How good are the Knicks? That’s a question that many people in the NBA are asking themselves. It’s an easy answer. They’re better than many people expected to be and they will be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. They have won 13 of their last 14 games, they are one of the highest scoring teams in the NBA, they have a very good coach that has had a ton of regular season success in the past, and they have a superstar in Amar’e Stoudemire who is playing better than anybody else in the league right now. They are good enough to be the four or five seed in the Eastern Conference, but probably not much more than that at this point. Can they beat Miami? Can they beat Boston? Those questions will be answered this week in a tough stretch of games for the Knicks. But even if they lose both of their marquee games this week against Boston and Miami, it’s great to see the mecca of basketball excited about their team again and it’s great to have the Knicks relevant again in the NBA.
Mike D’Antoni joined ESPN Radio in New York with McDonald and Tierney to talk about the run that the Knicks are on after their slow start, how much better they can get, whether or not Raymond Felton has lived to his expectations this season, how he plans on keeping the team focused with all the Carmelo Anthony rumors, and whether or not he thinks New York can be a serious contender this season.
On the winning streak after a slow start:
“Its nice to get out of the hole that we were in, but then again it’s a long season and a lot of things can happen. I’ve been around too long to get to excited, but it’s enjoyable.”
On how much better they can get:
“I think to a certain extent, we can get a lot better. We have some young guys and that’s just going to take time. It’s not even a matter of being new, it’s just being young and being in different situations and playing for an important game every week. We’ve had a lot of guys that have not done that in the NBA. A lot of new things are happening but I would’ve loved to have had a better start. In reality going to Europe in preseason and different things, we just started slower. It just jelled when it did and hopefully we can keep getting better.”
On Raymond Felton:
“We’ve known Raymond forever. My brother coached him in AAU back in high school for three or four summers. I’ve seen him play a lot in that area so we’ve known him forever. He won a national championship in North Carolina, we knew his heart, and we knew he was a grinder. He was a guy that found a way. Not a great shooter, not a great ball handler, not a great passer, not a great this, and not a great that, just a great competitor. That makes it easier and that’s why we got him. We thought he would do it, but thank goodness he is doing it. His shooting is improved and I think it can get even better.”
On how he plans on keeping the team focused with all the Carmelo Anthony rumors:
“Just like in the bad times you try to live within the walls of the practice facility and you’re within your team. You tell relatives and friends you don’t read papers, you don’t listen to people, and you do your work and you go about it. I know it’s hard sometimes but when times are bad and times are good you cant listen to it because 98 percent of it is just talk. It’s based on a little bit of fact and could be, would be, maybe, and who knows. That’s part of the job. Part of the job is to focus, come everyday, and block out everybody else that’s not your teammate or in the organization.”
On whether or not they can be a serious threat in the East:
“It just depends on how we come together. Everybody has talent in this league, it’s just a matter of them coming together, being healthy, seeing how the season goes, and then stuff like that. Is it in the realm of possibility, sure it is. I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t, but at the same time, we all know it’s hard in this league to do anything. Let’s try and make the playoffs and lets try to be as good as we can be.”
Listen to Mike D’Antoni on ESPN Radio in New York here (audio begins 23:55 into the podcast)