NEW YORK -- We're going to get to the top five things to watch in the 2010-11 season for the New York Knicks, but first we must begin with a caveat: There is really one major thing to watch for, and you won't see it by watching the Knicks.
You'll have to keep one eye focused on Denver, where Carmelo Anthony has been a dormant volcano -- a majority of the month of October has passed without him so much as uttering a peep about how unhappy he is that the Nuggets have not granted his wish to be traded.
No one can be quite sure exactly what goes on behind closed doors, but sources have told ESPN.com that coach George Karl has been pushing his front office for a resolution to the Melo matter sooner rather than later.
So even if the season begins with Anthony wearing a Nuggets uniform, don't be fooled into thinking everything is copacetic in the Mile High City. The potential is there for that situation to turn sour at any moment and for Anthony and/or Karl to push the situation to a boiling point.
If and when that happens, expect the trade talk to be quickly rekindled.
With that in mind, let's have a look at five key factors for the Knicks as they set out on their quest to break a nine-season streak of failing to reach 40 victories:
Or more specifically, who starts at shooting guard? The leading choices as the clock ticked down to the season opener Wednesday night in Toronto were Wilson Chandler, whose length (he is 6-foot-8), versatility (he can play the 3, 4 or 5) and experience (he is a three-year veteran and thus has more sweat equity built up) are all positives but whose so-so offensive skill set is not what a team usually wants from its No. 1 shooting guard; and Toney Douglas, whose ballhandling skills and improved offensive aggression in the latter part of the preseason left Mark D'Antoni with his current quandary. Rookie Landry Fields, coming off a solid preseason, is also in the mix.
2: Gallinari: Can he hoop, or is he hype?
It cannot go without mentioning how one year ago D'Antoni described the 22-year-old as the greatest shooter he had ever seen, after which Gallinari went out and backed up that statement to a certain degree by sinking 186 3-pointers, making 39 percent of his attempts. But Gallinari has failed to develop a strong enough post-up move to use to his advantage against the smaller defenders he will frequently see, and his one-on-one game is limited to being able to pop free of a defender guarding him too closely to set himself up for something from the 20- to 23-foot range. Those shortcomings mean he is still considered mostly a one-trick pony in opponents' scouting reports, and he is defended accordingly.
3. Mozgov: What of this international man of mystery?
You want a comparison? I'll give you the one that seems most fitting: Rik Smits. Remember how Smits could pop outside and nail the 18-footer? How he was deft with both hands around the basket? How he was tall but didn't always use a combination of height and passion to corral as many rebounds or block as many shots as he could have? How he could run the floor fluidly but without super speed? How he was a better than average free throw shooter? That's Mozgov in a nutshell. The key for him will be staying away from the reaching-in, hand-checking, moving-screen and cutting-off-the-baseline fouls that get so many NBA neophytes into foul trouble on their first lap around the league.
4. Will we ever see Eddy Curry again?
Well, you are certain to see his name pop up in trade rumors more than you'll see his enlarged frame appear in actual game action. Reporters watched him shoot jumpers with injured teammate Kelenna Azubuike (likely out at least four more weeks as he continues rehabbing from a torn patella tendon) on Monday, then saw an unfamiliar flash of quickness as he bolted for the door before anyone could ask him whether he was making any progress in coming back from a pulled hamstring. (He declined a request to return to the floor to be interviewed.) This much we can tell you: Curry appears to be a minimum of 20 pounds overweight, and that is being generous. The actual number is probably closer to 40. D'Antoni clearly has no use for him after going through this ritual for a third season running, and the only reason to get excited if you actually see Curry on the floor is that it could be a signal he is being showcased (to show if he is actually fit enough to appear in a game) for a trade.
5. What is this team's ceiling?
Truthfully, nobody can say for sure, because there is such a small body of work to judge this group by. But the Knicks have set qualifying for the playoffs as their primary goal, which means they'll likely need to be a .500 team to get that accomplished. That is what's known as setting the bar low, and it is a lot different from what we'd be hearing from them if they had succeeded in their two-year, dynamite-fueled quest to land LeBron James as a free agent in July. We really won't know this team's ceiling until we see what it looks like by the time the trade deadline has passed. And if the Knicks succeed in what is truly their No. 1 quest -- to secure the services of Anthony -- they immediately become a top 4-5 team in the East with a realistic chance of advancing to the second round of the playoffs and perhaps further. So stay tuned on that one.
Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.