The New York Knicks, despite what Derrick Rose said, don’t have a Super Team. There’s only one Super Team in the NBA: The Golden State Warriors, and there are those probably capable of stopping them in their upgraded version: The Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs, at least from the current rosters and what we know about last season.
Rose talked about the pressure on “super teams” like the Warriors and also mentioned his new team, the Knicks, in that category. That resulted in a whole lot of laughter, jokes and memes from every direction possible. And while Rose is completely wrong about the Knicks being anything close to a Super Team or even a contender to win the East, he was probably referring to expectations and pressure, which are obviously higher than in the past two years.
Every season the Phil Jackson project continues without showing results, the pressure is high. Playing in a New York City team, especially on one of their flagships, means constant pressure, attention, criticism and focus. Rose is used to that, playing for the Chicago Bulls, but his arrival in New York, along with Joakim Noah from the Bulls, and the expected improvement of Kristaps Porzingis sets the bar a little higher after three seasons of missing the playoffs.
And yes, the Knicks are expected to end the wait and to play a bigger part in the playoff race and make it in. Carmelo Anthony might be grabbing more headlines these days for his social activities, but he’s still the number one player on this team, and the one expected to carry the Knicks with the changing rosters around him. More than anyone, the burden of proof is on him. Another year of underachieving will just be more credibility to the theory that no team with Anthony on the roster, or at least as a central player, can actually do something meaningful in the NBA.
Rose isn’t the only one who plays a part in Anthony’s redemption’s arc, while he has one of his own. But he might be the biggest difference maker in this whole setup built by Jackson, which once again came without any draft picks, showing just how difficult it’s been rebuilding or retooling the Knicks due to previous bad decisions. Rose being just an above average, borderline good point guard won’t get the Knicks too far. But a healthy Rose, who makes Porzingis shine and keeps Anthony happy, while also taking a good (and smart) number of shots himself, can make this season something to smile about for Knicks fans.
The Knicks avoided the big rebuild, sticking with changing in motion, which hasn’t proven very successful, although they haven’t had a lot of choice considering their draft and cap situations. Their moves this offseason feel like, for the first time, Jackson is swinging for the fences in his attempt to build a winner. It doesn’t look all that promising short term, but Rose can be a one-year rental. If he fails, there’s a way out. If Noah bombs, it’s a bit more difficult to get out of.