Bobby is one the biggest Knick fans I ever met. He is also one of the most jaded so when he didn’t share the same excitement I had when the season began, I wasn’t surprised. Even throughout the month of November Bobby kept his guard up fully expecting the typical Knick collapse. However after what is now being dubbed as the “Miami Massacre” Bobby has turned into a believer. He’s even penned a comprehensive apology. Yes, this is major news and I’m thrilled to share it on the site. -Rich B
“We lose tonight. No Melo, plus plenty of bad JR.”
That was the text message I got from my brother last night before the second Knicks-Heat game of this season. The words glowed as steady, mocking me. Mocking my loss for words. My indecisiveness. My hopelessness. My reluctant agreement.
I decided it was best to ignore the message. I couldn’t take a crying session. After all, this game could be the beginning of the end for our serendipitous start to the season. Before I get to my reaction to whatever the hell happened, let’s rewind a few months to this past summer.
In a crucial off-season after a painful lockout shortened year that saw yet another heartless Knicks playoff exit, the front office made a seriously bold decision: This team wasn’t good enough. Let’s have that sink in for a second.
After suffering a decade of Washington Generals style basketball, Knicks fans were content with two consecutive 7-seed playoff showings- both ending in 5 games or less. Many of us were thrilled with the prospect of getting a healthy Jeremy Lin back on the court to dish endless dimes and ally-oops to the three-headed beast of Melo, Amar’e and Chandler. Of course, Amar’e would come back with a healthy fear of fire extinguishers but we had a rookie on the rise in Iman Shumpert. We had a coaching vacancy that was already marked as “RESERVED” for a Mr. Jackson, party of 1.
With the exception of possibly losing JR Smith (“No big loss. He runs hot and cold, anyway… and mostly cold for that matter.”) and Steve Novak (“There are tons of spot-up shooters in this league! We’ll be fine!”), Knicks fans had a lot to look forward to this year.
Then the front office got to work. They dealt Jeremy Lin to Houston, deciding that his offer sheet was too tough a pill to swallow. They brought back Raymond Felton, fresh off of a Pillsbury style season in Portland that he freely admitted to. They went out and acquired Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby in addition to stealing Jason Kidd out from under the Dallas Mavericks in a bid to create the 2004 Eastern All-Star team. They coaxed Rasheed Wallace out of retirement. They signed something called a Pablo Prigioni from Argentina. I wasn’t’ sure what it was, but it sounded like some new brand of pepperoni that I’d have to look for it in the supermarket.
My head was spinning. This season was going to be a disaster. We were going to be too slow, too injury prone… too old. What the hell was going on in those sacred halls in Madison Square Garden?
Now let’s fast forward back to Thursday evening.
Just before halftime, the Knicks (playing without Melo, STAT or Shumpert) have made a gutsy game of it. They actually fought their way to a pretty impressive tie with only 0.6 seconds left on the clock. I considered shutting it off to finish watching in bed, but then I thought “What the hell? I should just see what happens. After all, LeBron James is on the court.”
0.6 seconds and one made turnaround jumper later, I’m stunned and stuck to my couch. Same old Knicks. This is misery. How are we supposed to compete with something like- Oh wait. Look at that replay! He didn’t get it off in time! Tie game!
That was the moment I should have responded to my brother. But no. I couldn’t jinx it. Not yet. Not until after the Knicks came out firing in the second half. Shots were falling. The defense was swarming. We took the lead and it ballooned to double digits with an offensive barrage courtesy of Felton, Novak and JR Smith. It was some of the most beautiful basketball I’d seen out of this team ever.
That’s when I got up the gumption to finally send the message. It was short, sweet, and probably something I should have done myself before pouring Haterade all over every off-season move.
“You shut your mouth.”
This season has been coming together like something of a fairy tale for myself and, I imagine, many other Knicks fans. When was the last time we played a competitive, meaningful game? When was the last time we even won one? How long has it been since we laid claim to first place in the Eastern Conference well after the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten or discarded? Hell, it’s been awhile. That’s all that matters.
After swallowing season after bitter season, we finally have a team who is making us proud. Not just content. But truly proud of what they’re accomplishing on the court. We finally, once again, have a team that’s committed to delivering just desserts to Knicks fans and the city of New York.
In honor of this team and its surpassing even the most optimistic expectations before the season, I’d like to hand out several apologies in the form of the “2012-2013 Just Desserts Awards.” So, without further ado…
The Cherry-On-Top Award (for being better than the team needed you to be): JR Smith
After a poor showing in Game 5 of the first round last year, JR was the recipient of a lot of Knicks fans rage. He shot 3-for-15 and made tons of poor decisions with the ball. The backlash on twitter alone almost ran him out of town.
I wasn’t exactly happy with it, but I thought JR was the victim of being asked to do too much. With Lin out due to injury and the combination of Mike Bibby’s corpse and Toney Douglas doing absolutely nothing to ease the loss, Coach Woodson turned to good old chuck-em-up JR for ball handling duties. This decision, however desperately made, turned out to be a mistake.
