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For N.Y. Knicks fans, 2013 is ‘make or break’

nyknicks110211_optBY STEPHEN SCHIMMEL
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
COMMENTARY

I turn 27 next week—in Schimmel years, that might as well be 73. Even if I can survive the torrential pounding that Mother Nature has handed the North East this month, it won’t be long before my kidney goes; or my liver; or my duodenum (I bet you never thought you’d see the word “duodenum” in an article about the New York Knicks—if you’re already opening Wikipedia, please finish reading this first).

Yes, I’m getting older. I recently chainsawed the first grey hair out of my scalp, and I can’t watch Matlock without falling asleep before the first commercial break (I love my stories). My back hurts, I can’t jump and the chances of me one day making the NBA are getting grimmer and grimmer by the day.

I’m no spring chicken (27 is the official age for no longer being a spring chicken), and I have a firm grasp of reality. That is why as a Knicks fan, I know this is it. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing all my teams win in New York except for the Knicks, and if it doesn’t happen for me this year, it never will.

2013 is make or break. If you’re a Knicks fan, you’ve probably heard that a lot this off-season. Maybe you’ve even said it—but was it for the right reasons?

After 1.5 years of the Amare Stoudemire-Carmelo Anthony experiment, Knicks fans everywhere have arbitrarily labeled 2013 do or die for the pair of all stars. “If they can’t do it this year, we need to break them up.” As if we could break them up.

When we signed Amare Stoudemire to a 5-year, $100 million contract in 2010, we took a chance on a pair of surgically-repaired knees, eyes and an aging lower back that no other team would. After an MVP-like start to the 2010-11season, Stoudemire seemed like a steal. Point guard Ramond Felton (then in his first stint with the Knicks) and “STAT” had a palpable chemistry, and the Knicks were relevant for the first time in a decade.

The mid-season trade acquisition of Carmelo Anthony (which resulted in the departure of Felton) had Madison Square Garden buzzing and Knick fans predicting titles. But Stoudemire hasn’t been the same since Anthony’s arrival, and the 2011-12 season was his worst to date (his 17.5 points per game average was the second lowest of his career, and the same shots that he was making in 2010 were barely grazing the rim).

Is Stoudemire damaged goods? That remains to be seen, and Knick fans are waiting with baited breath to watch as he returns from another knee injury—that won’t be for another three-five weeks. Can Stoudemire bounce back after a horrid sophomore season in New York? Absolutely—he has the talent and athleticism, and if he can find the mid-range jumper that carried him in 2010, he’ll be fine.

But if he doesn’t, well than that’s it—he’s on the decline; we’re stuck with him and his unmovable contract for another three years. Can Carmelo keep the Knicks relevant without a Robin? Yes, and he’s proved it early by carrying the Knicks to a 3-0 start, but without a second super star they will never win a title.

Even if Stoudemire struggles, the Knicks will contend. Felton is off to his best start since his last season in New York, and the defensive presence of Tyson Chandler makes the Knicks a force. They’ll reach the second round of the playoffs (which they will continue to do for the next three years), and in 2015 Stat’s contract will be up. In 2015, however, Carmelo will also be 31, and much of the Knicks’ current roster that includes Kurt Thomas (40), Marcus Camby (38), Rasheed Wallace (38) and Jason Kidd (39) will be stationed in a retirement home somewhere. By then, Anthony’s athleticism will be on the decline, and New York will watch him keep Knicks relevant without being in serious title contention for another decade.

In 2025, when Anthony retires, I’ll be 40—in Schimmel years that’s 400. That is why for the Knicks (and me), it’s now or never in 2013. Can they do it?

 

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