The Knicks are still losers of 11 out of their last 13 games, but they've broken the seal on the new year with two wins in 2017. There's a long way to go and New York has to make a run rather quickly if they want to prove they can compete before decisions need to be made.
Will this team become a seller closer to the trading deadline? Will they start to explore trades for Carmelo Anthony and their other long term contracts in the coming weeks and into the offseason? This all remains to be seen.
There's an overcast of uncertainty surrounding this team, but head coach Jeff Hornacek's bold move against the Atlanta Hawks worked wonders. Ron Baker and Mindaugas Kuzminskas both provided tremendous energy. As Courtney Lee moved to the bench and the duo found success, it was a message to other starters (or key members of the rotation) that they could be next if they're not performing.
Let's take a look at some of the other more pressing issues facing the Knicks...
The need for communication:
With Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony set to meet in the coming days, the Knicks' star will likely receive more clarity about the executive's vision for this team. Initially, New York could have patiently built around Kristaps Porzingis and allowed Anthony to serve as the right hand man as he gets older. This would have taken the pressure off a lot of people.
Instead, Jackson made acquisitions to surround Anthony with the talent necessary to make a real competitive push. With that not working out, it might be time to reflect and look at Anthony as the common denominator (other than Jackson himself) for failure. Regardless of whether or not Jackson is using Charley Rosen as his mouthpiece, an executive needs to explore change if something isn't going right.
The same goes for the coaching staff. Kudos to Hornacek for making a bit of a splash. It's up to him to keep his players motivated and in the clear amid the shakeups
The return of Kristaps Porzingis:
After Porzingis initially rushed back to the court, his Achilles injury continued to hamper him. Sitting him against Toronto and Atlanta, the Knicks are finally exercising patience with their budding star. It's best not to aggravate the injury, especially when nothing specific is at stake. Plugging Porzingis back in won't solve the team's other problems.
After a week of rest, Porzingis may be ready to return on Wednesday against the Celtics. Whenever he hits the hardwood again, the pressure should shift to Joakim Noah. The veteran fell one rebound short of his season-high in rebounds with 17 against Atlanta, but has otherwise been inconsistent on both ends of the floor this season.
Should New York be interested in pushing the pace a bit more, moving Porzingis to the five and Noah to the bench may be the way to go. This could also help ensure the Knicks do not create early holes for themselves to start games moving forward. They need energy, hustle, and hunger in the first unit. Noah's been more laid back and there's no reason he couldn't thrive with the reserves instead.
A forthcoming acquisition:
As the Knicks cement their vision for the rest of the season and beyond, an acquisition should be aggressively pursued. If the team is sticking to their guns about competing, a veteran point guard wouldn't hurt. The Knicks are thin at point guard and Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings have proven to be a bit careless in the way they run the offense and take care of the ball. A more veteran floor general would have the respect of his teammates and calm things down a bit.
If New York wants to build toward a promising future instead, they will have players that can be moved for assets. Shedding Lance Thomas' contract would give the Knicks more summer flexibility. Courtney Lee's contributions could be easily replaced, which makes his long-term contract one the team may be motivated to move. Whereas the team would also benefit from letting Rose's contract expire at the end of the season, he may also be a trade chip at the deadline if New York could receive value back from a contender. The possibilities go on.