By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
Walt “Clyde” Frazier turned 76 Monday.
Over the years, he has blended into the Knicks’ woodwork as a color man Wordsworth with play-by-play master Mike Breen. Frazier, who has been working with Breen on the radio since 1991 and MSG broadcast since ‘98, doesn’t seem to lose his touch.
Frazier’s place in Knicks’ lore should never be forgotten. He was the prototype point guard with the textbook jumper, and could place defense. Frazier did it with the smoothness and style that only he could provide.
“Clyde – nicknamed after a fedora actor Warren Beatty wore in the movie “Bonnie and Clyde” – was the linchpin of the 1970 and 1973 championship teams. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Knicks couldn’t properly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first championship squad.
What the Knicks can do is celebrate their current squad.
Back in February, I wrote how these 2021 Knicks can mirror their predecessors. They have the rising stars, the role players, and the coach. Most importantly, they play defense.
The Knicks began play Friday night against Dallas at MSG with an overall 24-24 record. Hovering sound reaching the .500 mark for the Knicks has been the most refreshing story of the spring, surpassing the Giants’ and Jets’ free-agent signings.
Tom Thibodeau has been the steady force coach the Knicks thought they had with Phil Jackson. He has brought discipline and confidence to a young team that needed direction from a respected source.
Thibodeau has his team allowing a league-least 104 points per contest, but they are also scoring the same amount, placing them 28th of 30 teams.
Julius Randle easily is the team’s MVP leading the team in nearly all offensive categories and becoming one of the league’s leading three-point sharpshooters.
RJ Barrett has emerged as one of the franchise’s best top picks in recent years, developing into a better all-around player with each passing game. Current top pick Obi Toppen is trending in the same direction as Barrett. Fellow rookie Immanuel Quickley also is on the same track.
Big man Nerlens Noel was a top Philadelphia pick who was a disappointment, but he has found a new life in New York. He has been more than a suitable replacement in the middle for injured Mitchell Robinson, who likely won’t be back this season.
Derrick Rose has been reunited with Thibodeau from their Chicago days, and Rose has been re-energized.
Veterans Reggie Bullock, Elfrid Payton, and Alec Burks have followed suit with Rose, and have drunk the Thibodeau Kool-Aid.
With their challenging upcoming schedule, the Knicks will be tested in April.
The Knicks still have their share of good nights and bad nights on the court, but they appear to be inching closer to a true league contender. They blew a 13-point lead to a lowly Minnesota team Tuesday night.
Getting to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 will be hailed as a major accomplishment, but it will be the first step of a longer journey ahead.
Frazier will continue to watch and call the resurgence of his club. And he can envision how this team could mature into the type team he once guided to their glory days.