In 1973 the New York Knicks won the championship. In game 73 the 2022 Knicks defeated the Charlotte Hornets 121-106. The ‘73 team featured six Hall of Famers. Last night the Knicks were missing their lone All-Star, Julius Randle. 1973 marked the end of an era. For only the second time in his career, Obi Toppin played more than 28 minutes. Jericho Sims played a career-high 26. Miles McBride saw double-digit minutes for the seventh time in nine games after doing so only five times the first 24. Could last night have signaled a new direction?
Not anytime soon, pro’ly. Tom Thibodeau stuck by Elfrid Payton last year like Samwise did Frodo; after a dismal regular season, Payton still started the first two games of the Atlanta series. And yet he only played eight and five minutes in those games, leaving one to wonder what the hell the coach was thinking. Was Thibs unsure after an entire regular season what Payton could and couldn’t do? Doubtful. And yet the lack of playoff minutes tells you Thibodeau knew Payton’s struggles had gone on too long — this wasn’t someone having a couple of off-games. Everyone knew that. Thibodeau had to. And yet...
So given that loyalty to Elf, one imagines Thibodeau may never accept that Randle’s apotheosis was not the start of something new, but rather a departure from something well-established. With Randle and Mitchell Robinson both unavailable and Nerlens Noel’s extended injury absence taking on the strange endlessness of a New York Met on the DL, the Knicks looked more like the team the public has been clamoring for God knows how many weeks? Months?
Don’t go crazy patting yourselves on the back, public. Some of you are the same people who posted that Iman Shumpert could become the best two-guard in the East after Dwyane Wade, who needed trauma counseling after Shane Larkin’s option wasn’t picked up and who pose insane, inane imaginary trades where the Knicks unload six mediocrities for some Hall of Famer. This game showed us the Knicks can beat the Hornets, something we knew already. That didn’t make the specifics any less fun.
This was a pot luck W. Everyone brought a little something. Sims hit all five of his shot attempts en route to his first time scoring double-digits. Toppin put up 18, 11 and six, a point shy of his career-best. RJ Barrett shot well on his way to another 30-point outing. Alec Burks had 17 and seven rebounds. Evan Fournier made four three-pointers while dishing seven assists. Led by Immanuel Quickley, the bench chipped in eight 3s, 10 assists and one turnover. New York had 30 dimes on 43 field goals and made 61% of their 2s, 44% of their 3s and 88% of their free throws.
But does it mean anything, we wonder? You can make any argument you want based off one game in isolation. The Knicks lost one night prior in Atlanta without Randle. If that loss didn’t mean they’re doomed, the win promises nothing beyond the W.
I’ll take it. I’m not just here for the Knicks; I want something out of all this, too. Long ago I found peace accepting that sustained success was not what I’d get from my fandom. Some nights I just wanna sit on my couch and watch my team shoot the lights out, lead wire-to-wire and keep things chill while I decompress. I know this win doesn’t change their fortunes, doesn’t answer any of the major questions around the franchise. These same Knicks could play these same Hornets tomorrow and lose by 20.
But a win is a win is a win. Quoth at large: “Clearly this is how the Knicks should play every game.” Word. The truth is this fan base deserves it. Sometimes people deserve something better than the truth. New York won five of its first 63 games by 15+ points before doing so five times in their last 10. It pro’ly won’t mean much this season and there’s no way to know if it’s helping prepare the Knicks for a better place later than sooner. For one night, it was comforting not to think about the standings or the lottery odds. It was fun watching your team win a game. The way this year has gone, I’m not taking that for granted. Yay, Knicks.