That Blue and Orange Feeling

Posted: December 23, 2011 by sirdiggy in sports
Tags: , , , , ,

I am a Knicks fan.  I love the Knicks.  The 90’s team of Ewing, Oakley, Mason and Starks were my heart.  I thoroughly enjoyed Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby and enjoyed the surprise ’99 NBA Finals run.  I enjoyed Jeff Van Gundy as coach, although he was somewhat offensively minded challenged.  I loved, LOVED the great defense the teams of the 90’s played.  A couple of weeks ago at an alumni mixer, they had MSG up on the flat-screens showing the 1993 playoff games between them and the Bulls (I still boo Jordan to this day whenever I see him on TV).  I was into the game just like I watched it back when it happened live.  Chuck Spears can vouch – he tried to remind me that it was over 18 years ago.

If you looked through most years of Knick management, the upper office has never been consistently great with player personnel moves and assembling talent, save for the two Knick title years of ’69-’70 and ’72-’73.  Even in the 90’s, they could never get Ewing that one excellent wing player he needed.  I loved Starks, but he wasn’t it, and the Knicks allegedly came close to acquiring Mitch Richmond (whom I feel could have put them over the top in ’94 and ’95) but could never close the deal.  I hated that they couldn’t get Ewing that extra star player.  I say all that to say that with James Dolan taking over the Garden from Dave Checketts, and with Scott Layden and then Isiah Thomas, for most of the first decade in the 21st century, the team became the opposite of what I loved: bad defense, overpaid players, overpaid players past their prime, and bad team construction.

When Donnie Walsh replace Isiah as team president in 2008, there emerged a light at the end of the tunnel.  it was faint and ever so tiny, but it was there.  We sacrificed two seasons to have the salary cap room to make a run at the 2010 free agents, most notably LeBum..err I mean LeBron James.  Despite his flirtations with the opportunity to play for the greatest city in the known universe and perhaps bring an NBA Title home, he opted to take his talents to South Beach in a heinous scheme plotted by Dwayne Wade and that backstabber (also known as Miami Heat president) Pat Riley.

Thankfully, we did not come away empty-handed.  Amar’e Stoudamire decided he wanted our money, our city, and the responsibility of being the face of the Knickerbocker re-emergence.  Stoudamire lived up to the responsibility and the money until the playoffs where he was limited by a back injury.  It then fell on mid-season acquisition Carmelo Anthony to shoulder the go-to-man burden.  He tried mightily, but alas, with Amar’e and “Mr. Big Shot” Chauncey Billups ailing, the team was swept out of the first round by those doggone Celtics.

So then the next phase of the Knick rebuilding plan was to find a third star to pair with our high-scoring but defensively-ehh forwards.  There was a lot of talk about Chris Paul’s toast at Melo & Lala’s wedding – where he intimated that he, Melo and Amar’e form their own Big 3 to take on Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron, Wade, and big man Chris Bosh.  But then, December happened.

Due to the NBA Lockout being resolved right after Thanksgiving (and the season beginning on Christmas Day), December would hold a hellified short free agent period, following by a hellified truncated training camp and preseason.  Then one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I hop online to read that the Knicks are close to signing center Tyson Chandler away from the reigning world champions Dallas Mavericks.

Wait a second… Tyson Chandler???

We signed him away from the champion Mavs?  Where the hell did that come from???

So wait… we… we have a center now?

Holy seven-footers, Batman!  WE HAVE A CENTER!!!

A center that rebounds, plays excellent defense and protects the rim – three things the Knicks absolutely sucked at last year (and the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that, etc).  People are now talking about us having the best front-line in the entire league.  There’s a saying that goes that in college ball, you win with your guards, while in the NBA, you win with big men.

Now, they had to sacrifice the one good point guard they had (Billups) via the NBA amnesty provision, and with the money used to sign Chandler, it took the Knicks out of the running to woo either point guard-supreme Chris Paul or the NBA’s best center, Dwight Howard at the end of this coming season.  But with Billups’ age and expiring contract, he was never a long-term target anyways.  And word was that the Knicks didn’t have enough assets to flip a trade for Howard or Paul.  I would’ve loved Chris Paul to be a Knick, but the truth is, good defensive centers are extremely hard to find.  And since Howard apparently was not attainable, the ‘Bockers grabbed the next best center available, one who will watch the backs of our two dominant scoring forwards while not needing the ball to score.  We turned a good guard into a darn good center.  You ever have a team and feel like, “hey, just maybe, things are finally coming together for us”?  For the first time in this new century, I’m feeling that way about my favorite basketball team.

But wait, there’s more: Because of other teams using the amnesty rule (or clause,  or exception) to waive their unwanted players, the Knicks eventually signed point guard Baron Davis as a one-year flier.  He’s currently rehabbing a herniated disc, and his celebrated but curious career littered with injury, motivational and fitness issues definitely make him a risk/reward chip.

But then I read reports that A. Davis may not be out as long as originally stated, B.  He really wants to play here in New York, which means that, C. He will likely be very motivated, especially with all our frontcourt talent, which might just also mean that, D. He’ll be in shape.  In fact, a recent New York Times article stated that, “although his weight has sometimes been an issue, he looked remarkably slim Monday as he twirled a basketball and mingled with his new teammates and coaches”.   Oh, and because he signed for the veteran’s minimum ($1.4 million), the Knicks still have their $2.5 million exception to throw at either another amnestied player or perhaps an NBA player who is currently stuck overseas in China (or elsewhere) until March when the Chinese basketball season ends.  Hmmmmmmmmm…

Add to the fact that this years rookies are looking like rotation-worth players, specifically 6′ 5″ guard Iman Shumpert – he scored 16 points in the team’s first preseason game.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, head coach Mike D’Antoni commented that even he was surprised how well Shumpert (aka Shump-Shump) played.  “He’s quick and strong and long and his shot will be fine,” D’Antoni said.  “He’s been impressive so far.”  In fact, many of the bloggers over on Knickerblogger.net – a fan site that I find understandably but sometimes pessimistic – are genuinely impressed by how Shump-Shump looks so far… and he can D-up too.

So let’s add all this up: Two elite scoring forwards, a center to FINALLY protect the paint, a point guard who’s known for playing at an elite level when healthy and motivated, and a rookie combo guard tall and athletic enough to compete out on the wing.  I have to say it – I’m really looking forward to this season, and I haven’t felt this way since maybe the 90’s??  Now, haters will throw salt on the game by saying our bench is weak, or by questioning if second-year man Landry Fields will improve from the first half of last season, or by wondering if Toney Douglas can man the starting point guard spot well enough until Davis is ready.  They wonder what will happen if any members of our starting frontcourt goes down with an injury.

Funny – I remember back in the 2007-2008 season when the Celtics brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play alongside Paul Pierce; leaving the keys to the offense to a second-year point named Rajon Rondo.  People wondered if their bench was too thin or if the young Rondo was ready for the responsibility – I’m not saying the Knicks will grow to be title contenders this season, but doesn’t all that sound a little familiar?

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