1) The New York Knicks are 16-9 after only winning 29 game last season. Real or a mirage?
Every Monday during the NBA season The Hoops Manifesto and its Bloguin bredren team up to answer some of the burning questions from the world of the NBA. In this edition we decide are the Knicks for real, is the Hornets time in New Orleans up and who are our surprise players so far.
Contributors: Jeff Fox from The Hoops Manifesto, Aaron Hodges, Peaceman and LIVES from Knicks Fanatics, Diego from Leaving It All On The Court, Philip from Orlando Magic Daily, Deborah Horton from Hawks Highlights, College Wolf from TWolves Blog and brumbygg With Malice.
"Mirage. They are 11-4 versus under .500 teams so far. That being said, they are a much improved team and should have no trouble making it in to the playoffs. Getting past the first round, however, would be a stretch." - Jeff Fox
"The Knicks are for real and most of the teams they have beaten are real bad. The Knicks are beating losing teams in the soft part of their schedule. It has been a real thrill for Knicks fans, but we must be for real too. Our wins have come against teams which are young, undermanned, defensively deficient and/or just plain suck. However, winning carries a momentum and builds a confidence that can carry over into contests with better teams. The Knicks best attribute is that they play the full 48 minutes. A good team that does not play and pay attention most of the game will get a rude awakening. But the Knicks will have trouble against teams that play real defense, excellent interior play and play with the experience of winning squads." - LIVES
"Mirage definitely. Outside of the Hornets, who have they played? Bobcats, Pistons, Nets, Raptors, TWolves, Wizards, Clippers – come on, not exactly your top tier of teams. And the only other “real” team they played, the Hawks, they lost that one by nine." - Deborah Horton
"Heck yes they are for real! They've won like 27 games in a row, which is the first time since the NBA-ABA merger. Ok, ok, joking. And yes I realize they have played some bad teams. But they are taking care of business and winning! That's half the battle right there in the grind that is the NBA regular season. Even if they slow down a bit when their schedule gets harder, they are surely playoff bound." - College Wolf
"The Knicks are real(ly better than last year). While no one is going to see them go deep into the playoffs, they are looking like a playoff team. No mirage there." - brumbygg
"The Knicks have had the perfect mix of an easy schedule and opposing teams best player hurt during this run. This week they play Denver, Boston and Miami. My prediction is that the Knicks will get embarrassed all three games and bring them back to reality." - Peaceman
"In the East, if you can stay above .500 you are likely going to the playoffs. I do not think the Knicks will drop below .500. In that sense New York is real. Are they are threat to the Big Three (or Four... maybe Five) in the East? I am not so sure. Raymond Felton has never proven he can keep up the pace of play heis at and Amar'e Stoudemire, while showing improvement on defense,is not exactly a guy you trust leading your team yet. The Knicks are doing what you are supposed to be doing in defeating the bad teams of the league. This week will tell us a lot more about them." - Philip
"A mirage. People want to say that the Miami Heat's latest winning streak is a mirage since they have played some scrub team, but it's only fair to hold the New York Knicks to the same standard. They are playing their best basketball in recent memory, and they figure to be a low playoff seed after 82 games. It's definitely great for the NBA to have New York playing well, and they can become even better if they sign Carmelo Anthony." - Diego Quezada
"In the words of Amar'e Stoudemire, "the Knicks are back." Their record is not a mirage but they have been beating up on teams with lesser talent. The victory against the Nuggets on Sunday was impressive but they have two more measuring stick games this week against the Celtics on Wednesday and the Miami Heat on Friday. Are they a good team? Without a doubt. Are they a contender? That remains to be seen but make no mistake the Knicks have turned the corner and are once again relevant. I almost forgot what that feels like." - Aaron Hodges
2) Does the New Orleans Hornets being bought by the NBA spell the end for them in New Orleans? What should the League do with the team?
