Minutes after the Knicks put the finishing touches on their 10th win of the season, 111-100 over the Nets, many of you tweeted me with demands to write something positive about the team. So here goes:
November is over.
That's a positive because it was a month of 16 games, with six back-to-backs and nine road games. If you throw in opening week, which was technically the last week of October, we're talking 19 games and seven back-to-backs, with 11 roadies. (For those of you checking my math, don't forget about the Asbestos Day game against the Magic that was cancelled on Nov. 2).
So the Knicks got through it with a 10-9 record, which includes seven wins in the last eight games. None of those seven wins in this recent stretch have come against a team with a winning record, which may tick some of you Fixers off right now but you need to acknowledge this reality for good reason. December offers a much looser schedule with more opportunity to rest -- 13 games in 27 days, two back-to-backs and seven home games -- but of the 11 opponents the Knicks will face in these 13 games, seven have winning records.
It starts Friday in New Orleans, against the Carmelo toastmaster himself, Chris Paul, and the 12-5 Hornets. Then comes the opportunity to pad the record some with games at Toronto (6-11), home against the Timberwolves (4-13), Raptors again (6-11) and at Washington (5-11).
The week of Dec. 12, however, is this year's version of Hell Week. Remember two years ago, when the Knicks hosted Kobe (61 points) and the Lakers, LeBron (50 and damn near had a triple-double) and the Cavaliers and then the Celtics in a span that David Lee regretfully called "the best 0-3 week I ever had"? This one brings Carmelo and the Nuggets in their only appearance of the season at MSG (but will it be Carmelo's last appearance here?), then those Celtics and then LeBron with his new team, the Miami Heat.
The month also has games at Cleveland, home versus Kevin Durant and the Thunder, the Bulls on Christmas Day and then the daunting holiday trip to Florida to face the Heat and Magic. Clark Griswold has planned better Christmas vacations than that.
So, yeah, the Knicks so far have just one win this season against a team with a winning record (at Chicago, Nov. 4), but I don't believe they should be vilified for beating teams with losing records. Isn't that what you're supposed to do?
And consider this, my Fixer friends: there are currently 16 teams in the NBA with a losing record, which means more than half of the league is under .500. If the Knicks only beat these teams, they'd be in the playoffs.
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* - Was that evidence of the pick-and-roll starting to develop between Raymond Felton and Amar'e Stoudemire?? *faints* Each time they connected on it successfully, it happened on the wing, with Felton taking the ball deep into the paint. It all stems from the fact that Felton has proved he can get into the paint and score. It also developed from Stoudemire's selflessness to allow Felton to establish himself as a scorer. We've been tough -- but fair -- on Felton in this space, but his game has steadily emerged as a few scouts regularly insisted to me would happen.
And as the PnR chemistry grows between them, it'll be interesting to see if the turnover average for both players decreases. Right now, they are in the top 10 in turnovers per game -- Stoudemire is tied for 5th at 3.7 and Felton is tied for 6th at 3.6 -- and, it should be noted, they aren't the only teammates in the top 10. Oklahoma City Thunder tandem Russell Westbrook (3.9) and Kevin Durant (3.5) are also there.
* - There was a lot of moaning about interior defense again tonight, especially with Brook Lopez having his way in the annoying orange during the first half. Ronny Turiaf's absence means more than just a big body that could have banged with Lopez. Turiaf also serves as an air traffic controller on the court and is very vocal in calling out screens, switches and ordering rotations. And if you're late, Turiaf lets you know about it with some immediate accountability.
He sat out his second game while dealing with the ailing left knee. Mike D'Antoni said there was reason to believe that Turiaf would be ready to return for Friday's game in New Orleans. But as much as the Knicks miss Turiaf, it might be wise to make sure that knee is stable before forcing him back into the lineup.
* - Among the celebrities and power brokers in attendance for the game (including the commissioner, himself, David Stern) was New Jersey native and former Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten, who at one time ran all of Ted Turner's sports properties in Atlanta, including the Hawks. Kasten is now a free agent after stepping down from his position with the Nats in September.
* - Out of curiosity, I asked Nets guard Jordan Farmar, the former Laker and Los Angeles native, if he thought Staples Center, which has hosted three straight NBA Finals and is home to a dynastic Lakers era over the past decade, had possibly supplanted Madison Square Garden as the NBA's grand stage. Like the Garden, Staples draws a celebrity crowd and has bright house lights that make the court glow the way a main event should. And there's been a lot of winning done on that floor and some amazing shows by one of the league's all-time greats in Kobe Bryant.
"Staples Center has been the center of a lot of great events," Farmar said, "but the Garden is still very special . . . It's the mecca of entertainment.
"Everybody who comes in the building respects it," he also said. "The fans here are special. There's just something about this place that's really special."
* - Something I pointed out in my column off the game that I will repeat here: the Knicks have only once in franchise history made the playoffs while posting a losing record at home during the regular season. That was in 1955-56, when the team went 13-15 at the old Garden on 49th and 8th. Wasn't much of a playoffs, really. They lost the "third-place game" to the Syracuse Nationals. The Knicks are 3-5 at the Garden this season.