Jake Brown | Twitter |
The Knicks are 11-12 and past the quarter mark of the season. This team has had some highs and lately they have had some lows. In some aspects, they have been better than people expected, and in others, they have underachieved.
I said before the season that this would be somewhere around the fifth-worst team in the NBA. Clearly, I was wrong. The Knicks are better than that. However, a problem that will likely remain with them for the whole season is health.
It's alarming that this team still has 59 games to play and that they already cannot stay healthy. Only two players on the roster have played in all 23 games: Courtney Lee and Doug McDermott. That means only one starter (Lee) has played in every game this season. Their best player, Kristaps Porzingis, has already missed four games, and has had multiple different injuries and illnesses...and it's not even Christmas yet.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. has missed two games, but is now going to miss a bunch more with this stress injury to his lower left leg...and there is a good chance he doesn't play until the calendar hits 2018. That's about 18 PPG off the board for the Knicks, and the loss of a huge three-point shooter. And that's an injury that could easily be aggravated when he does return. It's especially unfortunate since he's been living up to his four-year, $71 million contract that Knicks fans were concerned about.
When Enes Kanter missed three games with back spasms, the Knicks lost all three. They showed that without their interior force, they are not very good. If Kanter were to go down for an extended period, the Knicks would be pretty much finished. Frank Ntilikina has missed three games, and he's showed us that his durability at 19 years old and brand new to the NBA and America is a concern.
This team has given us some magical moments early in the season. They have been the comeback kids at many points so far, especially at MSG. They rallied for an incredible win over the Pacers. The very next game, they came back late to beat the Hornets in a miraculous fourth quarter at The Garden. They rallied to beat the Jazz at home. They had a historic third quarter, thanks to a 28-0 run, to beat the Raptors. They survived what looked to be a scary injury to Porzingis, and went on to crush the Heat that night. They have given the fans quite the show at home this season, while having a variety of guys step up in big spots.
The issue has been health and inconsistency. If this team isn't at full strength or close to it, they just don't have enough talent to win at a consistent rate. When Porzingis is not playing, they will have problems. When Hardaway is out for the coming weeks, they will miss his ability to light up the scoreboard. When Kanter is out, they aren't as aggressive in the post and on the glass.
This Knicks team has shown us that they can put on a show when everyone is playing. They play good team ball, and it's been refreshing to watch. The problem is that over the course of an 82-game season, it doesn't look like they will stay healthy.
The Eastern Conference is actually pretty competitive this season, and they are going to be fighting for one of the final playoff spots with the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers, Pistons, Sixers, Hornets, and Heat. For them to be a legitimate playoff contender, they need guys to not just be able to be out there most nights, but to play the second night of a back-to-back -- and they have seven more sets. They can't afford to essentially throw away the second night of those.
It's understandable now to play it safe with still plenty of time in the season, but once the second half of the season hits, they may have to fight through injuries if they want to be serious about being a playoff team.
With that being said, this team has been awfully fun to watch. Every Knicks game night has become hard to miss. Porzingis has put on a show when he's been at or close to 100 percent, and those nonstop 30-plus point games to open the season had all of New York City buzzing, and got him a spot on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
This city believes in this team, and they are supporting them. With how bad the Jets and Giants have been this season, this town is all-in on Knicks basketball. So far, it's been a rocky ride, but the first quarter has been much more enjoyable than most of us expected. Buckle up, because there's still 59 games to play.