When you have a dynamic 6-foot-10 power forward in Amar'e Stoudemire and a scoring machine named Carmelo Anthony, the first thing you need sandwiched between two such talents -- almost allergic to playing stifling defense, by the way -- is someone like Tyson Chandler. Sadly, though, it isn't the only thing the New York Knicks need.
They need a legitimate starting point guard. A shooter/scoring guard with decent size wouldn't hurt, either. And it's exactly what they should be desperately searching for if they are to become legitimate championship contenders.
The Knicks are better than they were last season. They are better because of Chandler. Because they have someone who neither needs nor wants the ball unless he's receiving alley-oops. In Chandler, they have a bona fide defender and solid rebounder. Someone who is willing to simply do his job for the sake of the team. Someone, unlike Stoudemire and Anthony, absent of a proverbial monkey on his back because he's already achieved the coveted championship ring.
"I'm ready to go," Anthony said a few days ago. "I can't wait to just get in the gym, get back on the court and to get this season started. We've got things to do. All of us."
Anthony's not lying to anybody.
At this moment, Toney Douglas may be their starting point guard. Landry Fields may start at the two. Iman Shumpert, a rookie, has supposedly garnered the confidence of coach Mike D'Antoni. With an aged, savvy, yet defensively challenged Mike Bibby as their definition of stability in the backcourt, chances are we might be stuck with this crew -- and forced to like it.
Having used the amnesty clause to rid themselves of Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million salary to acquire Chandler, the Knicks didn't have anything left to offer besides the mini mid-level exception of $2.5 million, which wasn't enough to lure Jamal Crawford. Even if they wanted Cleveland Cavaliers' amnesty victim Baron Davis, they probably won't want him now that he's out 8 to 10 weeks with a herniated disk in his back.
Help lies nowhere else at the moment. Yet, since Chandler's arrival, the Knicks have been sauntering around town with their chests sticking out, telling anyone who will listen how much better they are today than last season. They're quick to say how they don't expect to finish just two games above .500 like last year's campaign, how they'll be better than 14-14 in the final 28 games (once Anthony arrived), acting as if the time for a celebration has arrived.
"I don't care," one Knicks' official told me the other day. "We're not a finished product. I know this. But we're better than we were last season and that's the whole point. We're on the upswing. We can beat anybody in this conference."
I'm glad they feel that way.
Because what has arrived is a season of expectations. For the first time since the late 1990s, fans have a reason to expect more than mediocrity from a franchise that hasn't delivered a title since 1973, or even a berth in the NBA Finals since 1999.
Not unless their forward duo with the bloated contracts ignore their backcourt deficiencies and take matters into their own hands, which may be necessary.
At some point, somebody has to stand up and remind Carmelo Anthony, Mr. 25-points-per-game-waiting-to-happen, that since he wanted Broadway, it belongs to him now. They've got to let him know, although many may appreciate him appearing on "The View," they'd like it a lot better if it occurred after he's won something, as opposed to getting swept in the first round by the Celtics.
It's important we remind Stoudemire that while we appreciate him coming to New York -- and that he should be credited with reinvigorating basketball in Gotham City -- there's still unfinished business to attend to. Especially since he could've inched closer to doing so last April had he not injured his back trying to dunk in warmups prior to Game 2 against Boston.
The Knicks are not beating LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with this present crop of guards, despite Chandler's presence in the middle. They're not going to be much of a match for the Celtics, either, because with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce shooting perimeter shots from all over the place, Chandler's area of influence is reduced.
"We're looking," D'Antoni reportedly said last week, when asked about any potential guards available.
Who knows what the Knicks will find in this particular lockout-shortened season?
The answer is, nobody knows. But the Knicks had better find out quick, fast and in hurry.
That is, of course, if they're looking to win a title like they swear they are. Instead of resting on their laurels just because they're competitive again.
Yet, even if the organization feels that way, Anthony and Stoudemire need not even try it.
So says the $20 million both will average annually over the next four years. And a recent history Knicks fans desperately pray they will erase.
Follow Stephen A. Smith on Twitter: @stephenasmith.