With the NBA still coming off its All-Star Weekend, the Knicks have not played since losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Tuesday. But alas, the late additions of Carmelo Anthony and Willy Hernangomez to the weekend's festivities gave the team's fan base a little bit more to be excited about and invested in as things went on in New Orleans.
When just about everyone in the NBA world collides for a few days, talk about the Knicks is never too far away. Speculation regarding the team's future, especially with the trade deadline steadily approaching, is running ramped as we speak. With that in mind, here are three things to ponder around this team in the week that follows.
All-Star Culture: The Knicks aspire to develop a winning culture. Two of their most prized prospects in Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez were able to bask in such positivity this weekend in New Orleans. Being selected to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge is an accomplishment in of itself. Each big man will almost certainly play a key role in the Knicks' future. This celebratory weekend gave them an opportunity to be associated with some of the most talented youngsters in all of the NBA. There's pride involved. What's more, it gave them an opportunity to compete against and collaborate with such players, creating an environment for improvement.
The "World" team won the contest and Porzingis also came out victorious during the Skills Challenge, giving both players a chance to feel what it means to win something special. Throughout his Olympics participation, many have believed that being part of that high quality culture has ultimately had a positive effect on Carmelo Anthony's game. Perhaps this past weekend will impact the Knicks' youngsters in similar fashion.
The trade deadline: New York doesn't play their next game until after the trade deadline, which means this team could look very different the next time they take the court. With expiring contracts and the talent necessary to help contending teams right away, both Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings are desirable assets. If they don't figure to be a part of the Knicks' future, the team should explore deals for one or both of them. And of course, Anthony could be on the move as well.
At this point, the passing of the deadline will present both sides with clarity and relief either way. If Anthony leaves town, he'll almost assuredly depart for a winning environment and the Knicks will hopefully receive building blocks to continue laying their foundation for the future. If no deal can be reached, however, the speculation will finally fade away, at least for a few more months. If Anthony sticks around, perhaps he and the team can get back to playing basketball and figure out how they want to play out the rest of the year.
Figuring out the center position: Obviously coming out of his participation in New Orleans, Hernangomez has some momentum going in his favor. Having missed the last five games before break, Joakim Noah's status moving forward is unknown. The center position has been one of uncertainty for the Knicks all season long. They have depth, but inconsistencies are abound.
With Noah's inability to stay on the court, should New York go all in and begin to steadily increase Hernangomez's playing time and ultimately embrace him as a starter? It makes sense that they would want to ease the young gun into things, but his stellar play during a season with way too many twists and turns already is making it difficult to keep him at bay for much longer. Whether the Knicks play for now or the future, Hernangomez can make a crucial impact. Kyle O'Quinn continues to produce in small bunches, providing relief as a backup. Both reserves are putting the pressure on New York to phase Noah out more and more as time goes on, healthy or not. In turn, his contract continues to be an eye sore on the team's payroll just in year one.