February 10th 2012 was the day I went from being a “believer”, a term us Knicks fans have rather flippantly used over the long winters of the past decade to a BELIEVER! From today, we will turn the season around, turn all the doomsayers into dust. This was going to be our year. This was the player that was going to be the glue that will help bond our 2 All Star’s together and form the most potent offence is the league. Linsanity had truly arrived. Forget about his games against the Nets, Jazz and Wizards. Don’t get me wrong, these were huge and had all of the Big Apple talking, but if he was truly going to be the savior the Knicks fans craved, then the game on February 10th was going to be it. A nationally televised, prime time game against a team with history running through their veins and a superstar guard wanting to end the run of this little kid from the Ivy league . The Garden was rocking and every bar in New York was packed. I took myself down to my local in Brooklyn ordered some Buffalo Wings and set in to watch history in the making. The Knicks were playing the LA Lakers, but more importantly, Lin was playing Kobe.
We all know what happened. Lin scored a game high 38 points to lead the Knicks to a win against their arch rivals and outscored Kobe in the process. But most importantly, Linsanity was no longer a myth or a fad. He had arrived and beaten the best. 2012 was going to be the year of the Knickerbockers and nobody was going to stand in the way of destiny…now that we had all the pieces of the puzzle.
2012 was one of the strangest seasons in the long and distinguished history of the New York Knicks. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, the 2012 season is a hard one to put into words. So much happened in the space of 66 games that even Hollywood’s best probably couldn’t script it. Looking back on it, I’d have to say that it was a decent season given everything that went down. Not a great season but certainly one that gives us much hope for the next.
I want to break this season down for you into easily digestible pieces. Trust me, its really the only way, otherwise this piece could drag on way too long and I will never be invited back. To help me get there, I am going to borrow the classic title from everyone’s favorite Spaghetti Western – The Good, The Bad and The…well, we will get to that.
I’ll stick with what I think were the 3 biggest points in each category.
Im going to start with the bad. I know its goes against the smooth flow of the awesome title above, but I just want to get it out of the way:
1 – I was never any good at Chemistry…
Apparently neither was Mike D’Antoni, but I am not going to dwell on him, he rightfully “resigned” and we can move on knowing that Mike Woodson seems to get it, but it’s still going to be tough for him.
“There is no point having 2 of the games truly great players on the same team if they can’t play together”. These were the words that every watercooler, coffee machine and yellow cab heard all day, every day. On paper, the Knicks have one of the most potent offensive lineups in its history. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire should be making defenses shake in their boots, but 2012 will be remembered as the year that 2 superstars couldn’t work it out. Individually, they had huge games and the occasional flashes of brilliance as a duo, but we were continually left shaking our heads at how ineffective they were together. This is the key change that needs to happen if the Knicks are to be effective and compete in the East next season. They showed promise. I believe the two of them can find a middle ground and become one of the games great offences, but as there always is…. there is much more than meets the eye here. They cop the blame for who they are, but the rest of the team weren’t able to adjust and has to stand up, take some responsibility and work to their combined strengths. They were put there for that very reason. I believe we have the pieces and our roster is strong. In Lin (hopefully he signs) and Iman Shumpert, we have 2 quality young guards, who like a good bottle of vino will only get better with time, care and patience. They are are young, eager and work extremely hard on the court. Most importantly they understand the importance of being a role player. Add in the huge x factor that is the 2012 DPOTY Tyson Chandler at center (who was arguably the best player on the team last year) and the remaining roster of key role players in Novak, Fields, Jeffries and Smith and this is a team that can shake it up. No doubt about it though, there is hard work ahead to improve on last season.
2 – The Injury Curse.
The curse hit the Knicks pretty hard this season and we never really had the chance at gaining any decent momentum for long stretches (maybe they should be doing more of just that…stretching!) of game time with our best players fit and healthy. Thinking back on it, at any given time a key member of our squad was out injured. Melo did his groin, Lin, Shump and Baron all out with bung knees at crucial moments and who could forget Amare’s run in with the teams Fire Extinguisher’s glass case. I know every team has to deal with injuries, it’s a part of professional sport, but when you are a team like the Knicks, with all your eggs in the basket of a couple of players you need the core to stay healthy. Especially when your other great need is for the team to find its rhythm and chemistry. This hurt us bad this year. With a long off season and plenty of chances for this team to get into the gym, hopefully the curse stays away next season, or moves onto maybe the Heat.
