Commentary

Knicks' Top 5 stories of 2011

Trio of Carmelo, Amare and Tyson lead our Bockers' end-of-year best list

Updated: December 19, 2011, 4:45 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

We asked ESPNNewYork.com's writers to rank their five top stories of 2011. First up: Ian Begley, who shares his Knicks picks. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

1. Knicks acquire Carmelo Anthony

After months of Melo-drama, the Knicks finally got their man. On Feb. 23, they formally introduced Brooklyn-born and Baltimore-bred Carmelo Anthony as a member of the team.

Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire made the Knicks relevant again ... finally.

Anthony, who was acquired in a three-team, 13-player blockbuster, helped lead the Knicks to their first playoff berth in six seasons. Overall, the Knicks went 14-18 with Anthony in tow. They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. To land Anthony, the Knicks shipped out important pieces, including Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.

They also received veteran point guard Chauncey Billups in the deal but recently waived him under the amnesty clause to acquire Tyson Chandler.

2. Amare Stoudemire makes Knicks relevant

Months before he hit the Garden floor for the first time as a Knick, Stoudemire made a bold proclamation.

"The Knicks are back," he said at his introductory press conference. Then he made it so.

The Knicks struggled to a 3-8 start in Stoudemire's first season but climbed back to contention in the Eastern Conference, thanks mostly to Stoudemire.

He scored 20-plus points in 26 straight games between late November and mid-January and hovered in the top five in scoring for most of the season. But Stoudemire's scoring average dipped after Anthony's arrival; he averaged 25.3 on the season but scored just 20.8 points per game in April.

3. Knicks add Tyson Chandler

Many assumed the Knicks would save their cap space for the summer of 2012 when Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard can test free agency. But Glen Grunwald shrewdly realized the Knicks wouldn't have enough money to sign a superstar next summer, so he went after one of the biggest prizes on the market in 2011.

Grunwald landed Chandler in a three-team sign-and-trade this month. Waiving Billups, a veteran point guard, was a price Grunwald was willing to pay to land Chandler, who should improve the Knicks' porous interior defense exponentially.

"He brings everything that we didn't have," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "... We got a lot better, real quick."

4. Knicks make playoffs for first time since 2004

The Knicks made the postseason this past spring for the first time since a Lenny Wilkens-coached, Stephon Marbury-led outfit was swept by the Nets in 2004.

They earned the sixth seed in the East in April, drawing the veteran Celtics.

Many thought the series would be competitive. In the first two games, it was. But injuries to Billups and Stoudemire and a lack of experience ultimately caught up to the Knicks. The Celtics swept Stoudemire & Co., winning the final two games by an average of 14.5 points.

The Knicks have not won a playoff game since 2001.

5. Mike D'Antoni enters last season as Donnie Walsh leaves

D'Antoni insists that he has no problem entering this season with no guarantee that he'll coach the team next season.

"It's not a big deal," says D'Antoni, who is in the final year of a four-year contract.

But if the Knicks, with all their star power, struggle this season, D'Antoni is sure to feel the heat. Especially with the retired Phil Jackson looming as a possible replacement.

And the head coach isn't the only employee without much job security. Senior vice president Grunwald is serving as interim general manager in place of Walsh, who left the Knicks over the summer when he could not agree to terms with Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan. It is unclear whether Grunwald will be named the full-time general manager this season.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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