HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Don’t count the New York Knicks out of the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference.
So says the face of the franchise, Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony is not only talking the talk, insisting that the Knicks will rebound from last season’s dismal 37-45 finish and return to the playoffs this season, he’s putting in the work to prepare himself physically and mentally for the rigors to come during the first full season of the Phil Jackson-Derek Fisher regime.
Fred Kerber of the New York Post caught up with ‘Melo and delivers the goods:
But the playoffs are another matter. In fact, Anthony on Monday asserted his belief the Knicks “absolutely” will be back in the playoffs after missing out last season.
“Yeah, I think so for sure. Absolutely,” an impressively slimmed-down Anthony said of the Knicks’ playoff chances before entering a Midtown gym for a late morning-to-early afternoon workout with a group of NBA players.
Anthony snuffed an attempt to establish any goals for the revamped Knicks, who will enter their first full season under team president Phil Jackson and new coach Derek Fisher.
“I can’t wait to get started,” said Anthony, who missed the playoffs for the first time in his career when the Knicks stumbled to a 37-45 record last season. “No goals. Not setting any goals, but I just can’t wait to get it back on.”
Whether this is just a star player exhibiting the expected confidence in himself and his situation or ‘Melo channeling the power of positive thinking is irrelevant. Knicks fans should love what they are seeing and hearing from ‘Melo. He’s either all in with the new program in New York or a better actor than anyone on Broadway.
There are plenty of factors in the Eastern Conference conspiring against ‘Melo and the Knicks.
LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, who are expected to add Kevin Love to their mix in the coming days, have forced a complete reshuffling of the playoff deck. If what we’ve seen from Derrick Rose this summer is any indication, the Chicago Bulls (with Pau Gasol now on board) will also force changes at the top.
The Indiana Pacers are expected to tumble a bit with the losses of both Paul George (injury) and Lance Stephenson (free agency). But the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Stephenson’s Charlotte Hornets are poised to move up in the standings. The East’s defending champs, the Miami Heat, have Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade ready to hold the line sans LeBron and remain in the projected playoff mix.
That leaves a narrow opening for the handful of teams (led by the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets and Knicks) vying for those final precious playoff spots. I don’t know that Anthony’s confidence is warranted, especially given the 2013-14 season he and the Knicks endured.
But the bravado is good to see and should be welcomed by folks who like to see the best players embrace the super-sized expectations that come with playing in New York. Whatever the Knicks do this season rests on Anthony’s re-sculpted shoulders. If his personal transformation is any indication, and if his confidence has infected the locker room, the Knicks could very well find their way into the playoffs.
It won’t be easy, of course. And it’ll take some luck of some sort along the way.
It’s the offseason, everybody … well, almost everybody believes deep down that this is going to be their year. Even if they are completely delusional, they believe in August.
‘Melo is no different. And he’s got a 54-win season from two years ago as a reminder of what the Knicks can do when they are clicking. Some of the faces have changed and the system will be different from what the Knicks operated when coach Mike Woodson was calling the shots.
But if ‘Melo says the Knicks are “absolutely” headed back to the top eight mix in the Eastern Conference, I see no reason to dismiss the notion now.
It’s like Kevin Garnett once famously said: “anything is possible!”