By Jason Keidel
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Putting an April post mortem on the New York Knickerbockers has become as predictable as the asters popping pink in Bryant Park.
After all the flexing, posing, promos, and talk, the Knicks were framed in chalk on their home court, rendering a frantic fan base mute in a New York minute. A hardwood homicide occurred in Madison Square Garden last night, before 19,763 witnesses who expected so much more.
The Boston Celtics don’t care about Carmelo. They don’t care about buzz. They don’t care about All-Stars on the court or movie stars preening courtside. They don’t care about GQ covers or Q ratings. They don’t care that the Knicks made it close for two games. They care about basketball. And at that, the Celtics were far superior, stomping and sweeping a pretty talented but very tormented group, sending the Knicks on a familiar course – straight to the golf course.
“The Knicks are gonna be real good someday,” is what Doc Rivers and every other coach says after beating the Knicks. Strange how that day never arrives.
Though I trashed the trade from the jump, I am among the idiots who thought Carmelo would imbue the Knicks with playoff mojo and save some face after a woeful .500 record since the deal with Denver (while Denver went 18-7 without ‘Melo). We were duped.
After the game I changed the channel to MSG for some objective postgame coverage. Instead, the studio morphed into a delusional echo chamber, led by Al Trautwig, who passed the platitudinous baton down the dais to Earl Monroe, Bernard King, and Kelly Tripucka. All were in verbal lockstep over the Knicks’ “gutty performance,” and how they “really showed us something tonight,” and how “excited fans should be” by the energy the Knicks showed by cutting a 23-point lead down to four, ignoring the fact that the Knicks allowed Boston to blow the game open by 23 points in the first place.
You expect the old salt – Pearl, King, and Clyde – to shill for the team. But Trautwig and Breen are paid pragmatists. Had the score not been on your screen you would have sworn the Knicks not only won the game, but also swept the series.
The group sentiment was so surreal that I expected Rod Serling to float down from the rafters, where the ghosts still stir in disgust after another season ended for no reason and with little direction.
Eight American presidents have resided since the Knicks presided over a title. Television replaced radio and color replaced black-and-white, and now we watch in high-def as the Knicks yet again go from vocation to vacation before May.
The group hug reached Mike Breen, who said the Knicks “showed us how far they’ve come” as the court was solemnly dismantled behind him, the lights dimming on the Garden, Knicks, and Rangers who, for too long, have assured us a springtime hibernation.
Both teams play like MSG doesn’t pay its air-conditioning bill, always sure to get out of town before the weather gets hot.
Carmelo Anthony, who threw his team under the bus on the road and then fell flat for the home crowd, did not come as advertised, as a savior. Indeed, Amar’e Stoudemire lived up to his handle, STAT. Spastic spine and all, he is still the backbone of this team.
With Chauncey Billups dressed for church, Stoudemire tried his Sunday best to pull off a Willis Reed, limp onto the hardwood and leave a hero. You can clap for Amar’e, who forced his mummified frame into the game, and got 19 points and 12 rebounds in agony. It was the healthy Knicks who left us in agony.
There are people who will never admit the Carmelo trade was a mistake or that the Knicks made mistakes in this series, pointing futilely at the refs, injuries, and injustice. The two games at MSG were a cold slap to the hot faces of the fan base, who thought that after two tight games in Boston the Knicks had the fix. Tonight was supposed to be a changing of the guard rather than a black hole at point guard. Rajon Rondo gashed the Knicks for 20 assists in Game 3, and danced his way through their indifferent defense in Game 4 (21 points, 12 assists).
The Knicks are much like another franchise in the five boroughs bathed in blue and orange, with just two titles since Grace Slick sang White Rabbit at Woodstock. The Mets/Jets/Knicks fan must wear many layers to hide the burn marks over the decades, from the Gastineau Game to Game 6 in ’06 to last night. New Yorkers aren’t normally a sadistic group, just with sports.
The current Knicks fan, the Carmeloholic, is an odd chap who chafes at any notion that the players lose these games. All defeats dangle from Mike D’Antoni’s neck – after the refs rigged the game, of course. But every Celtic who played last night (nine players in all) had at least five rebounds – an astonishing stat that speaks entirely to effort. The consensus is that the Knicks came out flat or, in current NBA parlance, without energy, despite the infinite incentive to play hard.
On Easter, fittingly, the Knicks laid their greatest egg, dyed green to represent the Celtic knot that choked them out of the NBA playoffs. For all the hype, the tough-guy tenor the Knicks used as a battle cry, they left with a whimper, and without a fight.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
Should we be celebrating the Knicks’ turnaround or getting on them for their listless round one performance? Let Keidel know in the comments below…