MIAMI -- Following Wednesday night's first-round exit, Steve Novak still said there's no place he'd rather play than New York.
"That's for sure," he said after the Knicks' Game 5 loss. "I can't think back to a more fun year I’ve had playing basketball when you have so much fun playing in a place that's where you want to be. And for me, that's definitely New York."
From Feb. 6 to the end of the regular season, Novak created his own persona in New York with his Mr. Discount Triple Check celebration after making every 3-pointer. During that stretch, he averaged nearly three makes in around six attempts per game, and he finished as the league's most accurate long-distance shooter (47.2 percent).
But then the Heat came along, basically neutralizing him for five straight games. Interestingly, the Heat were one of the worst teams at defending the three in the regular season, but they definitely made sure to focus on Novak, with every player yelling his name on defense to make sure they knew where he was at all times. That started with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra telling his team that Novak had the quickest release in the NBA, and proceeded with Novak's regular matchup, Dwyane Wade, his former teammate at Marquette, not giving him a sliver of space.
The Knicks have to do better homework preparing for the Heat in next year's playoffs, if they face each other, so Novak can get going. But, of course, the big question is: will he be back? While he loves New York, he should attract a lot of interest in free agency starting July 1.
The Knicks will need to convince the unrestricted free agent to sign for less because his value went up this season, even though he lacked a midrange game and disappeared in the playoffs (That also falls on Mike Woodson's playcalling and adjustments.) Novak also has to do a better job working off screens like a shooting guard. He has the foot speed, set up and release to play like that position.
Reflecting on the series, Novak said the Knicks have the core to beat the Heat looking ahead, but they need to build more consistency next season.
"We're not there yet," he said. "Miami is a team that I think went through the playoffs last year, had their ups and had their downs, and they've been through a lot together. I wouldn't say this core has been through as much, but I think this was a good first step, this season and this series. Is the core there to build it? Yes, I think so, but not to beat Miami yet."
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