Yes, the New York Knicks did just lose to the New Jersey Nets at home. But here’s why they shouldn’t be discouraged.
1) This was their first game with Melo back. Although he only shot 4 of 11 for 11 points, the best thing about his performance was his commitment to trying to fit in with the team’s style of play. He ended up with 6 assists and said his mindset was to go in and contribute without trying to do too much. He was pretty rusty and committed 6 turnovers, but he’ll clean his game up and get acclimated the more games he plays. Lin and Melo seemed to have pretty solid chemistry and it’s only a matter of time before they learn how to feed off each other.
2) Deron Williams had to go off for 38 points to beat the Knicks. Williams was a man with a grudge after his poor defense gave rise to Linsanity, so he had a real reason to go out and make a statement. He was 8 of 14 from beyond the arc and singlehandedly got New Jersey the win. Williams is an All-Star point guard and you can’t take anything away from him, but he’s not going to drop 38 every night. The Knicks did lose to a lower-quality team, but thanks to Williams’ performance, it was hard to tell the difference.
3) Insufficient contribution from key role players. The most disconcerting thing about this loss was how average everyone else played. Melo had an excuse to be rusty after missing so many games, but the Knicks could have used a little more help. Amare finished with a respectable 17 points and Tyson Chandler had 14, but JR Smith only contributed 4 points and Landry Fields only had 10. New York needs more out of its shooting guards right now, even though Smith should take over the starting SG spot once he’s fully back in the groove. Lin is a scorer and Melo will get his offense going, but Smith, Fields, Novak, and Jeffries will all need to consistently contribute a little something for the Knicks to be the juggernaut they are capable of being. Iman Shumpert sitting out with a knee injury also hurt, as the Knicks missed out on a few points and once of their better perimeter defenders.
The adjustment period for the Knicks may take awhile (the Miami Heat can attest to that), but once they’ve learned how to play with each other, the biggest thing they’ll have to worry about is defense. Lin will be able to score and distribute to natural scorers in Carmelo and Amare, JR should take over as the shooting guard and consistently pitch in on offense and Chandler will be there for cleanup work in the post and be effective of the pick and roll. A loss to the Nets looks embarrassing on paper, but the Knicks should be just fine.