>Fear

Posted: February 10, 2011 by Keith Stone in Knicks, rants

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For me, the theme of the Knicks season has been fear and overcoming it. Amar’e Stoudemire and Ray Felton weren’t afraid to accept the challenge of reviving a downtrodden franchise. Young guys like Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, and Shawne Williams haven’t been afraid to step up when the team has needed them. And the fans, we’re never been afraid to make some noise.

After a 3-8 start, the Knicks have shown no fear with wins over the Spurs, Heat, Thunder, and Bulls. That’s four of the best seven teams in the league. On the back of Amar’e’s 26.2 points-per-game, they were playing like we all wanted them to: running, shooting, hustling, playing a little D. It seemed like every night there was another hero. Shawne hitting a big 3. Gallo driving unabashedly to the hole. Even Timmy Mozgov with a double-double. There was a different aura around the team than there’s been since Jeff Van Gundy resigned. There was hope.

After last night’s 116-108 loss to the Clippers at the Garden, it seems like the luster has faded a bit on this feelgood story. Then, Amar’e came out and said the words that I least wanted to hear, “Seemed like we were afraid out there.” He added, “I said it before the game that we have to have supreme focus. I guess they figured I was talking to the wall because we didn’t come out with any focus. You can tell before the game. You can tell…that guys weren’t ready to go.” Last night’s game was unacceptable. We’re 51 games into the season. When the franchise player tells you to go out and play with some heart, you go do it. You don’t let DeAndre Jordan dunk four times.
So what’s the problem? It looks like the small rotation is starting to take a toll. Amar’e’s knees are holding up but when he was lying on the court last night in pain, but heart was in my stomach. Felton has been playing with a banged-up ankle. Gallo, Chandler, and Ronny Turiaf have all missed time with injuries but are pushing on. Did the Knicks get complacent? Did they forget the fire they had earlier in the season? For a while, they were looking like a lock for the 6-seed in the East but now the Sixers are 2.5 games back and have been playing well.
It’s possible that a Knicks team with low expectations and youthful exuberance started out the season unafraid because they didn’t know how to be, like someone climbing a mountain for the very first time. All of a sudden you look down and you don’t realize how high you’ve climbed. You look up and it’s snowing and you have no idea what’s it’s going to take to reach the top. Then, you’re afraid. Sometimes the fear of success is almost as great as the fear of losing. I think the Knicks have reached that point.
We haven’t even talked about Carmelo yet. He’s been looming over the entire season ever since Queen James spurned the team. We looked at LeBron like a superhero who would save the franchise. Now Carmelo has taken his place but I don’t see him as a quick fix especially after last night’s game. Carmelo will bring scoring, but will he bring toughness, heart, and defense? Don’t get me wrong. I would love to have him on the team for the right price and I think he makes the Knicks immediately better, but does he get them to top of the mountain? He’s like a Sherpa bringing supplies. It helps but ultimately the climber has to have enough fortitude and courage himself to do what he previously thought was impossible.
The Carmelo situation has probably affected some members of the team that might not be here in a couple of weeks, wrongly or rightly so. You can’t control injuries but you can control what happens when somebody goes to the hoop. That’s what the Knicks need to focus on. They probably won’t win the Trophy this year but there’s still a lot at stake. The hopes of the fanbase for the past 10 years are on the line. More importantly, Knickerbocker Pride is on the line. Poor preparation, disinterest and fear can never happen.
After losing a bad game to the Rockets earlier in the season, Amar’e had a similar diatribe and the Knicks ripped off 13 of 14.  Regardless of how the Melodrama plays out, Amar’e is my superhero and this season will revolve around how he rallies his teammates. The have overcome it before, but not with this many injuries and question marks. In the name of Charles Oakley, I think Amar’e will never let this happen again. The Knicks will not be afraid to keep climbing the mountain.
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