17 February 2007

And the Knicks Shall Rise Again

While a majority of our writers have West Coast addresses and pledge allegiance to the various California sports teams, I thought it was time for this Brooklyn born-and-bred writer to address an East-Coast sports-related issue that has begun to play funny games with my mind. Namely, the New York Knicks.

As a die-hard Knick fan growing up in Patrick Ewing's heyday (can it even be defined as that?), John Stark's ill-advised 34 foot chucks and Charles Oakley's elbows, I am used to the agony of defeat, the "what-if" scenarios and finger-rolls that just don't roll into the basket. But the last 6 seasons of Knickerbocker basketball have proven to be the ultimate test of one fan's allegiances in the face of utter player futility, coaching incompetence and an owner who relishes playing in an awful band while watching his franchise implode and disintegrate. Sadly, I failed that test.

My interest in the Knicks, as well as the NBA, waned, replaced by a growing (perhaps, rabid) enthusiasm for college basketball and the Wisconsin Badgers. My father and I, both true lovers of the NBA in the mid-90s, grew disenchanted with a league full of 19-year-old misogynistic thugs who were lauded for their ability to "jump" and their "wingspans" though they couldn't hit a 10-foot jumper to save face. Players like Jonathan Bender, Dajuan Wagner and Eddie Griffin, all lauded and hyped for their freakishly athletic intangibles, have become part of the "Where Are They Now" drinking game I play at the bar with friends (Eddie, by the way, was caught watching and masturbating to porn in his SUV last March. Quality, friends, quality).

Yet, something changed this year. Perhaps it was Isiah Thomas taking the reigns and reading about his not-so-deft overthrow of his predecessor, Larry Brown. Seriously, how malicious and kiniving is this man? Underneath the soft-spoken facade lies a man as evil as Keyser Soze. Cynically and happily, I wanted to see if Isiah could fuck up just one more thing in his post-playing career. I wanted to see Isiah strap-up one more time, call his buddies Rodman, Laimbeer, Dumars and Mahorn and return the Knicks to their glory days of heart-shattering mediocrity.

But something funny happened on the way to hell. The Knicks showed signs of improvement and development. Eddy Curry (who still can't shoot a jumpshot 6 feet away from the hoop) began to develop into the inside force everyone thought he could be. David Lee, the homeless-looking white kid from Florida, decided to become the reincarnation of Dennis Rodman/Tom Chambers. Stephon Marbury has begun to play defense (no, I'm not kidding). And every night, Jamal Crawford looks less and less like he has Tourette's while dribbling the basketball. And Stevie Franchise....Well, let's just not go there.

For all of my antipathy and animosity for today's game, the Knicks have decided to provide me with one last glimpse, one last hope. If they play as well as they did against Lakers the other night, I might just have to go back to New York and give Spike that five we both so desperately need and want.