Know that baseball is really my first love; since 1979 when I first started watching Mets games with my grandfather I have been a diehard Mets fan. So, given their 2009 from hell, my time away from the Knicks has been loooooonnnngggg and difficult. (And now my beloved Seattle Seahawks appear to be re-hashing their injury-riddled 2008 in 2009 just to ratchet up the pain a little more.)
I think most Knicks fans would agree that the team did not exactly exorcise all the ghosts of the Isiah Thomas era this off-season. So, the big question staring Knick fans in the face for 2009-10 is: given that we shouldn’t expect a huge turnaround, what will we pay attention to this year? Here’s my list. What’s on yours?
1. How will the young core develop? This of course raises the issue of who, exactly, is a part of the core. Whereas once upon a time David Lee’s and Nate Robinson’s inclusion in that core might have gone virtually unquestioned, the 1-year deals both recently signed suggests that Donnie Hoops is prepared to move forward without both or either. It will be interesting to see how each handles this season. On the other hand, Danillo Gallinari is unquestionably part of whatever constitutes NY’s young core. Everyone loves the talent but he’s also coming off back surgery; that’s back surgery, as in surgery on your back. We simply do not know impact that will have. We may all quickly forget he ever had surgery, and then again we may yet end up talking about Gallo’s back as if it’s like Mr. Garrison’s exploding testicles. Finally, will any of the other non-rookie players, from among Duhon, Hughes, Curry, and Milicic, be at all useful?
2. Which of the young guys steps up over 82 games? Jordan Hill probably has the best shot to play consistent minutes alongside David Lee, depending on what Milicic and Curry do. Even though I generally supported the Hill selection given what was available, I’m not sure he profiles to be much more than a decent rebounder and occasional shot-blocker–not that there’s anything wrong with that. On the other hand, Toney Douglas is probably the most exciting newcomer but he may struggle to see consistent minutes.
3. What, if anything, can Donnie do to change NY’s fortunes? To this point, Donnie Walsh has done a good Luis Castillo (circa 2009) impersonation. Walsh has been downright Slappy McSingleton-like in his all singles/no extra base hit profile. To his credit Walsh has hit actual singles in virtually every at-bat so far, staying away from the “sucker bets” that consistently fooled Thomas. He has also been pretty disciplined about not paying star money to guys that aren’t stars. Somewhere along the line though, NY’s gonna need some extra base hits to score some runs. He’s going to have to do something to alter the direction of the franchise. Hiring D’Antoni was a start. He’s going to have try to create cap space, possibly by finding a taker for Jared Jeffries’ (or– gasp–Eddy Curry’s) contract, or a young player ready to make the leap who doesn’t fit his team’s plans.
So that’s what I’ll be watching. What about you?