The Knicks are going to contend… for a playoff spot.
But that’s not the attitude fans want to hear from their players heading into the season. Now is the time of optimism. Right now everybody’s healthy, and it’s all puppy dogs and rainbows — nothing is going to go wrong. So talk of just making the playoffs isn’t good enough, not for the Knicks anyway.
“We’re contenders, man. They didn’t make the playoffs last year, but we’re looking to change that and win big. The ring is the ultimate goal for everybody on the team; I know it is for me. When they talked to me and told me about the pieces they were adding alongside the players who were already there, I didn’t think anything less than a championship [was the goal]. We’re trying to get the Knicks back into the playoffs and win big. … Everybody is hungry and everybody has their own motivation or chip on their shoulder. We just need to come together, get that chemistry and see it click. Once everybody is together and everybody is hungry, I think we can be very scary.”
Notice the other players in that Basketball Insiders piece spoke in somewhat more realistic terms. Myles Turner talked about the Pacers finishing in the top three in the East — that’s a reasonable goal for them (I have them fourth). Other guys talk about their teams taking a step forward from last season.
I guess that doesn’t fly in New York.
If the Knicks stay healthy — and that is a huge “if” — they can make some noise. New York’s starting five has potential: Derrick Rose, Lee, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Joakim Noah. The question is how many games will that five play together? If I set the over/under at 55, what would you take? Also, can those five guys play up-tempo like new coach Jeff Hornacek wants? There isn’t great depth behind that five with Brandon Jennings at the point being the best one of the bunch.
Still, the Knicks have an improving Porzingis, Rose in a contract year, and some talent on that roster. They can win enough games to make the playoffs. That’s a step forward, one they can keep building upon.
But that’s not what sells. So enter Lee.