State of the Garden: Half Full or Half Empty?

After watching yesterday’s painful loss to the Boston Celtics, I realized that there are two different, but possible, reactions from the point of the view of a Bocker lifer. You’re either a glass half full optimist, or a glass half empty loser. And unless you jumped on the bandwagon when Jeremy Lin took the basketball world by storm, there are only these two possibilities. The die-hard Knicks fan has been through more than a decade of ineptitude, apathy, and lack of effort from top to bottom. This has emboldened him or her to exude more passion towards orange-and-blue than ever before. Again, unless you like your weather “fair,” there is no neutrality when it comes to backing the NBA team that plays at Madison Square Garden.

So which Knicks fan are you? And more importantly, do you know me well enough to place me in one of the categories?

Just a few short years ago, the economy crippled a large population of Americans. People lost their jobs or were forced to take positions beneath their worth. Mortgage payments went unpaid, and foreclosure quickly reared its ugly head to those most vulnerable. Recent graduates of numerous universities displayed a diploma that became borderline valueless.
All of these things still hold true to this very day. But since the calendar turned more than two months ago, things have undoubtedly improved, regardless of where you stand ideologically. Though a gallon of gas deprives us of our soul, many of the statistics will tell you that we may be finally climbing out of the hole. So instead of focusing on how things went wrong, or why we’re not completely out of the woods yet, it’s more fruitful to celebrate that we’re doing better than we have in a long time.
It’s tough to complain about the 2012 version of the New York Knicks when every other version for the past 10 years taught the rest of the league, specifically from A-Z, how to NOT run a sports franchise. Yesterday, the road squad forced a good team into overtime. That good team features 3 guaranteed Hall of Famers and needed its All-Star point guard to produce a stat line that has been seen only TWICE in the history of the sport. Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the two superstars that have been catching verbal heat all season, played some of the most inspired ball we’ve seen in a long time. And not only that, the two did it without disrupting the flow of the spacing-fueled offense. The bench continued to shine, with Depth City’s reserves displaying toughness that is virtually unmatched by any second unit outside of Chicago or Miami.
And goodness, we can always remember the greatness that is Iman Shumpert:

Of course, Shumpty was rewarded for his posterization of Kevin Garnett with a technical foul, in one of the most ludicrous calls I’ve seen in years. If that is the basis for a tech, then Garnett himself, among many others, should receive one on just about every trip down the floor. Every single point counts in a close game that is decided in overtime. The fallacy of the pre-determined outcome prevents me from saying that this would have been the difference, but that call wasn’t the only example of the horrendous officiating yesterday afternoon:

The way that Garnett was allowed to unleash an assault and battery, and label it as a legal pick, makes you think that the referees were watching a different game. And if that’s going to happen, it’s tough to win, especially in a hostile, playoff-like environment.

Depth will win out in a condensed season. Instead of saying that New York will come together by the playoffs, we already know that they have come together. The next step is tying those loose ends that Boston did yesterday.


I recently finished watching The Wire, known as one of the best shows in television history. I don’t think I’m pushing any spoilers, but if you think I am, grow up: the statute of limitations has definitely run out on a show that aired its last episode almost four years ago.

The overarching theme of the Baltimore drug game was that for all the promise and potential of “good” that resulted from gritty policework, children trying to shield themselves from the streets, or ex-convicts finally seeing the light, every conceivable situation was destined to fail. The foundation of the inner city had been established for too long as a deteriorating mix of crime and despair. The people upstairs, armed with the task of fixing everything, were more concerned with washing their unclean hands with merely a trained politician’s smile.

With great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes. In 2006, Stan Van Gundy was in the midst of leading a Miami Heat team featuring Dwyane Wade and a still highly effective Shaquille O’Neal to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Only problem was that the players never felt like Van Gundy was actually leading them. Shaq opined that the head coach panicked too often. Wade was still a young buck who needed a coach with the proper championship pedigree.

Miami president Pat Riley conducted what amounted to a disgraceful transaction, forcing Van Gundy to retire under the pretense of Stan needing to spend more time with his family (SVG’s long tenure as Orlando Magic coach only proves that). Riley overtook the head coach position, and finally fulfilled the promise of a title, to the 3 or 4 real Miami fans in South Beach. Though his actions were met with shakes of the head, Riley displayed his gigantic testicles in ousting a coach who was winning games, for the greater good.

The question remains: is there someone within the Knicks family who has the cojones to suggest a similar move? Mike D’Antoni is an average NBA coach, but on most nights, “average” is actually a compliment. His failure to make adjustments is based on his stubbornness to stick to what has worked in the past. I cannot stress enough how debilitating it was to see the Knicks switch defensive responsibilities whenever Paul Pierce or Garnett set a pick for Rajon Rondo. I’ll be enraged enough whenever the Knicks employ this strategy, as they have done for the entire season. It creates a mismatch in the post that leads to countless baskets for the other team. But in yesterday’s game, it was even more inexcusable. Watch any other team play defense against the Celtics, and you’ll see that Rondo will have more than his fair share of open looks from the perimeter. This happens most often when his on-ball defender fights under the screen, momentarily double-teaming the man who sets the pick. When the Knicks switch, they still give Rondo the open jumper, but it is canceled out by the defensive switch, forcing Lin to guard Pierce, Shumpert to guard Garnett, etc.

I have heard that it is assistant coach Mike Woodson who has employed this switching strategy. The problem I have with faulting Woody is 1) the Knicks did this very same thing throughout MDA’s reign as destroyer of my heart, and 2) Mike Woodson is just an assistant coach! If something doesn’t work, the head coach fixes it. That’s why numerous NFL head coaches will overtake play-calling duties when their offense is stagnant, or why MLB managers overrule their pitching coaches in regards to calling someone in from the bullpen.

What’s more, the incompetence displayed by D’Antoni results in two things that should not happen, were the Knicks to have an above-average guy running the day-to-day. First, because success is predicated on wins and losses, and less on how said wins and losses are achieved, Anthony and Stoudemire receive criticism that is often times unfair and uncalled for. Second, and more importantly, D’Antoni’s follies take precedence over the loose ends that the glass half-full fan alluded to earlier. The most important loose end that needs to be tied this month is the inconsistent play of Lin. He still turns the ball over far too much; his decision-making hasn’t evolved as quickly as top-caliber defenses have adjusted to his tendencies. It was both nice and awful to see reserve point guard Baron Davis thoroughly outplay Lin from start to finish, even if you were to include Lin’s decent final minutes in the 4th quarter. Davis is much stronger on the ball and has better court vision. Maybe it’s because Lin’s eyes are too small, maybe it’s because the head coach hasn’t challenged the young Harvard product to get better, or maybe Lin isn’t as good as we thought he was. Either way, if D’Antoni wants to ride Lin like “friggin’ Secretariat,” then he should compensate for being gifted with Lin by spending more time helping the kid improve his game.

The Knicks’ schedule in March is nothing short of brutal. Though winning yesterday’s game was a tough endeavor that ultimately proved unsuccessful, it was one of the more winnable games the Knicks will encounter for the next 25 days. They blew a big one here.


I’ll admit that there could be a fan who takes a little of both of these categories. But ask that person whether he or she feels good or bad about the Knicks’ chances this season, and you’ll get a straight answer. There is no Switzerland in our blood. Onward, orange and blue.

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