Commentary

Report Card: Knicks making strides

MeloDrama aside, the first postseason berth since 2004 is within reach

Updated: February 18, 2011, 2:00 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- They have remained relevant on the local sports landscape for the longest time in five years, as much (actually, even more so) for their pursuit of Carmelo Anthony as for their pursuit of the franchise's first postseason berth since 2004.

In recent years, pitchers and catchers dominated the local sports talk airwaves at this point in February.

Now, just try to find an hour that goes by without at least some mention of the MeloDrama that has transfixed not only basketball fans in New York, but everyone throughout the NBA.

So if you are using relevance and levels of chatter produced as your barometers, there is no choice but to give the Knicks a collective A as we head into the third quarter of the 82-game NBA season.

But the Knicks cannot be judged on buzz alone, and until there is a resolution to the Anthony trade talks, they can be judged only the way every other NBA team is judged: by their wins and losses.

The Knicks go into the All-Star break with a record of 28-26, a nine-game improvement over where they were at this point a year ago, when Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill were still members of the team, Tracy McGrady had not yet arrived, and the prospect of landing LeBron James in free agency still seemed promising.

They are holding on to the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, two games ahead of a surging Philadelphia 76ers team that could surpass them over the final 28 games and knock them into a first-round playoff matchup with the powerful Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.

They have quality wins over the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, the Chicago Bulls (twice) and the Miami Heat, but they also have lost 10 games to sub-.500 teams -- including particularly egregious defeats coming against Cleveland, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers over the past two months.

There is no telling for sure what they'll look like a week from now, much less two months from now when the playoffs begin. But it appears fairly certain that the playoffs will include them when they commence, which is small victory unto itself after a lost decade following the departure of Patrick Ewing.

So without further ado, let's break down the Knicks, starting from the top, and hand out our first-half report cards.

Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.

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