NEW YORK — Earlier today, news began to trickle out from various media outlets that Baron Davis has agreed to join the Knicks. He will officially sign with the club on Monday and is expected to accept their one year “room exception” offer of $2.5 million.
Marc Berman of the New York Post was the first to report Sunday that Davis agreed to join the Knicks and echoed my Friday sentiment—he will play sooner rather than later. According to Berman, the Knicks’ medical staff is convinced that Baron can be back within a month. If healthy, he will make a world of difference.
After attending their preseason game against the Nets on Saturday and an open practice on Sunday, a few things are obvious.
In my opinion, both Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson are rotation players. One thing that Knicks fans get knocked for are knee jerk reactions and overly optimistic prognostications. To that, I’ll say this:
It doesn’t take all day to figure out if the sun is shining.
Translation: You can’t know whether or not a rookie will become a Hall of Famer based on one preseason game, nor can you determine whether or not he will be an All-Star. But, for sure, you can tell whether or not he deserves the right to play and earn the opportunity. In Shumpert and Harrellson, the Knicks have two rookies that fill needs. At the very least, Iman plays solid on-ball defense and provides the Knicks with some desperately needed athleticism on the wing, while Harrellson—though built more like a power forward than his advertised position of center—isn’t afraid to mix things up underneath. Both guys simply know where to be and what they’re supposed to do on the court. And in this lockout shortened season, the team will need them. They’re gonna play.
The acquisition of Davis should eventually result in Toney Douglas returning to the bench. He will likely be the sixth man and will be able to focus on scoring the ball. That’s what he does best and that’s how he can help the team most. He simply lacks the ball control and court vision that a slash-and-burn playmaking point guard must possess.
If the Knicks are able to add a fairly healthy Baron Davis to the mix, you suddenly have a team with a dominant front line, a fair mix of defensive minded players, a playmaker, and a formidable stable of bench players in Douglas, Mike Bibby, Walker, Shumpert, Harrellson, and Jared Jeffries. Although the Knicks could use more depth at the forward positions than Walker, Chris Hunter and Renaldo Balkman, I believe that the addition of Davis could win them the Atlantic Division this season.
But I will pause to reiterate: it’ll take a healthy Davis.
We’ll see what kind of shape Baron is in soon enough. But from what I hear, he is very excited and very motivated to be a part of the Knicks organization. If this opportunity doesn’t motivate him, I’d be quite surprised. I’d also be surprised if we didn’t see at least a few dozen alley-oops from Davis to one of the Knicks’ four catch and stuff targets—Tyson Chandler, Stoudemire, Anthony and Shumpert.
Even prior to the Davis news, I felt that the Knicks should have been able to challenge the Celtics for the Atlantic Division title. The main concern from me was whether or not they could get consistent penetration and if ‘Melo—like he did against the Nets on Saturday—would share the ball and find open teammates streaking to the rim after he found his way into the paint.
After seeing some synergy and chemistry between ‘Melo and Amar’e, and now—with Davis—I predict that the Knicks will end Boston’s reign over the Atlantic Division.
My prediction (and yes, you can write it down) doesn’t mean I lack any kind of respect for Boston’s “Big 4″ and Doc Rivers. It has everything to do with the myriad of obstacles the Celtics will face this season. Unfortunate circumstances, questionable personnel decisions and father time may have worked collectively to doom them.
The Celtics have downgraded their bench by swapping Glen Davis for Brandon Bass, openly shopped (and upset) Rajon Rondo, and have to play the entire season without Jeff Green. This season, they will depend on Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jermaine O’Neal more than they have before. Last season, we saw the Celtics break down and eventually fall victim to the Miami Heat. This year, they are all one year older.
To top things off, they’re going to embark on a sprint to the playoffs that requires depth and youth. And they have neither.
Meanwhile, the Knicks have plugged their gaping hole in the middle and have added two proven veterans in Bibby and Davis who can hit catch-and-shoot 3s. For the first time in eons, the Knicks can play without the distraction of a potential mid-season trade hanging over the entire team. I do still believe they are a player or two away from being able to win the Eastern Conference, but the acquisition of Davis—if healthy—allows Douglas to move to the bench, adds one more player to the rotation, and provides a straw that can stir the drink.
Oh yeah, let’s not overlook the obvious. The Celtics embarrassed the Knicks when they ended their season in a four-game sweep. That will serve as extra motivation to Anthony, Stoudemire and Douglas.
The Celtics may even defeat the Knicks in the season opener on Christmas Day, as Davis isn’t likely to appear in a game for the Knicks before they host the Charlotte Bobcats on January 9th. But the potential benefits of getting Davis far outweigh the risk. It’s a move they simply had to make.
So now, after being humbled by the Celtics last season, the Knicks have filled the two biggest needs on the roster—a defensive anchor in the middle and a playmaker off the dribble.
Glen Grunwald has put this team in a position to compete. And when the last team the Knicks saw last season is the first team they see this season, we’ll get a reading on whether the new Knicks measure up to the perennial powerhouse from Boston.