November 13th, 2006 03:14 EST
For the Knicks, it is now or never
New York Knick fans heard the hype coming into the 2006-07 season. Isaiah Thomas was going to prove the method to his madness as the new head coach; a court full of once prima donnas and ball hogs was going to realize its potential, pass and finally play a little defense. Perhaps a 1999 rematch Knicks-Spurs was in the cards for the NBA Finals.
And here they sit at 2-5. Time is running out; hoping is being lost.
The Knicks have certainly been known for their early season ends in recent years. In 04-05, the team collapsed in February and finished 33-49. After the hiring of Larry Brown as head coach, the season was over after just five games in 05-06. Right now, fans simply want to be able to watch their team play meaningful games by the time the calendar hits winter.
Defense, defense, defense, the fans cry. Since his hiring in December of 2003 as the president of basketball operations, Thomas has gone the other route, acquiring the offensive star talents of Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford and Eddy Curry. The result has been an endless supply of turnovers and points scored—by the opposition. How many times must one look up and see their Knicks down 24-13 in the first quarter?
Such has been the problem in 06-07 as well. In five of the first seven games, the team has trailed by more than eight at some point during the first quarter.
Yet something about these Knickerbockers seems just a little bit different than last season. They’ve got some fight in them; what may have been 20-point abominations in 05-06 have been turned around into tight, close games this year. The sparks have often come off the bench; fan favorites Nate Robinson and David Lee, along with rookie forward Renaldo Balkman, have played hard-nosed defense in utility roles.
But now it is time. Knicks’ marketing has sugar-coated the situation quite enough, and the only thing to bring the faith back to Madison Square Garden is some tallies in the win column. And the fans know better than to believe the hype until they see it on the court and spurts of brilliance from individual player does not cut it either.
There is no more capacity for speculation. The season may be young, but the ropes of the fans and the media are quite short. It is time for Thomas to gather his players, mold them into a single unit, and prove the reasoning behind each questionable move he has made since 2003. A win against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night, and hope could be restored again at the Garden.
Abysmal efforts against the Cavaliers and Washington Wizards, both at home, and the end of the Isaiah Thomas era may not be too far off in the horizon.