"I'm all for contraction. Get rid of the team (and a few more if you like) and subsequently raise the level of competition in the League." - Jeff Fox
"What should the League do with the team? This is highly unlikely to spell the end and more likely to lead to stabilization until they find a ready, willing and able buyer. Although, I believe they will stay in New Orleans and eventually rebuild their brand, it would be nice if they moved them to Newark, New Jersey after the Nets go to Brooklyn. I'm just saying." - LIVES
"It’s not good that’s for sure, but I’m not sure it’s the end. Maybe the end in New Orleans though. The league should find a buyer even if it means moving the team. A team owned by the NBA just isn’t a good thing for anyone." - Deborah Horton
"Hard to tell at this point, but most likely. The league will want to keep the franchise as valuable as possible, and for that to happen they'll probably have to sell to a bidder that wants to move them elsewhere. Ideally, the league will be able to find a buyer in the New Orleans area, but I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen." - College Wolf
"In the plus column for NO, David Stern has as much respect for George Shinn as Kevin Garnett has for Charlie Villanueva. If the league can make the Bees successful in NO, Stern gets to make Shinn look bad and the commish has never had a problem with that. From a purely logical, financial point of view, the team is outta there ASAP. KC is where the smart money is going, but a little voice in my head keeps whispering "Vegas"..." - brumbygg
"If anything, the sale to the NBA is a last ditch effort to save the NBA in New Orleans. It is not likely now that the Hornets will trade Chris Paul as the league wants it to be an attractive franchise for a potential buyer. The league is surely scouring New Orleans for someone to "save the franchise" and keep it in the Crescent City. But in all likelihood, they will sell it to someone upon assurance that any city they move to would be ready for an NBA team." - Philip
"The NBA's purchase of the Hornets doesn't necessarily point to the end of an NBA franchise in the Big Easy. In fact, David Stern would probably prefer to keep the Hornets in New Orleans. The League should let a willing owner take over the the team, unlike George Shinn, the cheap ex-owner of the Hornets who drove the franchise out of Charlotte." - Diego Quezada
3) Last week we named our surprise (for better or worse) teams - this week, our surprise players.
(two people answered Darko Milicic but didn't write anything interesting to back it up. So instead you get this lovely picture of the man himself.)
"While he appears to be the popular choice here, I'm also going to go with Amar'e Stoudemire. The fact that he's putting up the numbers that he is without the aid of Steve Nash is a surprise. The fact the he's become a team leader is even more shocking." - Jeff Fox
"I'm pretty sure that I won't see this name from anyone else, so I'm going to put on my green-coloured glasses and say.... Shaq. The 18-4 Celtics (playing Charlotte as I'm writing) have become a better team this season and part of this is due to the Big Leprechaun. Most people outside of the fold, and a few inside it, thought that Shaq was going to be selfish, immature and tear the team apart. Instead, he has accepted his role, played the minutes, done his job, but maybe more importantly, has lightened things up a tiny bit and the team is responding." - brumbygg
"Amare Stoudemire. He's playing so well people are asking "Steve Who?"" - Peaceman
"I have been pleasantly surprised by Brandon Bass' play this year after sitting out most of last year buried on the bench. He has a knack for scoring and is always looking to put the ball in the basket. His defense still needs improvement, but he has improved enough to gain Stan Van Gundy's trust. Outside of the Magic, I have to say I have been surprised by Amar'e Stoudemire. He has really taken to the leadership role in New York and has that city very hopeful for a playoff berth. Whether he can keep it up for the remainder of the season is another issue, but he has certainly outplayed himself so far." - Philip
"I'm going with Amar'e Stoudemire. Critics said that he wouldn't be the same player without Steve Nash, but he has managed to average 26 points per game thus far. The Raymond Felton/Stoudemire chemistry is nothing to sneeze at, but what's most impressive about STAT's play is his rebounding. For years in Phoenix, Stoudemire would bewilder fans by only grabbing seven or eight boards a game with all of his size and athleticism. But now, STAT averages nine boards a game and has the Knicks relevant again." - Diego Quezada
"At the risk of sounding like a homer fan boy for the Knicks, I have to give the nod to Amar'e Stoudemire. On Sunday he broke a New York Knicks record for consecutive games with 30+ points. Sure big things were expected of STAT when he signed his $100 Million contract but I don't think anybody foresaw the carnage that he's thrusted upon his opponents so far this year. Perhaps equally as important to the Knicks' success is the leadership he's brought to the team.You didn't hear much about those qualities during his time in Phoenix. If he can keep producing at this rate or close to it he will surely be a top consideration for League MVP as he continues to resurrect a once fleeting franchise." - Aaron Hodges
4) Game of the week - pick the winner - Wed, Dec 15th - Boston @ New York.
Record so far: 3-3
Consensus: Celtics (seven votes to one)