I came to the conclusion that I could forgive these issues if JR came back and was willing to accept a 6th man role behind a more complete starting guard.Well, I’m happy to say that JR has answered the call. Not only that, but he seems to be cleaning up his act both on the court and off of it. JR has cut back on his night life, made better decisions with the basketball and decided to finally give a crap on defense.
I’m simultaneously stunned and delighted. The passion that he’s brought to the game this year has been something that’s been missing from this team for damn near 20-years. It’s even been cause for some Knicks fans to start calling him “JR Starks.” For the record, I wholly endorse this new moniker. The guy has earned it thus far.
The Vanilla Cake Award (for being ole reliable instead of just plain old): Jason Kidd
When reports surfaced of the Knicks renewing their pursuit of Jason Kidd I was furious. He was old, slow, off the mark and asking for too much money and too many years. He represented exactly the kind of big-name mistake the Knicks made time and time again in the bad old days. This was my opinion, and I was sticking to it… 2 years ago.
This time around was infinitely worse. The man was approaching 40 and we were offering him a multi year deal? Are you nuts? Apparently not.
Kidd has emerged as a steady, reliable and calming force on this roster. There have been plenty of times that this roster could have let games slip away. But Kidd just wouldn’t let it happen. He has quickly identified the problems and saw to it that his teammates corrected themselves. Often in time to save the game. He’s been the very definition of a playing-coach, acting as a bridge between Woodson and his players rather than an extension of the coaching staff.
The Instant Brownie Mix Award (for doing exactly what you said you would): Raymond Felton
Perhaps this one should be sugar free…
Raymond Felton was out of shape last year. You knew it. I knew it. Every Cheesecake Factory in the Portland area knew it.
Most of all, Raymond Felton knew it. He admitted it during a courtside interview at a summer league game. But during that same summer, he admitted to having a chip on his shoulder and promised to deliver a season to New York that would be much better than the aberration that was his lockout-shortened season in Portland.
He came back to New York saying all the right things… and I rolled my eyes. I refused to admit that he was ready to shoulder starting point guard responsibilities again. And there was no way he was going to be able to sufficiently replace breakout star Jeremy Lin. A real pro never would have let himself get out of shape in the first place!
Starting next to Kidd, Felton has flourished. He has been making noticeably better decisions with the ball and taken advantage of all the open looks the offense has created for him behind the arc.
Just as importantly, Felton stepped up last night in that game against the Heat. With Melo out and the team on the second half of a back to back that included an unnecessarily tough game against the Bobcats, the little bulldog put the team on his back and carried them into that second half before everyone else got in tune and made it a blowout.
I expect more of this from him and doubt I will be disappointed.
The Fruit Platter Award (for being there for everyone when no one notices): Ronnie Brewer
Okay, full disclosure? I don’t have much to apologize for here. Ronnie Brewer was the one acquisition this summer that didn’t have me feeling like I’d just been beaten and mugged.
But the reality is that with Shumpert out trying to rehab his torn ACL, Brewer has stepped up admirably. His defense has been something to truly behold. I don’t think you’ll find someone who appreciates this more than Tyson Chandler. With someone helping to keep prodding guards in check, Chandler has been capable of patrolling the paint in ways he couldn’t dream of last year during a season that saw him win Defensive Player of the Year (PS – expect him to earn that trophy again this summer after repeating his performance as the Knicks personal guard dog).
In addition, Brewer has continued to put up offense numbers well above what was advertised on his resume. I can’t say enough about the good he has done. He’s taken Landry Fields role of glue-guy and successfully revamped it for this “Melo-centric” roster.
The Cordial Award (for getting the job done like a boss): Mike Woodson
Mr. Woodson. I saved you for last. I really don’t know what to say.
I railed against your unimaginative offenses of the past. I lamented your Frankenstein monster known as Iso-Joe. I glanced longingly at other names. Particularly that of the man known as The Zen Master.
It wasn’t meant to be.
When news broke of your extension and the dropping of your interim title, I was furious. Inconsolable. Irrational. But you didn’t care. You came into this season with your impeccable goatee and you made… no. You crafted… no. You forged a team. Not just any team. You took a rag tag group of veterans, a group that so many from the outside were quick to make the butt of many cruel jokes about obesity and senior citizenship, and you shaped them into something that the city of New York and every long suffering Knick fan craved.
It was the team that we needed, even if we didn’t know it. A team that would restore meaning to the term “Knicks basketball.” A team that has, thus far, reminded us why we are all Knicks fans.
You’ve displayed such deft command of this roster that I have zero concerns with regards to the impending returns of Amar’e Stoudemire or Iman Shumpert and how they will affect the team. I have no doubt that if they are any kind of hindrance, you will show zero regard for their ego or feelings. I am also certain that you will take their exciting talents and use them to find a way to make this first place team even better. I have complete confidence in you to run this finely tuned machine and keep it humming.
I apologize for ever doubting you, sir. Because you have delivered unto us a team that is just so damn sweet to watch.
By: Bobby Carlisto