After winning it all in 1970, Holzman’s team reached the Eastern Conference Finals in the 1970-71 season, but lost to the Baltimore Bullets. The following season, in which they returned to the finals (but lost to the Lakers), the Knicks added two vital components that would return them to glory.
“There were a number of changes that took place in the ’71-72 season,” Bradley said. “And one of the changes was the addition of Earl, who is a unique player and who has tremendous character, and who sacrificed a lot of superstardom in order to make the team better.”
“When Earl was with Baltimore, he was the guy,” Frazier said. “He shot the ball 30 times and they wanted him to shoot. But now he comes to the Knicks and he had to conform to a team concept.”
“When I was in Baltimore, I had a different rhythm of playing,” Monroe said. “It was my rhythm. When I came to New York, it had a different rhythm. It was more or less Clyde’s rhythm.”
“People were worried that one ball wouldn’t be enough for a backcourt of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe,” Bradley joked. “And that wasn’t the case. They both joined together and created a tremendous backcourt, and played the same kind of unselfish basketball that we had played for years.”
“A lot of people thought it would never work,” Frazier said. “They underestimated the mutual respect we had for each other. We never allowed our egos to get involved and it never deterred us from what our goal was, and that was to win a championship.
“But I give credit to Earl because I didn’t change my game,” he added. “He had to change his game. He had to be more team oriented. He had to play defense and, to his credit, he did that.”
“The second addition to the Knicks that year was Jerry Lucas,” Bradley said. “Jerry brought an intelligence to the game that was just fun to play with.”
Lucas, who is now among the leading authorities on the human memory and has written books and given lectures on the subject, used his intellect to give the Knicks a rather unique advantage.
“I memorized every play of every team in the NBA,” he said. “So [when a team called a play], I would call out one of our plays that was exactly like the play they were going to run.”
Besides his mind games, Lucas was a great outside shooter, a skill that wrecked havoc on opposing defenses.
“Jerry would have been the greatest three-point shooter of all time if we had the three-point line at that time,” Reed said. “[When I played against him], I hated to guard Lucas because you’d be so far away from the basket, but that’s where he played. It created uncertainty for the defense because centers weren’t going to come out there. And then if a forward guarded him, who’s going to guard our other forward, DeBusschere? So it really created chaos for people.”