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Gameday Interview with a True "Knicks Fanatic" | January

As the Oklahoma City prepare to take on the New York Knicks tonight at the Ford Center, I was granted the opportunity to conduct an interview with http://www.knicksfanaticsblog.com/ of the Bloguin Sports Network. We all know what the Thunder need to do in order to preserve a victory, but here you will find insight from the opposition. Take a look below, head over to their site later on to read my interview with them, and then enjoy tonight's game, where Oklahoma City will look to avenge a December loss in Madison Square Garden.

Thunder Ballers (TB): After a very nice start, the Knicks have now lost 5 straight games, including a tough one to the Sacramento Kings last week at home. What have you seen gone wrong recently?

Knicks Fanatic (KF): The Knicks' success has been largely based on a collective commitment to consistent effort on both ends of the floor.  Until recently, the Knicks committed to the little things individually -- diving for loose balls, blocking shots and steals.  Their effort covered up the fact that they had no perimeter D, few solid defensive principles applied inconsistently, not enough size and an impractically short rotation.  Additionally, the Knicks began to focus a little more on player and ball movement to avoid Amar'e attempting to do too much in iso situations.  

Until last night against the Spurs, the Knicks' effort has declined.  Couple that with the fact that they can no longer catch the better teams off-guard -- now they know that in order to beat the Knicks they must play some d and hustle for much of the game.

TB: Do you think that all of the Carmelo Anthony trade talks have become a distraction to New York as of late? I know that the New Jersey Nets were being discussed as the main possibility, but with all of the talk that he really only wants to sign an extension with the Knicks, how do you see all of this playing out as the season progresses?

KF: You really can't know the impact of the 'Melo trade rumors without getting into the players' heads or interviewing them.  With that said, what they have accomplished positively on the court requires a mindset dedicated to performing with consistently high energy and ownership of the team fate.  Of course, the notion that management is not entirely committed to some of its players -- reportedly including two starters, Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields -- must detract from the players' energy level and sense of commitment.  They are professionals, but they are only human.

Still, I doubt the trade talk has had as much impact as the return of Danilo Gallinari to the starting line up and the nagging injuries which have been piling up during this long first half of the season.  When Danilo left the lineup because of his mild knee injury, Wilson Chandler became totally unleashed.  He was coming into his own previously after spending too much time taking tres, but with Gallo back in the starting rotation, Chandler has lost his rhythm and mojo.  The Knicks have invested too much marketing into Gallo's potential and Gallo seems to close to D'Antoni for the Knicks to admit that Gallo is not a starter and his play is too inconsistent.  Since Gallo has returned the Knicks have struggled,  

Bothersome injuries to Felton, Stoudemire, Turiaf and Douglas have hurt the teams shooting consistency.  Additionally our phenomenal rookie, Landry Fields happens to still be a rookie which means he is just learning how to deal with the travel requirements and length of the season.

We have another half season to go.  A rest will do the Knicks good, but if the 'Melo rumors linger too long there will be no mental rest for the weary and concerned players who want stability and to focus on playing ball, not changing addresses.

TB: Everyone knows that the Knicks can score a ton of points in quick spurts. They lead the Eastern Conference in scoring, but they also allow the most points on defense in the conference. Is this something that has to improve for the team to win in the playoffs, or can they find a way to win simply by outscoring - and outlasting - their opponents?

KF: Defense wins period.  Certainly, the Knicks have outscored teams but they have won most of their games with a little more significant defensive effort than their opponents.  Unfortunately, the Knicks defense will not be strong enough to beat a first or second seed in the playoffs.  We are weak in the interior and our rebounding is very suspect.  Additionally, the Knicks are very defendable by teams committed to doubling Amar'e on isos, defending the pick and roll, and contesting perimeter shots without surrendering the paint.

TB: Last time these two teams met in December, the Knicks won the game with great balance. All five of their starters finished in double figures in scoring. Will they get the same type of balanced attack on offense tonight, and if not, can they still pull out a win?

KF: The Knicks can get that type of balance.  They will need to provide consistent effort.

TB: With the defense being so porous, how can New York attempt to stop Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, knowing that they are the highest scoring duo in the NBA today?

KF: The Knicks will need to exhibit some physicality, keep your guys away from the basket and force them to take lower percentage jumpers, while running them like crazy.  If Gallinari can play an entire came by penetrating to the basket and the Knicks can rely less on tres, it won't matter how well your two stars score, because they won't be able to play both sides of the ball at that pace for the entire game.  But, remember we played the Spurs last night, so it is possible that we could be the tired ones.

I would like to thank the Knicks Fanatics for their time and preview of tonight's big game. New York will be looking to end a five game losing streak, while Oklahoma City has lost their last two games. Something will end tonight.

Make sure to check the Knicks Fanatics Blog later today, and tune back in tomorrow for a full recap right here - your home for all things Thunder!

* Make sure to follow Kelley on Twitter @RobKelley24, as he was named One of the 1,000 Most Influential Sports Writers on Twitter.