Following the Knicks is like riding a roller coaster designed with crests of league-busting possibility and valleys of despair.
No doubt this most recent high—all minus Tyson Chandler—has Knicks fans believing (again). Just two weeks ago out West, New York looked like they were destined for a Round 1 exit (again).
If the Knicks make it nine in a row, the scope of the Eastern Conference playoffs might need to be re-examined. That ninth win would be against the Miami Heat and would mean a 3-1 edge for New York in the season series.
Even if it is a close loss, it would mean those sizzling Knicks from the first 30 games are back. They are going to take that second seed from the Indiana Pacers and have as realistic a shot at making the NBA Finals as anyone else in the East.
How many times have you fallen for that?
If you’re a diehard fan and have been following all these games since Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony came calling —the ups and downs and trials and tribulations—then plenty of times.
Hopelessness had taken a hold of Gotham after nine years of sub-.500 ball and barely a postseason blip. Stoudemire’s signing brought a tentative hope. Would his knees hold up?
Do you remember how bad his start was? The Knicks went 3-8 to open 2010-11. That $100 million contract was looking like a bust. Where was Eddy Curry when you needed him?
Then New York rattled off 13 wins in 14 games, something not seen in these parts for some time. Stoudemire scored 30 points in nine straight. “Well, I’ll be,” you dreamed, “I think the Knicks can make the postseason for the first time in seven years.”
But then they went 5-5 and followed that with seven losses in eight games. Still, they were playoff bound and above .500 (28-26) heading into All-Star Weekend.
Better than that, there were Carmelo Anthony rumors that had fans’ hearts pumping.
And so, wow, it actually came to be: The day after facing each other as starting members of opposing All-Star teams, Anthony and Stoudemire became teammates.
Unbelievable. Anthony was a Knick. He was “Coming Home,” and bringing a champion point guard with him. There were questions, some doubts about what the Knicks had given up, but mostly there was optimism.
In their first game together, a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Anthony had 27 points and 10 rebounds, Chauncey Billups had 21 points and eight assists and Amar’e chipped in 19 points of his own. The Knicks, all of a sudden, were a serious force to be reckoned with.
But, uh-oh, hold on. Anthony and Stoudemire had trouble gelling, and before you know it, the Knicks got mired in a 1-9 slump, dropping below .500 in the process.
They rebounded to grab the No. 6 seed (awesome) just in time for Stoudemire’s first of many injuries (sucks) and to be swept from Round 1 by the Boston Celtics (…and sucks).
But, hey, 2011-12 was going to be better. The Knicks addressed their Achilles’ heel—defense—in the draft (Iman Shumpert) and on the block (Tyson Chandler).
If there was going to be a 2011-12.
The lockout threatened no season and at best a shortened camp and shortened season, just when this new roster—and Anthony and Stoudemire—needed time to play together and work out the kinks.
Santa delivered the NBA and a promising opening win against those Celtics on Christmas Day. The Knicks lost the next four of five. Soon after, they imploded—going an abominable 2-11.
It was over. The Stoudemire experiment. The trade for Anthony. All that money wasted. The Knicks were stuck with a team that doesn’t work and trapped for years by the salary cap (again).
And the Knicks won seven in a row and were back in the playoff hunt. They found the point guard to fill the hole (a big one) left by the amnestied Billups.
The burst of Linsanity didn’t last long, though. A month later the Knicks lost six straight and found themselves with a new coach. Six games into Mike Woodson’s tenure, Lin tore his meniscus and would be out for the season.
Woodson finished the season 18-6, and the streaky Knicks didn’t lose two in a row for the remainder. Now that was something completely different.
New York clawed their way to the No. 7 seed only to meet the eventual-champion Miami Heat. Anthony scored 41 in Game 4 to give the Knicks their first playoff win in 11 years. Chandler won the Defensive Player of the Year.
Things were going to be even better in 2012-13, with, finally, a full camp and full season for this team, Mike Woodson at the helm and Jeremy Lin at the point.
But the Houston Rockets stole Lin and Stoudemire had a two-month cyst. Shumpert was out with an ACL tear.
From six and seven seeds, New York became the team to beat in the Atlantic and were surprisingly looking at first place in the East at 21-8. The MVP and the top seed seemed very achievable.
But along the way and throughout the rest of the season, the Knicks sowed seeds of doubt. The Heat pulled away. The Pacers caught up.
The Knicks split the season series with the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors. The Rockets manhandled them in two. They couldn’t beat the Chicago Bulls (0-3) without Derrick Rose. They were owned by the Pacers in their last two meetings.
Shumpert is not himself yet, but coming on. Rasheed Wallace was a boost on defense and offense, but looks retired. The same thing could be said for Stoudemire.
After energetically directing the Knicks through the first half, Jason Kidd is shot.
Anthony’s field goal percentage has been up and down. Same for J.R. Smith. Same for Steve Novak's three-point percentage.
The Knicks busted into the All-Star Break with a 32-18 record. Since then, they have been down and up. Before this eight-game win streak, they were 6-8, lost hold of the No. 2 seed and almost lost the Atlantic.
So, what’s it like being a Knicks fan? Living these highs and lows? Exhausting. Exhilarating. Frustrating. Satiating. Never dull. And sometimes the best.
Like right now.
The question is: Will New York finally get off the see-saw snide?
Will they repeat the past and descend into another nose-dive? Or will they charge down the stretch into the Eastern Finals…and beyond?
Oh, what the heck, let’s get our hopes up (again).