By Jason Keidel
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They say you don’t want too much MSG in your food. You certainly don’t want it in your basketball team.
If you need more proof that the Knicks are the most forlorn franchise in basketball, if not all team sports – Raymond Felton was a felonious reminder of a criminally bad season.
As much as we’d love to, we can’t blame Jim Dolan for Felton’s brain cramp, allegedly leaving weapons at his estranged wife’s house. But Felton’s (alleged) militia is a microcosm. The Knicks, often hailed as a historically dominant team, actually have a wretched past and an equally forlorn future.
Where do we start? Last year the Knicks won 54 games, which was a mirage to anyone who doesn’t see the world through orange and blue hues. Las Vegas had them winning 52 games this year and, if I were a betting man I would have bet my microscopic fortune on the under.
J.R. Smith, already fined 50 grand for getting his second-grade on, untying enemy shoelaces during games, thought it cute to pull Vince Carter’s headband over his eyes. The Smith said he didn’t do it, unaware that it was caught on video and already on eternal loop through the myriad media outlets.
Tyson Chandler seems to have lost his health and his mojo. Amar’e Stoudemire, whom the Knicks signed to perhaps the worst contract in NBA history – or was it Allan Houston’s deal? – has yet another year left on his wretched deal.
Remember when Metta World Peace would bring a New World Order to New York? Now the artist formerly known as Artest has been cut. Now Artest is relegated to philosophizing on proper use of the N-word.
Iman Shumpert, once regarded as a flowering franchise defender, has looked lost all year, when he was actually healthy enough to play.
Tim Hardaway Jr., a viable offensive talent, is as allergic to defense as the rest of the Knicks.
Bargnani was soft before the Knicks traded for him, then the Knicks are surprised when he plays pillow soft.
Notice the Knicks are the purgatory for otherwise prime-time players? It’s become comical to watch guys leave the Knicks and then blossom once the seat belt is removed.
David Lee leaves New York and becomes a stud. Jamal Crawford leaves new York and becomes a stud. Zach Randolph leaves New York and becomes a stud.
Oh, and how about coaches? Larry Brown was an icon before and after he was cursed by the Knicks. Brown is so gifted he’s got SMU – yes, SMU! – beating ranked teams. Some of us didn’t even know they had a basketball team, infinitely more aware of the Pony Express days of Eric Dickerson and Craig James.
Then Felton allegedly goes Avon Barksdale on us. No need to parse the particulars. Suffice it to say Felton’s defense in the courtroom need be exponentially better than his hardwood wares.
The Knicks had a rather popular player for a spell, who had the world spellbound for a few. He was a point guard, too. But evidently Jeremy Lin, who has flourished for the 39-18 Houston Rockets, isn’t gifted enough for the 21-36 Knicks.
As we inch toward the most fertile draft class since Carmelo, Wade, and LeBron blasted open the 2003 season, the Knicks need help everywhere. But, of course, Denver has their first-round pick, which surely would land a wonderful player.
But that’s the Knicks’ eternal narrative. They suffer from severe myopia, always addressing today’s needs at the expense of tomorrow’s dreams. Not one team would have surrendered a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani. Well, other than the Knickerbockers.
Despite our eternal tango over Carmelo Anthony, this really isn’t on him. There’s over a decade of proof that he can’t lead a team to a title, but he can’t change the fact that he’s the only one playing like he gives a damn. The galling loss to the Mavericks is a perfect microcosm of their season.
Makes you wonder how far down the Knicks are on the list of the league’s worst teams. Heck, the Seattle Supersonics have won a ring more recently and the franchise no longer exists.
Cleveland? Sure. Especially once Kyrie Irving flees for greener pastures, which means anywhere but Cleveland. But you’d need a jeweler’s eye to find five teams more wretched than the Knicks, in any sport.
We men have a rather childish omerta over our sporting loyalties. Once we pick a team we find ourselves swathed in the laundry until we die. It’s a rather silly approach to life. We can marry a woman for life then leave her in six months. We can work for a company for five months then decide it’s not for us. We can rent an apartment and leave before the lease expires.
But leave our beloved sports teams? Even when they’re historically incompetent, like the Knicks? Just pure blasphemy.
The Knicks are the only team I’ve ever abandoned. Call it prescience. Call it luck, good or bad, but when “Pat the Rat” migrated to Miami, I disengaged. We blamed Riley for jumping ship when in fact we should have blamed the Dolans for allowing it to happen. Any team dumb enough to let Pat Riley walk without even trying to retain him doesn’t deserve your love, loyalty or money.
Why can’t you just pick another team? Do you really deserve this abuse? If Isiah Thomas weren’t enough to catapult you to counseling, how are you supposed to endure this current wave of incompetence?
The Knicks deserve it even less. But you stay for the abuse under the guise of dedication, passion, and optimism, when it’s pure masochism. I used to think fans of the Jets were jaded beyond compare. But Knicks devotees are the biblically bad.
Ask a Knicks fan about their beloved ballers and they’ll say the team is just one move from morphing into a champion. A new coach. A new point guard. Someone to compliment Carmelo. Some small piece will fix this shattered puzzle that pretends to be a basketball club, one that stains the sacred hardwood of Madison Square Garden.
This is the arena of Ali-Frazier, of Clyde and Pearl and Willis and the epic Big East battles in the ’80s. Where my boy Mark Breland won five Golden Gloves. So when we harken to the halcyon years, remember that we’re talking about a generation ago, when a Garden Party meant something.
The history is there. The misery is here.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel