Christmas Countdown: Player in the spotlight


Continuing through Dec. 23, ESPNNewYork.com is running a series called "Christmas Countdown" examining a hot topic each day that involves "your New ... York ... Knicks!" as PA announcer Mike Walczewski says with slight pauses and strong punctuation.

Today's Hot Topic: Player in the spotlight

There's an inherent spotlight that comes with playing in New York. So most Knicks on the roster -- in one way or another -- could feel the heat from the fan base this year.

That being said, Instead of focusing on one player in the spotlight, we're going to throw out a few names and explain why they could be feeling the heat this season.

MIKE D'ANTONI: Of course, D'Antoni hasn't put on a uniform since 1989. But he'll be the most scrutinized Knick this season -- by far. D'Antoni enters the season in the final year of a four-year contract. Being a lame-duck coach brings inherent pressures on its own.

But D'Antoni ratcheted up the heat on himself and his team when he said last week that the Knicks have the talent to compete for a championship.

The Knicks, of course, were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the postseason. It was their first playoff appearance in six seasons.

The franchise has not won a playoff game since 2001, and they haven't won an NBA title since 1973.

Still, D'Antoni feels that his front line (Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler) gives him a chance to compete for the title.

Which brings us to our next Knick in the spotlight....

TYSON CHANDLER: The 7-1 center is being counted on to transform the Knicks from a team that treated defense as an afterthought to a team that can get stops.

It's a tough task, to say the least. But that's why the Knicks signed him to a four-year, $56 million deal.

What if it doesn't happen? What if the Knicks don't improve on the 105.7 points per game they allowed opponents last year? Will assistant Mike Woodson -- who was hired to coach defense -- get the blame? Maybe. D'Antoni will surely take some heat as well. But Chandler will also face some criticism.

CARMELO ANTHONY & AMARE STOUDEMIRE: These two struggled at times to adjust to one another on the offensive end last season. Both ended the season in the top six in the league in scoring, but Stoudemire's average dipped nearly three points with Anthony aboard.

Can they figure out how to co-exist this season? With Chandler in the paint, Stoudemire gets to move to the power forward spot, which should make things easer. But if these two continue to struggle with chemistry issues, both starts will have to bear some criticism.

TONEY DOUGLAS: If we were writing about which players are under the biggest spotlight today, Douglas would be at the top of the list. But that changes with Baron Davis aboard.

Assuming Davis comes back healthy from a back ailment, Douglas should slide into a complimentary role. So he won't feel the spotlight as acutely as he would as the team's starting point guard. If Davis can't come back healthy and Douglas has to run the point, then all bets are off.

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