It's too early in the season to start panicking about anything — this many games through last year, the Knicks were still trying to figure out the backup point guard for Toney Douglas — but certainly the Knicks' lapses on defense and their increasing offensive lethargy were causes for concerns. In fact, considering their win over Detroit wasn't particularly gorgeous itself, you could make an argument that the Knicks that had everyone so excited hadn't even made a cameo appearance since before Thanksgiving. Fortunately, they returned last night.
The Knicks knocked around the Central Division–leading Bucks last night 102–88 in Milwaukee, a convincing, runaway victory that wasn't even as close as the final score. Carmelo Anthony once again led the way with 29 points, and the Bucks quite clearly had no one who could guard him. But the real star of the night was Wisconsin native Steve Novak — his father had a particularly charming interview on MSG during the game — who scored 19 points on 5-7 three-pointers. As a general rule, when the Knicks are able to get Novak to break through, their offense is opened up pretty much everywhere; when he's shut down, everything feels more muddled and sluggish. Heck, last night, he even had a breakaway layup. For half a second, it almost looked like he might dunk it.
It was a breezy night because of all that three-point shooting, with the Knicks going 11-of-21 from beyond the arc. You'll win a lot of games that way. Though down low, Tyson Chandler is essentially incapable of missing; he has hit 32 of his last 36 shots. (We couldn't do that if we were literally dropping the ball in the rim from a ladder.) It was an extremely pleasant turnaround win against a decent team on the road, and it could very well lead a nice little win streak, with games coming up against Washington, Phoenix, and Charlotte.
But that wasn't the big news last night. The big news came from an anonymous source, about an injured Knicks' mental state. ESPN's Ian Begley had the scoop right as the Knicks game ended: Amar'e Stoudemire apparently will accept the sixth-man role with the Knicks, if asked. This had certainly been up for debate; Amar'e is the second-highest-paid player in the NBA and therefore not necessarily the sort of chap used to coming off the bench. That he's amenable to it would seem like positive news, even if it's in a well-congratulations-you've-decided-to-do-what-makes-the-team-better sort of way.
Though it certainly doesn't answer everything. First off, the idea that Amar'e coming off the bench magically solves the doesn't-play-well-with-Carmelo problem is a bit silly; they will have to play with each other, a lot, and often down the stretch. Also: The Knicks already have an offensive spark plug they bring off the bench in J.R. Smith, even if he hasn't exactly been terrific of late. Also: It's not like Amar'e was so freaking terrific last year; as nice as an option as he sounds like off the bench, it's gonna take him a while to get his act together when he returns anyway. Whenever that is — it's worth remembering that no one has any idea, still, when Amar'e is returning.
Point is: Amar'e won't make a huge stink if he's not starting when he's back. So, major drama avoided. Now we'll see if his return, whenever it may be, actually makes the Knicks better. But there's plenty to deal with before then.
As a closer, here's a delightful language-barrier halftime interview with Pablo Prigioni. We love Pablo.