You’ll have to excuse New Yorkers if Friday night’s Knicks opener against the Heat has gone somewhat under the radar. We’ve had larger concerns, like making sure our prized possessions aren’t washed out to sea, trivial items like our cars or grandparents.
After such a harrowing week, there’s a strong case to be made that the Knicks shouldn’t even be playing tonight, what with the devastation still unfolding in so many parts of the Tri-State area. There’s something distasteful about caring about basketball when folks are literally struggling to find food.
But there’s that other part for Knicks fans, the part that certainly wants to understand all that and does, but that can’t fight the fact they’ve waited an awful long time for this, and you know the two teams are already here, and there’s the arena right over there, so maybe they should just play and some of us could watch?
And so while putting this mere sporting contest in its proper perspective, we can also take stock of the fact that this is actually a pretty big game for the Knicks, especially for its star player Carmelo Anthony.
I think it’s fair to say that Anthony’s time so far in New York has to qualify as something of a disappointment. Considering that the highlight of his run here has been a two-week stretch in which Jeremy Lin made everyone’s heads explode, a stretch in which he wasn’t actually playing, it’s fair to say we’re still waiting for this trade to bear fruit. In fairness, during his time here, neither the Knicks nor Anthony have been bad, they just haven’t been that great either.
Which is why there is such an uncertainty that surrounds the whole team this year. There’s no doubt it’s improved, little argument it’s not the best Knicks team in years — the competition, you will note, is slim — but also a gnawing sense that it’s still not really a threat to beat the other top teams in the league, a sense they could begin to dispel with a big opening night.
Which isn’t to say the Knicks have to come out and win this game or everything is hopeless and futile, though I’m sure it will feel that way for at least a few minutes. I’d certainly be content to just see them play well, to look like they belonged on something of an elite level.
But there also exists an opportunity to turn this opener into one of those special sports moments that come along only so often. That opportunity goes especially for Anthony, who hasn’t quite yet ingrained himself in the city he worked so hard to play in.
But we’re here tonight. We’re cold, we’re wet, probably huddled around the one TV in the neighborhood that actually works and ready to wrap our arms around our own franchise player.
Tonight’s game is certainly not the defining moment of Anthony’s career, a loss won’t signify anything greater than the team going 0-1, but it’s an opportunity for Anthony to receive a full New York embrace. A big performance against the defending champion Heat would go a long way in lifting the mood surrounding the Knicks and the city they play in.
It would have been easy for the Knicks not to play tonight, but if the game must go on, hey, might as well make the most of it, right?