These days you’ll overhear two kinds of Knicks fans at The Garden, each firmly entrenched in one of two opposing camps. When it comes to analyzing New York’s allegedly resurgent professional basketball team, you’re either an “Optiknickst” or “Pessiknickst,” and there’s no in between.
It’s not surprising. The Knicks spend an uncanny amount of time on the court expressing reason for both hope and despair. As such, the pulse of your average Knick fan varies wildly, depending on the outcome of last night’s game.
Consider the fact that since the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Knicks’ record stands at 7-6.
Surely justification for mass hysteria, right?
Not so fast. The club was a not-so-inspiring 28-26 before Mr. Lala arrived, so why the incessant rush to judgment by both fans and media alike?
Yes, it’s New York. And yes, everything gets magnified under the bright lights of Broadway, but logic dictates that reality lies somewhere between a 4th quarter “Fire D’Antoni” chant and a 4th-seed prognostication. The latter was actually quite in vogue after the Knicks beat the Miami Heat on the road way back on February 27th.
THIS JUST IN: The Knicks are playing merely like a .500 team because — wait for it — they are a .500 team!
Is this such a bad thing? Must the glass be half-empty?
There are countless examples lately — some good, some not-so-good — of statistics-driven analyses purporting to explain that which seems so obvious to the naked eye; that the personnel on the Knicks’ roster is simply not good enough to win meaningful games with consistency.
Notice that I said meaningful games.
Not sexy games, not trap games, not rivalry games. Meaningful games. You know, like games against inferior-on-paper opponents. Or the home games of those always tricky home & away sets. Or the first games of back-to-back tilts.
To win those games, let alone games against elite teams, you need players. And the Knicks are short on players right now.They have no big man to defend the paint or rebound. They have no consistent outside shooting, which is kinda necessary when you run an offense predicated on ball movement, spacing, and forcing the defense to commit. They have no backup PG.
None of this is D’Antoni’s fault. Yet.
This is not Donnie Walsh’s fault, either. He’s played the cards he was dealt beautifully, and even his harshest critics would be hard-pressed to justify how somehow keeping Timofey Mozgov or Wilson Chandler would have significantly addressed the Knicks’ actual deficiencies right now.
NBA pundits will point to the Denver Nuggets — and their stellar play since jettisoning Anthony — but how, exactly, does their improvement have anything to do with the Knicks’ mediocrity? They’re different teams, in different conferences, against different opponents. To compare the franchises’ respective progress — or lack thereof — is nonsensical.
This is not even Carmelo’s fault, he of the “have my cake and eat it too” trade mechanics. Sure, his “unreasonable” insistence on ensuring that he didn’t lose tens of millions of dollars in free agency forced the Knicks to give up a lot to get him, but his play since the trade has been exactly as expected, if not better.
Anthony is shooting a little more (at a better percentage, especially from 3-point range), passing a little more, and rebounding a little less, all while learning a new system, playing alongside another capable superstar, and looking for the perfect million-dollar loft space.
Look, no one knows what’s going to happen next. Beginning with last night’s win against the Grizzlies, the Knicks play four games in the next five nights, seven in the next ten. That’s a challenge.
No one knows what’s going to happen if/when the team makes an appearance in the playoffs.
And certainly no one knows what the Knick roster is going to look like in 2012 and beyond.
So let’s all just take a deep breath, and try to enjoy this squad for what it is right now; an undersized, undermanned, somewhat-talented group that is as entertaining as they are confounding.
And there’s always D’Antoni’s ‘stache to keep you amused, if you’re into that sort of thing.