It’s been seven long years since the New York Knicks made it to the NBA Playoffs. At the time, the team was led by New York’s own, Stephon Marbury. Unfortunately, the Knicks failed to make any noise, and have failed to make it back ever since.
However, Donnie Walsh has finally molded the Knicks into a winner once again, and the team is finally led by true superstars in Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
A winning team, by definition, is a team that finishes with an above .500 record, and with 42 wins already this season (with two still remaining), the Knicks are guaranteed a winning record of their own for the first time in 10 years.
As the regular season closes out, the Knicks’ playoff opponent for the first round has finally been confirmed as the Boston Celtics.
Though the Celtics were the Eastern Conference’s top dog for much of the season, and even had four players named to the All-Star team, they have struggled with injuries and fatigue as time has progressed.
While the Celtics have grown exhausted in recent weeks, the Knicks have been riding a train full of momentum, currently on a seven game win streak heading into Tuesday’s game against the Bulls.
Shelden Williams, who came to New York in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and has started at the center position for much of the team’s streak, told Bleacher Report, “Everyone is feeling really good about the way the team is playing. When I first got here, we won our first couple of games, but then went on a bit of a losing streak. We knew this team could play, so it was just a matter of letting guys begin to gel and go through some growing pains.”
Since that same losing streak, the maturation has been incredibly noticeable.
New additions like Williams, Jared Jeffries and Anthony Carter have found their niches on this team and have begin to fill voids for the Knicks in areas that they previously struggled.
Toney Douglas and Landry Fields have adapted to redefined roles, with Douglas playing a more prominent and aggressive role, while Fields has had to find ways to continue to contribute amongst the increased star power.
That star power can be attributed to Stoudemire (all season long), Chauncey Billups and Anthony, who has stepped up to effectively lead the team in Stat’s absence and proved he can propel his team to many celebrated victories.
All of this has taken a while to come to fruition, but is all coming together at just the perfect time for the Knicks.
Though the Knicks may have the advantage over the Celtics in manpower and momentum, the Celtics have invaluable experience that cannot be matched.
No one on the Knicks knows more about that experience than Williams, who spent all of the season in Boston during the team’s run to the NBA Finals.
Reflecting upon his time with the big time contender, and providing potential insight as to how they are approaching their upcoming playoff series with the Knicks, he said,
“Well I had a chance to play with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and even Rasheed Wallace last year. They are all Hall of Fame type of guys. They set a goal at the very beginning of the season, and that was to win a championship. I was able to experience firsthand how they approached that goal each day.
They weren’t all just talk—they stressed that goal to the entire team every single day, so that no matter what happened, we were going to have a championship caliber journey. Now that I’ve come to New York, I’ve taken those lessons with me and have continued to work with those things in mind to help put us in a good position.”
Nevertheless, Williams said last week that the Knicks weren’t yet concerned with whom their opponent may be, because, “if a lot of us just continue to play well, I think we’ll be a difficult team to play against [in the playoffs].”
Williams has been one of the many Knicks to play well down this strong stretch. Though he’s been seen to hit the occasional jump shot, which has been scarce amongst other Knicks’ centers this season, Williams’ best work often comes on the defense end.
Citing his contributions thus far, he asserted, “I’ve just been doing things that I’ve done pretty much all my life, like play good defense and rebound the basketball. I do things that not every player is able to, like the “dirty work.” I may not do the prettiest things on the court or stuff that shows up on the stat sheet, but I’ve always continued to just do all that I’m able to.”
Williams’ work ethic is that of a very dedicated and focused player, as he is often in the gym working on his game as he tries to improve. His defensive intensity, along with his playoff experience, are two things sure to help the Knicks, as the franchise’s playoff teams of the past have always been known to thrive on swarming and pestering defense.
If the Celtics are any example for how success is to be reached (having been NBA champions in 2008), defense will certainly be a factor in the Knicks-Celtics first round playoffs matchup.