The 2010-2011 NBA season is officially underway, and the new Knicks are off to a decent start at 2-2. Tommy Dee of The Knicks Blog, our official Westcheddar NBA analyst, took some time out of his busy schedule to preview what we should expect this season from our hometown boys, and also from the rest of the league. Will Amar’e and the gang finally put the Knicks back in the playoffs? Can Miami’s “Big Three” take out Boston? Is a Lakers 3-peat in the future? Tommy Dee gives us the good word…
IP: So Tommy, I think it’s safe to say that Knicks fans are fired up about this 2010-2011 NBA season. Lots of big moves were made over the summer, we got a new leader in Amar’e Stoudemire, and some other additions to the roster like Raymond Felton that have all our hopes high. Should we still be nervous about making the playoffs?
TD: Initially, it may take time for the offense to blend together. I’ve actually been very impressed with what they’ve done defensively against some pretty good teams. They have to continue to learn how to win and how to close games out. They are young, despite Amar’e and Felton, so they are going to have to lean on them in order to win the tight games that good teams win and great teams rarely lose.
IP: You interact with Knicks fans on a daily basis through your site, The Knicks Blog, Twitter, and Facebook. What was their reaction to Lebron’s “decision”? It obviously was a letdown that he didn’t come to New York, but do they even care anymore that he’s not here?
TD: People may not know this but I canceled TV appearances because I felt like being away from the fans would be disingenuous. Knicks fans were on a journey for 2 years and I owed it to myself not to be talking about it, but to be interacting with fans. The Knicks were very much in it because New York is such a huge draw, but ultimately Lebron wanted to have fun and play with his Olympic teammates in a beautiful city. New Yorkers are very strong-minded people as you know, so it was no surprise that most were ready to move on after the initial and official announcement was made.
IP: What do you think is going to happen to Carmelo Anthony? The rumor mill says he wants to come to the Knicks. Is there any chance that will happen? What will we have to give up to get him.
TD: And I have to accept being a part of that mill. We’ve been saying he’s the Knicks plan B, plan A being Lebron, since last Spring. Melo loves NY. It’s a complicated situation but it’s also an easy one. If Melo wants to come to NY that badly he can do so next year. Now, the Nuggets don’t want to get stuck getting little in return, but because Carmelo has the contract option he can walk or force the Nuggets to sign and trade him. From everything I’m hearing the Knicks are far and away the front runners, but you never know for sure until Melo is at the press conference holding up that #30 jersey in honor of his favorite Knick, Bernard King.
IP: How do you think the Knicks looked in pre-season and in this first couple weeks of play? Are the guys starting to get to know each other a little better? Who’s been playing well so far?
TD: Again, I’ve been impressed with their defensive rotations and hope those continue. Landry Fields, the rookie from Stanford, has been a standout, and Amar’e has embraced the city and taken the role of a true leader.
IP: What’s Mike Di’Antoni been doing to cater to the new players on the team? I mean, more than half the roster is made up of fresh faces. Has he made adjustments to his offense and defense, or are these new guys just trying to “fit in” to his style of coaching? What’s his strategy?
TD: To his credit, he’s extended his rotation and has tried a lot of different combinations. They are not knocking down jump shots which is the backbone, along with the pick and roll, of the system. There are a ton of new faces, but he’s happy to have Amar’e whom he’s had great success with in Phoenix.
IP: Boston and Miami are the powerhouses in the east. Boston’s certainly deep and has lots of experience, but Miami has the “Big Three”. Boston took them out in the first game of the season, but will they make it back to the NBA Finals?
TD: I still believe Boston is better because of what they did up front. Miami’s only weakness is probably on the interior. Chris Bosh is a talented player but he’s not Charles Oakley. He’s more Charles Smith. If Boston can stay healthy, they just know how to win, that’s a tremendous advantage as it relates to competing against pure talent.
IP: What other teams in the east should the Knicks be worried about? Any sleepers? Can anyone take out Miami or Boston? Atlanta Hawks maybe?
TD: Yeah the Hawks are another team that did the right thing about spending money to keep a player like Joe Johnson and now Al Horford who I love. They may take the next step but they are still a step behind the top three (Orlando included) in terms of getting out of the conference. Chicago will be tough when Boozer comes back. As far as sleepers the Knicks can really get out to a good November and if they gain confidence they could be tough.
IP: How about out west? Can the Lakers repeat? Are Kevin Durant and the Thunder championship caliber? Is there anyone else we should be watching for out there? Jazz? Mavs? Bueller?
