As Knicks Journal took in the Aruba sun last week, the Knicks made things look easy as they continued to roll under new coach Mike Woodson, improving to 6-1 since the team implemented the coaching change.
Woodson has certainly made it known he will hold players accountable for their actions on the court, and already has been seen laying down the law playing the disciplinary role. There's a new mentality in New York, and despite the players' initial disappointment over the switch, it seems as though they are all buying into what Woodson is selling. Winning solves all, and a little bit of motivation could have been all the Knicks needed to steamroll some momentum in their favor.
But even with a new positive attitude, the hard part isn't over. Currently holding onto the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the 24-25 Knicks still have a bit of climbing to do to further meet expectations. They are only two and a half games behind the Celtics for the seventh seed, and are subsequently three games in back of the 76ers for the Atlantic Division lead, which would land them fourth seed as well as home court advantage in the playoffs.
With momentum in their favor on the court, things would appear to be going up for the Knicks, Instead, injuries seem to be getting in the way, potentially making the rest of the way a bumpy ride. Jeremy Lin is questionable for tonight's game against the Bucks (who the Knicks will look to hold off from taking over their eighth seed) with a knee injury he suffered in Saturday's game vs. the Pistons.
That said, the injury does not appear overly serious, as the cause is likely from overuse. The Knicks have been riding the point guard since the beginning of February, but the Harvard graduate is still coming off a rookie season in which he played limited minutes in only 29 contests. Should the team continue to pace Lin's minutes (as Coach Woodson has since he's taken over), he should be in good standing moving forward.
More concerning, however, is the back injury currently hampering star forward Amar'e Stoudemire. It's been clear to Knicks fans that STAT has not been the same M.V.P. candidate he was last season, and the worries over the back injury that sidelined him during last season's first round playoff series have lingered all along. Stoudemire did not participate in practice today, and is receiving an M.R.I. to grant more information on the nagging injury. He too, is questionable for tonight.
Such a devastating injury could prove to be blowing to the Knicks' playoff hopes. That said, if the team can stay in good enough spirits, tonight's game against the Bucks can still be easily won. Though Stoudemire had begun to find a decent rhythm under Coach Woodson, his offense has not been terribly crucial to the team's recent surge. Instead, Woodson's Knicks have hit opposing teams hard with balanced attacks, with multiple players often scoring in double-figures. The team certainly has depth featuring players who can pick up the slack.
What's more, Woodson's offensive coaching strategy is normally well-based off isolation situations. He pounded the ball to Joe Johnson in Atlanta for years, making JJ a consistent twenty plus point scorer as the swingman led the Hawks during playoff runs. His style should furthermore cater well to Carmelo Anthony, who could carry the Knicks strongly in Stoudemire's absence.
Aside from Lin and Stoudemire potentially not taking the court, the knee injury that is currently sidelining Jared Jeffries may reportedly keep him out longer than expected. For more on the type of impact Jeffries has on the Knicks (especially when Stoudemire sits), make sure you check out my friends Tommy Dee and Jared Zwerling's take on last week's TKB.tv.