I'm sitting here watching the Knicks play the Celtics. It's early in the game - both teams are trading buckets. Melo has already made a couple nice jumpers, KG has pounded his head at least once, the Garden crowd is already booing Paul Pierce whenever he touches the ball.
This is a big game. It feels like a big game. KG, Ray Allen, Pierce, Rondo, Amar'e, Carmelo and Chauncey are all on the floor. MSG network has been advertising this game all weekend, even in the midst of a games against Milwaukee and Indiana. The Knicks are a playoff team and the Celtics are arguably the best team in the league.
A few hours have passed and the Knicks had a memorable fade in the 4th quarter; at one point the 'Bockers were up 81-73. From that point on, they got outscored 23-5 and lost the game.
There will no doubt be a lot of uproar tomorrow in the papers. One of my friends, a hardcore keeper of Knicks-faith already went on a Gchat rant to me. I tried to calm him, but much like most of the media and fans around here, it was and will be to no avail. He's talking about how Carmelo is a "slightly better Al Harrington" and how this team is pathetic. Please friends, let me assuage your fears and doubts.
The sad truth is that this game doesn't really matter. Hell, the past 15 Knick games haven't mattered. The next 13 won't matter. And then every game, whether it be 4 games or 28 games in April through June won't really matter either. You know why? Because think of this as the hand after the royal flush hand. Right now, you're playing with house money. These Knickerbockers can do no wrong.
I know a lot of Knicks fans and they were all pretty fired up when the big trade went down. Rightfully so. The foundations for a very excellent team have been laid down. Knicks basketball is relevant again, which is a statement I couldn't have made for the past 11 years. But I don't really get the sense that they are all truly reveling in what is happening.
Right now, you all have a free hall pass. Nothing in this season matters. You just can not be expected to win, let alone compete for a championship. Anything good that happens is a bonus, like seeing a Timofey Mozgov dunk in a blow-out. Here are some of the top reasons:
1. They dropped FOUR STARTERS midseason
- Yes, THREE starters. This isn't baseball kids. This is the National Basketball Association. There aren't nine starters out there. There are five and 3/5 of that group got shipped out. To ask Amar'e and Landry "The Punisher" Fields, no matter how good they may be, to try and reconfigure their games to 2 new teammates and additional players that were not playing heavy minutes early in the season is a lot to ask.
2. Have you seen the guys they are playing with?
- Roger Mason and Jared Jeffries got over 10 minutes of playing time tonight. Turiaf logged 27 minutes. Shelden Williams got to do something physical that wasn't a blow-out, practice or doing Candance Parker's laundry. They depend on Shawne Williams. You simply cannot have those types of players to have such meaning in their roles. Each is completely overmatched in what the Knicks ask of them on a nightly basis.
3. Jared Jeffries is their tallest player.
- The Knicks are currently constituted of 15 players, NONE OF WHICH are above 6'10". That's right. Your tallest player is a guy who got cut by Houston for the privilege of watching Hasheem Thabeet being 7 foot, 6 inches of worthless immobility. Ronny Turiaf gets major, meaningful minutes as the defense pivot for the team. How do you expect this team to rebound? Yes, you don't have to biggest dog in the fight to battle for the boards, but when each one of your players is below-average size at their position, that's just not feasible. We're looking at one of the worst rebounding teams in the league.
4. Everyone is a terrible defender
- Oh wait, this won't change no matter what the personnel is. If Dikembe Mutumbo, Bill Russell, Ron Artest, Michael Cooper and Gary Payton played on this team in their primes, they'd still give up 140 a game. Love D'Antoni ball!
For all the reasons lined up here (and for a few that aren't), there really is no reason to get worked up New York. This is barely a team. Most of these guys do not belong in the rotations of playoff teams, let alone in the roles they are asked to serve. They are over-sized and over-matched in most games. This was a squad that was completely put together on the fly, with glue, and Donnie's blood and sweat. There is no way that this team should be expected to compete with the elite teams in the league, no matter how good their two 25+ ppg scorers are. This is a free pass New York! This is basically exhibition basketball for the 2012 season (if we have one)! If this team got swept by Miami in the first round, so what? They had the pupu platter of small forwards guarding LeBron and Dwyane Wade absolutely tore up Landry The Punisher. Big deal! That's supposed to happen! But let's say as an added bonus, they got 7 with Miami, and maybe even win. Let's say they even win the second round with Chicago or Boston and get to the ECF, at which point they lost in 7 tough games. Super duper! This team is not beating the Lakers, Mavs or Spurs. No way. They brought you the most exciting Knicks season (I'd argue) since 1994. They dominated the headlines, had some absolutely magnificent games against the Heat and Celtics and created excitement from a downtrodden and nearly beaten fanbase.
Take this very exciting with low expectations as a gift. You will never get anything else like it. There has never been a team that had this many good players with such low expectations. They can do no wrong. You just want them to go out there, play hard and compete, and if something good happens, muchos gracias. If not, that's what was supposed to happen. Don't piss and whine. You matter again. Be happy New York, and chilllllllll out.