Heading into the 2014-15 season the New York Knicks aspirations were to secure a place in the playoffs and to challenge the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic division title. From what the expectations were heading into the season and the end result – 17 wins and 65 losses – is that this year was a failure. Phil Jackson even admitted that his so-called ‘experiment’ fell “flat on its face”. The season overall may be classified as a failure but there were still many bright spots that emerged out of the darkness.
So, what were these bright spots?
The Emergence of Langston Galloway:
The New York Knicks called-up combo guard, Langston Galloway on January 7th and later he signed a partially guaranteed three year contract. The undrafted rookie appeared in 45 games and he started in 41 of those games. For a Development League call-up, Galloway was incredible, averaging 11.8 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game and 1.3 steals per game.
The Knicks backcourt was plagued by inconsistency for the entire year but Galloway brought stability to the team. Galloway was just a rookie but he immediately established himself as a leader and he remained that way for the remainder of the season. The native of Louisiana was very vocal and guide-like out on the court.
Galloway was a breath of fresh air for the Knicks. He stabilized New York’s erratic backcourt and exceed all expectations. Galloway’s stellar play led to a long term contract. He established himself as one of the players who’d be staying around for a while.
The Revelation That Was Lou Amundson:
Over the past three seasons Lou Amundson has appeared in only 111 games and 41 of those were with the Knicks this season. The journeyman was thought to be just another throw in piece in a trade. Amundson finally had an opportunity to go out and play night in and night out. The Knicks front court was in tatters for a majority of the seasons but Amundson gave them a big boost.
Amundson averaged 6 points per game, 6 rebounds per game and 1.3 blocks per game. The Knicks were a poor rebounding team and they had no presence around the rim until Amundson showed up. He played with energy which was contagious to both his teammates and the crowd. Amundson is a hustle player, a scrapper, and he was able to get into the hearts of Knick fans quickly.
Amundson didn’t see the hardwood for three years but he came out of the ashes to help the Knicks on the defensive end and on the glass. His hustle and effort were unmatched. Amundson lit it up in the back half of the year.
New York acquired Alexey Shved in a trade with Houston and he most definitely made the most of his opportunity to play. The Russian surprised all and his statistics back that up; 14.8 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 3.6 assists per game. Shved put his name on the map. Like Amundson, Shved was just a throw in and he proved he was more than that. Shved had the ability to penetrate and he created shots for himself and others. He also played within the system and thrived.
Along with Langston Galloway, Shved gave the Knicks stability in the backcourt. He was not one-dimensional as Shved can score, rebound and facilitate the basketball. It wasn’t that Shved scored 14.8 points per game taking countless shots but making the correct read which lead to 43% shooting. The Russian was the only player besides Carmelo Anthony to get to the free throw line; Shved was regularly at the charity stripe.
The 26-year-old faded into the background over the past two seasons but he rose up out of the darkness due to his stellar play. The Knicks were basically holding open auditions and it looks like the Knicks found a diamond in the rough.
Carmelo Anthony’s Willingness and Composure:
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 24.3 points per game in the first half of the season and he received no help whatsoever. Despite the lack of help and pilling up loss after loss Anthony never strayed too far from the system and kept ‘hero ball’ to a minimum. The 8x All-Star was always willing to play within the system and also willing to move the basketball on a consistent basis.
Anthony’s team was in dead last for a large portion of the year and he never became mad or pissed-off. The Baltimorean always managed to take positives away from most games and Anthony always had the future in his mind. The 30-year-old re-signed with the Knicks for at least four season as he believed his best chance of winning stood in New York. The Knicks fell horribly far short but Anthony’s demeanor was always the same; cool, calm and collected.
For someone in his situation it’s quite an achievement no to crack. The willingness to do everything that was asked of him is a very bright thing going forward in the future.
The Gradual Improvement of Derek Fisher:
To begin the season Derek Fisher was a poor coach and it seemed that he tried to coach like and emulate Phil Jackson. He did not enter the season his own identity, but he did finish the year with his own. The Knicks won just five games through the first half of the year and that was with Carmelo Anthony. In the second half of the year New York won 12 games with Anthony on the sidelines indefinitely.
If that isn’t an improvement, what is? Fisher coached his team full of ‘scrubs’, ‘bums’ and ‘no names’ to twelve victories. The Knicks were continuously called a D-League team. Fisher and his men came back from 18 down and eventually won in double overtime, came out and beat the Raptors the next night, beat the defending world champions and defeated the Hawks in Atlanta.
For a majority of the squad that finished the season they did not know their teammates until February. Fisher did an excellent job, the Knicks became a team and generated chemistry very quickly and they became a tight-knit bunch. The Knicks looked like they had been together all season long.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early Finally Getting it Together:
Both Early and Hardaway Jr. had substandard play for a majority of the season. It looked like Hardaway Jr. had regressed and that Early was well over-hyped coming out of college. After the All-Star break Early finally cracked the rotation and showed what he could do. To begin the year it looked like Hardaway Jr. was trying to do too much, he felt like he had to be the second scorer but he forced up poor shots.
Derek Fisher found a new role for Hardaway Jr. off the bench and he shined brightly. He was taking good shots that were within the system and making them as well. Hardaway Jr. looked re-energized. Due to his poor play to begin the season it became known that Tim Hardaway Jr. was no longer safe and that he could be traded, but his play to end the year solidified his place on this team.
In the end the former Wolverine showed that he’d grown from his 1st season and that he could be a vital part going forward.
It took Early a long time to find his footing in the NBA and knee surgery didn’t help that cause. In the last month and a half of the regular season Early showed why he was a steal at the 34th overall pick. Early’s confidence grew and his numbers rose as a result. In the last month of the year Early averaged close to 11 points per game and the best thing was that he was consistent. He may have taken him the whole season to show up but something is better than nothing.
The two players proved that they belong with the Knicks in years to come.
James Dolan Keeping His Distance:
In previous years Knicks owner, James Dolan, has meddled with the team and vetoed trades. In other words, Dolan sticks his none in things that are not of his concern. When the Knickerbockers announced that Phil Jackson is the head of basketball operations Dolan made it clear that he’d leave Jackson alone and not mess with the team. For the first time in a whole Dolan stayed true to his world.
Going forward this is a great thing as he will make a mess of the Knicks on draft night and in free agency. He will leave the work to who knows best; Phil Jackson and his staff.
The Knicks fell short of their aspirations but there were still many bright spots. It’s okay at this point to become cautiously optimistic from now on.