Let’s start with an acknowledgment: I am not from New York. I would never claim to be from New York. I am also not a Knicks fan in a real, meaningful way. (The NBA team I grew up rooting for was stolen by the Starbucks corporation. Long story.) But I do live here now, and during their improbably successful season, it was physically impossible for me not to fall in love with this Knicks team. When I found myself leaping off the couch to scream at the TV during the 76ers series—both to berate Joel Embiid and everything he stands for (or should I say, falls for), but also to offer the blue and orange some encouragement—I realized that I’d been infected by the Knicks bug. Against my better judgment, I found myself hopeful, smitten, and above all else, overjoyed that this motley crew ended up in my life.

While the Knicks’ season ended on Sunday with a fairly lifeless Game 7 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the vibes never went full funeral. Those who were with them since October fully understood that this version of the Knicks was a MASH unit, trying to win a playoff series without four key players. When a fifth—bulldog point guard Jalen Brunson, the team’s unquestioned leader and best player—suffered a fractured hand during the game, it was officially over, a fitting sendoff for a group that was running on fumes.

That doesn’t make anything they did along the way any less impressive, though. Posting their best regular-season record since the 2012-13 campaign, defeating a regional rival and new Knick heel Embiid in the first round, and taking the younger and healthier Pacers to the brink was all extremely good shit. Then there was the manner in which they did it: crashing the boards with borderline dangerous tenacity, making seemingly every big three when they needed them the most, refusing to be punked by anybody. As any sports fan knows, some teams are objectively good but subjectively annoying as all hell. Corny, even. These Knicks were not that at all.

That starts at the top. With all due respect to Carmelo Anthony, Stephon Marbury, and Amar’e Stoudemire, Brunson is the best player the Knicks have had since Patrick Ewing. He’s beyond skilled, of course, but his intangibles are also through the roof. The accountability after losses, the humility after wins, and the immeasurable amount of dog in him has already placed the diminutive lefty in the upper echelon of Knick beloveds. A cool 28 points per game—which bumped up to 32.6 in the postseason—a first All-Star berth, and an effortless cool ensured that Brunson won over the notoriously hard to please Madison Square Garden crowd. His playoff production was literally Michael Jordan-esque. Nothing but respect for New York’s fat-headed king.

His teammates deserve a triple scoop of praise as well. What can you say about Josh Hart? There were four different instances during the playoffs where Hart played the entire game. In one of those, he had 21 points and 15 rebounds. In the first two games of the Indiana series, he managed to go 17-for-25 from the field while shouldering a workload that would put most people in the hospital, not touching the bench a single time. Being that consummate glue guy while also proving time and time again that he’s the funniest person on the team makes Hart a perfect cult hero. Speaking of which—what a showing by Donte DiVincenzo. As his teammates were dropping like flies on Sunday, the sharpshooter went for 39 points, setting a Knick single-season playoff record by cashing nine threes. With his crisp hairline, goatee, and pugnacious spirit, DiVincenzo possesses qualities that so many New Yorkers either already have or want to embody. New York City salutes you, buddy, while the hoop heads appreciate the fact that you’re under contract for the next three seasons.

Read the full article here


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *