Two months ago, I was in New Delhi, and I had lunch with coach and talent scout JD Walsh, a New Yorker. While talking about several topics, I professed by undying love for the Knicks, started off back when I first followed a full NBA season in 1998-99 (ironic, yes, because that was the shortened NBA Lockout year!), and the Knickerbockers made the NBA finals improbably behind the efforts of Houstan, Sprewell, Camby, LJ, etc, only to go down 4-1 to the Twin Tower-ed Spurs. Ever since, I've suffered stubbornly through all the bullshit - through the Allan Houstan contract and the Larry Brown, Donnie Walsh, Stephon Marbury, Jerome James, Eddy Curry, and the losses, and Isiah and etcetra, etcetra, etcetra...
I told JD that I might be the only Knick fan in India. He joked that, and that given time, I might be the only one in the World!
That was then... Knicks started this season with a franchise-worst 1-9 record, and I had grown cold and disillusioned to checking the box-score and seeing a loss every morning.
But how things change! The Knicks have since gone 14-10, winning 11 of their last 16 games, and growing tremendously in confidence in the process. I've been tempted to write about their improving form (and playoff hopes - goddamn!!) for a while, but I was worried that I might jinx it. But screw all that - the Knicks are playing well and I'm gonna celebrate (with words)!
The reason that this is specifically the best time for me to comment on them is actually extremely simple. ESPN/Star Sports in India, my only outlet to NBA games here, is showing a grateful handful of TWO Knick games this season. The first of them happened to be Friday morning (Thursday night in America). It also happened to be the only game on the NBA calender that day, so ESPN/Star Sports had no choice but to deviate from their Laker/Celtic/Cavs/Magic worship and to (alas!) show us the Charlotte Bobcats play the New York Knicks.
I was up, 6 in the morning, eager to catch a rare chance to watch my team, and the first half left me extremely impressed. Coach D'Antoni has the Knicks running and gunning: They were coming off of a near-record 132-99 win over the Pacers four days ago and another one over the Hawks on Friday night.
Gallinari has developed nicely - hitting clutch 3's and oh, he's got a hell of a killer pump fake, which fooled the D every single time.
David Lee is my favourite Knick and our best chance to All-Star-Dom (it's not happening, I know, but I can wish, can't I?) He's not just a hustle-rebounder guy anymore - Lee is looking like a potent scorer, and at several times, played PG in half-court set-ups, creating shots for his teammates and himself.
Speaking of PG, Duhon is okay, but I'm cringe to think that he's my team's starting Point Guard. Seriously. He played well but come on, seriously? Chris Duhon?
Which brings us to his "back-up": Nate 'The Great' Robinson: brilliant, but occasionally retarded. Nate has the ability to romanticize you with his big plays and minutes later, leave you contemplating suicide with consecutive dumbass turnovers.
Wilson Chandler is developing nicely, and I see him being one to really shake things up in the future. He had a career high 27 in the game, adding seven rebounds and six assists.
I'm not ready to eat up my words about the Jonathan Bender signing yet, but he isn't playing badly...
... And Jared Jefferies... ya, he defends well, sometimes. And he wears Allan Houstan's # 20. And ya...
The Knicks played the Bobcats without their second leading scorer, Al Harrington, and were mostly in control the game. Bobcats took a lead in the 3rd, but a Nate-led run in the 4th quarter, capped by clutch 3-pointers by Duhon and Gallinari took us home safe to a 97-93 win. D'antoni is doing his thing - offence - to full effect, but I read in the Yahoo! Sports recap of this game that the Knicks have now held their opponents below 100 points for the 13th time in the last 15th games. Not bad for a team which was atrociously awful defensively last season.
The Knicks are now half a game behind the 8th playoff seed in the East (which belongs to who else, the Bobcats!) This win brings them closer to that spot, and helps them improve their head-to-head advantage against the Bobcats too. And yes, I know that the very possibility that the Bobcats are a playoff team doesn't exactly flatter the Eastern Conference.
But the Knicks ARE improving and looking hungry right now. They are starting to look (with low expectations, relatively) more like a team that some people might want to play for - someone whose names starts with a LeB and ends with a Ron. Or a Dwyane Wade, or a Chris Bosh. Are you guys listening? There is actually a basketball team in New York.
I may be one of the only Knick fans in India, but I'm hoping that this season will be able to convert a few more before a lot more join the bandwagon next season if we sign a James or a Wade. If you believe in jinxes, and the Knicks crash and burn and fail to make the playoffs, and Gallo breaks both his legs and David Lee snubs the team demanding a trade and Nate Robinson starts to worship Stephon Marbury, and our starting lineup next season features Larry Hughes instead of LeBron James, then this is the article to blame.
Until then, I'm gonna stay hopeful.
P.S.: I'm biased, but I still think that the Knicks should have signed Iverson.