Phil Jackson to the rescue!
Imagine that, another Knick dream, shot to hell.
It’s not happening.
Friends say Jackson is still happy as a clam in retirement, living on the water in Playa Del Rey, about to undergo knee surgery, in a continuing effort to put his body back together and do things like bicycle though Europe.
The Knicks are nowhere in his thoughts, at present.
Since he does have a New York thing, and since he is Phil Jackson, you wouldn’t want to say he couldn’t possibly wind up there (as I once asserted he could never return to the Lakers).
However, it can’t happen unless the Knicks make a massive presentation and bring plenty of money.
That’s not where James Dolan’s head is at the moment, either.
If high-profile coaches look great in 180-point tabloid headlines, the only time Dolan sprang for a star, Larry Brown, it turned into a clash of cultures on the scale of War of the Worlds.
Who can forget those days?
Brown left dangling after one season as Dolan tried to nudge or browbeat him into resigning and walking away from his $53 million contract?
Brown conducting a roadside press briefing — “I’m a dead man walking” — when the team wouldn’t let him speak publicly?
Knick officials saying Brown breached his contract by talking at roadside, without a team official present.
The press trooping off to Dolan’s nightclub gig with his blues band, hoping for a comment, which was, of course, not forthcoming?
Brown settling for $20 million after letting Commissioner David Stern mediate, saving Dolan $33 million.
In Dolan’s 11 seasons in charge—courtesy of his father, Charles, head of corporate owner Cablevision—the Knicks have missed the playoffs in eight years and lost in the first round in three.
If Knicks fans should be used to waiting for things that never happen, the real surprise is they still have fans.
Amazingly, after years of ineptitude and others (see above) of slapstick comedy, “The Knicks are our winter,” as the Daily News’ Mike Lupica once put it.
In other words, New York is no different from Los Angeles, or Chicago or Turnipville.
Even in the world capital of finance and communications where the Devil Wears Prada, with Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera, the United Nations, Wall Street, Martin Scorcese, Woody Allen, Robert DeNiro, Greenwich Village, the Yankees, the Giants, the Jets (the NFL teams actually play in New Jersey but bill themselves as “New York” so only attendees notice), the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Donald Trump, Times Square and the Carnegie Deli, it’s still like all the places on the other side of the Hudson River squashed into a few square inches in the famous New Yorker cartoon.
What is there to watch after the Super Bowl if the local NBA team is no good?
You’d think New York would have come up with an answer by now.
Knicks tradition is essentially forlorn, even if that has been all but forgotten since their near-heyday in the ‘90s under Coach/Prince of the City Pat Riley when they won no titles but became the hottest ticket in town.
Before that, you had to go all the way back to the glory days of the early ‘70s… only two of which led to titles in 1970 and 1973 with Red, Willis, Clyde, et. al.
Before that… there was no before that, only the years with the gamblers behind the baseline in the old Garden, watching Richie Guerin, Kenny Sears, et al, worrying about covering as opposing to winning.
Bottom line, one flirtation with Camelot in the early ‘70s and some exciting near-misses in the early and late ‘90s.
Aside from that, they’re the Clippers with a better bloodline.
Until recent years, Knicks fans were the meanest in the land, sneering at the gallant Patrick Ewing for never leading their team to a title while the press corps maneuvered him into “guaranteeing” victories, as if he was Joe Namath.
Perhaps out of starvation, Knicks fans now accept anything, grasping fervently at any ray of hope.
For two years, they turned LeBron James’ games in Madison Square Garden into “LeBronstock” festivals, cheering for him as if he was already theirs.
When the time came in 2010, James found he could no longer stay in Cleveland but his fallback position became Miami, not the Knicks.
So Knicks fans dreamed up a new one, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul!
Actually, CP3 and ‘Melo dreamed it up for them, with Paul joking about forming “our own big three” with Amare Stoudemire at Anthony’s 2010 wedding… held in Manhattan, of course.
The following February, Dolan, sucked into long-running trade talks for Anthony, upped team president Donnie Walsh’s offer of one player to four (Danilo Gallinari, Ray Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov), sending two more to Minnesota (Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry) to make the salaries conform to cap rules.
Anthony became a Knick, and was greeted as if he was LeBron.
If Anthony played a year in college and is six months older than James, ‘Melo’s more like ‘Bron’s little brother.
Anthony won the only playoff series in his career in 2010, after Chauncey Billups arrived to provide the missing leadership for the team, and him.
In New York, he took a .500 team that had developed admirable chemistry running Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense, and turned it into a .500 team that couldn’t run D’Antoni’s offense, which the Celtics then swept in four games.
Of course, the first two games were close!
And Melo went off in Game 2, exploding for 42 points in Boston and almost turning the series around!
Optimism remained sky-high, at least in Gotham. Even the New York Times joined in, with a feature on Melo’s wife, La La, a media-friendly former veejay, headlined, “The First Lady of the NBA.”
This was a compliment, indeed, since no NBA wife had ever held the title of “First Lady.”
Unfortunately, the lockout ended, the team went out on the floor and, with Billups gone and no one else to hold things together, went up in smoke.
Next: The Bubble of Bubbles!
When all seemed lost, D’Antoni looked like he was gone—and I wrote a feature on Jackson—here came Jeremy Lin!
If the NBA had never seen a New York hype in today’s tabloid media environment, here it came, with hearts warmed until the water boiled over, hard-boiling them.
Asian-American Cinderella from Harvard. Undrafted. Cut by two teams. About to be cut by the Knicks. Sleeping on his brother’s couch.
The great Nate Silver announced “Jeremy Lin is no fluke,” noting that everyone who scored 20-plus point with six-plus assists, shooting 50% over four games, as Lin had, was a Hall of Famer or would be.
Unfortunately, after 12 games almost as good, Melo and Amare returned, obliging Lin to take a step back, even as opponents began eyeing him as if he was LeBron.
So when Lin stepped back, it was as if he had been standing on the lip of the Grand Canyon.
In the bad news for so-hopeful-and-easy-to-crush Knick fans, we don’t really know what this group is, but early indications are it’s not too good.
As one of the minority, who thinks Lin will emerge as a top 50-percentile starting point, as a group, I have the Knicks as a non-starter, as I have from the day they made that dopey Melo trade.
Talk about your dreams that don’t pan out.
CP3 was supposed to follow Melo to New York, but the salary cap was frozen, instead of going up the $3 million the Knicks had projected.
With Melo’s $19 million salary where six players had been, there went the Knicks’ flexibility and that second max slot they spent two years talking about.
So, as Knick fans look to the future….
“Preserve your memories,” wrote Paul Simon, a New Yorker, “they’re all that’s left you.”