The Knicks: .500iest of .500 Teams

“You are what your record says you are.”

Any long-time Giants fan can recognize the words of Bill Parcells. The irony of this famous quote is that he was speaking of football – the sport in which his words apply the least. The Giants proved that a few months ago. In the NFL, losing four games in a row means tossing away a quarter of your season. Winning four games in a row can mean running the table in the playoffs and being crowned champions. The chaos of the NFL season comes from its painfully small sample size.

The same can’t be said for basketball. A four-game winning streak? They’ve already had two of those. Unfortunately the NBA season is a much larger sample. The long NBA season more effectively separates the wheat from the chaff…much as we’d like to hope for a repeat of the Miracle of ’99. In the NBA, you are what record says you are. Uh-oh.

The Knicks are 18-21.Their expected W-L record is 21-18. Let’s split the difference and call the Knicks a .500 team. They certainly seem like a .500 team, don’t they? Going back to last year – the start of the Knicks’ Renaissance – the team is 60-61. Would you call that a Renaissance? Considering the depths to which they had sunk before 2010, I probably would. Still, I wouldn’t rank it at the top of my Best Renaissance list:

  1. Harlem Renaissance
  2. Italian Renaissance
  3. Knicks Renaissance
  4. The Danny DeVito film “Renaissance Man”

This mediocrity frustrates Knicks fans to no end. Surely this team has better than .500 talent. Yet there is a remarkable symmetry to this team, the symmetry of mediocrity. They’re a team of runs, but those runs tend to even themselves out - six-game losing streak, seven game winning streak, horrible January, terrific February.

The Knicks’ play has been consistently lacking in consistency. I call it the Homer Simpson Home Winemaking Course Syndrome:

Homer: “Every time I learn something new it pushes something old out of my brain. Remember the time I took that home winemaking course and forgot how to drive?”

Marge: “That’s because you were drunk!”

Homer: “…and how!”

That’s the story of the Knicks, more or less: they play strong defense in one game, only to fall apart on offense - this week at Dallas comes to mind – and then they follow it up by executing on offense and falling apart on defense. Are the Knicks a good or a bad team on offense? Defense? Occasionally, they’re all of the above. Add up all the Chandler hustle plays and the Novak “3-point deluge” games and Lin’s Toronto dagger and subtract all the busted offense sets, “what the hell happened to Amare” games and Paul Pierce’s Boston dagger and you just about break even.

What can the Knicks do to fix this? The math here seems clear: Talent – Consistency = .500 basketball. They have the talent. Would trading half the team for Dwight Howard bring them consistency? I think not. Consistency will only come with time together on the court. And prayer. Lots of prayer.

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