Q. I give up, just when I think the Knicks are going to be good, they tank. And just when it looks like it's over, they're good again. Which is it? Where is this team going? (Please, tell me. I can't take much more of this.)
- Seth, Bethpage, N.Y.
A. If only it was that simple.
Face it, there is not going to be a definitive answer until we know where the Knicks are going in the offseason with their coaching situation and where they will wind up from a front-office standpoint (many of the coaches that have been linked to the Knicks clearly would want personnel autonomy).
As for the rocky road, that mostly had to do with a previous coach, Mike D'Antoni, who clearly was brought in to coach one style of play and then was fitted with a mismatched roster to play another style.
For now, it appears the Knicks are following the single-star blueprint, similar to what Mike Woodson had in Atlanta with Joe Johnson. The problem with such a singular approach is that it generally only takes you so far, as pre-Pau Kobe Bryant could have attested to.
With Amare Stoudemire's ailing back and Jeremy Lin now out six weeks, this is Carmelo Anthony's team. Again, the good news is the approach likely will get the Knicks into the playoffs. The bad news is that opponents then can focus on shutting down a single player, hardly having to account for an offensive "system."
But beyond even the stylistic approaches, there is the Amare issue, and it is significant considering the time and money left on his contract. If the back becomes a long-term concern, then the Knicks likely revert back to a team caught with too much money invested in lack of productivity.
To a degree, what you're seeing now from the Knicks won't matter much in the long run. Eventually, it will come down to what Phil Jackson wants, or what John Calipari wants, or whoever emerges as the next Knicks coach.
And it also will come down to the next whim of owner Jim Dolan when it comes overspending again on the trade or free-agent markets.
Basically, it still comes down to your faith in Dolan.
And that remains among the NBA's shakiest propositions.
Q. Kobe wouldn't stop shooting earlier in the season, now we've got Bynum and his 3-pointers. Is Mike Brown already losing this team?
- Sammie, Alhambra, Calif.
A. I don't think Brown ever had this team, or even had a chance to have this team.
You don't want to be the coach who follows the legend, particularly the legend who was the only one to truly get through to Kobe Bryant.
To a degree, Brown was brought in to be what he was in Cleveland, a coach who generally would cater to his superstar and deal with the fallout of a sometimes-unhappy superstar.
Yet through all the soap opera, the Lakers remain a contender, which again will test Brown's ability to make it work in the playoffs, which didn't always turn out so well alongside LeBron James in Cleveland.
I'm not sure any coach outside of one with Phil Jackson's resume could truly emerge in a position of control on the Lakers bench considering how the Buss family is now running the team.
Kobe knows he has the hammer, and Brown knows that, as well. So like almost every coach who has a superstar, Brown tries to make his points elsewhere, hoping Kobe will get the message when Bynum gets disciplined.
Mike Brown is a very good coach; Kobe and the Lakers yearn for a great one.
Q. So here we go again, teams in the East that don't deserve to make the playoffs and good teams that are going to go missing in the West. Do we need to re-seed?
- Matt, Baytown, Texas
A. Actually, for the rare time in recent years, I don't think it will be an issue. It actually looks like all eight playoff teams in the East will finish at .500 or better.
But your point, based on your address, is well-taken, regarding Western Conference teams such as the Rockets possibly being shut out again from the playoffs.
There simply is no easy way to make it work, based on playoff programming and scheduling needs, when it comes to one conference being down. This season, though, perhaps because of the compacted 66-game schedule, there seemingly won't be enough time for a collapse by one of the East contenders.
Not that that will necessarily soothe the one or two quality Western Conference teams that fail to advance to the postseason.
Q. Will the playoffs be the same this season as last season?
- Susan, St. Paul, Minn.
A. Yes, you still will have to win four games per series to advance.
Oh, the playoff schedule?
Yes, the first round will be more compact, with back-to-back games built into that portion of the schedule. And teams will finish the regular season on Thursday, April 26, with some starting the postseason on Saturday, April 28.
More than in previous seasons, I think you could see D-League-level lineups during the closing days of the season, particularly from road teams. So caveat emptor with those plans for seeing Dwyane Wade or LeBron James in Washington on April 26. You'll probably have a better chance of seeing Eddy Curry and Terrel Harris.
Q. Wasn't Rasheed Wallace going to sign with the Lakers or the Heat? Come on Ira, everyone knows there's a need for 'Sheed.
- Steve, Tigard, Ore.
A. Everyone but Wallace himself, who now is indicating he is done. He always came off as the type that once he walked away, he would stay away.