Tuning into the MSG Network of late (yes, that channel still exists) has been quite an entertaining experience. Not only have your New York Knickerbockers managed to escape the doldrums of the decade that must not be named, but they’ve also far surpassed virtually every sports pundits’ expectations and simultaneously bred hope and excitement amongst their long-suffering fan base.
Just in case you’ve long since forgotten that NY has a professional basketball team, let me recap:
- First game played in 1946, NBA Championships in 1970 & 1973, and Madison Square Garden eventually becomes known as the “Mecca of basketball,” a place where huge knee-pads, excessive (almost alarming) perspiration, and incessant guarantees of wins reside. See, e.g. Patrick Ewing.
- Storied flagship franchise slips well below mediocrity due to schizophrenic and maniacal mismanagement by guitar-wielding, cable conglomerate-running, mega-zillionaire owner. See, e.g. James Dolan.
- Day-to-day Coaching, General Management and Scandal Creation duties are irrevocably granted in perpetuity to Hall of Fame former player with dubious, if any, previous executive experience and claymation-like skin complexion. See, e.g. Isiah Thomas.
- NBA team salary cap strategy is perennially ignored between 2000-2008 as the team imports a limitless supply of overpaid, under performing and malcontented players, in turn perpetuating a never ending cycle of ineptitude. See, e.g. Stephon Marbury, Shandon Anderson, Howard Eisley, Antonio McDyess, Keith Van Horn, Jerome James, Eddy Curry, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis and Barney the Dinosaur.
- Light appears at the end of the tunnel as new management is brought in to restore respect, integrity and order to the franchise, and given a clear mandate to gut the roster in advance of Summer 2010’s free agency “can’t miss” signing of the world’s greatest player. See, e.g. Not Amar’e Stoudemire.
Sure, that’s an abbreviated version of historical events at MSG, but really, what more do you need to know? Knicks fans came into this season hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. And who could blame them?
The signing of Amar’e Stoudemire last June was widely viewed as a distant consolation prize given that LeBron James made his “decision” and took his talents to South Beach to form the superband otherwise known as the Heatles. All Stoudemire has done in James’s stead is revitalize a franchise and its city, put up career-best numbers across the board, and make the Knicks relevant again. In fact, his 26 point, 9 rebound, 3 assist and 2 block season averages have “Stat” very much in the conversation as a legitimate MVP candidate.
The Knicks enter the weekend with a record of 22-16, good enough for sixth place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They lead the league in scoring. Sure, they don’t play much defense, but NYC is a proactive kinda town anyway. Let the red-state cities play defense. Most importantly though, the NYK bring it every single night and are genuinely fun to watch, despite their flaws and clear inferiority to the league’s elite.
And who knows… if recent Carmelo Anthony trade rumors come to fruition, we may yet see a new banner or two raised to the rafters in The Garden during our lifetime.
The Payoff Pitch brings you Jamie O’Grady’s distinct take on New York and national sports every Monday. Having previously worked as a Contributing Writer for MLB.com., Jamie is also a practicing lawyer and an unapologetic Yankees, Knicks and Giants fan. He lives in Mount Kisco with his wife, Sarah, and son, Jack.