By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
The bench was Dick Barnett, Henry Bibby, John Gianelli, Phil Jackson, Jerry Lucas, Dean Meminger and Hawthorne Wingo. Throw in Tom Riker and Luther Rackley as well.
The starters were Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier. Earl Monroe, and Willis Reed.
The coach was defensive genius and legend Red Holzman.
These were the 1972-73 Knicks, which was the last team to win a championship.
They had the perfect chemistry on both ends of the court. It was the ideal blend of standouts and role players.
Mainly though, they won with their defense. It was a selfless, unselfish team that worked together for a common goal. Holzman was the perfect architect.
It was part of a pinnacle of a golden period of Knicks’ basketball. Over six seasons from 1968-69 to 1973-74, the Knicks had an overall 315-172 regular season mark with two championships.
Flip ahead to the 2020-21 season.
These Knicks have all the makings of a champion. It won’t happen overnight, but for the first time in a long time, the team finally is headed in the right direction.
It is early for them, but it is all about the perspective and the process.
Even with Durant and company in Brooklyn and favored to win a title, Knicks’ fever is alive and well throughout the area. When the Knicks placed tickets on sale Thursday for the general public, the first two home games sold out within two hours.
Tom Thibodeau is the perfect mentor for these young Knicks. He is their pied piper, and they have followed his no-nonsense, defensive first, earn-your-playing time approach in lock step.
They were on their way Wednesday night in Orlando to become the first Knicks team to reach the .500 mark since 2017. But these 14-16 Knicks couldn;t find their shooting touch and were blitzed down the stretch in a 107-89 defeat.
These nights will continue to happen to teams in a growth spurt.
Julius Randle is having an All-Star year, and he deserves a nomination. Obi Toppen, RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quigley, Austin Rivers, and Elfrid Peyton have formed an effective young nucleus that is not only productive but also fun to watch.
Kevin Knox and Frankie Ntilikina, both high draft picks who were once viewed as busts after they could live up to their potential, have been taken out of the spotlight and placed in a more suitable role in the rotation.
Derrick Rose has returned to play a less than high profile role in the past, and he should be a steady contributor. Rose (32) and journeyman Taj Gibson (35) are the elder statesman on a team that has an average age of 24.
These Knicks are far from their predecessors’ accomplishments 49 years ago. Those Knicks took a few years to build to their status, playing in front of capacity crowds in an electric MSG atmosphere with the melodious call of John Condon on the PA.
If you’re old enough to remember those days, you know what I mean. It could easily give you chills with the organ in the background.
These Knicks will be back in front of a crowd next week, and the Garden will be rocking.
This is for a good reason, too. They are on a pace to being the closest resemblance to hanging another championship banner since the teams of the 1990s.
Before the Knicks’ late 60’s and early 70’s run, they had a 43-39 season after eight –often lopsided –losing seasons.
Sound familiar? Stay patient, Knicks’ fans. History does repeat itself.