Knick-Celtic Rivalry: Pierce May Have Forgotten, The Garden Crowd Surely Hasn't!
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Knicks - Celtics: I'm on a plane, so let me say first thing there won't be any stats in this article, I may misspell a name or two, incorrectly recall an instance, so if these are all the things you're looking for I guess you may as well just stop right here.
How's that for an opening?
New Yorkers are known for being blunt, and while I'm long since removed from the most all encompassing city in the world—no, I didn't say greatest, I don't feel that way, and even if I did I wouldn't say so in this forum—I figure there's something of that forthrightness that never leaves you, no matter how far you've traveled from the great basketball mecca, or how long you've been away.
A couple of days ago Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics remarked that he didn't feel as though the rivalry with the New York Knicks was all that compelling. Of course, he has a right to say so, the Knicks have been god awful during the whole of his stay in Boston, and from a players point of view, it's kind of like beating up on your little brother.
(You can have some fun doing it, but your not going to put a major log in your evening journal as an end result.)
But that's Pierce and at least one players point of view. Sitting a short ways from him down locker row is ex Brooklynite, Ray Allen, and I kind of have the idea the former Sonic and current Celtic sharpshooter, (and one time Knick believer), knows what to expect tonight.
A level of fan intensity that will conjure the notion of a playoff environment. A level of intensity that can be recreated in few other enclosed structures anywhere. A level of intensity that will give you the idea the roof is about to be raised, because Knick fans don't forget, and Knick fan's hate the Boston Celtics!
It probably goes back to the days of Red Aeurbach and his smug, cigar smoking, superior attitude. Boy oh boy was he ever living it up, his teams won nine titles in ten years, (or was it ten titles in eleven years?), and one only has to imagine the endless territorial thrashings they handed the very mediocre Knickerbockers of that particularly elongated era.
But toward the end of the sixties when Russell and his gang had, for all intents and purposes left the building, or the famed Parquet floor, the Knicks started putting together their own soon-to-be legendary quintet, (though the run was much shorter lived), that included the likes of Walt Frazier, Dick Barnett, (later Earl the Pearl), Willis, Double D, and Dollar Bill Bradley out of Princeton.
And then it was game on.
The Celts suited up ultra-sweet shooting Jo Jo White, the great John Havlichek, Dave Cowens, Tommy Heinson, somehow I remember Satch Sanders as being a part of that group too.
These two NBA'tastic teams played the game the way it was drawn up. They moved the ball with alacrity, almost everyone on the court could shoot the mid range J on the move or off the dribble, and the wars underneath amongst the big men were tenacious and often bloody.
To be sure, there was no love lost between these two contingents, and the fans from both cities participated with roaring support, often venomous jibes as well. The rivalry was more than born at that juncture, in fact, it was already attending graduate school.
Unfortunately the Knicks soon fell off the stellar portion of the NBA map once again.
The Ray Williams, Michael Ray Richardson, Lonnie Shelton, John Gianelli days ensued—Aeurbach did something crafty in the draft to secure the rights to Larry Bird, finagle McHale and Parrish in the same year, (Ainge, D.J., Walton, Maravich, Archibald, whatever that Boston team needed they seemed to get), and then all over again the Celtic dominance of New York became commonplace.
But that didn't last forever, either.
The Knicks drafted Patrick Ewing, (Celtic first round pick) Lenny Bias, out of Maryland left us too soon, Pat Riley came to the Garden and the pendulum once again began to swing the other way.
Not that the Knicks won anything. Charles Smith did a driving Miss Daisy from underneath the hoop one afternoon in Chicago, John Starks couldn't hit the broad side of the barn one afternoon or evening in Houston and the Ewing era, which had begun with so much promise, ended without another championship banner hanging from the Garden rafters.
Meanwhile, those bloody Celtics, aided by ex cohort (then Minnesota G.M.) Kevin McHale, were able to add Kevin Garnett to the 2008 roster, Ray Allen too, and they teamed up with Pierce for a sweet run and another NBA title in the spring of 2008.
They got back again last year and we all know the result.
In the meantime, the Knicks, in the aftermath of the Isiah Thomas disaster (which somehow managed to surpass the Larry Brown disaster), experienced two additional years of a Mike D'Antoni disaster which seemed to threaten once and for all the ability of any Knick crowd to get more excited than they would for one of their kids Bar Mitzvah's.
Off a 3-8 start in 2010, things once again appeared bleak. But then the Knicks played well out West, went on this big run, took out Denver in the Garden Sunday, and suddenly, very very suddenly, the city of New York has once again been overtaken by Knick fever.
And that means there will be an electricity at the Garden tonight that Pierce and Co.—even Shaq, who grew up in nearby Patterson N.J. and had plenty of wars with Ewing in the Garden going back to his Orlando days, and the aforementioned Ray Allen—have not experienced in a very long time.
These Mike D'Antoni, Amare Stoudemire led Knicks are on fire. They finally have the parts in place to compete with any team in the league. That's what New Yorkers believe anyhow, and they'll be expressing as much to the Boston Celtics tonight in Madison Square Garden with all their collective might.
And once again basketball fans everywhere get to say: game on!
That's it for today, enjoy the marquee battle this evening,
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