These are some words I just felt compelled to write after watching the highlights to last night's loss at work. It's kinda personal, but I just needed to get it out. If you read this I hope you enjoy.
I'll admit, I used to like losing. A lot. It was fun. I've gone on record to major newspapers saying this.
The Knicks were never good when I was a kid growing up in Suburban North Jersey, and I took that as a source of pride. The Rangers were awful, the Mets were, and still are, the Mets, and the Knicks just had no idea what they were doing. I was constantly chided by my peers for not submitting as a front runner to their deities Jason Kidd, Derek Jeter, Martin Brodeur, or whoever they saw on SportsCenter that morning eating their sugary cereals. When I asked them how they felt about Vince Carter forcing his way out of Toronto to the Nets, I was greeted with a "KNICKS SUCK!" rather than healthy sports discourse. In hindsight I should have seen that coming because I was 11 and 11 year olds, like I was, are inherently not eloquent about sports and are generally immature.
No one ever came to my defense. Nope. It sucked being a Knicks fan in 2004. We made the playoffs that year. Y'all remember? Probably not. We were a 7 seed at 39-43. Don Cheney was forced out as coach and Lenny Wilkins came. Looking back on it, this is the first season I started rationalizing MSG's bullshit and drank the Kool-Aid.
That's what I did because no one was there to stop me: rationalize. I've been doing it ever since 1999 when I started watching this team. I rationalized everything. I rationalized the Eddy Curry trade. Here is a direct quote I told my dad when it happened "We now have an center to run the offense through! And a pick-and-roll guy!" God I was fucking dumb. I rationalized Stephon Marbury. I rationalized forcing out Don Cheney. "Lenny Wilkins has won a championship."
Then I started to realize you can't rationalize everything that happens in sports. That was a big development. I realized sports are inherently random at times, and sometimes decisions just don't work. I also realized that sports are a business and decisions need to be made. I realized that when losing was done in a productive matter, because the NBA operates in such a strict manner. Thus 2008 to 2010 were great years because it seemed like the Knicks were going somewhere. And hoo boy did the Knicks do some losin'. They lost 103 games over those two seasons, and I enjoyed every single one of those losses. I guess in a way I realized all I could do was rationalize losing to make it fun.
This season has made me rethink everything I knew as a fan. I realized that this team, has no options for next year (unless Melo opts out, in which case how are we going to replace that), and the only saving grace is a 2015 draft pick that cannot be cashed in until a year from June. It's not just the bleak future (which I've argued is not super, super bleak) that has been frustrating. What has sucked is the manner in which this team plays. There's no spark, no energy, no rally when the going get tough. When Milwaukee loses, they have guys on the bench fighting for their future playing with reckless abandon. While that doesn't always translate into winning basketball, it gives fans something to rationalize.
The 2013-14 Knicks have nothing to rationalize. We know they suck. We know they aren't going to magically "figure it out" because they've had more than a significant sample size to "figure it out." They've played 71 games of basketball, and managed to win 29 of them. To top it off we're doing it in the year where the East is historically bad.
If any of you have watched soccer there are three types of games that happen when a very, very good team plays a mediocre to bad team. 1. The mediocre to bad team experiments with new lineups to catch the other team off guard, plays as perfect as they can for as long as they can and hope to steal a late goal to tie or win a game in a low scoring affair. 2. The bad team tries as hard as they can, but are overrun and lose 5-0 or more as they just cannot keep up.
The third option is this: the worse team punches above its weight, but the better team finds a way to suffocate the midfield denying the poorer team any chances, and scores around 2-3 goals because they dominate play so much and its inevitable (see my Manchester City dominate United yesterday in the Manchester Derby).
This is what watching the Knicks are like this season. They don't score in transition, they stagnate on offense (I was hoping to write more about this), they don't play defense and let other teams score willingly behind the arc and in transition. We're just watching better teams outclass and out maneuver us on a daily basis. That's not fun.
This season has been like being held down by a man lightly putting a pillow over our faces. He's holding us down enough that we can't get away, but he's not pressing hard enough to deny us oxygen within the first few minutes. We're just sitting there slowly dying as this team throws game after game after game away.
We can debate all we want about the future of this franchise (it has a future, we will survive this), but this is a lost season, one that I hope these guys erase from our memories ASAP. 11 Games.