3 - Great Expectations
I know this is going to be a controversial statement for some of you, but I’ll stand by it. There is NO other team in the NBA that has the weight of the world on their shoulders, or the expectations of their fans like the New York Knicks. Sure, every team is under pressure from their fans and every fan expects the best from their team. But just for a moment, imagine being the Knicks. The biggest market in a competition full of “big market teams”. A team that have been a dominant force in seasons gone by (we will never forget the 90’s and those battles with the Bulls), but yet have only been NBA champions twice and have been Eastern Conference champions 8 times. They have been around since 1946…that’s 66 years in New York and have only been champions twice…TWICE!!! The last banner they got to hang in MSG was in 1999 and that only reads Eastern Conference Champions. This is New York people. The “greatest city in the world” and they don’t have much to show for it basketball wise. So when the Knicks announce to the world that they have signed 2 of the games modern day superstars in Melo and Amare, a long waited and now expected championship team was created. The entire city of New York could breath a sigh of relief and enjoy the season. But that’s not how it works in New York. These players live and die on their performance on the court, and when they don’t live up to expectations, then New York wants blood, the papers call for it to be spilt after one game and the fans boo their players at any available chance, hurling insults at them as though they come from the worst place on the planet…the west coast or Boston. This is what you get when you play for New York and the players know this, but these expectations must weigh a tonne on their shoulders and when you have a season like the 2012 NBA season, well…am sure it doesn’t help. It’s never going to change and New Yorkers will continue to live and die on each win and loss…I think it’s a shame the players have to. As Jay Z once said…”don’t bite the Apple Eve”
Finally we can move away from all this negativity and focus on what was good about last season. I am not going to sugar coat it. This wasn’t a great season, but we finished it off strong and if the ball had dropped in our favour and we had met the Bulls in the first round rather than LeBron, then who knows what might have happened.
1 – Insert random words in front of ‘sanity here.
Out of all the highs, surely the immergence of Gotham’s latest superhero’s ranks right up there.
LINSANITY….WOODSANITY…NOVAKAINEsanity, I know that isn’t technically one, but it still works…sort of. A rollercoaster of a season yes, but the highs make it much easier to forget the lows. I’ll never forget being right in the middle of it when Linsanity exploded across New York. Front page, back page, billboards, t-shirts, hats and the loudest crowds the garden had seen in ages, all for some super smart kid, from Harvard of all places that took his chance and rose above ALL expectations. His 7 game winning run saved the Knicks, there is no doubt about it. Sure he has plenty to work on still and his ball control is paramount to his continued success, but we are still talking about last season and without him…the Knicks would have been much worse off. It was a hell of a ride and one cruelly taken away from the Knicks and their fans by the curse (see above)
You can also add WOODSANITY to this list too (I may have made that up) but the Knicks were a team reborn when D’Antoni “resigned” and Woodson took over. His style of play suited that off Melo and Amare more than D’Antoni’s famed run and gun style of offence and it showed with some big results down the stretch. Under Woodson, the Knicks went 18-6 and commented their place in the Eastern Conference playoffs. One can only wonder how the Knicks would have gone if we started this season with Woodson rather than D’Antoni? Is he the answer? Season 2013 will tell us that.
I also just want to make a quick reference to the other “explosion” that hit New York during this past season and that was the “shoot the lights out” run that Steve “Novakaine” Novak went on. Out of nowhere, Novak became a fan favorite with his laser guided 3 point shots. He finished the season with a league leading 47.2% from beyond the arc. His range is ridiculous and I hope the Knicks find a way to keep him for next season.
2 – DEFENSE…CLAP CLAP CLAP
The Knicks finally found it. They had looked hard for ages but it was always something just out of their reach, but if D’Antoni wanted to leave a legacy in New York then he found it in 4 giant rock like syllables. TYSON CHANDLER.
A team that had for years, leaked more points than the majority of teams in the comp had finally found their rock in the Championship winning center from Dallas. Tyson Chandler lives and breaths by his actions on the court and without him as our tent pole defender in the middle; this would have been a very different season. Chandler was rightly awarded the Defensive Player of the Year award for the 2012 season and stamped his authority as one of the games best centers.
He was an animal on defense and his effort seemed to rub off on his teammates. Before his injury, rookie guard Iman Shumpert’s effort on the defensive end was winning him allot of praise. Bench players like Jeffries, Smith and Harrellson were praised for their defensive efforts throughout the season. This was finally a team where defense was a priority. It wasn’t always coming up roses and notable players still need to put in the effort on both ends of the court, but with all signs pointing to improvements in player efforts under Mike Woodson the old saying that “the best offence is a good defense” might just be proved next season.
3 – Through sickness and in health, through the good times and the bad, I Promise….
Out of all of last season, all the highs, all the lows, all the injuries…the Knicks have finally got something we always say we have, but this year, I truly believe we have earned. Promise.
If the last 6 weeks of the season showed anything, it’s that this Knick team can work it out and be a threat to the current slate of great teams in the NBA.
We had glimpses of superstars Melo and Amare working together for the best of the team. We had signs of improvement in 2 young highly regarded and quality guards running our offense. We have a man mountain leading our defense and encouraging all around him in Tyson Chandler. We have quality on our bench that in times of need can step up and be relied on. We have a coach that has the respect and trust of all of his players; they like his swagger and want to play his game. We have a group of fans that are so passionate about their team that if the Knicks can find their way, they may just be able to ride this support all the way.
Promise is the key word in all of this. The Good, The Bad and The Promise…that’s the 2012 New York Knicks wrapped up in a cliché if I have ever seen one.
Who knows what pieces the Knicks will add to the puzzle over this offseason. There is talk, there always is with the Knicks and I am not going to dwell on any of that here. This was about last year’s team. I sincerely hope they keep the core together, cause really, that’s what we need. The magic is there; they just got to find it.
My name is Nick Russell. I love the Knicks and all things NBA related. I’m very excited to be joining the team at NBA Nation Australia. Follow me on Twitter @NickaRuss and keep an eye out for more news from the rest of the team, and myself in the near future.
Beware the Knickerbocker.