Knicks: In Search of Magic Lost

By Jerald LeVon Hoover
Updated: April 4, 2008

Allan HoustonNEW YORK, NEW YORK — There was a time at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, when, if an opposing team came to play the Knicks, they knew they’d be in for the fight of their lives. The time was in the very late 80’s and very early 90’s. Rick Pitino had left and a few other guys tried to fill the void. But, the hole was sealed shut when Professor Pat Riley made his way on scene.

Pat Riley brought in a philosophy, a stock which Pat Ewing and company bought and into which they invested themselves. Pat Riley brought in a culture in which Ewing and company lived. They became a family. And — as with our own everyday family — hard times come, disagreements arise, and misunderstandings happen. But, one thing is for sure: family is family and the enemy is the enemy. Wasn’t Pat Riley the one who would fine any Knicks player for even helping an opposing player off of the floor if he fell? Yes, it was.

The former Knicks of which I speak are a conglomerate of players, such as: Ewing, Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniel, Anthony Mason, Greg Anthony, Derek Harper, Doc Rivers, John Starks and Anthony Bonner, just to name a choice few. These players fought tooth and nail for what was the good of the team. Any opposing player who caught himself driving the lane for a lay-up or dunk would find himself bumped, bruised, or even bloodied. The middle was sacred ground to those Knicks.

Today’s Knicks? Hmmmm, where do I begin? I would not dare call this current assembly of Knicks “softies”. But, put it this way…there aren’t a lot of NBA players who quake when they shake at the thought of going down “how dare you?” lane. No one really is doing any knocking down. Sure, Kurt “Crazy Eyes” does his share of knocking down or getting in your face. He’s about the only player with such nerve or personality.

Big leads, late. Oh yeah, those…well, those are a thing of the past, also. It’s to a point to where I’m not so sure whether or not the Knick players themselves might dread going into fourth quarters up double digits. But, as Knick forward Latrell Sprewell lamented, “I think most of the guys just stopped playing once we got that big lead, late, thinking the game was already won.” Well, they were wrong. Dead wrong!

Sure, one can say that Charlie Ward blew the game. After all, it was his thrown (attempted pass to Sprewell) interception to Orlando Magic superstar, Tracy “T-Mac” McGrady that sealed the Knick fortunes. But, lest we (those who had the privilege to witness such carnage) forget, he had a lot of help. Anytime you’re up 10 points at home in the fourth quarter with two minutes to go, you do more than win that game. You simply go up by at least 15 points and send the visiting foes packing.

When you make millions of dollars a year, at the expense of us poor slobs who pay the tickets, you cannot tell us, “We lost focus” or “We simply didn’t have the energy.” You hear that, Mr. Allan Houston? He’s the Knick franchise’s highest paid player — in terms of his contract — in their history. Allan, earn some of that money by going aggressively to the foul line, and this is after you’ve gone aggressively to the hoop instead of heaving up that pristine jumper of yours. That’s if and when it’s on. Allan, you seem to be every bit of a nice man and a class act, but if you want those boo-birds to cease their venom, then DUNK the ball — hard — and dunk in often.

Ewing, who made his return to the place he once graced, entered that game to a raucous applause with 5:40 to go in the first quarter. What a little distance won’t do for a relationship. After all, it was some of these same fans who would moan and grown even when Ewing just touched the ball. In his latter days as the Garden’s centerpiece, the boos came fast and furiously for him also. So, Allan, you have company.

GAME NOTES: The Knicks started the game sluggishly, falling back, 7-0, within the first two minutes. Then, they ended the game in much the same way. Aside from the blown lead (up 10 points with two minutes left) in the fourth, Tracy McGrady got paid, and he did it the old fashioned way. He earned it. With the Magic down and playing as if somewhat comatose, T-Mac scored on a vicious dunk over Knick forward/center Othella Harrington that had even Knick fan of fans, Spike Lee, off his feet. Spike in his exuberance walked over to comedian Chris Rock, who sat next to radio shock jock Howard Stern, and gave him a “pound.” It was that kind of night. The Knicks lost, 94-90.