Knicks have some holes, but they don't lack confidence

From left, Jason Kidd #5, Carmelo Anthony #7, Amar'e Stoudemire #1, Iman Shumpert #21 and Steve Novak #16 celebrate from the bench late in the game against the Sacramento Kings. (Feb. 2, 2013)

The Knicks believe they're built for May and June and are unfazed by some eye-opening and troubling February losses.

Mike Woodson contends the Knicks still are legitimate title contenders despite three losses in four games entering the All-Star break, including two against teams a combined 30 games under .500. The players say they have the makings of a championship team and don't need any changes, just recharging and refocusing.

Either the Knicks are in denial or they see something the rest of us don't. At 32-18, they own the Eastern Conference's second-best record. But they are 14-13 in their last 27 games, often rely too much on Carmelo Anthony, have had repeated breakdowns defensively and still are searching for their best lineup.

They don't lack confidence, though.

"You're not going to have too many times in your career when you can say you have a legitimate shot to win a championship," Tyson Chandler said. "I only had it one time in my career and that was the year we won [in Dallas]. And this year, we've got a shot. When we come back, we've got to let everybody understand that.

"You don't want to pass up an opportunity like this in your career because you always look back and wish you could've done things different. As athletes, that's the worst thing to ever have is regrets, so we have to come back ready."

It's a time for reflection and evaluation for everyone, but mostly Woodson and general manager Glen Grunwald.

They must decide whether the Knicks have the roster to beat the Heat and other East playoff teams or if they need to make moves. The trade deadline is Thursday and the Knicks have glaring holes.

With J.R. Smith coming off the bench, the Knicks don't have a productive starting shooting guard. Their defense has been deficient, especially on the perimeter, and they lack size up front.

If Rasheed Wallace returns from his left foot injury after the break, he could alleviate the need for frontcourt help and improve their pick-and-roll defense. But the Knicks still could deal for a backup point guard or combo guard and look for another big man. They're a win-now team and their older players are breaking down.

Wallace and Marcus Camby have missed 30 and 27 games, respectively, with injuries. Jason Kidd, who turns 40 next month, looks worn down. In the last nine games, he's averaged 2.3 points and 1.9 assists in 21.6 minutes.

Woodson said he will consider a lineup change because he doesn't like the way the Knicks are starting games. Kidd could come off the bench after a break that he needs.

"Probably rest is going to do him some good," Woodson said. "With him getting some rest, he's got to rethink some things, too, in terms of how he can continue to help us. I still [have] enough confidence in Kidd."

Overall, the Knicks have confidence, but do they have enough for a deep playoff run?

Iman Shumpert isn't moving well laterally since his return from a torn left ACL. Amar'e Stoudemire has struggled on both ends of the floor the last two games. The Knicks rely on Stoudemire to help Anthony offensively and be an overall presence, but Stoudemire didn't play in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's loss to Toronto.

Still, the Knicks believe it will all come together and they can make a championship run.

"Oh, without a doubt," Anthony said. "We're still competing for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, still top of our division. Right now we're second in the East. So as far as our confidence, that's not going nowhere. We've just got to regroup as a team and after the break come back ready to rock."

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