Mar 30, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) rest on the court against the Golden State Warriors in the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Knicks won 89-84. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks: The Return To The Postseason

Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks are in the process of standing up and brushing themselves off after an absolute free fall from the second seed in the 2012-13 playoffs to a dismal 37-45 record and missing the playoffs the very next year. In the past 12 months, the Knicks have gone through a tumultuous shift in both player personnel, coaching, and front office management.

With a new head coach, a new team president, and new schedule released, the Knicks are more than prepared and welcoming of the fresh start.

We’ll pick up the timeline when Jason Kidd retired. Then someone in the front office thought it sounded like a good idea to trade away three draft picks and three more players to acquire Andrea Bargnani, who hasn’t played a full season in four years and at 7’0” still hasn’t figured out he needs to be pulling down more than three rebounds per game.

Then the Knicks replaced its general manager, its team president, and its head coach. Next to go was point guard Raymond Felton and center Tyson Chandler via a trade to the Dallas Mavericks for veterans Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert.

Essentially, a complete turnover of the franchise in a matter of about one year.

Now that Carmelo made his choice to return to play his home games in Madison Square Garden, the proverbial dust seems to be settled. The team is led by a basketball genius in Phil Jackson, and coached by one of the league’s most respected veterans in Derek Fisher.

The team is stocked with several quality young players like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early, both acquired in recent drafts who are ready to provide depth at multiple positions. So what can we expect from the New York Knicks this year?

The NBA released the 2014-15 season schedule on Wednesday night for all to view, analyze, get excited for, and complain about. Upon first glance at the Knicks schedule, it’s clear that the team will be tested from the get-go.

They open the season with a bang; a nationally-televised game in New York hosting the revamped Chicago Bulls, who appear ready to contend for an Eastern Conference title. The very next night, the Knicks have a meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers, where Carmelo and Co. will be dealing with Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and potentially Kevin Love.

The NBA schedule gods weren’t exactly smiling on the Knicks for opening week.

Overall, the Knicks will see the Cavs and the Bulls a total of three times each. They’ll see a five-game road trip, and they’ll game plan for 20 back-to-back games throughout the year.

The back-to-backs may be concerning for a Knicks roster which currently sits in the seventh spot for oldest average age in the NBA. When the season starts, New York will have seven players older than 30 on the active roster.

Derek Fisher will be expected to adapt and see that his guys get rest, while plugging in young players to pick up the slack when needed.

The Eastern Conference seems to be made of an entirely different fabric in 2014 compared to last season. The Indiana Pacers lost Lance Stephenson in the offseason, and a heartbreaking leg injury during a USA Basketball scrimmage will force Paul George to miss the upcoming season.

The Miami Heat said farewell to King James, who returned to his roots with the Cavs. The Chicago Bulls have healed, rebuilt and are ready to contend at the highest level again.

The Brooklyn Nets are surrounded by question marks. All of this means one thing for the New York Knicks: this season could be an opportunity to surprise a lot of people and quickly return to the Eastern Vonference playoffs.

They have the talent, roster depth and coaching/front office brain power to do damage in the Atlantic Division. Carmelo will still be Carmelo, and I’ll be interested to see how he performs after losing more than a few pounds in the offseason.

He’s been one of the top scorers in the NBA every single year since he traded Syracuse orange for the NBA logo 11 years ago. With his new slimmer frame, I expect to see him being far more active on the court, with and without the ball in his hands.

“He’s just tenacious with his training,’’ Idan Ravin, Anthony’s personal trainer told the New York Post. “He’s working out very hard, ramped it up, being even more meticulous. He’s been super diligent on his diet, extra cardio, rest. A lot of amazing people were hired [by the Knicks] and he’s excited about it. It’s another example of Melo trying to be super prepared.’’

The 2014-15 NBA season is packed with storylines, with the Knicks poised to be one of them. The championship window is closing for Carmelo Anthony, a guy who has earned every other accolade short of a league MVP award. He knows it’s his time, for which he’s prepared.

The offseason hires, draft selections and trade acquisitions show that the Knicks are preparing as well.

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Tags: Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks

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