Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Kardiak Knicks

First I apologize guys, I have been away some time. I haven't had much time these days to write. I had been thinking about writing a few times but never got around to it. But after another amazing game by the Knicks, I couldn't hold back any longer. Its probably too soon to get into what this triple overtime win over the East leading Pistons could mean for the Knicks, but it's an hour later while I write this and I still can't believe the Knicks pulled this win out. I know there are alot of Knick haters and Isiah haters out there and they don't want to hear me gush about how good the Knicks have looked lately. Whether you are a hater or just a pessimistic Knick fan, everyone should agree that this team is at least exciting to watch. Just that alone should give Knick fans hope as we haven't had a team to get behind really since they made that magical run in the playoffs in 1999. There are so many good things to like about this victory that I'm not sure where to begin.

In my 20 years as a Knick fan, I honestly can't remember feeling this way about a Knick team. Sure the teams of the 90's were great and will always be the teams that I became a die hard Knick fan with. But with those teams, after Pat Riley arrived, there was a certain expectation of the team for many years. While there was some great moments during that time, because they never won the championship, fans came away stilll a little disappointed. Knick fans have gone through a tough period these last 5 years as the team has slowly and painfully become the laughing stock of the league. There was momentary excitement when Isiah came aboard and traded for Stephon Marbury right away. That team rebounded after the trade to make the playoffs but never really stood a chance against a superior New Jersey team. Since that time, most fans and the media especially have aimed their frustration at IsiahThomas and 11 days ago that frustration boiled over.

With the Knicks reaching rock bottom with the brawl with the Nuggets, the NY media and other journalists bashed the Knicks and Isiah for becoming such a disgrace. It likely reached its pinnacle with the front page image on the Post of Isiah and his "donkey ears", in reference to George Karl's comments the day after the brawl in which he called Isiah among other things, a "jackass". Did Isiah resign or complain about the treatment he was receiving? Did the team fold or start pointing fingers? No, they did not. Instead they have taken Knick fans on a wild ride for a week and a half that has seen them beat 3 of the top teams in the league going 4-1 in 5 games. 3 of those 5 games went into overtime with the Knicks seemingly out of everyone of them, only to persevere and find the will and a way to win the game. The fact that this team has found a way to win these games should speak volumes about what kind of coach Isiah is for this team. Would they have won these type of games last year. Absolutely not. Isiah has molded this team into A TEAM. You can see it in these last few games. You can see it on the court, in the huddle, on the bench. Many times while watching the games, I have noticed little things about the players and their body language that suggests to me that this group is becoming a tight nit team. During timeouts, players are talking strategy to each other, players have their arms draped around each other often times around Isiah too. You see players laughing and cheering their fellow teammates on the floor.

Every time the media tries to divide the team with negative stories, the team seems to ignore it all and battle on. Just yesterday, a couple of articles spun Francis's absence from practice as a disinterested player trying to get out of practicing and trying to poison the team . That seems like a a reasonable assessment given Francis' past but if you watched the game Wednesday night, you saw a hobbled Francis giving it his all and cheering on his teammates while on the bench. Maybe Francis is more mature now or maybe Isiah has gotten Francis, along with everyone else, to buy into the team concept or maybe the public bashing Isiah has received lately has made this group of players really go with a "us against the world" mentality. Whatever it may be, it is clear to me that Isiah has already done more with this group of players then Larry Brown done all of last season. Stephon Marbury is playing great basketball now AND fitting in to the schemes that Isiah has put into place. Eddy Curry has become a lethal low post presence and the central focus of the Knicks offense. David Lee is an automatic double double every night. Channing Frye has gotten his stroke back and is becoming a valuable 3rd or 4th go to guy. Jamal Crawford has become equally important with his instant offense and knack to hit the big shot at the end of the game. The other players are all finding their places and meshing with the others to make a very nice rotation of solid players. I admit, optimism is high right now after this great win, but the Knicks these last 11 days have been showing New York City and the league that they are not as bad as many thought and may finally be on the right path.

Friday, November 03, 2006

One Crazy Start

Some random thoughts about the Knicks after one crazy long game..

1. A win is a win, that is true. But I hope somewhere behind the scenes Isiah is showing his players why they lost a 19 point lead.

2. With 9 minutes to go and the Knicks up by 19, at that very moment I was so excited about what I was seeing. The Knicks were playing great and doing everything right, even with Marbury and Francis having bad nights up to that point. If we can play this way and lower our end of game meltdowns, this team will win alot more games this year.

