January 26th. That was the date during the 2009-2010 NBA season that the Knicks won their 18th game. They beat the Timberwolves at MSG to up their record to a depressing 18-26. Yes you read that correct, the same team that has, for the most part, played with every team on their schedule thus far, had 18 wins and 26 effing losses in early 2010. I just took a swig of Pepto. And by Pepto I meant paint thinner. It makes me sad to read it.
I know it was tough to watch our boys get beat by the Evil Empire Tuesday night, especially when at times Miami just looked so damn good (Even when the Knicks were within 3 in the 4th, I’m not sure if I ever felt like they were going to win that game. I think we all felt the collective sinking feeling of Knicks fans knowing that one of the LeBosh-Wade Trio was going to iso and score to ice it on the next possession. Simply because they wanted to… and because they can — but I digress.)
The point that I’m clearly taking my sweet ass time to get to is that despite a loss to the elite (and the reassurance that we are not), Santa did bring Knicks fans a pretty solid gift this year — an 18th win over a strong, but sloppy Bulls team. This season it came on Christmas, a month and a day (14 games) earlier than last season. And preceding it (for Hanukkah?), a win over a hot and ultra-talented OKC Thunder. And during both (for Kwanzaa?) we got some signs that these Knicks can play a little bit of team defense. And a partridge in a pear tree. Or whatever.
What I’m really getting at is that this season has been a chance for New York basketball to re-identify itself as a haven for quality. This all doesn’t feel like new success, it feels like the success that should’ve been there all along. Our stock is rising and we know it. And during the week before the new year, when it’s a good idea for everyone to reflect on the year that was, it’s ok to feel good about it. No, we’re not title contenders — but we are pretty good, and that’s just enough to get yo’self rollin’ with a little swag. To be honest, I’m just thankful we don’t suck anymore. Santa has been very good to us in New York this year. And thank God for it.
And thus concludes this week’s New York Knicks: The Emo Years…. Here is your week in Knicks basketball:
Il Gallo: I’m not even sure what to say about Gallo. We love him unconditionally, because he was ours first, but gee whiz (!) boy-oh-boy (!) can this little shit be frustrating. With his flashes of brilliance (see spinning one-handed drive and-one to start the 4th quarter last night), you wonder why he ever disappears for even a minute (not to mention games — as in plural). Yes, it’s possible we overrate him because he’s our boy, but it’s also possible we see some things that folks who don’t watch the guy every single night don’t see. (I mean we have been right about Wilson Chandler — and by we, of course, I mean me). On the flip side, we also probably overplay some of his deficiencies. In actuality, to make more of his inconsistency than age and inexperience would really be a disservice to us all at this point. This is how most guys look at age 22 and in their 2nd full season in the league (it appears it’s how Dirk and Peja both looked early on in their 1st two years as well). Consistency is always the last piece of the puzzle for an NBA player — and it’s what separates Dirk from Dorell Wright (amongst other more glaring physical differences) and me from actual writers. Consistency is key. So far now, let’s just be patient.
De-Fense (clap, clap) De-Fense (clap, clap): I’m REALLY not sure what to say about this. I haven’t talked about a Knicks defensive showing… ever. Not with adult words at least. On a team where “eager” is usually the word coupled with defender, it was interesting to watch the Knicks get consistent, significant stops against OKC and Chicago — both teams with multiple all-stars. Quality minutes from a healthy Ronny Turiaf really bolstered these efforts, and mostly because he was able to contribute offensively (What the HELL are you talking about punk? This is under the “defense” headline!! You are making a mockery of this!!). The explanation: when Ronny was slowed by the knee and that gross sideways pinkie finger, the team really had trouble scoring with him on the floor — hence the heavy Amar’e minutes (and cause he’s, well, Amar’e). But now that he’s moving better, he’s more active offensively — and thus able to contribute in the way he contributes best… with his hammer-down hand gesture (it’s got like a delicateness to it that’s interesting, like he’s never actually held a hammer before. I need to get off youtube). Which brings us to our next point…
Toney and Ronny: My eyes may be deceiving me, but in that least week, it looks like two guys who can’t run pick n rolls independently — or with better players — have found a bond amongst each other (a bond that cannot be explained by any laws of basketball or science). They ran more successful pNr’s against Miami (1) than Ray-Ray and Amar’e did (0) (these numbers are not official). The best part about this: it leads to more hammer-downs. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the hammer-down move before in this column, but let me tell you, I really like the hammer-down move. In closing, hammer-down.
Calling on You: I don’t want to get too hung up on this, mostly because I really don’t want to be one of those guys who kill the refs every night — and I also understand that a young team like the Knicks are not going to get as much respect as other veteran teams, it’s an unwritten rule in the NBA, and it makes some sense. But I have two quick issues with the way Knicks games have been officiated.
1) Amar’e and Felton are not young players, they’re veterans, and when they get hammered while being aggressive and going to the hole in say the 2nd half of the Heat at MSG and in the 1st half of the Heat game in Miami, they should get these calls. Don’t rope them in because most of the other Knicks can’t rent cars by themselves. Or because Gallo can’t grow a proper beard.
2) When a young team is over .500 after a quarter of the season, “young team rules” should no longer apply. I watched Landry Fields get thrown into the 2nd row while going for an offensive rebound Tuesday night by Dwayne Wade without hearing the sound of any whistle. A person cannot simply slip and fall into the 2nd row. It defies the laws of physics and most religions. Let’s be real and treat this team like the quality group that it is. David Stern, I’m watching you.
Oh and finally, we will close with this.
Dunking on LeBron:
Til next week Knicks fans, til next week.