If you can make it here…You can make it anywhere

April 6, 2010

Time for a change

It takes a hardened personality to take on the likes of New York City. The noise, the scenery and the pressure can break even the grittiest of pipes. Everyday, immigrants and out of towners arrive at Laguardia or Kennedy looking for opportunity. An opportunity to establish themselves in a city that boasts a million and one success stories.

Whether it be a restaurant, a hot dog stand or to rise in corporate America, New York has always been and always will be the big city of dreams.

It is a city envied by sports fans across the country, because of its ability to attract the greatest names in sports to play here. The Yankees have made a name for themselves by building 27 world championships with the best money can buy. The Knicks use the aura of playing in the worlds most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.

Okay, so maybe the Knicks havent attracted the best talent in the world yet, but there is no doubt that everyone wants to play here. Well at least, everyone wants to play well here.

The Mecca of basketball hasn’t seen a meaningful game in May since 1999, and the fans are clamoring for another shot to be a contender. I wasn’t alive the last time the Knicks won a championship and I graduated high school in 1999, the day they lost to the Spurs in the NBA finals. I have been waiting patiently for management to put a team on the court, and heading into my 30’s I am still waiting.

Hmmm...2 Max free agents

Dave Checketts, Ernie Grunfeld, Scott Layden, Isaiah Thomas and now Donnie Walsh.

Donnie Walsh is a Bronx native, he attended Fordham prepartory school and went on to play at the University of North Carolina. He still carries his uptown accent and he can be seen outside the Garden smoking cigarettes watching passersby.

He understand the world that us New York basketball fans have lived in for close to a decade. He knows what it takes to turn a franchise around and turn them into contenders. Walsh in 1987, was nearly run out of  Indianaopolis, when he drafted lanky guard Reggie Miller out of UCLA, and passed up on homegrown Indiana native Steve Alford. Yup..Steve Alford.

Donnie made a promise when he arrived back home in 2008, he promised to rid the Knicks of the bad contracts he inherited so that we can make a run for July 1st 2010, and now we are less than three months away from possibly the most vaunted free agent class to ever hit the NBA.

Yes, you’ve heard the stories and the hoopla. Lebrons coming, Lebrons staying, how the heck can we win a championship without Lebron?

Donnie never promised a championship, he never even promised Lebron James. What he did promise was financial flexibility.

The flexibility to offer two maximum contracts to two available free agents.  Two contracts that will literally make or break Donnies tenure as general manager, and single handedly define the Knick franchise for years to come. As a Knick fan through and through, the next few months are literally epic.

The Scowl!!

Epic in a sense that I may have to tell my future children that I’ve rooted for a team mired in bad contracts, aging stars and terrible management. What else can describe the Knicks in the past 20 plus years?

The last time the Knicks were under the cap we signed sweet shooting Allan Houston and a decent enough point guard in Chris Childs. It resulted in consecutive playoff appearances and a memorable run to the finals in the shortened lock-out 1999 season.

The leg incident

Since then, we traded away Latrell Sprewell for a bag of peanuts and got rid of Marcus Camby for a spare tire. Two players that were key in the 1999 run, and two players that had plenty of gas left in the tank.  However, owner James Dolan demanded that they get traded because of critical comments made by Sprewell, and Marcus because of his close relationship with the shooting guard.

The toughest loss was not any of the player personnel, it was losing head coach Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy sensing the team was headed toward rock bottom resigned from his position on December 8th 2001.  Jeff was the last remnant of a Pat Riley coaching staff and was responsible for taking the team to the playoffs six straight times, after assuming head coaching duties in 1996. Van Gundy joined the team as an assistant in 1989.

The odd thing about his resignation is that the Knicks had a winning record. After he left and assistant coach Don Chaney took the helm, the team fell apart and loss 43 of their remaining 63 games. They missed the playoffs that year, for the first time since 1993.

The lasting charateristics of those teams and of Jeff Van Gundy was attitude, relentlessness and passion. Three key attributes that made them successful and loved by fans. These attributes still exist but not on the hallowed floors or locker rooms of Madison Square Garden. They are attributes carried by the guy hawking tickets to the Big East Tournament on 7th avenue or the lady handing out AM New York papers to straphangers as they exit the 1 train.

Come Back!

So Donnie, if your reading and hopefully you are because we need those press passes! Don’t look for that greedy player that is only going to come here for a paycheck, look for a J.R. Giddens, a Billy Walker or even an Earl Barron. They may not be the biggest of names but they play like theres no tomorrow.

Just like that newly arriving immigrant that just finished his long arduous journey to the big city of dreams.


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