My running battle with out of town sports fans is going public – now!
Here’s the beef: New York fans are passionate and savvy. No arguments, please.
They also can be patient.
I know – the City That Never Sleeps; New York Minute; honking cabs; crowded trains.
But to steal from another sport, New Yorkers will come if you build it. In fact, they want to be part of the building process.
Just as Yankees fans fell in love with a core group of young stars named Jeter, Posada, Pettite and Rivera, Knicks fans are eager to see what can become of Porzingis, Hernangomez, Hardaway Jr., and Ntilikina.
“When I was a rookie, Knicks fans didn’t know what to make of us,’’ former star point guard Mark Jackson recently told MSGNetworks.com. “A lot of us were new to the franchise. We were playing a different style. It wasn’t a smooth start but the fans had our back. And we came together. Not just the team. The entire city had our back.’’
It might take this young Knicks team some time to find solid footing. But watching them develop their own individual games and meshing as a team is the stuff that sports love affairs are made of.
Anthony was the face of the franchise for six-plus seasons. Now, he’s chasing a ring with the Thunder. His protégé, third-year pro Kristaps Porzingis, likely will get the ball in last-second scenarios.
KP attacked his off-season workout regime, adding boxing and recovery training. KP’s idol Dirk Nowitzki (the two worked out together this summer), didn’t emerge as a superstar until his third season when he averaged 21.8 points and 9.2 boards. It’s now time for No. 6 to do so with New York.
There is no chant in the NBA more resonating than Knicks fans serenading The Garden with ‘De-Fense! De-Fense!’ It harkens back to the championship glory years of 1970-73.
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek learned the importance of defense under Teflon tough coach Jerry Sloan. He’s intent on instilling that type of chest-to-chest defensive approach with the Knicks.
3. Point Ahead
The Knicks used the 8th pick in the draft on point guard Frank Ntilikina, who could be the best gift from France since the Statue of Liberty. Injuries in the preseason have prevented him from showing his total package but he never was expected to take over from Day 1.
At 6-foot-5, 170 pounds, with a 7-foot wingspan, Ntilikina could emerge as a unique talent at the point guard position. Veterans Ramon Sessions and Jarrett Jack have been brought in to tutor the rookie. And, Ron Baker has Hornacek DNA – tough, smart, team-oriented – in his blood.
4. Center Stage
Willy Hernangomez was the surprise of the 2016-17 season, garnering All-Rookie honors. His Fred Astaire footwork and ability to score with either hand makes him an offensive force.
Hernangomez’s defense will improve by going against Enes Kanter, who was acquired from OKC in the Anthony deal. And Joakim Noah is the leader in the clubhouse for the team’s Comeback Player of the Year.
5. Triangle Shmiangle
The antiquated triangle offense has been scrapped. The Knicks will move the ball and move their feet. Hornacek wants them to push the pace but not at the expense of sacrificing defensive integrity. The Knicks should get more easy baskets and spread the wealth as a result.
There are few dynamics in sports more intriguing than watching a young team come together. We offer the 2017 Yankees.
Does that mean the Knicks make the playoffs, take over the Big Apple in May and June and become the hottest ticket in town? There are too many variables to go down that road. But the Knicks are building with young talent, 1st-round picks, and a sense of measured patience in the front office.
New York fans are smart enough to embrace such a process. They know making it here doesn’t always happen overnight. The rest of the country will learn.