After 10 games, the Knicks find themselves with an even record and on-court cohesion — things that should be celebrated after decades of misery.
The room’s pitch black. You’re blindfolded and barefoot. You need to get to the other side but the floor is covered with LEGOs. How you got into this predicament remains unclear but this is what being a Knicks fan is like.
Rooting for this team over the past two decades spliced ardent New York pride with grasping at the straws of nostalgia with Stockholm Syndrome. You wax poetic about the perennial title contenders of the Patrick Ewing era. You convince yourself the good times will come back but all you have to show for it in the years since are the 2012-13 playoff run and some fun times with Kristaps Porzingis.
Most of the events the fanbase endured over that span were cruel and unusual. Some were terrible lottery luck, others, just terrible decisions. Frederic Weis over Ron Artest. Larry Brown. Michael Sweetney. Maciej Lampe. Isiah Thomas. The Allan Houston Rule. Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis recreating the Frazier/Monroe backcourt. Renaldo Balkman. Isiah Thomas again. Amaré Stoudemire’s knees. The impatience of the Carmelo Anthony trade. Phil Jackson’s saga.
Out of necessity, Knicks fans talked themselves into crazy things and worshipped at the altar of false idols, hoping for any gleam of a turnaround. Under normal circumstances, starting the first 10 games of a season with a 5-5 record comes with a shrug of apathy. But if you’re the Knicks it might as well come with a parade.
Every Knicks’ fan should be thrilled with such a solid start
More importantly, the fruition of going .500 an eighth of the way through the young season sprouted from seeds of competency. The Knicks kept their cap sheet and flexibility open this offseason, choosing to bolster their coaching staff and decision-makers instead of throwing questionable contracts at questionable players. Amplifying the strengths of the guys they already had was a better way to heal rather than picking the scab and throwing a bandage over it.
It’s almost as if assembling a nucleus of smart basketball people, actually putting weight behind player development and implementing a system is the very blueprint successful teams deployed since forever. The best franchises pedal in consistency — something the Knicks completely avoided through their annual carousel of player and personnel turnover.
The early returns already show grains of upward progression: Julius Randle, no longer a whirling dervish of isolation and turnovers is going to make the All-Star team! Kevin Knox, real live NBA player! Immanuel Quickley, steal of the late first round! Elfrid Payton, somewhat viable starting point guard!
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of Tom Thibodeau possibly turning Mitchell Robinson and Frank Ntilikina into defensive mavens or getting Obi Toppin to average on that end.
Is it silly to be THIS excited THIS soon? Perhaps. Could it turn out as a red herring, providing nothing more than a morsel of hope before it all crashes and burns? Of course, it’s the Knicks after all. Are the minute loads for Randle and RJ Barrett disconcerting? Oh yes. Especially considering how those Thibodeau Bulls aged in dog years. But that’s a worry for a later date.
Look, we need this, okay? It’s been a long year. On top of that, it’s been a long 20 years of mostly horrendous Knick basketball. Let’s review a pair of recent quotes, shall we?
“I’ve been on bad teams before — this is not one. I can promise you that. This is not the Knicks team y’all have been used to covering. You can tell when something is heading in the right direction, and this is strongly heading in the right direction.”
“Mother of God… They’re actually doing it… They’re actually playing cogent basketball. BEST TEAM IN THE WORLD.”
The first is from the sage Austin Rivers. The second is from me, on the verge of a mental breakdown because the New York Knickerbockers have become delightfully average.
It’s only 10 games but sometimes you need to celebrate the little victories after a generation of misery. Life is to live. Maybe this time the reason for excitement is valid. And who knows, maybe a parade for this team isn’t too far off. Either way, it beats stepping on LEGOs.