If A Baby Can Do It…
So can the Knicks.
by Matt Lawyue / @mlawyue
Lia, my 16-month-old niece, despite her diaper status, is savvy beyond her age. She knew holding the T.V. remote was a “no no,” but the rebel in her refused to put it down. With one slightly, mispronounced word, “ight” (for light), and a point of her finger to the ceiling, she had us gazing at her phantom light, while she walked away faster than Charles Barkley from an SNL laugh. We were left standing there, befuddled and amused by her wit, unable to uncork the cemented smile on our faces. Lia had changed the subject on us and made away with the remote. Nobody ran after her to punish her. Not this time. The timing wasn’t right. Rather, we went along with it out of pure excitement and awe.
Coach D’Antoni and his fledgling millionaires have been employing a similar tactic of late. The subject was changed, from losing miserably to competitively, dare I say it, winning. With one month and counting of winning basketball, the fans and media have eased off of 2010 free agency, analyzing LeBron James every (un)spoken word, and proclaiming the Knicks season an utter disaster.
But I’m not naive. The Knicks still have problems. A lot of them.
1. If (more like “When”) the Knicks start losing, how does D’Antoni keep his rental players motivated enough to stay competitive amidst the inevitable stories/rumors of said players being returned and talk of 2010 resurfaces to its suffocating level?
2. Whenever Chris Duhon breaks down like last season; then who runs the offense?
3. Their 1st Round pick (8th overall) Jordan Hill, floundering on the bench with 25 DNPs (D-League anyone?).
4. 2010 Free Agency + Hawks (Joe Johnson) / Cavs (LeBron) / Suns (Amar’e) Winning + Jared Jeffries/Eddy Curry Crippling Contracts + Entire Cap Situation Vomit = Potentially grabbing nobody in 2010.
5. Whenever they go ice cold from the field (how they started the season), and revert to chucking up threes and playing zero defense.
BUT, I digress. That isn’t the point of this post. I did start with a story about my niece, so it should end on a lighter, happier note. Right? Shouldn’t it? I’ll try my best.
Now? After rattling off a 9-6 December and a 3-2 start to January, the same Knicks that started 1-9 are in playoff contention, despite a miserable Eastern Conference (I don’t think Knicks fans, or David Stern for that matter, care how NY gets in. If the Knicks are in, it’s a win-win for everyone, even if they get the broom in the first round). The last time the Knicks made the playoffs was 2004, when Lenny Wilkens coached Meltdown Marbury and those other athletes to an 0-4 pouncing by the Nets.
Now? There are stories on Knicks improving their game so much it might land one of them an All-Star spot. Are you serious? The last time a Knick competed in the All-Star game was 2001 (Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell). I’m talking about David Lee. He won’t be winning the fans majority vote anytime soon, but if the Knicks keep winning and Lee keeps producing at his 19 ppg and 11 rpg clip, he should be a worthy contender for one of the open forward, center or any position spots chosen by the coaches.
Now? It’s obvious what a winning streak can do for a team. Everything improves, from the play to the mentality to the passion. It’s something this franchise hasn’t had for a long, long time. Even the writers are taking time to smell the roses. Sure, there have been, and will be problems (D’Antoni’s handling of Larry Hughes and Nate Robinson most recently), but what team is perfect? There’s a different feeling inside MSG of late, and the fans can sense it. They’re ready to cheer on winners.
For now let’s put aside the cynicism we’ve been spouting for the last five, six seasons and enjoy what we have here — a team that goes out each night and competes. It’s such a simple, expected concept for any professional team, yet very foreign to teams around the country who have drowned in losing, especially the Knicks. They still have their lapses though, specifically last game’s lackluster effort against the Thunder (Duhon guarding Durant? Come on…) But at this point it’s all we can ask for. Forget the rotation problems, Nate’s problems, what will happen with free agency, etc… Right now, they’re competing on both ends of the court. If they compete hard enough, they’ll win against the teams they should beat, and push the more elite teams and perhaps steal a victory.
Winning will take care of everything else and that’s what they’ve been doing. Lia walked away with the remote and we applauded her hidden ingenuity and determination. I’m not saying the Knicks are the equivalent of an NBA baby who can’t feed itself (maybe I am), but let’s also applaud what they’ve been doing without another agenda.
Knickled & Dimed List
— The fact I took time to actually write a post applauding the Knicks for simply competing…the thought of that sickens me…
— Knicks 2004 Frontcourt: Kurt Thomas, Nazr Mohammed, Michael Sweetney, Dikembe Mutombo, Vin Baker.
— Changing baby diapers.
— Nine seasons since a Knick played in the All-Star game.