I was 13 on June 5, 1999 when the Knicks played the Pacers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
As I sat in my 400-level seat at MSG waiting for the tipoff, I went over about a million different scenarios about how the game could play out. Slasher Latrell Sprewell, sharpshooter Allan Houston, along with an aging Larry Johnson, wily Kurt Thomas, athletic Marcus Camby and the point-guard platoon of Chris Childs and Charlie Ward represented a hodgepodge of styles that somehow came together in the postseason for head coach Jeff Van Gundy.
The Knicks had extinguished the Heat on Houston's running jumper, swept the Hawks, and were now in a dogfight series against the Pacers that I was sure would be decided by this game.
History was made when Larry Johnson made the 4-point play to secure a 92-91 win, the Knicks won the series and became the first team in NBA history to make the finals as an eight-seed.
The same way I turn off Scarface before Tony kills Manolo, that's where I like to end my memory of that season; I choose not to recall the Finals against the Spurs.
Anyway, many of the teams in the 90s, not just the 1998-1999 Knicks, were gritty, hard-nosed teams. Consider all those who could have won championships if Jordan had become a baseball player in some bizarro universe: the Jazz with Malone and Stockton, the Heat with Mourning, the Suns with Barkley, the Sonics with Kemp and, of course, the Knicks — great teams whose players had talent and balls.
The Knicks 2012 free agency period is step towards getting their balls back.
Getting two active Knicks players from that era represents a throwback to the hard play I was accustomed to seeing during that glorious time when the NBA was on NBC and a fan's single focus was on the game, not the second and third screens of a smartphone or tablet.
Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby (and Jason Kidd) are a far cry from the players they once were, but they know what it is to play hard and, in today's NBA where flopping has become the norm, having a trio of newcomers that bring that intangible to the court is a rare and valuable commodity. In the 90s, opposing teams couldn't drive the paint without getting smacked. This current Knicks roster is emblematic of the tough squads of old.
Camby brings a defensive shot-blocking presence (about two a game) that will complement Tyson Chandler. Thomas is a warrior. He's played through breaking both his ankles twice and can knock down that baseline jumper with the best of them. If he can give the Knicks two jumpers over the course of 8-12 minutes a night, that'll be fine. It'll all make for a formidable front court.
It's difficult to see Lin go as I was looking forward to watching him develop under the tutelage of Jason Kidd, but Lin priced himself out. We all would have loved to see him in orange and blue for years to come, but the 25 games he started are just not enough to justify matching the Rockets’ exorbitant offer sheet. The Knicks' moves shouldn't be dictated by another team's desperation.
Lin, at one point, may have been the future. Now, the new future is exercising fiscal responsibility in letting him head to Texas.
I don't think Lin will become the same player in Houston that he would have become in New York. Lin thrived under the spotlight and, in Houston, his progress and gameplay will take a step back. He won't have as many unique players to distribute to this season (barring Houston somehow getting Dwight Howard). He's also lost the element of surprise. Opponents will be gunning for him from the get-go, and, when it's all said and done, Lin could prove to be a flash in the pan. We already know he's injury prone.
It's difficult to see Lin go, but he priced himself out. The Knicks' moves shouldn't be dictated by another team's desperation.
And so, instead of helping Lin, Kidd will be here to help Ray Felton. Last season, Felton averaged career lows on a team that didn't make the playoffs. On the Knicks, he has new toys to work with as part of a system that will be redesigned around his abilities in the preseason.
Additionally for the Knicks, the PG position will be less about scoring. The focus will be on distributing, sitting back and letting the offense find its balance with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. It also won't hurt having the best three-point shooter in the league on the perimeter with Steve Nokak re-signed. The Knicks will find ways to score points without Lin.
This New York squad, as they are currently built, are not a championship caliber team, but neither was the 1998-1999 team. But with a defensively proficient coach in Mike Woodson, a strong-enough bench and backcourt players who will look to pass first to the scorers, the Knicks will be entertaining to watch all season long, and that's all a Knicks fan can really ask for while the Heat and Thunder dominate for years to come.
The current contracts don't give the Knicks a ton of flexibility in the future, but with three perennial All-Stars locked up, I'd also bet Chris Paul would take a pay cut (when his contract is up) to move to New York if the current point guard situation doesn't hold up.
This season, alienated, grumpy New York fans will get their mojo back and fill those empty seats at MSG with renewed optimism. Just like the good old days.
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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