Then a miracle happened.
Jeremy Lin, the Harvard-educated scrub who was called up as a bench fill-in, eventually became that mainstay the offensive guru so desperately needed to survive in this town.
And for a brief, rapturous run, Mr. Lin and the Knicks did the unthinkable: They won, they became likable, and they were actually fun to watch (at least, only after Mr. Dolan and co. finally resolved their dispute with Time Warner Cable in February and New Yorkers could, you know, watch their hometown team on TV). They won while Carmelo Anthony, the marquee player who Dolan overturned a promising roster for (say what you will, but Felton-Fields-Gallo-Stoudemire-Mozgov had character), sat out.
But then Anthony returned, he largely played his own style of basketball instead of D’Antoni’s, and the Knicks lost. A lot.
Then yesterday, amid growing reports that the Anthony-D’Antoni rift was destroying all the goodwill that “Linsanity” had built up, Mr. D’Antoni resigned.
Like his predecessors, he left with a losing record (121-167 overall record) and a lot of money. He also left amid reports that he had argued with Dolan about trading Anthony for New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams, a move that made some basketball sense.
“Basketball sense” has never really mattered to Dolan. There are more important matters afoot.
Madison Square Garden is currently transforming itself from the “World’s Most Famous Arena® ” into a state-of-the-art arena, reportedly at a cost of $850 million. In Dolan’s mindset, having a balanced basketball roster (which wins) is not going to pay for the Garden’s facelift. Stars like Anthony will. He hiked the average price of a ticket by 49 percent after he traded for Anthony in 2011, and raised it again by 4.9 percent last week.
But the gloom surrounding D’Antoni’s departure was short-lived. With newly-installed head coach Mike Woodson at the helm, the Knicks throttled a listless Portland Trailblazers team and D’Antoni, the mustachioed maverick, was an afterthought. Stoudemire even slagged off his former Suns and Knicks coach by saying that “everyone wasn’t buying into his system.”
And why should they? There is no such thing as a system in the Dolan-owned Knicks. It’s not about winning basketball games. It’s about hiring coaches and bringing in players whose basketball pedigrees and New York City roots lure our sorry asses into the Garden. Marbury of Coney Island, Anthony of Red Hook (but really of Baltimore), Wilkins and Brown of Brooklyn… it works. We buy into the idea that a NYC-native will save this woeful franchise. (Everyone was wrong: A California native turned out to be our team’s savior).
So, the next question is: Why root for the Knicks? Why buy a Knicks t-shirt with, say, Timofey Mozgov’s name on it if the fella is just going to end up getting traded the next day?(Editorial note: That happened to me) Why root for Dolan, who refuses to speak to the press (save for a brief statement yesterday), jacks up our ticket prices and laughs all the way to the bank while we read the Daily News and groan?
Because it’s basketball. And because we still have Lin… unless Lin, like his old coach, gets the eff out of this circus.