I know, I know . . . it’s March Madness, and I should be totally focused on the way my UConn Huskies have unexpectedly crashed the Final Four. Not to mention how my blind faith in them (see “Head, or Heart?” — previous post) has my bracket neatly positioned for a nice little payday.
But the grim reality of my other basketball team — the New York Knicks — keeps intruding. I am so bummed at the way they’ve spiraled down in recent weeks, and I find myself wishing from the bottom of my heart that I could wake up and The Trade would be magically un-done — and Gallo, Felton, Chandler, and Timofey would be back in blue-and-orange.
Yeah, I’m aware that the Knicks won Monday night over playoff-bound Orlando — but that was just their 2nd win in their last 11 games. And as I watched their spirited defensive effort, I didn’t find myself thinking, Hey, look at that energy! I found myself thinking, Why the —- can’t they do this all the time!? Did it really take D’Antoni’s line-in-the-sand speech for the Knicks to finally realize there’s a game at both ends of the floor? (And btw, what took D’Antoni so long to make that stand?) Are they such babies that they needed to be scolded before they’d actually D someone up? And Melo, with his brilliant 39-and-10 — is he really such an idiot that he couldn’t summon an all-out effort like that until the entire Knicks Nation started calling for his head???
Being old school, at first I didn’t want The Trade to go down — even though my three sons told me I was nuts. For my money, we were winning more than we were losing, playing exciting ball, building with our new “pieces.” Amar’e was dominating; things were looking up.
Then, in late December, we went to a Knicks-Heat game in Miami. The Heat jumped out to a 34-18 first-quarter lead and won handily. LeBron and Bosh had typically solid games — and D-Wade went off for 40. Midway through the fourth quarter, I leaned over to my three sons and admitted, “All right. We need Melo.”
The Knicks finally pulled the trigger on the deal. At first, Melo was as advertised — and more. Chauncey looked like he’d discovered the Fountain of Youth. We went to a Knicks-Utah game at the Garden in early March, and the Knicks won going away. Melo had 34. Stat had 31. I was so intoxicated by our play that my post that week was titled “Deliverance.”
That was pretty much the last time the Knicks looked better than abysmal. They’ve been in a 3-9 tailspin since that game. Melo holds onto the ball for eons while the rest of the team waits for something interesting to happen. Stoudemire looks lost — neglected and dejected, as Clyde might say. Billups pulled a Rip Van Winkle — got injured, and came back as an old man. Landry Fields, an early-season revelation, has been lost in the translation. I’ve seen Chauncey look right through him on a number of occasions, waiting for Melo to get open. (Look at the stat sheet from Monday night: 26 shots for Melo; 10 for Stoudemire; 3 for Fields.)
Not long ago we were in L.A., and I had the chance to take in a Nuggets-Clippers game. There was Felton, dishing and swishing. There was Chandler, clearing the boards. There was Mozgov, being tall. (Gallo was on the bench nursing an injury, but he still looked cool and Euro.) The Nuggets have gone 12-4 since The Trade. And if things don’t improve pretty soon at the Garden, I’ll have to give some serious thought to rooting for the Denver Knicks.
Or whichever team Kemba goes to.