Mar 31 2011 12:33PM

Amar'e Has Us Covered

It's never easy to predict who or what will make a great cover. As we went to press, the Knicks looked like they were back from a decade-long slumber that consisted of mediocrity (at its best) and being the butt of League jokes (at its worst). After a few losses, the entire New York media corps is condemning the Melo trade and saying the team took two steps back. To which I say: The trade is way too early to judge. Sure, it might look bad with the backdrop of the Nuggets going on a tear and the Nets making their own noise a river away with the acquisition of Deron Williams, but the move was made for 2012, in hopes of attracting another marquee name to match up to the Miami Threeat. Whether the move will net a championship is anybody's guess. But the important thing is that it has made New York Knicks basketball mean something again. And the person to thank for all this is none other than our cover guy, Amar'e Stoudemire.

Following is the editor's letter from the issue:

Bonus Points
1.This is a lie, especially on this page.
2.Very true. Thereís never been a Knicks cover during my watch and I can only recall maybe three features on Knicks players.
3. Iíll never forget the teamís obscurities during my youth: Kenny Bannister, Greg Butler, Pat Cummings, Brian Quinnett, Lavor Postell, Eddie Lee Wilkins.
4.He was a fictional small forward who averaged 30 ppg, 12 rpg and 13 apg and was a perennial All-D team member.
5. My favorite of all time was the Draft caps by Starter with the script font of the teamís name. Classic.
6. Which ended with an unceremonious sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Nets.
7.None if you took away Amaríe Stoudemire this year and David Leeís last-minute inclusion last year.
8.Iím really surprised the canned potato crisps company has never reached out to DíAntoni, especially since he came to Broadway.
9.A Knicks game in the í90s meant feeling the floor shake, getting goose bumps during pivotal moments and getting on the subway afterwards to high-fiving fans and a buzzing sensation in your ears.
10.I really think the proliferation of cell phones will prevent the Gardenóor any sporting venueófrom bring be the same as it was B.C. (before cell phone) Too much Facebook and Twitter updating, texting, chatting, picture-taking and Angry Birds playing.
11.You can always spot them. They just never look quite right.
12.One vendor I spoke with has attested to changing his water once a month and even less in the winter. I still take mine with sauerkraut, onions and mustard.
13.NYC street meat of curried chicken and lamb over rice drizzled with white and hot sauce.
14.Itís a terrible look.
15.You can always tell by their body language whether itís a buyerís or sellerís market.
I always make it a point to avoid writing too much about the Knicks.1 Since my almost 10 years at HOOP, Iíve tried to let my fandom go, be more objective and even-handed in our coverage2 of the League. Through the years the memories of the Knicks have eroded or gone deeper in the recesses of my brain,3 rarely ever coming to surface. And itís been easy over the last 10 years. While itís true that I have to walk past the Garden every day to and from work and I have to attend Knicks games from time to time, itís been really easy to put aside the team that I inspired me to spend a good chunk of my school years sketching re-imagined Knicks logos, fantasizing about a LeBron-like talent4 running alongside Patrick Ewing and obsessing over finding the perfect Knicks cap.5 Itís been easy because since Iíve plied my trade here, the team has been terrible. Theyíve never had a winning record and their best showing was a 39-win season6 in í03-04. Theyíve been through seven coaches and just two All-Stars.7

This season has me torn. Their mild success has the orange-and-blue in me surfacing. While the Knicks are far from elite, there have been major steps in improvement. First came bringing in Donnie Walsh to clean up the debacle. Then came the hiring of fun ní gun coach and Pringles man lookalike8 Mike DíAntoni. This past offseason begat Amaríe Stoudemire. And most recently the trade for Carmelo Anthony. As I write this, the trade is still fresh, so far be it for me to speculate in detail. But whether this signals a new start to the franchise and more superstars ďtaking their talents to Southwest Midtown,Ē at least the Knicks are on peopleís minds again.

The results remain to be seen but a few things are certain: Ticket sales notwithstanding, the vibe at MSG is heightened. Itís not quite mid-í90s electricity;9 itís more like static electricity.10 The crowds chant and cheer, and not just for the City Dancers, baby races or other kooky promo bits during breaks in the game. Iíve personally gone to a handful of games as a fan without the aid of my media credential. I canít be sure, but there seems to be more bootleg Knicks merch11 floating around. More street carts slinging NYCís infamous ďdirty water hot dogs,Ē12 roasted nuts and halal13 can be found dotting the perimeter of the Garden. Chatter at bars, elevators and at the local lunch spot and eavesdropped conversations are more about the Bockers. The NY tabloids have even stepped up their headline-writing game and Photoshop jobs on the Knicks-centric back covers. The suits that are found on weeknight games have their Knicks jerseys over their Brooks Brothers.14 Ticket-less crowds gather outside the Garden entrance to watch the game on TV screens and capture some residual vibe from just being in the vicinity of the action.

Most telling is the ticket scalpers that I occasionally see on my walk home on game nights. Besides the increased abundance of them this season, I notice a bit more pep in their sales pitches15 and even an Amaríe #1 jersey and a pair of Jordan Melo M7s on the feet of one ďticket broker.Ē I inquired about his dress and his thoughts on the Knicks. Gís reply: ďAmaríeís the man and I got [the M7s] when the Melo trade went down. Not sure what this means about the Knicksí title chances but them coming here has been good for business. This is just my way of showing support.Ē