Photo: Ashley Landis/AP
New York hoops fans and the local media are dreaming of a Knicks/Nets Eastern Conference Final this season. It would be quite a series if it took place. The Nets would receive pressure to beat the Knicks, and this Knicks team has a chance to make their own legacy the way the ‘69 Miracle Mets did back in the day.
For the Knicks and their fans, this season has been about the journey and process. The journey of building a team and the process of knowing to win. The Knicks have gotten better each month. Their defense is the best in the league, and their 3-point shooting is so much better.
Seeing Derrick Rose play like the MVP Derrick Rose has been beautiful to watch after his first act with the team turned out to be a tragedy. Watching Julius Randle turn out to be a star made this season so worthwhile. Seeing the bench players contribute to wins made this enjoyable.
There was nothing to complain about this season. After watching bad basketball for two decades and seeing this once-proud franchise be known more for drama than basketball, this season turned out to be a season to savor. It’s been rewarding after decades of neglect and mismanagement. Yes, it’s relative, but the Knicks had to start somewhere. They needed to build a foundation, which is what this season was all about. They accomplished that and then some.
Now, it’s about experiencing playoff wins. It can be done. The Knicks should be good enough to beat the Atlanta Hawks for one reason: They play defense, unlike their first-round opponent.
I am thinking this ends with a Knicks sweep. The last time the Knicks swept a team in a playoff round was against the Hawks in 1999. Talk about a full circle if they can do it again. It would be a reminder of what it used to be around here.
How far can the Knicks go? No one knows, and that’s the beauty of it. We can enjoy it for what it is. As fun as the 90s were, this team had to deal with expectations of winning a championship. It was the goal, and they never got it done so disappointment came. There is no such thing this season, and that’s why Knicks fans should savor this as much as we can.
After what Knicks fans experienced in two decades, they deserve this moment. This is a fanbase that has been loyal to a fault. They waited for good things to happen, and now it came.
I plan on going outside Madison Square Garden for an hour just to absorb the playoff buzz outside. I want to enjoy it for myself before I go to my watering hole in Weehawken to watch the game in what might as well be a Knicks viewing party.
Sunday night and this week should be the fun time of their lives. The way it used to be when the NBA playoffs would be a spring ritual around these parts that would make the place buzzing.
After the last four playoff appearances that did not feel like the playoffs because we know the team was a fraud, we can now say the Knicks have the goods to make us say they are really back.