Commentary

Knicks ready for Dream Week II

With the Celtics and Heat coming to town, the Knicks are ready to face the NBA's elite

Updated: December 15, 2010, 3:08 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, NY -- It was billed as "Dream Week" two seasons ago. And maybe the title fit for New York Knicks fans. But it was more like a nightmare for Mike D'Antoni.

The Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics were coming to town, giving fans a chance to see Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Boston's "Big Three" play at Madison Square Garden in a five-day span.

The opposing stars didn't disappoint; Bryant set a Garden scoring record with 61 in the opening act, James hung 52 on the Knicks two nights later and Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for 63 to close the week.

The Knicks finished "Dream Week" 0-3 en route to a 32-win season.

"It was a dream for some people and nightmares for others, depending on how you look at it," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said on Tuesday, recalling the hellish stretch in February 2009. "I thought we played well [but] we couldn't come up with the wins because, obviously, those teams were better. They come into the Garden, they want to look good, they did look good. When that happens, usually the best team wins and that's what happened the last couple of years. Hopefully it's different this time."

It is different this time.

This time, the Knicks are more than just a sacrificial starting five for the NBA's elite. They've won eight straight for the first time since 1994-95, including a quality win over Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets on Sunday to kick of the 2010 version of "Dream Week."

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesOn Friday, LeBron James will play in the New York for time since signing with the Heat this summer.
The week continues with a matchup at home against the Celtics on Wednesday and concludes Friday night against the Miami Heat at the Garden. It will be James' first Garden visit since he turned down the Knicks and took his talents to South Beach in July.

"It's a good week for us to find out where we are," Knicks president and GM Donnie Walsh said on Tuesday.

Instead of Dream Week, it's far more interesting to discuss reality with the suddenly sizzling Knicks.

D'Antoni's club rebounded from a troubling 3-8 start to reel off 13 of 14 and pull within four games of the first-place Celtics in the Atlantic Division. Walsh's plan to sacrifice wins for cap space the past two years seems to be coming to fruition.

"That's what I thought we had to do in New York to get back up to a contending level. So far, I like what I see from the players we have here right now," Walsh said.

Sure, the Knicks didn't land James last summer. But Amare Stoudemire looks like one of the top players in the league, having scored 30 or more points in a franchise-record eight straight games. He and Raymond Felton have developed a nice chemistry on the pick-and-roll, as evidenced by Felton's season-high 17 assists in the win over Denver on Sunday.

"I'm not surprised at all to be honest with you," Stoudemire said when asked about the Knicks' turnaround. "It's something that we worked on in training camp and in the beginning of the year."

Eleven of the Knicks' 13 wins during their recent streak were against teams with sub-.500 records. Including the Denver game, the Knicks play 10 of 14 against teams with winning records, so the next four weeks are seen as a barometer of sorts for Walsh's club.

The tough stretch continues with Boston at home on Wednesday and Miami on Friday.

You can call it "Dream Week II" if you want.

But, for the first time in a long time with the Knicks, it's more interesting to talk about reality.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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