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Stay in the moment, Knicks fans

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

Miami Heat v New York Knicks Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

When my daughter was four, we’d play Mario Kart together, the old N64 version. She was too young to play by herself, so “we” meant the two of us on one controller, she pressing the gas button the whole time while I did everything else. By the time she was seven she’d shown enough growth in other areas that I had her try playing on her own, and by “try” I mean “do it despite her swearing she couldn’t because I’m your parent and I know best.” She kept moving backwards or spinning in circles, when she could move at all. She got so frustrated so fast, swore she’d never play a video game again. I had her try a game of Pac Man to see if it was just Mario Kart. Nope. She got super anxious again and quit.

Now she’s almost 11. We don’t live together anymore, but when we are together she often wants to play Mario Kart, the new one. She’s so good at it! She wins almost every circuit (at the start of a game you pick a “cup,” a series of four different courses), knows all these little tricks and shortcuts. Gives me advice. Talks shit and even backs it up, sometimes. I was always competitive when it came to video games, but when I play with her I just marvel at how far she’s come, how fast she’s grown. Spending time with her is like being in a time machine. I try to stay in the moment as much as I can, try to value its passing. She still thinks I’m cool, and fun. I know that clock’s ticking.

There’s going to be an awful lot of temptation the next few weeks to leap ahead in time for Knick fans. After 77 games, most of the positional jockeying seems finished; the Knicks aren’t going to pass Cleveland at #4 and, barring a 2007 Mets-level collapse, are equally unlikely to drop behind Brooklyn to the sixth seed. It’s natural to look ahead to the playoffs, and a first round date with the Cavaliers. As soon as the Knicks’ playoffs are complete, and honestly pro’ly a little before that, you’ll wanna look ahead to the future. Did they get the Dallas pick this June? What kind of trades or signings might they pursue? The future looks brighter than it has in a while; it’s understandable why a fan base used to 24 hours of darkness would be drawn to the new dawn rising in the east.

Stay. In. The. Moment.

These kinds of seasons are few and far between, oases where the long night of the soul can take shelter on a soft bed of fortysomething wins and house money all postseason long. Next year there’ll be expectations. Higher than they’ve been in a while. You’re gonna want 50 wins; if that team goes 46-36, it won’t be cast in the light that record received this time around. If the Knicks lose a hard-fought Game 7 in the first round to the Cavs next month, it’ll be the noble last stand of the coming blue-and-orange tsunami. Lose a hard-fought Game 7 in the first round to the Cavs next year and figurative heads will sit on the spikes of the metaphorical fence surrounding our literal (secondary definition) castle.

Stay. In. The. Moment.

You wouldn’t know it from the last couple of weeks, between Julius Randle’s ankle and Jalen Brunson’s foot and hand, but the Knicks have been pretty healthy much of this year. The best laid-plans of Leon and Tom can’t account for someone missing 50-60 games next year. Almost every move made the past nine months has clicked: committing to Mitchell Robinson, landing Brunson, replacing Evan Fournier with Quentin Grimes, signing Isaiah Hartenstein, trading for Josh Hart, who still hasn’t missed a 3 since becoming a Knick. Oh, and what if they do land that Mavs’ pick at #11, and get to add a lottery pick to the S.S. Good Vibes? Can you imagine how high they could rise?? Avoid that urge!

Stay. In. The. Moment.

Take these last handful of games to slow down, zoom-out and see what is, not what you think could or should follow. Enjoy the Knicks’ depth. Their youth. The mortality of the bond shared by young NBAers who bond as teammates years before any of them enjoy the privilege of determining where they want to play or how much they think they’re worth. Relish the ease of regular-season basketball, where every single whistle isn’t one of a thousand bread crumbs leading you to winning or misery, with no purgatory in-between. Savor two surprisingly positive seasons out of three. Breathe in the rarity of games that don’t affect the chase for the playoffs or for ping pong balls.

Stay. In. The. Moment.

In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens describes two sickly child-like creatures hidden beneath the robes of the glorious Ghost of Christmas Present: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” Last season Dallas made an unexpected trip to the Western conference finals. The year before, Atlanta — remember them? — did the same in the East. Such great heights. Where are they now? Both in want of a future they thought their birthright, ignorant as to how it was lost or whether they’ll ever find the path that leads them there.

Look at Mark Cuban these days. Check out Trae Young. Years of disappointment and failure have etched into Cuban’s face. Young is like Nellie from Little House on the Prairie: the beneficiary of privilege, yet so seemingly sullen and self-centered; he’s buried more coaches (2) than he’s had All-Star selections (1). One imagines the memories of those second-round series wins over Phoenix and Philadelphia have grown cold. Both teams made desperate trades for All-Star guards they’re not even odds-on to retain when they reach free agency. Good grief.

The Knicks are good and fun. Now. Luxuriate long as you can, loves.