By Jason Keidel
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For me, it came in 1995, when Pat Riley faxed his resignation as head coach and de facto czar of the Knicks.
Perhaps for you it came when Jeff Van Gundy resigned. Or perhaps it came when Isiah Thomas fouled up the joint with pungent personnel moves and sexual harassment settlements.
To find some action in MSG you had to watch college ball, a rock concert, a dog show, or blow the dust off your 8-tracks and VHS tapes for timeless replays of Earl Monroe, sift through the static of Marv Albert’s ancient radio renditions.
Whenever you abandoned the Knicks, it may be time to return, to emerge from your cave and wipe the crust from your heavily blinking eyes. There may again be a basketball team in New York City.
In a frozen city, a sizzling contest stirred inside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, reminiscent of when the Knicks were important. Had Amar’e Stoudemire’s shot peeled off his fingertips in time we would be talking about a 9-game winning streak and maybe the birth of an era. A nanosecond separated the old Knicks from the new Knicks. Should they beat Miami tonight, the shift in perception and reception may become complete.
We can’t name half the squad. All you have to do is watch. The team passes well, plays hard, and finally gives a damn. Mike D’Antoni treats his and his opponents’ defenses with equal contempt, coaching a brand of ABA ball that is allergic to shot clocks and blocked shots. But they are finally fun.
Some say that boxing is as strong as the heavyweight division, and that NBA basketball is as relevant as the Knicks. Neither assertion is entirely true, but the city most historically pregnant with hoops talent should produce a product we can watch without a bag on our heads.
This club is young, hungry, and gifted. We don’t really know Landry Fields or Toney Douglas or Wilson Chandler, but we like what we see so far, and after the first few dates we may be ready to commit. Roger Mason and Ronny Turiaf don’t exactly beam you back to the halcyon days, yet they play with the blue-collar grit we need in the absence of dominance.
We understandably retired from the franchise during the Dolan epoch. We’re spiritually calcified by bad coaches and a roster encumbered by rancid contracts. (Eddy Curry and Jerome James, anyone?)
The Knicks’ bottom had trap doors, their corporate and karmic ineptitude so severe that a city weaned on asphalt, the city of Earl Manigault and Lew Alcindor, was embarrassed to say we had a team in town. The Knicks were worse than bad. Bad teams happen. The Knicks were apathetic and pathetic. They didn’t try. And New Yorkers don’t digest indolence.
Chances are the Knicks’ new regime will not win it all because, well, they’re the Knicks, ensconced in a four-decade title drought. There are eerie parallels between the Knicks and another team clad in orange and blue with one title since 1969. The Mets hope they’ve turned the proverbial page with Sandy Alderson, much the way the Knicks hope they have with Donnie Walsh. Both teams deserve an objective peek in 2011.
With a quarter of the season over and a 16-10 record in the rugged Eastern Conference, the Knicks are not a fluke, but rather resurgent, leaving their forlorn fan base gleefully thumbing through record books looking for the last time they’ve been relevant.
With all due respect to the Nets – who will hop the Hudson to play in Brooklyn – New York wants the Knicks to regain the knack. A part of us needs the Knicks, and all of the Knicks need us. Wins will bring the waving limbs back to the Garden.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
- Schmeelk’s Stance: No Moral Victories (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Keidel: The Real Giants (newyork.cbslocal.com)