The New York Knicks finally figured out the Cleveland Cavaliers, and in the process, clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2003-04 season, way back when Stephon Marbury was running the show. This time around, the Knicks’ new stars, Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups lead the Knicks into the postseason. It hasn’t been all smiles since the Knicks acquired Anthony and Billups, but no one expected a championship this season anyway. And even if this is a totally different team than the one that started the season, the Knicks have achieved their goal. And that’s the first time that can be said about this franchise in a long time.
It all started when Amare Stoudemire took an admirable leap, choosing to come to the Knicks as a free agent. Sure, getting a $100 million contract helped his decision, but Stoudemire should be given credit for accepting one of the toughest challenges in the league, in the country’s most vicious media market. It was Stoudemire’s decision that set the main piece in place.
We cannot yet truly judge the trade that brought Anthony and Billups here. That will come with Anthony’s time as a Knick, and whether or not he can help lead the team to a title. That won’t happen this year, and it is unfair to truly criticize the trade until a while down the road.
As for tonight, the Knicks finally got a monkey off their back, beating the NBA’s worst team for the first time in four tries this season. Stoudemire led the way with 28 points and seven rebounds, a performance that looked a lot like the early season, pre-trade Stoudemire. That bodes well for the Knicks heading into the postseason.
With six games remaining, the Knicks are playing for seeding. With the Chicago Bulls cementing their place atop the conference, it’s becoming increasingly likely that the Knicks will either play the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics in the first round. You wouldn’t favor the Knicks in either series, but you probably can’t count them out completely, especially against the Heat. Either way, the Knicks will play at least four extra games this season. Postseason basketball is back at Madison Square Garden. It’s been a long, long time.