The Knicks Get Off on the Good Foot

Two impressive wins start the season with big smiles at the Garden

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Nov 5, 2012  |  Updated 11:47 AM EDT
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The Knicks Get Off on the Good Foot

AP

If Anthony keeps playing like this, it doesn't matter what first name you use.

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You know that the Knicks season has gotten off to a successful and unexpectedly aesthetically pleasing start when the biggest problem after two games might be that they pass the ball too much.

That was Steve Novak's assessment after Sunday's 100-84 win over the 76ers, a game that saw the Knicks move the ball around in the offensive end as if Gene Hackman was threatening to make them do extra chores on the farm if they didn't pass at least five times before a shot. While everyone on the team was playing sharetastic basketball, the development of this style cast its largest reflection on one player. 

Carmelo Anthony (or just "Melo Anthony" to the MSG public address announcer) played the kind of game on Sunday that everyone has dreamed about seeing him play since coming to New York. He scored on efficient 10-of-18 shooting by dominating defenders one-on-one, set up his teammates by passing out of doubles into open threes and defended with more effort than we've ever seen from him in a Knicks uniform. 

The signature moment of the game came when he hammered the ball out of the hands of Thaddeus Young on what looked like an easy fastbreak bucket and then chased the loose ball into the first row of the stands, knocking a beer into the air and sending the crowd into a joyful tizzy. There were other moments in the first two games that saw Anthony chase loose balls, get his hands into passing lanes and attack the glass to create exactly the well-rounded performances many have assumed would never come from Anthony.

On a day when Tyson Chandler was suffering from the flu and Marcus Camby remained on the sideline, Anthony's defensive effort made a massive difference. Feel free to read that last line again because we know it isn't exactly something you've seen before. 

Anthony led by following the instructions laid down to him by a million anonymous voices pleading with him to use his prodigious talents for more than just scoring. This wasn't just his buying in after Mike D'Antoni's departure last season, this was Anthony setting a tone for everything.

The results were fairly contagious for the rest of the Knicks. You could see J.R. Smith taking the same steps to reel in his more selfish habits in a sparkling performance across the board and you can see Ray Felton loving life back in New York as the point guard driving this bus on offense.

And you can see why the Knicks decided to grab Jason Kidd as a free agent this offseason. Watching him shoot his threes and do his wily veteran stuff at both ends is a wonderful way to completely cleanse from your mind the fact that the Knicks used to give major minutes to Mike Bibby, Toney Douglas and Baron Davis.  

Friday night against the Heat felt like the fever dream of a team and city sprung free after too long on the shelf. The 104-84 win was glorious, but it never felt real until you saw the Knicks do it again in an early start against a less glamorous opponent. 

Sunday felt real and listening to the buzz of the Garden grow as the ball zipped around on offense had an extra level of enjoyment for anyone raised by parents who rhapsodize about the way the old Knicks championship teams played the game. We're not actually making that comparison between the teams, not after two games, but it was a little easier to understand what Dad was talking about watching the game on Sunday. 

It's impossible to imagine a better way to start the season and we haven't even mentioned the adoption of Rasheed Wallace as a scraggly bearded victory cigar. It was a fun weekend for the Knicks and the promise of the year to come shines more brightly as a result. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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