Man, did it feel good to type that headline. Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. So, let’s start with this: Enjoy the moment, Knicks fans. As New Yorkers we’re so used to a lightning fast news cycle. There is a natural temptation to immediately start thinking about whom the Knicks opponent will be in the first round of NBA playoffs and whether the Knicks can pull off a first round upset. However, that can wait. This playoff berth has been seven years in the making. Enjoy it. We have six games until the regular season ends. That’s six games to enjoy THIS moment. Once the season ends we will know for sure whom the Knicks opponent will be and then there will be three days where we can dive into playoff analysis. But, for now, don’t look ahead; enjoy the moment. The Knicks are back in the playoffs. (Take the jump for some cathartic goodness.)
However, part of appreciating this playoff berth means reflecting on where the team has been. So, if you will, please indulge me for a few paragraphs.
Fred Jones, Jamal Crawford, Jared Jeffries, Zach Randolph, and David Lee. This was the Knicks starting lineup on April 16, 2008, the last night of the Isiah Thomas Era. After a brief moment of hope and enthusiasm following the acquisition of Stephon Marbury, I admittedly did not pay that much attention to the Knicks during the Thomas Era. Sure, I would pop in every so often on MSG to see what was going on, however they played such a brutal brand of basketball and so much negativity surrounded the organization that this team sucked all of the enthusiasm out of me and it became extremely difficult to invest too much of myself into the team. Thus, this became my personal “dark ages” as an NBA fan, and I imagine the same can be said for many Knicks fans. Then, the Knicks hired Mike D’Antoni.
Chris Duhon, Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson, Zach Randolph, and David Lee. This was the lineup on October 29, 2008, the first night of the Mike D’Antoni Era. When I planned out the format for this post I expected to see lineups that would make me recoil in horror, except this one made me sit up straight in my chair and grunt, “Huh.” While I am in no way a Duhon fan, the rest of that lineup doesn’t suck, and a combo of Randolph and Lee could have been beastly on the glass. In a far weaker Eastern Conference, this lineup (which had young versions of Gallo, Chandler, and Nate on the bench) may have produced a playoff team. Yet, we will never know what Coach D’Antoni could have done with this roster because we all know how the story goes: Walsh had his
marching orders plan to clear cap space by any means necessary. Despite Walsh’s scorched earth approach to his own roster, the Knicks, despite losing often and often in excruciating fashion, were actually fairly entertaining to watch (at least in my eyes they were.) In my opinion, you can chalk that up to D’Antoni’s offense, a seeming indifference to defense, and The World’s Most Famous Arena, which was still an awesome place to watch a game in spite of the quality (or lack thereof) of its tenants. I ended up going to ten games in D’Antoni’s first season as a coach and would attend a bunch of games over the next few seasons. Thanks to Coach D’Antoni, an awful roster was watchable and, more importantly, the NBA was back in my bloodstream after a brief sabbatical.
Chris Duhon, Bill Walker, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee, and Earl Barron. This was the Knicks lineup on April 14, 2010, the last night of the last season they missed the playoffs, which will hopefully remain the last season they miss the postseason for a very, very long time. Looking back at this lineup makes me think of how hopeless the Knicks situation seemed with Thomas at the helm. We were reminded over and over by experts on ESPN and other sports news outlets how dire the Knicks situation was, how it would take years for them to get under the cap and become competitive again. When it became obvious that Donnie Walsh was working towards this past summer, I remember installing a countdown to the Summer of 2010 widget on my MacBook Pro and feeling like that summer would never get here.
Thankfully, the Summer of 2010 finally arrived, as did the Trade Deadline of 2011, and now we have Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Together. On the Knicks! Could you have imagined that in 2008? As much as I hoped, it was still hard to imagine the Knicks showing enough fiscal responsibility to acquire one star, let alone two. But Donnie Walsh made good on his promise, and so did Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Knicks are back in the playoffs. It’s only the first step, but I’m going to enjoy it. The Knicks are back!