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New York Ready to Embrace the Knicks



By Mike Silva ~ November 3rd, 2012. Filed under: New York Knicks.

Nothing that happened at Madison Square Garden last night will compare to the emotion at Shea Stadium on September 21st, 2001. For all his on-the-court heroics, Carmelo (or is it Melo now?) Anthony wasn’t Mike Piazza. Eric Spoelstra wasn’t Bobby Cox; Mike Woodson wasn’t Bobby Valentine and Lebron James wasn’t Chipper Jones. Or, maybe he kind of was. In any event, it would be unfair to compare the Knicks 104-84 victory over the Miami Heat to the Mets victory over Atlanta the first game back from the 9-11 tragedy. The Garden rocked, but it wasn’t like Shea during the bottom of the 8th after Piazza hit a two-run homer to give the Mets the lead. What the Knicks did accomplish is the antithesis of the NYC Marathon: bring New Yorkers together and begin the process of getting back to normal.

I have always said the Knicks are the one team that could overtake the Yankees in the sports pages. Knicks basketball was bigger than any story in this town from 1991 to 2000. Baseball didn’t start officially until the last buzzer sounded for the Knicks in the NBA playoffs. We saw how starved this town is to have a winning basketball team. Think about it, basketball hasn’t been relevant around here in over a decade. Not even St. John’s, the #2 basketball team in this town, has given New Yorkers much to cheer about.

That could change with this Knicks group, even with a compromised A’mare Stoudemire. Sure, one game doesn’t cure all ills but you had to be encouraged about what you saw. The Knicks moved the ball brilliantly- sometimes too much- and played the kind of defense that brought back memories of the 90s. Carmelo played like a star and the rest of the team fit into their role. Everyone forgets that one top superstar was enough before Miami’s Big Three. as long as you had a solid supporting cast and played defense.

There are flaws with this group. Age, most notably, goes against them. Can you expect Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd to stand up to an 82-game grind? Will J.R. Smith shoot them out of games? Will Melo try to do too much on offense? Is Amar’e Stoudemire knees damaged to the point where he isn’t able to compete at an All-Star level consistently? The answer leans towards yes on all counts.

They do appear to have a coach that will preach defense, hold them accountable and push them to maximize their abilities. That hasn’t been seen around here since Jeff Van Gundy. Woodson has the opportunity to turn this franchise around like Pat Riley did two decades ago.

The point is the fans are ready to embrace this group. Even if it’s a 50-win team that gets knocked out in the second round, New York wants energy at the Garden. They want big stops and late comebacks. They want some energy during May when baseball season is still trying to find itself. They want to embrace players that are approachable and likable, even despite their immense wealth.

New Yorkers are tired of Randy Levine’s Yankees, Bernie Madoff’s Mets and the NHL lockout. Football is great, but it’s only once a week and comes and goes so quickly. New York needs the Knicks and they have a perfect opportunity to seize their claim to the city’s hearts and minds.

Hurricane Sandy or not, that would have been the case this season.  Don’t be surprised, however, how this team coming back like they did after the troublesome week we had goes a long way to recapturing their past glory. I think it gives an emerging brand a huge boost.

We can’t say the Knicks are back till there are more results, but the fans sure hope they are.

***

What you saw at MSG last night was astonishing. Despite 1970s-style gas lines and a compromised public transportation system, 19,033 showed up to support the Knicks. This isn’t the fake attendance you saw at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field this year; this was a legitimate nineteen and change.

It turns out that cancelling the game against the Nets at the Barclays Center on Thursday was the right thing to do. From a social responsibility standpoint, I don’t think we were ready to get back to normal on Thursday. It also made sense due to the public transportation woes that are accentuated due to the Barclays downtown Brooklyn location.

The misfortune of Brooklyn’s cancellation did show us why Madison Square Garden is the best arena in the world. You couldn’t get that energy and stage we experienced at MSG in the five-minute old Barclays.

MSG is the basketball version of Yankee Stadium. There are ghosts (good and bad) that give the place some charm. History helps the hometown team get to the finish line. It enhances their performance in the same way we saw the old Yankee Stadium help the Yanks.

That won’t be the case at Barclays for quite some time – maybe ever.

Unless, of course, the Nets can channel the history from their .00005 minority owner, Jay-Z, since his concerts seem to be the biggest thing that will happen there for a while.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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