For the rest of the country the New York Knicks have been an on-going source of glee.
Since Patrick Ewing's retirement in 2002, the Knicks have gone from bad, to worse, to at times comically absurd. Led for much of the decade by the Titanic of bad general mangers, Isiah Thomas, the Knicks turned losing into an art form. They've traded lottery picks for guy who've never sniffed the court -- multiple times. They've handed muti-million dollar contracts to guys who would've been better served participating in a Stromboli eating contests in Bensonhurst. (Jerome James for $30 Million may be the worst contract of my lifetime.) Isiah and his cronies were to NBA management what the Palin family is to the rest of the world. A horrifying display of ineptitude, with a mix of quirkiness, and a splash of star power thrown in for good measure.
When the Knicks whiffed on LeBron this summer, the cries from the New York tabloids intensified. "Without King James this team has no shot." "At least LeBron will be a free agent again in 2016."And of course, "there's always the Yankees." Thee Knicks did overhaul their roster this summer even though they couldn't land the "King" or his minions. They added four time all-star big man Amare Stoudemire and spunky point guard Raymond Felton as well as bruising center Ronny Turiaf and rookie forward Landry Fields.
Then the season started and most Knick fans were already thinking ahead to next summer, where the Knicks should be the odds-on favorite to land disgruntled Denver star Carmelo Anthony. After a 3-8 start to the year, gloom set in the World's Greatest Arena. Then a funny thing happened: The Knicks started winning. Following their game against Denver Sunday afternoon, New York had won 13 of their last 14 games leaving them at a shocking 16-9.
It's not difficult watching this team to see where their success has come from. Fields, the rookie from Stanford, has been a revelation. He rebounds like a guy eight inches bigger and has added some much needed toughness. The diminutive point guard Felton is a crafty leader who's capable of taking over the game when he gets hot. But their success can really be attributed to the big free agent prize of the off-season, Stoudemire. The explosive power forward is averaging 26.1 points per game, good for third in the league, as well 9.1 rebound and 1.9 blocks per game
Wizards coach Flip Saunders was glowing in his review of Stoudemire's early season performance. "Of the players up front in this league, he may be the most dynamic. He gets to rim, can rebound, really this guy can do it all."
While Stoudemire has gotten most of the individual accolades, winning 13 out of 14 games in the NBA is a team effort. Felton recognized his team's effort but stressed that they need to stay vigilant moving forward. "We need to treat every game like it's the best team in the league. We're in a good groove right now but the only way to keep it going is to stay focused."
It's tough to say whether the Knicks will be able to continue this newfound success. Their schedule gets significantly tougher in the next month highlighted by late December home match-ups with Eastern Conference powerhouses Miami and Chicago. For the sake of their great New York fan base, hopefully it continues. As funny as their previous mishaps have been, it's time for some competence in New York basketball as opposed to the train wreck that we've all been subjected to over the past decade.