|The Knicks had a crazy season, but their summer is going to be equally as interesting. (Getty Images)|
The 2011-12 New York Knicks campaign was some kind of up-and-down wild ride. A slow start compounded by injuries. Linsanity. Injuries again. Mike D'Antoni fired. Mike Woodsonsanity. More injuries. The rise of Carmelo Anthony. The rise of New York defense. Amar'e Stoudemire's back. Fire extinguishers. Finally ending a decade long playoff drought winning Game 4.
It all ended Wednesday in Miami as the Heat mercifully closed the Knicks out in five games. The Knicks appear to be on a comeback path to respectibility rebounding from the disastrous Isiah Era, but obviously have a long way to go before they're on the level of the Bulls or Heat. The roster is still disjointed, there isn't much depth and there are questions in a lot of places.
Their season is over now, which means it's back to the project for the them. So what's next for the Knicks?
|Heat eliminate Knicks|
Find some coaching stability.
Phil Jackson? Great. Mike Woodson? Fine. Jerry Sloan? Super. Flip Saunders? Whatever. Just pick a coach, put him in and leave it be. The Knicks need a stable voice. Jackson is obviously the dream pick and if the Knicks can lure him out of peyote retirement, wonderful. He's the top choice, but Woodson shouldn't be dismissed. He did an excellent job steadying the ship after the exit of D'Antoni and seemed to get the Knicks to play to their strengths. He's not a big name, but coaching continuity, especially if the roster responded well to him, is a good thing. Mainly because this team is such a mess of talent without many sensible fits, having a coach that understands the roster could be a plus.
Coaching in the NBA is often about personality management while also maximizing the talents of the team. With the way the Knicks are constructed, a master tactician is preferred, but not necessarily a must. It's more about installing a straightforward system and then executing it.
Sort out Jeremy Lin's future.
Lin is maybe the most intriguing summer free agent. If the Knicks want to keep him, they'll have every opportunity. He's restricted, which helps the Knicks, but there's also a catch. Because of the "Gilbert Arenas Rule," introduced in 2005, Lin can only be offered the $2 million bi-annual exception or the $5 million mid-level exception because he's been in the league just two years. A team could put in a four-year offer sheet with an average salary that matches the remainder of their cap room, but that means a massively backloaded deal, which isn't likely.
So that means, again, the Knicks have the inside track to retain Lin. But that's only if they want him. He proved pretty clearly that he can play in a pick-and-roll system, but the sample size of him alongside Melo and Stoudemire is pretty small. Quietly, Lin put up quality numbers post-Linsanity, turning into a capable poor man's Steve Nash. He was good for around 13 points and seven assists a night, which fits what the Knicks need.
But the thing is, is he worth $5 million a year to the Knicks when there's still some uncertainty around him? Other teams a drooling over him largely because of the marketing potential, but the Knicks need a capable point guard -- desperately. There's the obvious option of pursuing the rich man's Steve Nash -- Steve Nash -- but that would mean cutting ties with Linsanity, something that obviously would be met with mixed results.
The Lin situation is incredibly intriguing because there are so many options and variables to it. What's his ceiling? How does he fit? Is he really that good? Can you simply dump something as popular as Linsanity? How much is he, and everything that comes with him, really worth? That's something the Knicks have to answer right away.
Sort out Landry Fields' future.
Fields is restricted this summer and has had his own run of success with the Knicks. He's not a household name or anything near a hot commodity on the free agent market, but do the Knicks really want to shell out $3 or $4 million a year for him?
He gives New York something it needs -- toughness and on-ball defense. He can hit a corner 3, is a smart player and would certainly provide depth at a light position. Again, it's just a matter of what his value is to the payroll. Money really isn't much of a an issue to the Knicks, but they got in a bad predictment a few years ago by not being stewards of it. You can just dish out contracts to anyone, even if you have the money to do it.
Make an Amar'e Stoudemire decision.
It's the dirty little secret in New York -- Amar'e Stoudemire doesn't fit. He's not the pick-and-roll dunking machine he was in Phoenix but with three years and about $60 million left, he has virtually no trade value.
So what do you do? He doesn't really work well with Carmelo as both seem to like to operate in the same ways. Do you move Stoudemire for little return on investment? Do you just hang on to him and hope things get figured out? Hope for a coach that can maximize both players? Stoudemire can still play; it's not like he's a past-his-prime scrub. It's a matter of putting players together that fit. Stoudemire played the 5 relatively well at times, but with Tyson Chandler, there's no room for him there either. I guess the right question is, can he play point guard?
Use the pick wisely.
Oh, that's right. The Knicks don't have a first rounder. But they do have one in the second. And you know what? They need depth, and this is considered to be a pretty deep draft. They need more Iman Shumperts and Josh Harrellsons. They need capable players that they can rely upon.
The Knicks don't have any money to burn on substantial free agents, so they're stuck on building from within. There are some pieces in place, disjointed as they may be, but the roster just needs some fine tuning. There's hope for the Knicks still, but it's going to take some smart management to get there. Well, maybe hope isn't the right word then.