There are a few teams that get a little "extra attention" from the national media. A few teams that receive half of an entire episode of SportsCenter on most nights (unless Brett Favre or Tiger Woods are in the middle of doing just about anything).
Despite its accuracy in regards to the media, there is still one team that doesn't belong.
Yes, I am speaking of the Knickerbockers, based out of the so-called "Mecca of Basketball."
I am not here to insult the city of New York as a product of basketball players, because that would be idiotic. The entire state of New York has been a breeding ground of NBA royalty for decades. Dating back to the early years of Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) all the way to players gracing the court today, such as Lamar Odom and recent Knicks' acquisition Carmelo Anthony.
I'm also not here to insult current Knicks' management, or the players currently on the team. This is merely to point out that the public perception of a franchise can be skewed merely by the location of said franchise.
Here's the basic fact: The Knicks were founded in 1946. They have won two championships in that time frame, in the years 1970 and 1973.
That is correct, the Knicks haven't won a title in almost 40 years. The Orlando Magic, Charlotte (now New Orleans) Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Bobcats, Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New Orleans (now Utah) Jazz and the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks were not in existence the last time the Knicks won a title.
That is not to say they haven't put together competitive teams since this period. The group that comes to mind is the team in the late 1990s, led by Patrick Ewing, Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston. As an eighth seed in the lockout season of 1998-99, they made it all the way to the NBA Finals, only to see their impressive run fall short to a young Tim Duncan winning his first NBA title.
Despite the fun times of the 1990s, they saw their success fall fast after the departure of these core pieces.
We all know about the Isaiah Thomas fiasco, the massive Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries contracts that probably even confused the players he was paying. At that point, they were considered the laughing stock of the NBA.
In fairness, a team as bad as the Knicks were getting as much negative attention from the media as they do positive attention when they're playing well.The big difference is the improvement doesn't have to be all that impressive for them to be looked on with kind eyes.
During the mass hysteria of the free agent circus of a year ago, when the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and many more big names were not under contract and potentially looking for a new home, this Knicks' franchise, now run by the respected Donnie Walsh, was ready to strike it big.
Many saw New York as one of the big potential destinations. It makes sense too. Big market and a lot of cap room to bring in multiple stars. Who wouldn't want to live a life that instantly makes you an almost-instant celebrity?
None of this is false.
Here's the issue. The incorrect phrasing by so many is what was so frustrating. "LeBron James could help bring the Knicks back to prominence".
Not to be disrespectful, but what prominence? If two titles over 35 years ago makes them one of the top organizations of the NBA, then what does that make a team like the Pistons? They have won 3 titles, and all of that has happened in the last 25 years, one of which being in 2004.
The Chicago Bulls had a great amount of cap room, and already had a star there in Derrick Rose. I hardly heard the same prominence-related phrase applied to them, despite the fact that Michael Jordan graced us with his stellar play in Chicago for 13 years, winning six rings in that span.
The Knicks did, however, end up with one of the many stars of this abyss of a free agent class. Not their goal of LeBron plus "insert star post player here," but ending up with a talent like Amare Stoudemire is much better than most teams can say.
Once the 2010-2011 season began, while looking great early on, their lack of a second star became apparent quickly. Thankfully, New York native Carmelo Anthony had asked the Denver Nuggets for a trade in a very timely manner.
The Knicks did end up acquiring Anthony (as well as Chauncey Billups), but were forced to trade most, if not all of their depth on their roster. To the joy of Knick fans, they were finally a playoff team again.
The Knicks of that year were the most talked about sixth seed I can think of in recent memory; not to mention the frailty of the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
This team finished with a record of 42-40. That's not a bad record considering how poor their record was of their last few years combined. The issue here is this: If ESPN never mentioned the standings, they would have made it sound as if they were a Top Two team in the East, based off analysis alone.
Now, amidst all of these current lockout talks, there are reports from several media outlets that Chris Paul is looking to move to the Big Apple as well. It would definitely make things interesting in the East. Having two teams near the top with three superstars running the large chunk of the scoreboard, and the salary cap.
Here's the catch:
There is little to no chance of the Knicks trading for Paul, as they gave away all their best assets to the Nuggets for Anthony. This, of course, means that they will need to get him through free agency next season.
The problem is the very real chance that once the lockout is settled, a hard cap will be in place. This, of course, means that the Knicks will have major issues signing Paul (or Deron Williams if he chooses to leave the Nets, who are of course moving to Brooklyn) if they want to field a full team with decent depth on the bench.
This may be a harsh read for a Knicks fan, and that is not my intention. If Knicks management manages to build a good group around Melo and Stoudemire, New York has a chance to be a real player in the East. Like I said in the beginning, the bone I'm picking is one of perception. Something that can blind people as easily as turning on any national sports station, or reading any basketball-related newspaper.
It will be there. It will always be there. National bias is here, and it's here to stay. We all must accept it. And for those of us cheering for the small market clubs, there's no need to be angry. All that matters at the end of the day is the game itself.