Friday, December 4, 2009
Rant #145: Hardwood With Knot Holes
I grew up in New York City in the 1960s. I was born in Brooklyn, moved with my family to Queens when I was a toddler, and lived in Kew Gardens Hills and South Jamaica--Rochdale Village--Queens until my family and I moved to Long Island right before I was to go to high school.
Thus, basketball is in my blood.
It is the true city game. No matter what community you talk about--rich or poor, large or small, black or white--New York City kids play basketball. Even if it is just shooting a Spalding into a garbage can, kids play basketball there as much as they do anything.
It was certainly like that in the 1960s, and it evidently continues today. This is especially true in poorer neighborhoods, where basketball can be a way out for those talented enough to use the sport as a stepping stone for something bigger.
Anyway, the college game has never been huge in New York City, or at least compared to other places, for probably 40 years or more. Our regional team is St. John's, and they have had a bumpy ride the past few years. Almost every college and university in New York City and its surrounding areas have college basketball teams, but New York City is really a pro town ...
And that leads me to the sorry state of affairs of New York City's two area basketball teams, the Knicks and New Jersey's Nets.
The Knicks, once one of the proudest teams in sports with a rich heritage, are an absolutely horrid franchise, a laughing stock, run into the ground by the likes of Isiah Thomas and the current ownership and executives, including Donnie Walsh. They claim that they are looking toward next year, when numerous top-line free agents are available, to stock up their team as a serious challenger to the title. LeBron James is among a number of enticing possibilities, but what happens if these superstars look at the current state of the Knicks--including their currently dismal and sure to get much worse 4-15 record--and take a pass? What happens to your plans then, and especially since the team does not have a first round draft pick next year?
And then we come to the Nets. This vagabond team--which started out in the ABA in New Jersey, came to Long Island where it had its greatest success, and then went back to New Jersey, bouncing from arena to arena, and the team is now supposed to go to Brooklyn in a new arena in a few years if all legal challenges can be hurdled--is in the middle of perhaps the worse stretch of professional sports any team has seen in history.
The team has started off the season at 0-18, the worst start in NBA history and creeping up on the worst season start in professional sports history. The team has been decimated by injuries, recently fired its coach, and is a visitor in its own environs. There is no end in sight, and the league worst record of 9-73 by the Philadelphia 76ers in the early 1970s looks to be challenged by this team.
So the two teams combined, right now, are 4-33--and this is in a pro basketball crazy city, no less.
The two teams meet on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden for the second time this season. Obviously, the Knicks won the first contest, but it might actually be the best chance that the Nets have to break into the win column before the end of the year.
What a sorry state of affairs for both teams!
With the Giants and Jets having up and down seasons, and the area's hockey teams still trying to prove their potency, the New York area is going through the basketball jitters.
Thank goodness the Yankees are still around--heck, watching the Mets during this past season had to be an easier exercise than watching the Knicks and Nets right now!
Posted by Larry at 4:00 AM