After a very promising start the wheels seem to be coming off a little bit for the New York Knicks. Whilst the drop in form isn't considered critical yet, there are some signs that are concerning. Injuries and lack of discipline seem to be costing the Knicks, the two things people were fearful of before the season began. It's well documented that this is the oldest team in the NBA. With that comes the inevitable questions of whether a team compiled of mostly thirty-somethings can sustain an 82 game season without some injury problems along the way. It started off reasonably well, the experience of the older statesmen in the Knicks team were providing a calming influence. In particular Jason Kidd, who has allowed Carmelo Anthony to flourish by providing the team with leadership and taking some of the responsibility off Anthony. Rasheed Wallace also provided the Knicks with a valuable contribution off the bench, especially when you consider he's been out of the game for so long. He's provided good rebounding and 3 point shooting off the bench, along with solid defence we've come to expect from Sheed. Things have started to unravel as of late for the Knicks, going 5-8 in their last 13. They were never in the game last night against the Bulls, the third time the Bulls have stifled them with fantastic ball movement and pressure defence that the Knicks seem to have no answer for. They got it reasonably close in garbage time but in truth this was never a game the Knicks got remotely close to winning. So, just what is going wrong? They've been unlucky with injuries, with the much improved Raymond Felton going down, along with Rasheed. Not once this season have the Knicks been able to call upon their strongest unit. With Shumpert working his way back and the limitations Amare Stoudemire is under coming back from another knee injury. His integration back into the team has been cause for concern, many saying his relationship with Carmelo will never thrive whilst they're on the court together. The Knicks rely on their 3 point shooting to keep them in games and that has tailed off as of late. Steve Novak has been almost anonymous through this poor stretch and it's critical that he finds his touch again if this Knicks team is to be successful. As a whole the team's shooting has declined, this has resulted in more isolations and this makes the Knicks offense very predictable and if Anthony struggles, as he did last night, then the whole team suffers as a result. Anthony has been poor in his last 2 appearances, Luol Deng was relentless defensively last night. Pressuring Anthony into bad decisions and almost always contested his shots. Anthony finished with 29 points but most of those came when the game was already decided. The Knicks' discipline has also been a cause for concern. The game against the Boston Celtics in particular was a clear indication that frustrations can get the better of this team at any given moment. The Celtics, Garnett in particular, are notorious for their trash-talking and rubbing their opponents up the wrong way. Anthony took exception to how Garnett was behaving and let him know in no uncertain terms. Whether Anthony's poor shooting night had something to do with it we don't know. Anthony was ejected and was given a one-game suspension by the NBA for his actions after the game, confronting Garnett as he was getting on the team bus. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks and Anthony in particular can keep their cool when they visit Boston in the upcoming weeks. There have been some positives in this run for the Knicks. The play of J.R Smith has been particularly encouraging. He has provided the Knicks with strong scoring off the bench and has emerged as a leading candidate for the 6th man of the year award. He has a much better attitude this year than he has ever had throughout his career, becoming much stronger on the defensive side of the ball. Another positive is the return of two of their long-term injuries and starters from last season, Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire. Amare is taking his time to get integrated into the lineup, it will take time for him to get familiar with his new role of coming off the bench. Whether he returns to the starters role or not remains to be seen. I have no doubt that during crunch time in big games he will be on the floor. The Knicks must be careful with his ailing knees. Managing his minutes is key to this, the last thing the Knicks need is Amare turning into another Greg Oden due to mismanagement of the injury. Shumpert's return will be a huge plus for the Knicks. He is a lock-down defender who can hold is own guarding the top Shooting Guards in the league. His minutes will also be managed but his return to the starting lineup is imperative to the Knicks success as Ronnie Brewer is very limited and doesn't play many minutes. The addition of Kenyon Martin could help the Knicks. There is talk of interest in both parties and if Martin is healthy he would provide a sustainable scoring option off the bench, particularly with Marcus Camby suffering another injury during the week and is struggling to stay healthy. One thing is for sure, the Knicks need everybody fit and firing on all cylinders if they are to have any chance of defeating the Heat, who are head and shoulders above anything in the Eastern Conference. The wheels are wobbling in New York. Whether they come off entirely or not, remains to be seen. Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_
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