Knicks have plenty of big questions

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts during New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts during timeout in the second half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series at Madison Square Garden. (May 6, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

GREENBURGH, N.Y.

The New York sports parade moved Thursday, with the focus now on rinks, ballparks, Tim Tebow's locker and other matters of immediate interest.

That was a bad thing for the Knicks because it meant their season is over, but it also was a good thing, because what this team needs most is some peace and quiet to sort things out.

This will be a pivotal offseason for tweaking the roster and game plan with an eye toward establishing consistency in both, as the Knicks themselves repeatedly noted this week.

After meeting with coach Mike Woodson yesterday, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Jeremy Lin surely set a pro sports record with the number of nice things they had to say about the joys of a full training camp, the kind the lockout precluded this season.

Hoops mavens already are looking forward to watching the 2012-13 Knicks, because for all the drama that often surrounds the franchise off the court, the team promises to be a fascinating X's-and-O's study on it.

Big Question No. 1: Can the Knicks win consistently with Anthony as the dominant element on offense, even with Stoudemire on the court and presumably with Lin at point guard?

That will be no easy riddle. As Anthony proved again in Games 4 and 5 against the Heat, the man knows how to score. He totaled 41 and 35 points against one of the best defensive teams on Earth.

But watching him operate on isolation plays offered a glaring contrast with the way the Heat distributes the ball, and with the way the Knicks did when Lin and Mike D'Antoni were in charge and Anthony was injured in February.

Anthony lost patience Thursday with questions about his chemistry with Stoudemire, saying, "I get tired of hearing about, 'Can it work? Will it work?' . . . When we win, it works. When we lose, it don't work."

But Stoudemire answered the question one more time, insisting the partnership "definitely can work" given time and patience. He also said the Knicks' frontcourt is among the handful of best trios in the NBA. "I think it's just a matter of time for us to really figure it out," he said.

Big Question No. 2: Can Lin be the long-term answer when re-signing him might be so expensive that it prevents adding a more polished free-agent point guard such as Steve Nash?

Lin's teammates endorsed him. Woodson, who is expected to return, said he expects Lin back. Beyond that, there were no promises.

"Jeremy is a big part of our team," Woodson said. "Will he start? Only time will tell." Naturally, he added Lin must use the summer to work on his game.

The Knicks already are good enough to reach the top four in the East and earn home-court advantage for a first-round series, a goal they have cited repeatedly.

The larger, more daunting question is whether that will be enough to make a run at the Knicks' first championship since 1973. As long as LeBron James plays for the Heat, that is going to be difficult no matter how many Knicks insisted the gap is not all that wide.

But first things first. The Knicks finally earned their first playoff victory in 11 years Sunday. Now they must find a way to win their first playoff series since 2000.

A full camp would help, as would reinforcements in the backcourt, improved health and a commitment to playing nicely together, not to mention stability in the front office, the coaches' office and the locker room.

On that note . . . have a nice summer, guys!

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