I can’t speak for the world west of the Hudson River, but you seem like logical folks.
You love the good times and loathe the lonely days. But at least when your team is bad you brand them accordingly.
We do the same in New York City, for eight of our nine local, pro sports teams.
Except the New York Knickerbockers, who have some surreal, hypnotic hold over the natives.
No matter how wretched the Knicks become, no matter the endless evidence of their incompetence, the Knicks fan, wrapped in his orange-and-blue Snuggie, insists their beloved basketball club is just a move or two from greatness.
This is the team that brought you Eddy Curry, Jerome James, and Stephon Marbury. That brought you Isiah Thomas and $11.6 million sexual harassment settlement. That paid Phil Jackson $60 million to run an NBA team even though he’s never run an NBA team. That gave Carmelo Anthony – who’s never even played in an NBA Finals – a no-trade clause. That has won fewer than 35 games nine times since 2000.
This is the team that has won one playoff series this century.
Yet there are scores of Knicks fans – some of whom are my dear friends – who now think this franchise is an authentic contender.
This is based on the team’s keen acquisitions over the last month.
Yes, sir, while the league spends like liquored up sailors on low-end players, the Knicks have their hands plunged into the recycle bin.
Yes, sir, the Knicks are jamming to the oldies, on formerly fine players who have entered some secret time portal, taking us back to the future.
We’re supposed to believe that Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are supposed to exhume the Knicks.
Some local reporter said it best. This would be the best team in the Eastern Conference…if this were 2010.
Knicks fans don’t see – or don’t care – that Rose has snapped several limbs since he won NBA MVP a few years ago. They don’t see – or don’t care – that Noah had his worst season in 2015-2016. He played in just 29 games, is on the wrong side of 30, and averaged 21 minutes per game.
Yet the Knicks just gave $72 million to someone who averaged 4.3 points per game last year. Sure, Noah’s never been known for his jaw-dropping, Kobe Bryant aerobatics, but his pesky style is still a young man’s game. He averaged 8.8 rebounds last season, his lowest total in seven years.
This dual migration from Chicago says more about the Knicks than the players they just acquired. Derrick Rose is a fine young man and used to be a fine young player. Five years ago he was the burgeoning face of the sport. But, sadly, the basketball gods had other plans.
Noah, a native New Yorker, was the best defensive player in the league, whose ornery game reflected the kind of blue-collar ethic the Big Apple adores.
But the Knicks make it their trademark to invest in unproven, overvalued, or overused players. Carmelo Anthony was embraced as a returning hero ready to lead the Knicks to the Larry O’Brien Trophy, despite zero evidence during his career that he was capable of doing so.
Only two local writers denounced the deal the day it happened – Peter Vecsey and yours truly. Can’t speak for Pete, but yours truly was called all manner of moron by Gotham’s Twitter Trolls. Still waiting for those apologies.
Jackson’s first year as club czar produced the worst record in franchise history (17-65), which is saying a lot for a team that hasn’t won a title since Richard Nixon was president.
Yet New Yorkers still see Jackson through his prism as coach of the Bulls and Lakers, even though he wasn’t the GM. Some even see him through the black-and-white haze of his playing days, when he won his first two rings as a player.
Jackson has made one fine move since grabbing the remote from cable heir James Dolan – drafting Kristaps Porzingis. And it’s a noble notion to surround him with veterans. It would just be nice if they were a bit more mobile.
What do Melo, Noah, and Rose have in common? None have ever played in the NBA Finals. Yet New Yorkers now think they are the perfect amalgam of playoff experience.
But wait! The Knicks signed Courtney Lee – another 30-year-old who hasn’t won anything, and is now on his seventh NBA team! No doubt he will turn that 32-50 tanker around.
How do I know the Knicks won’t matter this year? Because they never do. All you have to do is look at the facts and ignore the hype. New Yorkers are renowned for their realistic mien, for their knowledge, and for knowing the difference between winners and losers.
Except when it comes to the Knicks.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.