By Lenn Robbins
A moment like this don’t just pop up on Tik Tok and then disappear. It doesn’t happen without a lot pieces, good and bad, in place. When it comes, there’s really no choice but to embrace it, celebrate it, imprint it in the diary of the soul.
The Knicks will likely play their final game of the season – a season few, if any, saw coming – Wednesday night in The Garden in against the Atlanta Hawks.
It has been an emotional series for both franchises which have been mired in playoff droughts. And, of course, every NBA fan has had his or her emotions pent up in slow cooker while the world has done battle with the serial killer named COVID-19.
Watching the Knicks has been hard at times throughout these first four playoff games, three won by the Hawks. Their offensive weakness, camouflaged by the regular season when intensity is down and defense a side dish, are on full frustrating display.
But the Knicks have battled. No one can question that.
Julius Randle, who might hide his Most Improved Player trophy in the back of the closest, hasn’t stopped working his rear end off. Derrick Rose, the 32-year-old with the 47-year-old knees, has left cartilage on the court. Tom Thibodeau has reviewed all of his notes but there isn’t much a coach can do when the options are limited.
The Hawks clearly are more potent offensively, starting with Trae Young, the scrawny mosquito in the playground who everyone wants to squash. Rest assured Knicks fans; as long as he and Luka Doncic are in the league, Young will continue to bleed.
So what’s a Knicks fan to do Wednesday tonight, if this is in fact the last time they get to see their 41-win overachievers?
There’s only one course. These Knicks should be showered with appreciation like the biblical rains that wiped out most of Memorial Day weekend. They should be hoisted on every Knicks fan emotional shoulders and be paraded around The Garden, a practice run if you will for the parade up the Canyon of Heroes one day.
This is not the night to boo Tres Young. This is not about him.
It’s not about Hawks coach Nate McMillan, who is $25,000 lighter for his pre-series posturing. Besides, he’s correct: The league is better with the Knicks in the postseason. Everything is better with a little New York on it.
Which brings us back to Wednesday night. This should be about relishing the big step forward that was 2020-21. This is about a franchise that seemingly has found its way after eight years searching for the entrance on the freeway that reads, “Playoffs.” This is about having a professional, functioning entity that has the words, “New York,” across the front.
This is about showing the rest of the NBA that yes, New York fans are more knowledgeable, are more sophisticated; that we respect the game.
Immanuel Quickley, the rookie who is so determined to make a highlight play every time he touches the ball, shouldn’t be doused with beer because, yes, that hubris has led to some wincingly-bad plays.
Russell Westbrook, the warrior who has magnificently made a triple-double season an annual occurrence, shouldn’t be peppered with popcorn.
Kyrie Irving, the mercurial talent whose brain seems to fire like a pinball game when multiple bonus balls are released , shouldn’t have a bottle of water hurled at him.
No athlete, not even Bill Laimbeer, should face that potentially dangerous nonsense. No athlete should hear the diseased language of racism. No athlete should have his family made to feel uncomfortable.
The Garden is the most prestigious address in basketball.
There’s no need to chant, “Trae Young S&$ks!”
Chant “MIP,” when Randle has the ball, because all other adjustments have failed. Chant “Tibs! Tibs! Tibs!” for the job Thibodeau has done. Chant, “New York! New York!” because we get to call the greatest metropolis on the planet our home and these Knicks are your team.
Make Wednesday night the kind of magnificent New York happening that has everyone on your street one day bragging, “I was there.”