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Steve Aschburner

Amar'e Stoudemire
Amar'e Stoudemire and the Knicks have fallen on hard times since the Carmelo Anthony trade.
Joe Robbins/NBAE via Getty Images

As New York rumbles, Knicks stumble through Heat-like pain


Posted Mar 22 2011 11:25AM

Cue the crying.

The New York Knicks must be at that point by now, right? Sure, it took the Miami Heat four months of spotty, teasing, misleading and ultimately unsatisfying results to melt down into a locker room of blubberers. But then, everything in New York is better, faster, bigger, sooner.

Gee, are we certain that was only blood trickling from the corner of Carmelo Anthony's eye late Monday night? Was there, maybe, a tear or two mixed in there?

Sources say! Film at 11!

The NBA just went through a high-profile bout of angst and hand-wringing over the inability of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, coach Erik Spoelstra and the rest of the Heat to spring fully formed from free agency as the league's No. 1 title contender. Microwaved together by Miami president Pat Riley using three stars and assorted spare parts, the Heat went 9-8 through their first 17 games -- failing to deliver on the promise of July's strobe lights and smoke machine -- and the South Florida sky seemed to be falling.

Then they went 21-1 and order was restored. Until a 2-6 skid out of the All-Star break reminded everyone again that, no, this team-building and strategy-tweaking stuff is not simple. Splicing together a championship team on the fly is like getting dressed in the dark -- when you finally take a moment to look in the mirror, you're going to want to re-think a move or two.

So now, more than eight months after The Decision, with a training camp, several subsequent personnel moves and a lot of hard lessons behind them, the Heat finally believe they can finish strong and make a serious push in the postseason. Good for them.

Now the Knicks -- or at least their fans and too many of their media -- are expecting something similar. After just four weeks. With lesser ingredients. Uh huh.

It's probably too much to expect New Yorkers to heed the words of Santayana ("Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.") But you'd at least hope they could take a deep breath once in a while and not immediately launch into some rant about how, yeah, that bum Santayana won't be rehabbed enough to pitch for the Mets until June or (gasp!) July.

Entitlement and panic are the pillars upon which New York sports fandom is built, with the tabloids happily slithering back and forth between them. Both extremes were on display Monday night at Madison Square Garden: Giddyness over the Knicks' 51-37 halftime lead over the Boston Celtics, petulance after Boston closed the game in a bloody, sobering 23-4 rush for its 96-86 victory. The home team panicked in the fourth quarter, by coach Mike D'Antoni's admission, and so again did its fans and its followers. Same as after the Knicks' slapdowns over the weekend in Detroit and Milwaukee.

Seriously, what did these people expect?

The sort of blockbuster trade best made in the summertime gets rammed through on a bogus deadline. The Knicks acquire a player in Anthony who, for most of his eight NBA seasons, has been about him and his, a dynamic scorer who has known limited team success while showing little desire to sacrifice or lead. They tear up their roster to land him, gutting their bench, throwing roles and responsibilities into tumult. They plop Anthony, Chauncey Billups and three others into what's left in the locker room, including a star (Amar'e Stoudemire) who quickly had grown accustomed to being New York's name on the marquee and first option on offense.

This is all supposed to sort itself out in 14, 15, 16 games?

The 7-9 record since Anthony arrived isn't far off from Miami's start, with only a fraction of the practice-gym time or prep work. Gripes about the Knicks defense are laughable -- a well-oiled D'Antoni machine defends about as well as this group -- and there is nothing in Anthony's or Stoudemire's history to suggest that winning ever will overtake personal agendas and drama.

Losing a diva never is as hard as adding, adjusting to, embracing and ultimately coddling one, which is why Denver can hum along at 10-4 since the trade, spruce up what's left of its season and make the Knicks and Anthony look even worse. The Celtics, the team that bloodied and bruised New York on Monday, can flaunt its instant championship success in 2007-08 because -- unlike both the Knicks and the Heat -- Boston pulled together adults who craved only group success by the time the stars aligned.

In Miami and New York, meanwhile, we're still getting cautionary tales. Carlos Arroyo's brusque dispatching from South Beach was a reminder to all those eager NBA veterans willing to give up salary and career for a seat on the Heat's bus -- they can be kicked under it the moment Riley sniffs an upgrade.

As for the Knicks, they remain a team for which everyone presumably wants to play, in a market where no one ever stays patient or happy for more than a New York minute.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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