A few words before this gets going, which I hope will help you to understand the line upon which I am taking this from.
1: I am not a journalist, or an athlete save for a brief flirtation with high school basketball (where I was the Paul Mokeski\Kurt Thomas of private school hoops.)
2: I am a fan of good high-quality basketball where I can find it. This occasionally means you will find me watching Arvydas Sabonis highlights on YouTube because I like to see what Saba might have become save for injuries.
3: I live in New York City. This will become important later.
With that said, I have never been as embarrassed to watch a team in their playoff home opener as I was to see the effort that the New York Knicks put out on April 22nd, 2011 if you happen to be reading this a few days past that.
Why the embarrassment? Full explanation after the jump.
You see, being a basketball fan is to know the legendary arenas, the places where something special always seemed to happen, and the players who helped to make sure that the reputations of those places were always kept up to snuff.
With the Celtics it went from Russell and Cousy, Havlicek and Cowens, to Bird and McHale to Pierce and Allen and so on. The Lakers have a similar legacy but with that legacy comes a responsibility. You notice how Elden Campbell or Dana Barros isn’t thought of in the same way as those other great Celtics or Lakers? Because they didn’t know or couldn’t probably live up to the idea of what their franchise legacies had been up to that point.
With the Knicks it’s different. With the Knicks, and I can say this living here in NYC, they have almost become the city’s public trust. It’s more about the way the team plays than about championships, because if it was about championships, the Knicks don’t have anything. But it was defense, rebounding, and hard work that was always the thing. It was also about protecting the home court of Madison Square Garden. And in Game 3 of the 1st round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the New York Knicks took that legacy and pissed on it.
Those Knicks teams that everyone loved and valued lost at home. That was never a big deal. They got blown out at home too. But it was what you saw. It was the disinterest I noticed, the lack of caring about defense. And the worst part: the Celtics were the ones dishing out hard fouls with a big lead. The Celtics were the ones mean-mugging out there.
To be honest, this isn’t me going full-scale Screaming A. Smith on you and demanding changes overnight like the firing of a coach. Rather I’d settle for the addition of one, a defensive-minded assistant who handles the defensive plans. And by all means remember what the Knicks should have been, and still can be.