Thinking back to last year’s “Black Friday,” November 25th 2011, reports of the latest round of meetings between the players and owners were met with such indifference and scorn that the prospects of an actual season seemed as bleak as the Knicks chances to get past Boston in the playoffs a few months earlier. It’s easy to forget now but just a mere 24 hours later a crescendo of text alerts awoke basketball fans everywhere that Saturday morning. I still have mine saved on my iphone: “We got a deal! 2011-12 season is go!” The point of this is to remember how crazy it seemed to have an actual basketball season when both the owners and players seemed as divided as Republicans and Democrats. Even stranger are some of the things Knick fans have become thankful for just one year later.
Think about how bizarre it would be the thankful for the following a year ago today:
There’s Steve Novak…
An NBA journeyman who most people never heard of until he displayed his near abnormal marksmanship from beyond the arc. His three point shooting quickly became more of a fun attraction for fans to cheer about. By the end of the season, it became something the Knicks depended on. It’s also something cited as a reason for the Knicks quick first round exit when Miami completely shut him down.
There’s Raymond Felton…
The guy who quickly became known as “what’s his name” or just “that fat guard on the Blazers” after he was sent to Denver for Carmelo. His productivity seemed to come to a stall in Denver after he was traded and his obvious pudgy physique which he is the first one to admit. So far this year he’s been a tremendous contributor and his numbers have jumped out significantly since last season. They even outshine you know who’s, which he was brought here to replace as a sort of plan D. A year ago, many people assumed Felton was done and the chances of him back on the Knicks was something that seemed even more unlikely.
There’s Rasheed Wallace…
A guy who wasn’t even in the league at the time. I’ve spoken about him before so there really isn’t a need to rehash how much he’s helped this season. Since appearing as a Herb Williams like mascot for fans to sarcastically cheer for during garbage minutes, he’s quickly become the first big men off the bench in Woodson’s offense. This is someone that doesn’t even have a guaranteed contract and was signed after the Knicks gave a 3 year deal to Marcus Camby who easily looks more like the guy that’s been out of the league for 2 years.
There’s Amare’s Injury…
Which actually isn’t something to be thankful for out rightly, but more of in a roundabout sort of way. After the horrible season Stat had last year, it looked like the contract every Knick fan knew would come back to haunt them had already turned on them as fast as Shane did from The Walking Dead. His awkward role in the offense seemed like something too difficult for Coach Woodson to figure out but the Knicks did seem to have something going for them with Melo at the 4. There wasn’t much of a sample size to work with, but 10 games into this season it does in fact look as if the Knicks don’t have to rely on Stat being in the starting five. Asking him to come off the bench would have been too difficult to ask from someone who was the first player that signed with the Knicks in hopes of saving the franchise and produced near MVP like results in his first year. His injury gave the Knicks time to further experiment with Melo at the 4 and also avoided any awkward demotion talk with Amare, who we all know is a wildly emotional guy. His time away from the team has given the Knicks valuable perspective approaching this year’s trade deadline, and that is something that is helpful.
There’s the Brooklyn Nets…
The team that shook up Dolan enough to realize that for the first time ever, the Knicks streak of losing seasons actually ran the risk of giving New Yorkers a different New York City team to give their attention to. It’s also a huge reason why Dolan was so gung-ho about landing a marquee player that turned out to be Melo when LeBron took his talents to South Beach. And speaking of Dolan…
There’s James Dolan,…yes James Dolan…
A few weeks ago in my first post I wrote about Dolan’s ego getting in the way of Basketball decisions. I wrote this in my reaction to the Jeremy Lin offseason drama:
It’s quite simple really: the best fans in the world are at the mercy of the worst owner in sports; and until Dolan is removed, the Knicks will always remain their own worst obstacle to overcome before they even take the court. It’s Dolan’s money and his team, but his thin skin will always get in the way of both basketball and business, and that is what will always matter to Knick fans.
I’m not ready to eat my bowl of crow yet but if whether it was luck or strategy, the fact is that Jeremy Lin and the Rockets is struggling while Felton and the Knicks are thriving. The tale of the tape so far:
PPG: 15.7 PPG: 10
APG: 6.9 APG: 6.3
RPG: 2.7 RPG: 4.4
PER: 18.46 PER: 11.98
FG%: .44 FG%: .33
3%: .42 3%: .23
TO: 2.3 TO: 2.8
Not only has Lin’s struggles been magnified during his time on the Rockets, but it should be of note to Knick fans that former New York punching bag Toney Douglas has even cut into some of Lin’s minutes during the crucial moments of the game, particularly because of Lin’s defensive issues. I haven’t seen much of Lin but I have noticed that he isn’t getting to the basket like he did with the Knicks and also just how bad his shooting has been. Was Dolan right about sending Lin away? I still think its too early to tell and that making that call can’t happen just yet in Lin’s career. So far though the Knicks have been the best time I’ve seen in decades and much of that is attributed to keeping Coach Woodson and giving him the veteran players he has always been comfortable coaching. Dolan’s ego seems to have worked out well for Knicks this season, and yes, I can’t believe I’m typing this, but it is something to be thankful for; at least on this date of the calendar.