3. Channing Frye looks lost and appears to have taken a step back this year. I remember over the summer he said he had beefed up and was a lot stronger. I remember thinking I hope the added bulk doesn't have a bad effect on his game. Emeka Okafor did something similar last season and ended up being a disappointment along with being injured the whole season. I really hope Frye is just in a bad funk right now.

4. David Lee has been much more effective in preseason and in the Memphis game. He seems to be the better player to have in the lineup right now instead of Frye. I predict he will be in the starting lineup very soon.

5. Has anyone noticed how much Marbury and Richardson have been high fiving and chest bumping in the games so far? Whatever happened to the theory that Marbury didn't like Richardson and thus the reason Isiah was trying to trade him. The fact that they seem to be on the same page now, has me feeling good too. Richardson could be the big beneficiary of this new offense the Knicks are running. If he could get back to his Phoenix form, it would bring a whole new dimension to the team.

6. The fact that the team stuck together and got this win, in triple OT no less, almost feels like an omen of things to come. Can you imagine the media and all the Knick bashers if they would have lost this game? It could have damaged the players psyche right out of the gates and we saw what happened last year when they started off poorly. But with a win, it becomes a great building block and gives the players confidence that everyone is together on this thing and will give meaning to some of the things Isiah has already been preaching about team unity. Even though its one game, I could defintely see the team latching on to that feeling and possibly making there way through this rough first month as a .500 team. That would be a huge victory for this team. Let just hope all these good vibes don't go down the drain tonight against Atlanta.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New York Knicks:A New Season Brings New Hope

The start of a new NBA season has always been one of my favorite times of the year. The league always has a lot of movement in the offseason, so its fun to speculate about how teams will fair with the changes they made. You can always count on the New York media to intensify this speculation when it comes to the New York Knicks. For me, no matter how negative the press is or how bad the outlook is, I always have the highest optimism for the Knicks on opening night. As I wait for their first game to tip off against Memphis this season, I really believe they will be much improved and will contend for a playoff position. I will get back with you in February, as thats usually when its clear that the Knicks will disappoint once again.

I really miss the good times of the 90's, when the Knicks were title contenders for many years. Even with all the optimism, I know this team is no where near that status, but it would be nice to get back into the playoffs this year. While many want Isiah to fail dramatically and get kicked out of New York, I really think he can do a much better job with this team then Larry Brown. His positive reinforcement will make a big difference with several of the players on this team. I could go over the pros and cons of this team but in the end, I think their success will ultimately be tied to 3 things.

1.Eddy Curry - I really think that this team can only improve if Curry improves this season. If he is the same old center that doesn't rebound and stays in foul trouble, the Knicks are not going to have any scoring in the post. Channing Frye will be able to provide some, but it will not be enough. If the Knicks are not able to score in the post, then they will become a team reliant on the outside shot and one on one moves. That concept usually does not work out well in the NBA.

2.Defense - We know Isiah intends to play an uptempo game and with the players on this team, they should be able to put alot of points on the board. But as we have already seen in the preseason, they could end up giving up alot of points as well. In the long run, better teams like Phoenix can get away with this and still be fairly successful. However, the Knicks will have a much smaller margin of error and will need to play better defense or they may not see any improvement in the win column.

3.Turnovers - This really ties into the defense as well. Even if they are able to become a good defensive team, if they are turning the ball over too much, it won't matter. They led the league in turnovers last year and didn't look any different in preseason. They will be playing a more uptempo offense which will increase the chance of turnovers.

If Curry can become the player everyone has been waiting for, the Knicks can buckle down and play better defense, and reduce turnovers, I think you will see them contend for a 7 or 8 seed in the East. If not, well lets just say that alot of New York fans and media will have their wish. Isiah won't be able to get out of town fast enough.

Bullish Start to NBA Season.

While the Miami Heat players were still posing with their new mammoth size championship rings, the Chicago Bulls were looking like the team of 15 strong last night. This game was over before it started as the Heat never got it going and looked nothing like the team that surged to the title last season. It's only one game and the NBA season is long and winding, but the Bulls were intent on sending an early message to the Heat and the rest of the NBA. They are a legitimate force to be reckoned with this season. Even the 12th man off the bench, Thabo Sefolosha, looked ready to contribute on this very deep Bulls team.

In all reality though, the real truth lies somewhere in the middle. The Heat obviously are better then what they showed and the Bulls may not be clicking on all cylinders for all 82 games. There are a few new players on the team, so there likely will be some growing pains along the way. I expect the Heat to still be in the top 4 in the East this season. I look for them to start rounding into shape toward the end of the season like they did last year. The Bulls, who gave Miami all they wanted in last year's playoffs, are much deeper and more versatile now. They could be poised to make the next step toward being a title contender this season.