The Knicks will today start their thoughest patch of the regular season, with a game at MSG against the Chicago Bulls kicking off a demanding back-to-back-to-back stretch; an unfortunate outcome of 2011's lockout.
After facing off against the Bulls, the Knicks will then travel to Boston, before returning home to take on the New Jersey Nets, who sit only marginally behind the Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings.
Believe me, this three-game stretch will be the defining three games of the 2011-12 season.
This team currently sits at 8-13, 2 games out of the playoffs, a feat that isn't too challenging to achieve in the Eastern Conference. Adding an extra three losses to that record could be disastrous to the Knicks' season. Not only will the Knicks have an even more laughable record, but the confidence hit will be killer. Imagine grinding for three consecutive nights and coming out empty-handed. It would be disastrous.
On the other hand, two or three wins from these next three games could be the start of a sudden turnaround. All of a sudden the Knicks could vault themselves back into the playoff picture heading in to a slightly easier couple of weeks. Not only that but Baron Davis will be able to make his way back on to the floor without the burden of having to be the "saviour" or something ridiculous like that, and instead he will simply be a bonus to a team finally hitting their stride.
Looking at the Knicks recent form (heck, their entire season) would suggest that all three games could be very loseable for the Knicks, but this may not necessarily be the case.
It was only just over a month ago that the Knicks beat the Nets in consecutive pre-season games, before handling the Celtics in their opening day bout, so the Knicks certainly have the capacity to take these teams on. In fact, resident Knick-killer Rajon Rondo may not even play on Friday - due to his injury - so this further improves the Knicks' chances.
The real challenge, though, will be tonight's game against Derrick Rose and his Chicago Bulls.
Chicago have the most wins in the NBA this season - just as they did last season - and are on a tear right now. Dysfunctional offence against this defensive juggernaut would be dire, so the Knicks need to get their offence straight. As for the defensive side of the ball, we can only hope to contain Derrick Rose. In order to do so, I would suggest starting Iman Shumpert ahead of Landry Fields or Toney Douglas, with his main role being to defend Derrick Rose. TD can keep running the point if Coach D'Antoni thinks that's best, but we need Shump's defence.
Regardless of the result tonight, the Knicks will need to put the game behind them going into the next two games.
These three games are the Knicks' best chance to make amends for their horrible start to the season. Theyr'e coming off a win, Melo's back in the lineup and, essentially, it's time to get it going.