|Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points in yesterday's game, but came up short in the 4th quarter|
The always-tumultuous New York Knicks' season came to end Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at the hands of the Pacers, a team that clearly wanted the series victory much, much more than their metropolitan counterparts.
Even a kid from the big city -- Brooklyn's own Lance Stephenson, from Lincoln High School, Stephon Marbury's alma mater -- helped take down the team he rooted for growing up in New York, scoring a career-high 25 points to lead his team in scoring as it took down the favored No. 2 seed Knicks.
Now, the Pacers and coach Frank Vogel -- ironically a New Jersey native -- are in the Eastern Conference Finals facing the Miami Heat, the rival the Knicks were destined to meet up with, especially after four incredibly entertaining games between the two teams in the regular season, of which New York won three.
But destiny was not to be this postseason, as Mike Woodson's old and ragged squad just could not hit the shots and make the plays down the stretch that were necessary to win.
Add in a mind-blowing decision not intentionally to foul the Pacers with less than a minute left and an apparent team let-down with around 30 seconds left, and you get another disappointing Knicks' playoff exit.
As all NBA teams not still in the playoffs must do, New York has to look ahead to next season, which really is not very far away at this point.
With J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland likely being free agents this summer, the Knicks have two major questions to answer this offseason regarding their level of interest in breaking the bank (although there is not much bank left with the team's cap situation) in going after these two players who were key to their success this season. Both will probably seek a ton of league-wide interest, similar to how Gerald Green did after his 2011-12 season with the Nets, and may be priced out of the Knicks' possible budget range.
Also, with the team having clear holes in terms of front-court play and having to deal with the brutal lug that Amar'e Stoudemire's contract is, a significant makeover is needed to be made to transform New York from good regular season team to effective playoff team.
That starts with figuring out what to do with the two remaining, $21-plus million years on Amar'e's massive deal, as his ability is clearly handicapped both by his glass knees and rising age.
Center Tyson Chandler, on the books for two more years as well, was dominated down low by Indiana's Roy Hibbert throughout the series and his glaring lack of offensive help hurts the perimeter-oriented Knicks significantly.
Compound those issues with that of the age of some of the team's key role players (like Kenyon Martin, Jason Kidd, and Marcus Camby), and the Knicks are in a tenuous spot with basically just two guarantees in terms of production: Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert.
Obviously, Anthony is never going to be the defensive stopper that teams would like but his prodigious scoring outweighs that other blemish. And regarding Shumpert, the swingman whose injury problems always seem to catch up to him, it looks like the Georgia Tech product has finally outran his previous ailments and is rounding into shape as a solid defensive and scoring option for Mike Woodson who has athleticism through the roof.
Good thing Opening Night is not until late October, because the Knicks will need nearly all of their five-month offseason to sort out what's going on with this team and these players. Cause I don't even know I'd do with it at this point.
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