Can Mike Woodson’s men be considered genuine contenders for the NBA title?
The New York Knicks began this season in great style as they topped the Eastern Conference and appeared to be a much better all-round unit.
Led by Carmelo Anthony – who posted up numbers worthy of making him a real MVP candidate – there were also positives all over the court.
Tyson Chandler was making a big impression on the boards as he and the defensive unit worked to great effect in order to put the team in a position to continue winning.
New arrival J.R. Smith was proving to be a smart acquisition, and along with the likes of Jason Kidd and Steve Novak they made three-point shooting a hallmark of the team.
Amar’e Stoudemire was even content with a bit-part role off the bench, something that has been working in his favour recently since his return from injury.
Collectively it all seemed to be coming together for coach Woodson as the Knicks boasted one of the best records in the league before the Miami Heat began their incredible winning streak and stole the show.
The Knicks still sit in second place in the East, but have faltered in recent weeks as questions begin to be asked as to whether they are still championship contenders.
Their defense has struggled to hold teams as it once did in the early part of the season, which has led to some disappointing defeats or unconvincing wins.
Remember, this is a team that set an NBA record last season during their opening round play-off defeat to Miami, with 13 consecutive play-off defeats. Not since April 2001 had the Knicks won a post season game.
The constant criticism of this roster is its age, with several veterans perhaps starting to feel the strain of a full regular season.
In contrast, it could be argued that this Knicks team is built for the play-offs, and it is a matter of reaching the post season before they can take advantage of the huge experience that they possess.
However, as we reach the final stretch of the regular season, the Knicks have a handful of teams closing the gap behind them.
They will be wary of losing the tag of second seed, but even that doesn’t guarantee them an easy road to the Finals. If the season were to finish today, they would face the Boston Celtics in the opening round, a task that few would want.
If they do have ambitions of winning an NBA title this year, they’ll be desperate for a fully fit Anthony, a better all-round defensive effort and to regain that confidence from the start of the season. Only then can New York start dreaming of an extended run in the post season.