, check the wins and losses) with Anthony. And honestly, after watching him in almost 100 regular season games in a Knick uniform and 9 playoff games – I’m not impressed. Nothing about Anthony screams superstar. And nothing about his game exhibits a guy willing to seek a championship. I see a tremendously gifted athlete that is more interested in scoring 30-plus points and being the focus rather than collectively win within a team concept.

I believe Mike Breen said it best stating:
"You hope eventually it becomes more important to him to win a championship than to be a star player and right now its starting to go into where its, lets do it my way regardless if that's the best way."

This also goes for Stoudemire, a man who Knick fans find it hard to criticize because he was the first to come here when it wasn’t such an attractive destination. However that aura has waned ever since donning a Knick uniform.

It starts with these two. The two so called “superstars”. Whatever team is assembled for the 2012-2013 season, a renewed mindset from these two will surely trickle down into collective mindset and culture needed to finally (finally!) end this city’s championship drought.

As we continue to watch the cream of the crop as we near the NBA Finals, Knick fans should have all of these ideas, thoughts, and scenarios to help keep them focused on what has become our typical ray of hope - next year! 

And one more thing - can we please name Tyson Chandler the captain of this team. Who is with me?

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