TD: Love the Ferris reference and the Suns have a Frye, but they may struggle to make the playoffs. Hopefully the Thunder can maintain a top 4 seed so they don’t have to face the Lakers in the 1st or even 2nd round because they match up so well. Artest has another year to try and learn the system and that’s always good, and they win with or without Bynum being healthy. Very scary. Also, never discount Deron WIlliams or Chris Paul, two incredible competitors.
IP: You’re an owner in the NBA fantasy Westcheddar Hoops League. From a statistics perspective, who should the fans be watching for to put up big numbers this season? Any surprises early on in the season so far? Most improved player predictions?
TD: Rondo is ridiculous and is continuing what he did last spring in the playoffs. Blake Griffin is the truth, man. A very efficient big man. Early most improved? Arron Afflalo of Denver.
IP: What about this rookie class? Any future all-stars in the mix? John Wall looks good, huh?
TD: Wall will cut down on the turnovers but he’s a showman. A performer. And he’s the scariest player the league has seen with the ball in terms of strength and speed in some time. Again, Griffin is a can’t miss. Derrick Favors has been impressive. I love Wes Johnson in Minnesota, a pure shooter. And again, Landry Fields is the best rookie you’ve never heard of, even in NY.
IP: Back to the Knicks. Amar’e seems to have really embraced this leadership role. Are the other players reacting well to him stepping up like that? Was that a void that needed to be desperately filled for the Knicks to succeed?
TD: No question. Too many guys had no idea what they future’s were over the past 2 years. Lee wanted to lead but it wasn’t his nature. Al Harrington is a great guy with a good resume but wasn’t a star. There is no doubt who the leader is on this team. That’s a big thing in terms of the locker room. He leads by example too.
IP: Can we expect a big season out of Gallinari? Chandler? Or do they fade into the background with these new guys around? Chandler actually had a couple big games so far.
TD: Will has been very solid amongst contract discussions. He’ll be restricted at the end of the year like the Knicks did with Lee and Nate, which is smart. Gallinari has been very disappointed, but you have to expect him to gather himself and do what he does best, which is make shots. He can do other things but if his shot isn’t falling he loses his swag.
IP: The bench has potential to be strong. Douglas looked good in pre-season, and shot well against the Bulls last night. Turiaf seems like he could be solid, as does Mozgov. Can the Knicks bench really make an impact this season on how many games they win?
TD: The bench has been the best part of the team thus far because they all embrace their roles. Douglas is a ball hound who gets rewarded offensively thanks to great defense. The crowd loves Turiaf and rightfully so. He plays hard every night. Mozgov hasn’t had the same success as the preseason where he really busted out, and needs to earn the trust of the coach. The bench as a whole has competed and given the starters a chance to close out victories, which is all you can ask.
IP: Assuming we don’t get Melo, where do the Knicks finish this season? What if we get Melo? Do things drastically change?
TD: The bet case scenario is that the Knicks get Melo without giving up too much. Do they get a 3rd team involved or do they work out a sign and trade over the summer? Too many variables for me to believe that Melo will get traded anywhere but New York, but I don’t think it happens any time soon. The Knicks are a borderline 8th seed with the potential to be better. But it’s very difficult to predict.
IP: Finally, The Knicks Blog. It’s super popular nowadays, with a large readership. You get tons of comments on big posts, and I know your daily hits have steadily increased since you started it a couple years ago. What have you done right that has made it so successful? And what can you do to make it even bigger?
TD: Thanks and I appreciate that. Not sure what we can do. Probably need the Knicks to get better, bring in Melo and battle Boston and Miami! Honestly, we try to provide sound information on a daily basis all the time in a different manner. I love fans. If people want to yell at me I think it’s great. That’s NY sports passion, which I get and I want them to know I get it. Like any good restaurant or radio station, I want people to feel like we’re there for them and they get consistency. Whether it’s to support the team or to complain about rotations or an owner, GM, player or coach, this is your place. Pull up a seat at the bar or grab a table. Or pick up the phone and call in. We do like getting scoop on stories to give bloggers some much needed credibility. But that’s always subjective and an impossible task. We want it to be the one-stop shop for all Knicks information.
IP: Thanks Tommy! Appreciate you taking the time to build with me. GO NY GO NY GO!!!!!
P.S. Watch the dunk above by Chandler in tonight’s win against the Wizards at MSG. Wow. Knicks are 3-2 now. Let’s get it!!!!