Around the NBA: Knicks Are My Guilty Pleasure - 03/18/11
|The new and improved Knicks will be a scary first round match for any team.|
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A guilty pleasure, in essence, is an activity, show, or movie that we derive some twisted enjoyment out of, but would rather not disclose our enjoyment to others. You know, maybe "The Real Housewives of New York City" always finds its way onto your DVR, or the remote instantaneously becomes hard to find when you happen upon "You've Got Mail." So long as no one notices, you can contest Ramona's sanity and root for The Little Shop Around The Corner. These particular indulgences don't drastically change someone's perception of you, but it's part of your makeup you can do without anyone having knowledge of.
These enjoyments translate to the NBA, specific to certain players and teams. Maybe you've grown fond of Joakim Noah's ability as a player, but unless you're a Bulls fan, that information is better off concealed.
In these moments that go against my better judgment, I've decided to come clean. Damn the repercussions. Remove the shackles of guilt that overwhelm this feeling: My basketball world is a better place when the New York Knicks are competitive.
I know, I know, Gotham, big city snobs, rude, ignorant, a Goliath of the market, bright lights, Spike Lee, all components of a team that anyone from or outside of New York wants to see crash and burn quicker than a CBS Sitcom without its daft star.
Yet, a competitive Knicks team brings out an insatiable hatred in fans that historically, only the Celtics and Lakers can produce, thus making anytime the Knicks are competitive must-watch basketball.
Typically, I don't buy into the idea that "such and such a sport is better when team A is competitive." The argument doesn't apply in football where people are looking for six hours of concussion-inducing hits on Sunday or baseball where a bad season for your team makes for a long season because well, it's a long season.
This hatred is good. Hatred is a raw emotion that isn't easily evoked by other teams unless players on those teams elicit such a feeling. New York brings out that type of emotion regardless of how gentlemanly their roster might come off. That's why it's entertaining to have the Knicks as a pebble in the shoe of the Eastern Conference powers.
So it was with great pleasure that the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks was finalized around the trade deadline. The Knicks had great star power in Anthony and veteran leadership in Billups to go along with Amar'e Stoudemire as the team finds itself in the awkward (as of late) position of being a post-season basketball team.
Anthony's trade request and his "I'm saying, but I'm not saying" stance on requesting a trade made fans cry foul about him jockeying his way out of Denver. Though the legitimacy of this thought can certainly be called into question, Anthony is enough of a polarizing star who has earned critics and devoted fans alike with his move to the Knicks.
With those additions, the Knicks create the scary first round match-up that the Pacers and 76ers won't be able to offer. The Bulls, Celtics, and Heat want to avoid the third seed because it means a series against two legitimate scorers (Anthony and Stoudemire) and a point guard with a wealth of postseason experience (Billups).
This isn't some read between the tea leaves declaration that the Knicks have the ability to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown this season, but there is enough offense on this team to force a seven game series in the first round or even pull off an upset. I like the Knicks to irritate Boston or Miami into an extended series. The Bulls have shown they have struggled with the team this year.
This isn't to say the Knicks are without their shortcomings. There's still that pesky question of playing defense, an endangered thought amongst the likes of Anthony and Stoudemire, and something not particularly endearing to coach Mike D'Antoni. The team itself is not deep and in the playoffs a deep bench can at least keep you in games when the starters are playing below their level of capability. The Knicks aren't the dominant team, but could in all likelihood play the role of irritant or that awful word attached to the mid-majors of "spoiler."
Now is the hashing-things-out phase. The team is a pedestrian 6-6 since acquiring Anthony and Billups, including a loss to the Pacers where Anthony voiced his displeasure after not getting the ball with 0.3 seconds left on the clock at the top of the key. Granted, with that amount of time left the only thing to do was a tip-in, but Knicks fans should be grateful they have a player who wants the ball at the end of games. Anthony's confidence and ability are something the Knicks have lacked for the longest time. His game-winner against Memphis earlier in the week was the move of an elite scorer.
Imagine `Melo going off for 40 in a playoff game and forcing a game seven against Boston, Miami, or Chicago. The star power alone in any of those series is enough to keep New York on the cusp of basketball relevancy. Think of Stoudemire throwing his weight around and flagrantly fouling Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo or Derrick Rose when one of the three attempts a drive to the basket, all in Madison Square Garden, the perfect stage for postseason play. Great drama will follow.
Guilty pleasure or not, whatever team draws the Knicks will be wishing they hadn't.