Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A New Season Brings New Hope

It's quite possible that no other team is looking forward to starting the new NBA season more then Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks. The sexual harassment trial and the fallout from it has worn Isiah Thomas down to the point where he hardly smiles anymore and gives short vague answers in response to the media's questions. The team has had a year together under Isiah’s system but has had to readjust again this year due to the addition of Zach Randolph. Many question how the tandem of Eddy Curry and Randolph is going to work. Both are considered low post players who are explosive offensively but neither passes the ball well and both are very bad on the defensive side of the ball. It's up to Isiah to figure out how to get the most out of both of them. Several media members are predicting Isiah won't last the season and the Knicks will miss the playoffs once again. Only Sports Illustrated has the Knicks making the playoffs this year.

I thought I would look through the Knicks' schedule and give my prediction on how well they will fare and whether they are good enough for the playoffs. Last year the Knicks started off slow and eventually recovered to play slightly above .500 but then injuries decimated the team and caused them to fall well below .500. To get a better idea of how many games this team can win, we need to look at the games on a month-by-month basis.

If you look at November, the schedule looks favorable for the Knicks to get off to a good start. They play 8 games at home and 7 on the road. Looking at their opponents, I see them going 9-6 in the month of November. More specifically, I see them starting off 4-1, going 2-2 on their West coast trip, and then finishing up the month 3-3 against some good playoff caliber teams. The game of the month in my eyes will be the Nov. 29th game with Boston on national television. This would be a great statement game for the Knicks if they could come out and play well and beat the revamped Celtics.

In December, they play 9 games at home and only 5 on the road. They have some tough games at the beginning of the month and I see them coming out of those games with a 2-4 record. Their next 8 are mainly against teams in the East and I see them going 6-2 to finish the month at 8-6. The game to look at in this month will be the first game with New Jersey on the road on Dec. 5th. New Jersey has owned the Knicks since Jason Kidd has been in town and this would be a huge boost for the Knick players if they could go on the road early in the season and beat the Nets.

In January, the schedule gets a little tougher. The Knicks have 7 games at home and 9 on the road. This will be the month that makes or breaks this team in my opinion. With a tough Midwest road trip and some tough games at home, I see them starting out the month at 3-4. After that, I feel like this is where the team will hit their stride and will begin to gel as a team. They will finish up the month going 6-3 and a record of 9-7 for January. The Knicks will play 6 games in 9 days from Jan. 13-21. They will play Boston on Jan. 21st to wrap up that string of games. Again, if they can find a way to win this game, it would be a great building block for the second half of the season.

In February, they play 5 games at home and 8 on the road. I do see them struggling a little bit this month with the tough January and rust from the All-Star break. I think they will finish 6-7 for the month of February with back-to-back games with Toronto on the 22nd and 24th being the big games of the month. In March, the schedule has them playing 8 games at home and 7 on the road. I see them going 7-8 during this month as things starting getting a little tighter and teams in the East will be playing tougher. On March 7th, the Knicks will host Detroit in what could be a good test for the Knicks to see where they stand with one of the top teams in the East.

In the month of April, with 4 games at home and 5 on the road, the Knicks should be able to finish the month with a 5-4 record as they try to hold on to a playoff spot. I hate to keep bringing Boston up, but the next to last game of the season with them on April 14th could be huge. A win in that game could set the tone going into the playoffs and give the Knicks that extra push to make some noise.

If you add up the records for each month, you will see that the Knicks would finish at 44-38 for the season. This is about what I expected from this team before looking at the schedule on a monthly basis like this. With a 44-38 record, that should be good enough for a 7 seed in the playoffs. If the Knicks can do this and grab a spot in the playoffs, maybe then Isiah can smile again and get some of his critics off his back...for a little while anyway.