This team has holes and flaws, like most every NBA team. They are still learning to play together. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler are trying to take next steps in their careers. Their progressions, along with Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, are essential to the team's ultimate success.
That said, the last two games have exposed the Knicks' flaws up front. Chandler will have a hard time some nights matching up with the likes of Brandon Bass and having to help on Dwight Howard all night. You could see it when Ryan Anderson came in the game. He relaxed, along with whoever else was forced to check the Magic's forward, and it showed via Anderson's production for his 19 minutes. That's exactly why there should have been a Timofey Mozgov sighting and why Turiaf's 6 minutes was also completely unacceptable. Small ball with Howard off the floor is one thing, when he's on the floor you make him beat you over and over with one on one post moves.
And it looked like the team, down the stretch, was looking to the bench for help...but it didn't come. I admit to being tremendously frustrated watching the game down the stretch and watching the Knicks essentially get manhandled.
Like the heat, the Magic are elite. Jason Richardson was fantastic in the playoffs last year. They have Gilbert Arenas coming off the bench. Anderson was a steal from New Jersey. The Magic have been active in trying to keep Howard happy. The Vince Carter experiment didn't work, but they kept a nice piece in Anderson, while retooling with solid veterans.
The Knicks know that this thing is built pieces at a time. And they are several pieces short from the top 4. But this is a team whose early success has shifted the balance of expectations. I maintain managing them are essential. We all agreed for the most part that a .500 season and a playoff berth would be a very good year.
Walsh will build this piece by piece. In his own words a good trade today could be a bad trade for next year's cap.
His job is bringing in talent and positioning the franchise moving forward, despite the fact that his future with the franchise is very cloudy thanks to ownership not extending him yet.
His coach's job is to give the team the best chance to win, and by the looks of the last 7 of 8 quarters, and against Boston, small ball won't win versus big front lines in the Eastern Conference.
But as they stand here on the eve of a New Year, it's ridiculously much better than over the past 6 or 7.
The ball will drop tonight, hopefully the Knicks won't drop IT in 2011.