Sometimes I pity Marc Berman.
Being an NBA columnist appears, from a distance, to be a lot like being a school teacher. For 9 months a year your everyday is longer than people realize, busy from dawn to dusk, full of new developments and surprising twists and drama you may have nothing to do with but you have to explain to a bunch of passionate, worked-up outsiders who think they know more than you do.
At least teachers get summer vacation. Sure, some of them work then as well (summer school = Vegas summer league), and there’s always prep work that goes on before the dance begins again in the fall. But there is a designated time of the year where no one is demanding teachers bust out a lesson plan, or speculate on how next year’s class will do.
NBA columnists have bosses who demand they justify their existence on the payroll by coming up with something during the long, lonely months of August & September. Which brings us to today’s Berman piece in the NY Post:
I’ll summarize: Berman’s point is that after all the moves the Knicks made 5 years ago to get under the cap in anticipation of the summer of Lebron—specifically, trading Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, the David Lee sign-and-trade to Golden State, trading Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari in the Melo deal, and all the draft picks dumped in that time—and where all those moves have led them today, they’re not any better off than they would have been if they’d kept all those guys. Berman even says Golden State is better off with Lee than the Knicks have been without him.
Sigh. Where to begin?
One of Berman’s points is that the Knicks were 6-5 when they made the Crawford and Randolph deals, which (sadly) was the best start they’d had in years, and that there was no way Lebron was going to come to NY, and that ending up with "MRI Stoudemire" (his words) was an unworthy return on all the years of planning and roster shuffling.
I’ve probably read every story Berman’s written in the past 10-15 years. Nobody 5 years ago was saying the Knicks had no shot at Lebron. Nobody. I don’t recall him criticizing the STAT signing, either, particularly during the brief but glorious pre-Melo STAT era, when the man was putting up 25 and 8 and blocking 2 shots a game (look it up, haters) and hearing the first MVP chants anyone had heard at MSG since Patrick Ewing.
Another point of Berman’s is that the Knicks have only one won playoff series since 2008…so this somehow proves all their moves have been for naught.
When I teach my college students about persuasive essay writing, I give them an example of what a sophism is: Billie Holliday never won a Grammy. Brittany Spears has won several. Grammys are given to recognize achievement in the field of music. Therefore, Brittany Spears has achieved more than Billie Holiday.
There’s another variation of this: in the long and rich history of the NY Yankees, neither Babe Ruth nor Lou Gehrig nor Mickey Mantle ever won an All-Star game MVP. Derek Jeter did. Therefore, since the All-Star game is a collection of elite players, and Jeter is the only Yankee to be honored as the most impressive player among his elite peers, then Jeter is the greatest Yankee ever. (I know Mariano Rivera won this year. But I consider that award part of the Mo 2014 World Tour, where everyone celebrates everything he’s done and meant. As long as he made it from the bullpen to the mound without tearing an ACL, he was going to win that award). There were no Grammys when Billie Holiday’s career was in swing, and there was no All-Star MVP award during Ruth, Gehrig, and Mantle’s eras.
That = sophism.
To argue the Knicks have "only" won 1 playoff round since 2008 is to willfully ignore the fact that the team went in the tank from 2008-2010. They weren’t trying to make the playoffs. They were milking the clock until the offseason of offseasons, hoping they’d buy their way into contention after years of cap-choked hell thanks to Isiah Wormtongue.
In 2011, they made the playoffs, faced the 2nd seeded Celtics, lost Chauncey Billups in Game 1 and STAT in Game 2. Were they supposed to win that series?
In 2012, they played the 2nd seeded Heat without Jeremy Lin, then lost Iman Shumpert in Game 1 and STAT after Game 2. Were they supposed to win that series?
Last season, I think only 4 teams won more playoff games than the Knicks’ 6. No, that’s not something you raise a banner to honor. But progress is a process. The Knicks improved from a .545 winning & and a 7-seed to a .659 winning % and a 2-seed. Any other teams make that big a jump?
And how many playoff series has Golden State won since acquiring David Lee? One...which equals the number of minutes Lee contributed in that series after injuring his hip earlier in the series. Very STAT-like, no?
The 2008-09 Knicks were the penultimate link in a near-decade of basketball wilderness. How dark were those times? I got six words for you: Eddy Curry. Limo Driver. Dirty rag.
Times were so bad then, there was an actual mini-controversy (which Berman helped stoke) over whether or not Nate Robinson deserved a video tribute when he played his first game as a visitor at MSG. Nate Robinson. NATE F$&#ING ROBINSON?!?!?!?!
People like to poop on the Knicks nowadays. They are a strange, weird, wild roster. They showed little collective intelligence and zero mental toughness as a group last year. Carmelo is not and will never be Lebron. So the fuck what? You know how many teams would love to have Carmelo and all his flaws? Every single one.
How many teams are actual contenders? Really: how many teams next year can consider themselves far and away more legitimate contenders than the Knicks? A handful. That’s it.
Patrick Ewing wasn’t Michael Jordan. And many times, he was taken for granted and looked at for what he wasn't, rather than what he was. If you followed the 90s Knicks, you enjoyed a lot of excitement and a lot of drama and a lot of big-time basketball games. There was electricity. There was a buzz. There was hope.
Unless you have the best player in the league--which 29 teams never do--the next best thing is hope.
I watched too much Shandon Anderson and Michael Doleac and Chris Duhon and Qyntel Woods and Eddy Curry and Jerome James and Tim Thomas and Mardy Collins and Nate shooting at his own basket to look back and long for a 6-5 team. You know what a 6-5 winning % is? .545. I’ll take hope over that any day.