NEW YORK — The more things change is the more they stay the same. And as we count down toward the tip-off of the 2012-2013 season, New York Knicks fans are almost exactly where they were just prior to last season’s commencement.
Many questions, few answers.
Tick-tock. The clock is ticking.
Carmelo Anthony, your time is almost up.
An unfair Anthony critic, I am not. So while I remind you of the torch job I did on ‘Melo after he was outclassed by LeBron James in last season’s playoffs, I will say this: It is unfair to label Anthony as the sole cause of the Knicks’ recent underachieving.
In New York, the real-life game of roster musical chairs has reached a brand new level of absurdity. Today, Amar’e Stoudemire is the team’s longest tenured player. In 20 months, Anthony has already seen 20 of his now former Knicks teammates come and go. The general manager that traded for him in February 2011 is gone, and so is the coach he played for.
Under those circumstances, it is impossible for any player, no matter how gifted, to help build a winning culture.
Indeed, the more things change is the more they stay the same.
There are still tons of things that we don’t know about the 2012-2013 version of the Knicks. But what we do know is that it needs Anthony to lead them. And if the Knicks underachieve once again this season – something it has done every year since 1999 – the blame will be mostly thrust on Anthony.
Fair or not, that’s the truth.
While we’re on the subject of truths, allow me to deliver another. Between the roster turnover, injuries, the lockout, injuries, Linsanity, a coaching change, and injuries, there has always been an excuse for the Knicks’ underwhelming results. And although we associate that word - “excuse” - with all types of negative feelings and connotations, recall that an excuse is merely an explanation for why something that should have occurred did not.
All excuses are not “poor” excuses. And the Knicks’ excuses during Anthony’s tenure, in my opinion, are not poor excuses.
But today, as the Knicks trot out the oldest roster in NBA history, youth and inexperience can no longer be an excuse.
Today, as the Knicks prepare to do battle with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, the point guard position can no longer be an excuse.
With Iman Shumpert, Ronnie Brewer, J.R. Smith, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, lack of defensive personnel can no longer be an excuse.
With Mike Woodson (and his goatee) patrolling the sidelines of the renovated Garden, the coach, lack of defensive principles, or lame duck status can no longer be an excuse.
This NBA season is of the 82-game variety, not the truncated 66-game mess we got last season. There’s no lockout in sight. #HowU
All of these things which have created excuses and the acceptance of underachieving were outside of Anthony’s control. Today, they are no more.
And this season, with a talented (and yes, somewhat moldy) platoon, and a full training camp, and depth, and continuity … What could the excuse possibly be this time?
The only team in the Eastern Conference that should certainly be better than the Knicks is the Miami Heat – even if Dwyane Wade isn’t 100 percent healthy. The Boston Celtics are a bit younger and a bit deeper, but the Knicks should be able to compete with them.
Andrew Bynum already is on the sidelines, but even with him, I’m not thinking that the Philadelphia 76ers’ core of Bynum, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Jason Richardson and Jrue Holiday is a better team that the Knicks, though they have youth on their side.
Whether you agree is immaterial; the major point is that the Celtics, Sixers, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets are all good teams. They just all shouldn’t be better than the Knicks.
Shouldn’t is a helluva word, though, especially when it’s followed by it’s excuse-making running mate unless.
As in, they all shouldn’t be better than the Knicks, unless the Knicks underachieve. Again.
But as I said last night on Twitter, I’m actually a believer in what the Knicks have accomplished this past offseason. If I were GM Glen Grunwald, I may have done things differently. But age or no age, there’s no doubt that the Knicks have a very deep, very talented team.
And though there is no upside outside of Shumpert, the worst-case scenario for this team is underachieving for three years and then rolling into the summer of 2016 with enough cash to make Mikhail Prokhorov jealous.
But in the interim, Grunwald and owner Jim Dolan have gone “all in” against the Heat, and they’re counting on Anthony as the turn card.
Today, this Knicks team has no excuses left. Anthony himself echoed those same sentiments earlier this week.
“We need to get to 50 wins and get one of those top one, two or three seeds. To get home court advantage in the playoffs,” he said. “Anything less than 50 wins, to me, is a failed season.”
Whether or not the Knicks can gel and become a team worthy of challenging for the conference title remains to be seen. But at 28 years old, Anthony is no longer a spring chicken. And Stoudemire will turn 30 exactly six weeks from today.
It’s now or never. The time for patience is over.
Obviously, Grunwald got that memo, which is why he had no problem shipping out every last piece of young talent with potential and draft picks in favor of older players with championship pedigree or playoff experience.
The window is three years, and the clock is ticking.
Anthony knew the type of pressure he would face when he forced the Knicks’ hand back in February 2011. He and Stoudemire would be the first pair of in-prime All-NBA talent that the Knicks had on the same roster since 1973, when Walt Frazier and Willis Reed won the franchise’s most recent championship. With Frazier and Reed, the Knicks got it done.
With Anthony and Stoudemire, they hope to.
Now, almost 40 years since the Knicks last won the NBA’s crown, Anthony’s arrival was supposed to signify a reversion to that previous era.
But today, we’ll still waiting.
Still, with unanswered questions.
Still, as the clock ticks.
Moke Hamilton is the Executive Editor of SNYNets.com and covers the Brooklyn Nets for SNY.tv. He remains a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com, covering the New York Knicks and the NBA. Follow him on Twitter.