OK. Time to put the 'Fire D'antoni' stuff to bed (for now). Not a big fan of the man, but after this 5-game winning streak I feel he deserves the season to prove his worth (or be exposed).
It took 11 games, but the team has 'turned a corner,' in terms that the chemistry is starting to work itself out. Felton is getting comfortable running the system, players are emerging and falling into their roles, and STAT clearly has taken this team as his own (4th youngest in NBA) while Felton is leading with fire, emotion and passion.
Chandler & Gallo are buying in and seem glad the pressure is alleviated from their shoulders, while true leaders are also inspiring them to be great.
"The difference [from last season] is everybody cares," said Wilson Chandler, who had a wonderful 21-point night in which he bagged 4 of 5 3-pointers. "Losing for so long, it was like the norm. This year everybody wants to win."
While I had no doubt that going from Duhon to Felton would mean like 10 more wins, while I believed that STAT was an upgrade over D-LEE, I sort of took for granted the fact that this bunch of guys needed time to gel.
Heck, look at the HEAT (who lead NYK by a mere half game).
Not to mention, the Felton-Stat supporting cast (Fields, Mozgov, Douglas) a lot younger than the guys Duhon-Lee had (Harrington, Hughes, N8).
And for anyone who ever suffered a serious wrist injury, it's obvious that had an impact on Gallo early this season.
ANYWAY.... NOW THAT THIS PREAMBLE IS FINISHED, let me ask the question: WHAT TO DO WITH THE ROTATION?
People want to think that Randolph is in the dog house or that he got benched, I look at it the other way (like Walsh and coach hinted at).... AR was pulled from the rotation b/c he needs to work on his game and get used to what's expected from him. I can live with that IF THEY COACH HIM UP.
But we are 5-0 since the decision to remove his talents from the rotation.
We seem to be going with a tight 9-man rotation. Stat, Turiaf, Mozgov, Fields, Gallo, Chandler, Felton, Douglas and Walker.
The 9th man, Bill Walker, is only seeing 10 minutes really.
BUt now Curry is returning to practice and Azubuike has already returned. Both should be ready to enter the rotation next week.
Knicks are 8-8. On a 5-game winning streak. Won 5 in a row for the first time since Jan. 2006. Won 4 straight road games since 2001. methinks D'ant will be hesitant to sort of mess with things.
Let's be honest, Curry is competing with Mozgov to earn his minutes. Azu with Walker. SO, even if both crack into the lineup, it only means about 10 minutes a game anyway.
What should we do. Balancing act, no? Get Walker-Mozgov work and experience or play the proven vets who should give you more?
Imagine if Curry and Azubuike return to 75% of what they were at their peak. Even I have to conceede that adding the firepower of this duo would make the other 7 in the roation even more lethal.
Imagine being able to throw Curry out there when STAT comes out of the game. Keeping an interior scoring presence in the game. Imagine if Azu can be the SG we hope he can be. Running the floor and knocking down 3s. Let's not forget about his defense.
Imagine the 4th, with Douglas, Azu, Chandler, Turiaf... 4 good defenders!
So, do we slowly work Curry-Azu into the rotation. Waiting for the right moment (next game we come out flat and are losing). Get them acclimated into things. Are they part of the team this year?
Will D'ant go to an 11-man roation? Just rotating the pieces around Felton-Stat? Will Curry-Azu eat into the minutes (and thus banishing) MOz-Walker?
What do you think?
I think both should be given every chance to earn minutes.
I think IF Curry-Azu are 75% of what they once were, the Knicks should start:
This, on paper, is our best starting lineup. Our bench would be sick with Chandler, Douglas, Turiaf and Fields, along with Mozgov and Walker getting burn when other need rest, are in foul trouble, or not playing well.
We could play many different types of lineups... But this starting 5 works b/c Felton runs the show, Azu and Gallo sit on wings waiting to pop a 3 or penetrate, Stat roams the elbow awaiting the P&R, while Curry sits on the block. You can't double STAT b/c he can just feed Curry for a dunk.
My closing, 4th quarter team would be Felton, Azu/Fields, Gallo/Chandler, STAT & Turiaf. These 7 in some mix depending on matchups.
After a 3-8 start, this is the best shape the Knicks have been in since Jan 2006. We have winnable 8 games coming up. We have 2 proven NBA players returning to action. We have plenty of options. VErything is falling in order.
BUt this is also a critical junction. We need to get above .500 and take advantage of the schedule. We need to coach up the kids, and we need to figure out (tinker with) rotation to get people involved, keep players fresh, motivated and involved, and help drive up price of some of our assets.
MIke will earn his money, but PLEASE don't stick with a tight 8-man rotation. We have depth... UTILIZE IT.