The Knicks are back!
This is not necessarily a good thing.
Last night. 22 seconds left. Jared Jeffries -- yes, Jared Jeffries, generally considered one of the worst offensive players who actually gets minutes in an NBA where Keith Bogans also actually gets minutes -- makes a driving layup in eight-time All-Defensive Team member Kevin Garnett's pterodactylish face. Knicks up one. Unreal. Jeffries making that layup wasn't supposed to happen, and the Knicks winning the game isn't supposed to happen, so by some ironclad law of logic I slept through in high school, the Knicks will win this game. Modus ponens, baby. Or something.
18 seconds left. Jeffries -- who's good at defense according to some Knicks front office guy who apparently hasn't seen him play since high school, when he was admittedly really good at defense -- guarding KG on the block. Five hard dribbles into the key. Almost loses the ball. Jump hook with an actually strong contest from Jeffries. Bucket. Celts up one.
13 seconds left. Carmelo with the ball on the wing. Fires down to Jeffries on the block. Instead of shooting, Jeffries casually hands the ball over to KG while purportedly attempting to pass. KG looks to be falling out of bounds, but the baseline inches from him, terrified. Knicks lose.
The Knicks always lose. Sure, for the last 10 years, it was a different kind of losing. Low-level, high-volume losing. Now they're back to their true post-1973 historical calling: legitimately heartbreaking losing.
Championship caliber, presumed playoff shepherd Chauncey Billups goes down in game one against the Celts. It's over. But wait, it's not! The Knicks are gonna win this game, Chauncey or no Chauncey! OH GOD WHY IS RAY ALLEN OPEN?! Three from the wing. Splash. Knicks lose.
Game two. Amare Stoudemire, MVP-level game-one scoring savant, goes down with back spasms. It's done. But hold on! Carmelo goes Emerald Nuts (what ever happened to those commercials, by the way? I feel like I used to buy a lot more cashews when they were on), and they're in it! Jeffries with the layup for the lead! But then, reality. We already talked about this. Knicks lose.
Charles Smith missing 400 layups against the Bulls. Patrick Ewing's finger roll (when it sure looked like he could've dunked it... dunk it Patrick. Just dunk it!) against the Pacers. Getting to the Finals from the eight seed, only to be reprimanded by the Admiral and his Spurs. John Starks, 2-18. That's sadly not a Bible verse.
The Knicks always lose.
They weren't supposed to win a thing this year; just making the playoffs in semi-comfortable fashion had become an unthinkable accomplishment, sad as that is. But whether you're supposed to win before the tip, or at half, or by some miracle even after your stars go down, when the game's right there with 10 seconds left, you're always supposed to win. The Knicks, they just can't.
Is losing these last two worse than losing 50-plus games and being nowhere near the playoffs every year? Probably. The pain's far more dispersed with the latter; it's chronic, easier to deal with than Ray-Allen-I-Know-You're-Also-Named-Jesus-Sometimes-And-Easter's-Coming-Up-But-Dammit-I-Hate-You sharp. You wake up every morning and know it's gonna be there, like a bad back, or some form of television show involving George Lopez. You get used to it.
This is acute. But when you think about it, that's what it's all about. You can't claim to be even a mildly cursed franchise if you're not putting yourself in a position to ensure that curse endures. If you're expected to win 30 games a year, it's pretty tough to fall agonizingly short of your supposed Willis Reed/Clyde/Pearl Monroe birthright; you just suck, and nobody wants to hear about it. But now they're back. These last two losses actually mattered. And while it's tough to get used to losing on the last shot, it's oddly warming to know you're in a position where that pain can happen. The Knicks are finally back right where they belong: a place where they can consistently make their fans really hurt. Two down, two to go. Let's go Knicks!