The Knicks are for real?
Improbable as their comeback is, unlikely as they are to keep making 41% of the 29 threes they’re launching each game, yes, they’re for real.
This is fabulous for the NBA, which has done as well in recent seasons as a recently scorned league can without a respectable team in New York.
The NBA Finals have had higher TV ratings than four of the last five World Series, but baseball retains a huge advantage perception-wise because of the Yankees’ long-running hold on the media capital of the world.
If the NBA yearned for a Knicks revival, all it got was a long-running farce with lowlights like Isiah Thomas’ mismanagement of the salary cap, Larry Brown’s one-season stay and weeks-in-the-making firing, and the Madison Square Garden sexual harassment scandal.
You’ve heard of youth movements? This is an age movement.
With Ray Felton, who is practically an infant in his second tour of duty with the Knicks at 28, came Jason Kidd (39), Rasheed Wallace (38), Kurt Thomas (40), Marcus Camby (38) and Pablo Prigioni (35), who is a rookie.
Wallace looked ready for retirement — and did, sitting out the last two seasons. Camby was down to 22 minutes a game in Portland. Thomas was in Portland, playing even less than Camby. Prigioni, an Argentine national team member, was playing in Europe.
With Amar’e Stoudemire out, the Knicks wound up starting a three-guard lineup with Ronnie Brewer, another newcomer who couldn’t shoot.
The team they joined was coming off a 2011-12 season as fractured as the franchise seemed to be.
In the first phase, Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire again proved that they didn’t fit. In the second, both got hurt and – just when it looked like all was lost – Linsanity burst forth.
In the third, Melo and Amare returned, Lin fell apart and coach Mike D’Antoni was fired. In the fourth, the Knicks pulled themselves together under Mike Woodson and a resurgent Anthony – celebrating his liberation from D’Antoni (and, undoubtedly vice versa) – by winning 18 of their last 24.
They even won a playoff game – their first since 2001 – even if it wasn’t until Miami led, 3-0.
If the Knicks weren’t sure what Lin was, they knew he was all they had at the point – a dismaying reality when Houston made him an offer with a backloaded luxury tax-triggering poison pill they chose not to match.
Not that anyone dreamed it, but what seemed like desperate moves to replace Lin and bulk up their front line, turned out to be brilliant.
Last season’s Knicks were essentially headless. This team is smart with its double-point backcourt and it defends (ninth in defense, to go with its No. 5 offense).
Showing why he could help a team at 39, Kidd’s contagious spirit turned the Knicks from a collection of gunners into a real team that whips the ball around. No longer the NBA’s worst-shooting starter, he is at a career-high 48 percent. At 50 percent on threes, he is tied for No. 2 with an unreal 55-13 assist-turnover ratio.
Then there’s Anthony, playing the best ball of his career. He is now a power forward, which matches him against bigger players who can’t stay with him.
When the Knicks first beat the Heat by 20 in their home opener, the defending champions withheld their praise. The second time the Knicks beat them, again by 20 last week in Miami with Anthony sidelined, they got their attention.
“They added a key piece in Jason Kidd,” LeBron James said. “His basketball IQ is pretty much one of the highest that we have in this league. It kind of trickles down to everyone else.”
This is the first known use of the economic trickle-down theory in basketball.
As far as the Knicks are concerned, however it happened, it was just in the nick of time.
Let’s look at the rankings.