For Knicks fans of my generation, the nineties were the closest thing to a golden age we've ever known. If that is the case, then the Knicks have recaptured their glory days in at least one regard – they lost a heartbreaking playoff series to a hated rival. This will be the second Eastern Conference Finals in a row to feature a bona fide Knicks conqueror, meaning the franchise has officially graduated from "Eastern Conference doormat" to "stepping stone to the Conference Finals." We're back, baby!
What follows is not a preview of the conference finals. Miami's gonna win, and everyone knows it. This is more a barometer of fan opinion heading into this series. No possible outcome should come as much comfort to Knicks fans, short of someone in the Heat organization opening the Ark of the Covenant at midcourt just before tip-off. I'd pay good money to watch Pat Riley's face melt, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Instead, the real rooting interest in this series will come down to a feeling of "the enemy who is also the enemy of my more-hated enemy is my lesser enemy (for the moment, anyway)." These are complicated, dirty (and not in a good way) feelings, and I'm interested in your thoughts on the subject. Let's break down the match-ups and then, in the poll below, settle the question of who is the most hated Easter Conference Finals Participant, '13.
The reasons to hate the Miami Heat have been discussed ad nauseam, so I'm just going to bullet-point a few choice thoughts on the matter:
I flipped on Spike TV the other night and watched the end of the movie "Doom", based on the video game, starring the Rock and one of the bros from "Lord of the Rings." During the climactic fight scene, the Rock began morphing into a demon cuz seriously bro this is "Doom" on Spike TV! I thought that half-Rock half-demon looked vaguely familiar, but couldn't quite put my finger on where I'd seen him before...until I caught a glimpse of LeBron James in his current state of hairline regression. Pro-wrestler-meets-demon would be a pretty apt description of his game as well, if you threw in Magic Johnson's passing ability, a healthy commitment to defense, and a flopping tendency that would make an Italian footballer blush. The guy is very good at a sport I enjoy watching, and yet my feelings for him remain...umm...complex.
As far as I'm concerned, Dwyane Wade's annual case of "I know it's the playoffs but my knee seriously hurts I don't think I can play SIKE watch me dunk from the foul line" has replaced Memorial Day as the new unofficial start of the summer. I've been gone from America too long to remember which Monday in May is Memorial Day, but I know for sure that Wade is going to pull that move in the third round. The man is a well-oiled machine...a well-oiled machine who, you know, acts like he isn't a well-oiled machine.
Losing to Chris Bosh and his freakishly long neck is like watching your opponent pull off an impossible move in Jenga – by all rights, that thing should have collapsed in on itself by now, but it hasn't and now I'm screwed.
Wrong flat-top is in the conference finals. Wrong flat-top is in the conference finals. Wrong flat-top. Is in. The conference finals.
The case for hating Indiana is simultaneously simpler – they just beat us – and more complex. They're a textbook underdog in this series, and I doubt anyone outside of New York will wish them ill. Even the 14 or so fans of the Atlanta Hawks, the Pacers' first round victim, probably wouldn't mind watching them stomp the Heat.
You can hate Pacer fans for their pathetic lack of support during the regular season (25th in regular season attendance for a surefire contender), but quite a bit of selective amnesia is required to drop them beneath the fans in Miami. As far as pure fan douchiness is concerned, Indiana's "yellow out" has nothing on Miami's "whites only" yacht party – somebody needs to tell the people of Florida that "whites only" policies went out of style with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As for the Indiana players...I'm sorry, everyone, but I still can't muster the kind of hatred I feel for the Heat. I came out of that series with a healthy respect for Roy Hibbert. Think of it this way: should we hate the guy for taking the next step against the Knicks, or should we hate Tyson Chandler for basically shoving him up that next step? Should we spend the rest of our lives harping on a few non-calls? We always do that, Knicks fans. I expect him to struggle in the next series – his game still has a few weaknesses, and Erik Spoelstra is actually smart enough to exploit said weaknesses – but it wouldn't exactly bother me to watch him block a few Miami drives to the rim.
The most hate-able Pacer is undoubtedly Lance Stephenson – both in terms of personality and that damned "could have drafted him" narrative. Yes, the Knicks drafted Andy Rautins ahead of him, but Andy Rautins is the Canadian Steph Curry, and since Steph Curry is the American Steve Nash, and Steve Nash is Canadian...BRAAAAHM! Sure it looks bad, but here's the thing about second-round picks: every single team passed on them at least once. Oh, but Stephenson's a local boy? The Tri-State Area is the fifth-most populous metropolitan area on the planet, meaning there are a lot of local boys. Please forgive a survivor of the Stephon Marbury Era, but even after watching Stephenson dominate the Knicks in Game 6, I'm still not that interested in revisiting the "potentially unbalanced local prep legend comes home" angle. Also, I remember what happened to last time a dude named Lance wore a yellow jersey and triumphed over adversity...didn't turn out too well for him in the end, if I recall.
It's not easy for this writer to choose a rooting interest in these conference finals – mostly, I just want the series to go seven, if only to postpone the inevitable off-season Jason Kidd contract extension. What about you, P&T'ers? Answer the poll below and leave your opinions in the comments section. Hate, hate, hate!