Knicks’ Rocky Start Requires Rocky End

Knicks fans, and the rest of the world, are experiencing an incredibly rare occurrence.  In what may be a truer definition of Fantasy Basketball, a relatively unknown athlete, perhaps days from being cut by his team, got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and performed better than anyone expected.  The other players and the fans rallied around and behind the unknown player and miracles happened (and continue to happen). 

It’s the type of story that inspires those legions of people who have had to overcome adversity on their way to reaching their dreams.  It’s a story that Hollywood has told before and, I’ve got to believe, will be telling again very soon.  And it’s happening at a Garden near you!

Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in Rocky and it won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  What some people may not be aware of is that Stallone, pretty much broke at the time he was shopping the script, turned down offer after offer because the studios would not agree to let him play Rocky in the movie.  Those last two sentences relate to the Jeremy Lin-led Knicks as well.

First, Stallone was not the best actor out there.  He wasn’t a “bankable” talent; the best looking actor; the smoothest actor; nor the (your superlative goes here) actor.  But Rocky wasn’t the Best Picture in spite of Stallone, it was the Best Picture because of him.

Second, a lot of experts at the studios that Stallone turned down didn’t see in Stallone what, by the time the movie hit the theaters, was apparent to many.  Stallone was the right guy for the part.  Sometimes, making the “smart” decision isn’t so smart after all.

In watching sports on the tube and reading newspapers, blogs, and tweets, amongst the positive stories about Jeremy Lin, I’ve seen a lot of people say that, for the Knicks to keep winning, they should get rid of this player or that player and bring in this other one – some guy who’s considered an “upgrade” at the position or better fits the model of the type of player who normally plays the role.  Looking back at Rocky and the studios’ decision about Stallone, an “upgrade” now is most likely the wrong way to go.

The Knicks aren’t winning in spite of the players around Jeremy Lin, they’re winning because of them.  Lin has been amazing and this article in no way intends to minimize that.  But remember that these players have embraced Lin and their efforts have helped him adapt to and thrive in this new situation.  These teammates have been vocal in their support of Lin, have let Lin sleep on their couches, have sacrificed minutes, etc., etc., etc.  Although team chemistry is hard to quantify, it does exist and it surely exists with the current version of your New York Knicks.  Disrupt it at your peril.

To address one very specific and prevalent roster suggestion, there’s a lot of buzz that the Knicks should add JR Smith.  Now I know JR has some serious talent and that he can light up the scoreboard.  But being able to go for 40 or 50, as he’s done in China, is not what this Knicks team needs.  The Knicks have just gotten away from running an offense where this player or that would take a bijillion shots.  If the Knicks need it, they’ve got guys who can do that right now.  But with Jeremy Lin fitting the mold of the point guard required to run Mike D’Antoni’s offense efficiently, anyone on the current roster can be the high scorer in any game.

If you bring in JR, who do you cut?  Even if it’s someone who’s not playing any minutes, can you say for sure that he an electron that’s crucial to this atomic rise of the Knicks?  And do you take that chance for a player who’s had the problems that JR has had in his past, even this season in China?  Do you introduce those potential problems into a team that currently doesn’t have those kinds of issues to deal with?  If you’ve answered “yes”, step back and think it through some more.

Stop for a second and ask yourself – how much will the Knicks’ coaching staff embrace a player whose mentor is Stephon Marbury?  And how much would JR embrace them back?  Certainly there’s an upside to a player with JR’s talent.  But when the potential downside includes popping the Linsanity balloon?  No way.  Better to let Stallone play Rocky and aim for another Academy Award.

We hear that a team should be greater than the sum of its parts but we rarely get a chance to see such an outstanding example of that as we’re seeing in this year’s (this month’s?) NY Knicks.  Yes, the parts need to improve if the whole is going to go deep in the playoffs, but improve they will.  There’s time for that.  At least there is if we allow them to make the best use of it.  But adding a player who doesn’t know D’Antoni’s offense and potentially brings a lot of baggage doesn’t qualify for “making the best use of it” status.  If Steve Nash gets put on waivers, then we can talk…

It’s okay to believe that the Knicks can make a serious playoff run because, with these parts and this whole, they can.  Mike D’Antoni and Tyson Chandler weren’t delusional last December when they talked about this team being of championship caliber.  They were just ahead of their time.

Whether we’re witnessing an actual miracle or we’re just observing a lot of low probability events happening at the same time, we’re seeing history in the making here, folks.  Let’s not mess it up by lobbying Knicks management to take actions that they’d be vilified for if they took them on their own and they didn’t work out.

If last lockout’s Knicks were “Rocky” (and there were a lot of similarities back then, too), then this year’s Knicks might just be “Rocky 2”.  You know, the one that ends with Stallone holding the championship belt over his head and shouting “Yo Adrienne, I did it!!!”  Linsanity indeed.

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2 Responses

  1. Always enjoy your articles. GO KNICKS ! ! !

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