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For Knicks, Toughness Starts at the Top



By Mike Silva ~ May 16th, 2013. Filed under: ESPN Radio, NBA, New York Knicks.

It was disappointing to hear that MSG hierarchy pulled the plug on Mike Woodson’s regular segment on ESPN-98.7 with Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco. I don’t believe this is much of a loss from a radio standpoint – Woodson’s matter-of-fact interview style probably would annoy the bloodthirsty fans  - but from an organizational Q-Rating  it’s a black eye. I also think it sends the wrong message to the team.

There is always a conspiracy theory around the Garden. Five years after his dismissal there are those that believe Isiah Thomas is still managing the roster. I believe some of that is naive paranoia, but when MSG puts up the iron curtain during difficult times it promotes such a mentality.

Twenty years ago the Knicks suffered perhaps their worst loss in franchise history during Game 5 of the Conference Finals. Down one, Charles Smith had four chances at the basket only to be rebuffed by one of the Bulls big three. The 97-94 loss snapped a 27-game home winning streak and put the Knicks in a position where they had to stave off elimination at the old Chicago Stadium. Everyone knows what happened next.

During the days between Games 5 and 6, the fans and media killed Smith and the Knicks for their performance. Despite that, no player hid from the media. The following year after the Reggie Miller-Spike Lee episode, I distinctly remember Pat Riley going on WFAN with Mike & the Mad Dog to discuss the team’s mindset going into Indiana. Again, no one was hiding during tough times. How would the Garden react to those two terrible losses today? I shutter just imagining it.

Everyone is calling for the Knicks to show some toughness in this series. I don’t often agree with Mike Francesa, but when he said the Knicks need to “stop trying to be tough games and play their game,” he couldn’t be more correct. The Knicks are an energy and passion team, not a tire iron crew like Indiana. This isn’t Riley’s or Jeff Van Gundy’s Knicks. They don’t have to be as they are good enough to win if they play their game. That doesn’t involve wrestling in the post, but rather up-tempo energy and ball movement.

If the Knicks lose tonight at MSG and go home, the media meme of toughness will be pervasive throughout the blogosphere and Twitterverse. I have a hard time believing a team that suffered as many setbacks as these Knicks aren’t tough. I think they have shown a propensity to panic during some challenging segments. Even so, they found a way to settle down and right the ship. The win in Utah during the west coast trip is a perfect example.

In the end, I don’t blame the players if toughness is a problem. This all starts and stops at the top. Mike Woodson didn’t cancel on ESPN; it was the Garden Gulag that feared the radio appearance. In the end, what kind of message does that send to the team? How does it make Woodson look as a leader? It certainly isn’t one that says man up and win three ballgames in the next five days.

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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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