As a long-suffering New York Knicks fan, there hasn’t been a lot to be proud of. Last year, the Knicks were 21-45 before COVID shut the series down. And they were painful to watch on a nightly basis. I put myself on strike from the team, siting my emotional distress, disrespectful owner and no direction. But after 17 games and an 8-9 record, hope has returned to the Garden. I know a losing record isn’t much to write home about, but these are the Knicks. We’ll take what we can get!
The Knicks last won a championship in 1973, which was 8 years before I was born. The Knicks of the 90s were something to behold as a teenager. We were tough, physical and there was juice in the Garden. But ultimately, we came a game short of the chip. Then after a magical 1999 NBA Finals run in the strike shorten season, the new century turned, and the carriage turned into a pumpkin. The Knicks pain of the 2000s begins with James Dolan took over the team from Charles Dolan, legend Patrick Ewing was traded to Seattle, coach Jeff Van Gundy resigns, Isiah Thomas was hired, we overpaid for Allan Houston and his bad knee, we trade Marcus Camby for Antonio McDyess, and on and on. A’mare Stoudemire’s bad knees, Carmelo Anthony selfish ways, watching Jeremy Lin walk out on a poison pill contract, the Phil Jackson disaster, the fall of Kristaps Porzingus all just added to the misery. The nonsense equated to one playoff series win in the whole 2000s and a lot of misery.
But then the Knicks finally started to do something smart. The Knicks hired Leon Rose to run basketball operations. Then after having 16 coaches in 20 years, they finally hired on Tom Thibodeau to be their head coach. He had the reputation for playing starters long minutes and a defensive first mindset. But few can argue with his results, heck he helped turn a late first round draft pick in Jimmy Butler into one of the best players in the league.
Enter the 2020-21 Knicks that have had some impressive wins in the young season, including starting off a west-coast trip with a win in Golden State Warriors. Thibs has the Knicks playing some great defense, where they rank near the top in most categories including points allowed per game (102.8 PPG). Julius Randle went from a turnover machine in 2019 to having an All-Star caliber season (22.6 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 6.2 APG). R.J. Barrett is looking ever bit the 3rd overall pick after an up and down rookie season (18.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.5 APG). Immanuel Quickley, who was projected as a 2nd round pick, has proved the Knicks to be geniuses by drafting him #25 overall. He has led the 2nd unit with 9.2 PPG and has the fanbase forgetting the name Frank Ntilikina. Even Kevin Knox has found the stroke from the 3-point line and Austin Rivers has played clutch in the 4th quarter.
This team has the chance to sneak into the play-in game for the playoffs for the first time in over 5 years. The fans are starting to believe and that can be dangerous for us. As the villain Bane said in the movie The Dark Knight Rises, “I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope… I will feed its people hope to poison their souls.” Hope can build up our hopes, then a prolonged losing streak can extend our suffering. But this could be different, we have the right coach and youth that have bought in. Time to thing positive thoughts!