Monday, February 22, 2010

Rant #199: The Same Old Knicks, Sort Of

My son and I went to Madison Square Garden for a Knicks game on Saturday night. We saw the Knicks vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, and predictably, the Knicks lost, but at least it went to overtime.

Although the Knicks lost, my son and I had a good time. We sat in our customary nosebleed seats, but it was a lot of fun.

There is nothing like being at the Garden, in person, for a basketball game. Even though the Knicks are an absolutely terrible team that is going nowhere--even with Tracy McGrady--there is just something about seeing a game at the Garden that stirs up lots of memories and good feelings.

Today, the Knicks will be celebrating their first championship team--the 1969-1970 squad--during halftime of their game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Although certainly not the most talented team in history, this team may have been the most cerebral.

On the team were the likes of Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett, Willlis Reed, Walt Frazier, and Dave DeBusschere. I truly don't know if the collective IQ of this team was greater than any other, but they played real smart.

They looked for the open shot, passed the ball when there wasn't one, rebounded, defended and played their hearts out. The city embraced them almost unlike any other team at the time (even the Mets, who won the World Series in 1969, did not galvanize an entire city like the Knicks did, because they still had the Yankees to contend with).

I remember going to games back then with my father, and the place was sold out every night. It was hopping, there was a buzz in the crowd that is classic to the Garden, and you just had to marvel at the determination and zeal that that team had.

Flash forward 40 years, and you get the current Knicks squad.

For one reason or another, this team is a complete embarrassment to the fans and to the organization.

Looking ahead to a free agent class that will include Lebron James, the Knicks have bankrupted themselves talent-wise to allow for enough salary cap room to make a play at James, Dwyane Wade, and other top free agents.

So what you have on the floor is a group of players who really don't know where they will be next year. David Lee has been the team leader this year, but even he has no clue if he will be a Knick next year.

So when you have that monkey on your back, which way is up?

The Knicks have lost six in a row and 15 of 18. They only thing that is keeping them out of last place is the dreadful Nets.

But on Saturday, there was a spark at the Garden.

I guess it had to do with Tracy McGrady joining the team. He was once a superstar, now he is a guy out to prove himself--to the Knicks or another suitor next year.

There was buzz at the Garden. You can feel it and you could hear it. Knick fans will tell you that the buzz is something special to the Garden. Maybe it has to do with how it was built or its connection to the Long Island Railroad or Amtrak, but when that buzz is present, there is nothing like it anywhere else.

And I know what the buzz is. I was at the first game that Dave DeBusschere played as a Knick, 40 years ago. You could not get a seat. The place was loud, noisy, and boisterous. Everyone knew that DeBusschere was the last piece of the puzzle that the Knicks needed to become champions, and it all played out that night--and later, on May 8, 1969, when they finally won their first championship (a day before my bar mitzvah!).

The fans were excited, and I think the players were too, and this was true 40 years ago, and it was true on Saturday night.

The outcome was pretty much decided from the opening tap, even though the Knicks took it to overtime.

But there was that buzz. Oh, maybe it wasn't the same buzz heard in 1969-1970, but there was a buzz.

The Knicks are awful, but at least for one night, there was that buzz ...

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