The Knicks’ 100-87 win over the New Orleans Hornets Sunday afternoon began a breezy stretch for the team. Over the next six days, the Knicks will play just one game. In fact, over the next ten days, the Knicks only have three games on their schedule. How is it that the NBA slated such a break in the middle of the season for a big-market, high-seeded team?
Jan. 7, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) is congratulated by teammates against the Boston Celtics during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Of course, the Knicks will not just be spending their off days sitting on couches, resting their legs. Part of their time off this week will be spent traveling to London where the Knicks will take part in an NBA showcase, playing the Detroit Pistons. There’s no official word on the Knicks’ travel plans, but they will probably leave for London on Tuesday, practice and prepare on Wednesday, play Thursday, and then perhaps leave England for the U.S on Friday (this itinerary is a complete guess).
However, after they’re done with their London experience, the fact still remains that the Knicks will play just two games from Friday, January 18 to Friday, January 25. Any NBA team would welcome as many days off between games with open arms, but for an older team like the Knicks, it is a mid-season blessing.
The three days off until the Knicks play the Pistons in London can be used to rest various injuries and welcome new members to the rotation. Amar’e Stoudemire – who just received an increase in his minutes cap – can give his knee more time to get back to normal while also practicing with the team; Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni can rest their weary legs from undeniable exhaustion; Carmelo Anthony can now eat a cheeseburger and perhaps help out his own aching limps.
An important development in all of this is Iman Shumpert’s potential return to the court. Shumpert will travel to London with the team, practice, and possibly play in Thursday’s game. Shumpert will not only get a chance to jell with his teammates, but his return to the court will be a welcome sight. Shumpert can boost a backcourt that has been struggling of late, while also providing a boost of defensive intensity on the perimeter that has been lacking. While he’s not a complete point guard, and the offense will likely struggle if he has full control of the reins, Shumpert can still provide some minutes of rest for Kidd and Prigioni who have had to play heavy minutes in Raymond Felton’s stead.
Following Thursday’s game, the Knicks will have another three days off before they play the Nets on Monday, and then another three days off before taking on the Celtics on Thursday. The six days will be enough for the Knicks to at least fit in two practices, and more importantly, getting players healthy. Rasheed Wallace is also supposed to start working out in the next week, so the time off can allow him practice and rehab time to hopefully return to the court soon.
For a team that’s been struggling, the light two weeks ahead could be greatly beneficial for the Knicks to regain their composure.