The NY Knicks lost a tough game against the Utah Jazz on Friday night. It was a disappointing loss that dropped the team to 2-8 and extended their losing streak to 7 games. Although some media “pundits” are shouting down Head Coach Derek Fisher’s efforts to find some rays of light in the darkness that so much losing tends to create, Fisher is absolutely correct to be taking the approach he’s taking. I wrote about the Knicks needing to embrace this attitude during the playoffs a few seasons ago and I believe that they need to continue to embrace this attitude now. I’ll explain briefly why that is and then tell you how Knicks fans that will be at their 1 pm game against the Denver Nuggets at MSG today can actually help them win what would, under other conditions, be considered an easily winnable game.
Friday night, the Knicks came back a couple of times when they were far behind. Sure, fans would like to see them lead from the opening tip until the final buzzer but they’re not at that point in their “triangle” evolution right now (is that “triangulation”?). So coming back at all, never mind multiple times, is a very big deal. Only a game or two before, people were upset because the team seemed to be throwing in the towel when they got behind. So making it a game against the Jazz, and actually tying the score with under 3 seconds left, is definite progress.
On top of that, remember that they were without Amar’e Stoudemire by design and then without starter Iman Shumpert seconds into the game by accident. They could have mailed it in at that point. Instead they hung in; Melo played lights out; and Pablo Prigioni, a point guard who is “pass first” almost to a fault, scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and hit two very big 3s and a huge “keep hustling until the play is over” layup along the way.
Right now, while the Knicks are learning a new system under a new coach, they are like babies who are learning to walk. How many of you have kids? How many of you WERE kids? When babies are learning to walk, they bump around a lot and when they finally stand up, they wobble like Weebles who WILL fall down. Yet we praise them, we encourage them, and then one day they’re motoring around on their own two feet. We don’t yell at them for the early mistakes. If we did, and if our parents did that to us, we’d have a society of people who slither because they never learned to walk (your lawyer joke goes here…).
Now, how can the fans at MSG help the team today? Don’t wait for the Knicks to do something that makes you cheer. Instead, cheer them early and you’ll soon find that they give you something to cheer about. Think of the team like an egg, MSG like the pan, and the fans like the water. If you put a raw egg into a pan of cold water, nothing happens. But if the water boils, the egg starts to cook. So, too, will the Knicks if you bring the Garden to a rolling boil early on.
Why do you pour cold water on an egg after you remove it from the boiling water? Because once it starts to cook, it’ll keep on cooking on its own. The cold water stops that. So, too, will booing if things aren’t going as well as you’d like.
I’ve kept track of the Knicks since working with Chris Dudley and Allan Houston and have seen many examples of how the Garden crowd can help them turn things around. Unfortunately, the crowd normally waits for something to cheer about. But when that “something” comes, the fans make a very real difference. During the ’00-’01 season (if memory serves), there was a game at the Garden where the Knicks were just stinking up the joint. Play was sloppy and the team was way behind. The Knicks threw up a garbage shot and the other team grabbed the rebound and started the fast break. But the guard dribbled the ball off his leg and it started going out of bounds. Allan tripped trying to get to the ball and slid about 10 feet but managed to grab it and while staying inbounds. While sitting on the floor, Allan saw Larry Johnson all by himself under the Knicks’ basket and threw a bounce pass (one that bounced a few times, actually) to LJ. The crowd was already cheering Allan’s “seat of his pants” save and then went wild as LJ stuffed the ball home. The Knicks started to play like a team inspired, the crowd stayed with them, and the Knicks ultimately pulled out the win.
This whole “cheering” first idea gets into “vibrational energy”. Trust me, Phil Jackson knows about this. So do Kevin Love’s Uncle Mike and his cousins (the Beach Boys). They released their Good Vibrations album in 1967. Almost 50 years later, Knicks fans need to release their own “good vibrations” today at the Garden. We don’t need any Knicks players “hanging ten”, we just need them to play harmoniously, keep their energy high, and play their best basketball. Knicks fans have more to do with this than they may currently imagine.
Teams don’t turn things around easily when they’re not only learning new things but dealing with adversity. They need an assist. If you’ve got a ticket to today’s game, you have the right to sit back and wait for the Knicks to entertain you. But if you want to go home with that “we just won a game” feeling, you’ll cheer early and often and help hardboil the Knicks into victors.
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