clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Knicks are settling all family business

So don’t tell us that you’re innocent

New York Knicks v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks’ are on an eight-game winning streak that started against Utah. It had to. That’s where the 2022-23 Knicks were first insulted.

When it was clear Donovan Mitchell wanted to be a Knick and the Knicks wanted that for him, an ancient Celtic rose from the depths of Hell to do what it took to keep two interested parties apart. Danny Ainge played Montague and Capulet to our would-be lovers, whose only mistake was falling in love. Ainge playing Chief Executive Hater wasn’t entirely a shock. The man alienated half the country when he traded Isaiah Thomas out of Boston after a heroic IT postseason where he played through his sister’s sudden death and played through a hip injury that’d keep him out the first two and a half months the next season. Danny Boy thought he could stand in the way of true love and get away with it by inflating the asking price for the Manhattanites to slide into his DM? No sir. The Knicks paid him back with a win over his new team in Utah to kick off their current winning streak. Sedale Threatt pro’ly out there nodding his respect.

Then there’s the Hawks. Jeez Louise. These guys act like they figured out dark matter two years ago when really they just won a few playoff rounds. Twitter adds bass to voices that have otherwise been castrati. True, it’s not like Hawks fans have had much to gloat about. Ever. Still, they were a friendly enough fan base, far easier to root for than against. But Hawks Twitter is especially fond of repeatedly trying to rub 2021 in Knick fans’ faces. In game three of the winning streak the Knicks went into the A-T-L and whupped ‘em by 21-point. The Hawks’ best player has gotten as many coaches fired as he has All-Star selections. Their big offseason trade acquisition is either gone in two years or they’ll have to overpay to keep him, with no indication he moves the needle for that roster. Way to be, Copernicus.

Celtics fans can be oddly akin to the worst kind of Yankee fan. To be clear, our lovely editor-in-chief at P&T is a Yankees fan, and I wanna be clear I don’t hate him, the current team or large swaths of their fan base. It’s the jabronis who arrive at the Stadium tanked and shit-talking the opponent before the first pitch who, after watching the Bombers lose 8-0, exit the Stadium tanked yelling “27!” to anyone in earshot. The Knicks beat Boston a few weeks ago, then did it again in game five of the winning streak, and I got a bunch of Celtic fans coming at me about “When was the last time the Knicks won a relevant game?” Those people are the worst, because they cling to this Celtics-as-elite storyline without ever admitting Team Elite has as many titles since 1987 as the Toronto Raptors.

I said what I had to about the Brooklyn Nets after the Knicks beat them the other night. The Nets are the only team to fall more than once to the Knicks during the eight-game winning streak. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving franchise. The unspoken worst thing about the Nets is that they tried to make themselves a NYC team by following the blueprint an out-of-towner would draw up as a caricature of a NYC team: forsake your culture, abandon the little guy, throw it all away to land the big name, the big brand; be heartless and vertigionously vertical. The Knicks have been the team to take the smaller, sustainable approach: draft well, especially late, and spend your free agent dollars on good players who become great after joining you. Maybe now that Goofus has hit rock bottom, Gallant will get more shine.

And then there’s Miami. The only “rivalry” the Knicks have that’s built on a grievance rather than a history. Consider other New York rivals. The Celtics and Knicks have both beaten each other when the stakes were high. The first three times the Knicks reached the Finals, from 1951-53, they beat Boston in the playoffs on the way there. From 1972-74 the teams met in three straight conference finals, with the Knicks winning the first, routing the Celtics in a Game 7 in Boston to win the second, then falling in the third. In a 1984 second-round matchup the home team won every game en route to a hard-fought seven-game series that saw the Celtics edge out the Knicks. In 1990 the Knicks lost the first two of a best-of-five in Boston, then rallied to win three in a row and take the series.

Indiana also helped birth a balanced conflict, one where each team cost the other something dear. The Knicks won their playoff meetings in 1993, 1994 and 1999; the Pacers came out on top in 1995, 1998 and 2000. They went over a decade without seeing each other again in the postseason, but when they did in 2013 we again saw two teams battling back and forth; if Melo lofts a bloater over Roy Hibbert instead of trying a doomed yam, who knows where things stand today.

The Miami Heat are another enormous New York rival, and the quickest explanation why is 1997, P.J. Brown, going from 3-1 up to losing in 7, etc. But what makes the Heat soooo hateable is this is the rivalry that never should have been. The only reason the Heat ever got one over on the Knicks is because their 6-foot-10 power forward assaulted New York’s 6-foot point guard right in front of the Knick bench. If what happened happened to happen on the other end of the court, the Heat bench would have exacted exactly the same way, and again: who knows where that gets us? Imagine the ‘97 Knicks beat the Bulls in the ECF. It’s easy if you try: the teams split the season series and were separated by a total of three points over those four games. But we’ll never know. ‘Cuz PJ Brown was a dick at the worst possible moment, and the Knicks responded as humans at the worst possible moment.

The schedule now lightens up as far as historical hatred: of the Knicks’ next eight games, only Boston and maybe the L.A. Lakers are teams fans will be more up for than usual. Don’t expect the team to lighten up any, though. They’re not looking to make the playoffs, but to make a name for themselves once there. Most of their likely opponents seem pretty benign, karmically — hard to get worked up about the Cleveland Cavaliers or even Philadelphia. Then again, the playoffs are a different neighborhood. Because of them, the Atlanta Hawks are hateable. So no doubt we’ll have someone new to resent come April. Can’t wait!