Most times when the team I’m pulling for comes up short I accuse them of choking or being victimized by bad refereeing or bad luck. All those years when the Celtics were beating the Knicks I thought the refs should have been wearing green and white stripes. It made me laugh when Indian Pacer coach Larry Bird insinuated the refs helped the Knicks overcome his team this season. Memo to Larry Legend: get real.
As I watched the Knicks lose game four to the Spurs on Wednesday night I couldn’t complain. They were trying their damnedest but couldn’t topple a better team. Yeah, Larry Johnson was awful and could’ve made the difference if he had played as he did in game three but he’s -playing on a bum wheel. Charlie Ward gave Knick fans some false hope while shocking everybody with his first quarter play. But he returned to god-awful form the rest of the way. Speaking of God, he must be a tad miffed at Charlie. The former college quarterback, is a point guard on the God squad and quick to praise the Lord for any on court success. Well, Charlie must be feeling like Job these days. He’s gotta be spending a lot of time thanking God for all the obstacles and hard times he must endure.
But Larry (Allah is the one who helps his game) Johnson and Charlie Ward are not the reason the Knicks couldn’t beat the Spurs. And neither were the refs---who I thought did a generally lousy job. The Spurs were just better.
Allan Houston was superb but because the Knicks boast little depth ran out of gas; same thing with Latrell Sprewell. As time drifted away in crucial game four, Houston and Sprewell had little left. But hey, they played great. And you couldn’t rightly ask for more. In game three Allan Houston turned in the best 10-24 shooting night I’ve ever seen.
Television ratings suggest that across the country nobody’s been watching this series. But plenty of people around here have been very tuned in---unlike 1994 when the Knicks last visited the Finals. That thuggish bunch (Oakley, Mason, Ewing, Starks, Riley) best remembered for kicking somebody after the whistle were merely tolerated. No other New York team, in any sport, which reached a finals was so coldly embraced.
The 1999 Knicks were fun. Camby coming from nowhere for a tip or a booming dunk. He was even exciting when he missed dunks. Which he did several times. And Sprewell, man I can’t stand him. But damn, can that guy fly. Of course, they should trade his butt ---now---while his stock is at its all-time high---because you know the guy is poison. You know in regular season play when he’s not getting enough shots or minutes the grumbling will start; the outrageous selfishness reborn. He’s been caught up in the Knicks’ improbable run and he’s been good and fun to watch. But you gotta view him as a hired gun. He’ll be a free agent after next season---he’ll use the regular season to boost his own numbers---not his team’s.
It’s been a good ride but you gotta go, now.
Jeff Van Gundy? I worry about him. He’s such a Ewing loyalist. I’d hate to think the team will revert to its former self as a Patrick-dominated team. I won’t dispense any salt water if he leaves.
After the Knicks beat the Pacers a reporter asked Van Gundy is he felt like he had just won the lottery because he was going to make an additional $4 million by making it to the NBA Finals. Van Gundy, taking great umbrage, said he wouldn’t dignify the question with an answer.
Lighten up, Jeff. What would’ve been wrong with saying, "Heinekens and Dom Perignon for everybody! Four million bucks?! Man, I’ll take it. That’s great! Winning has been awesome and getting an extra four million is some nice icing on this cake. And man, after all the crap I’ve taken I deserve it. Next question!"
**Kevin Raphael is doing wonders as the new man in charge of the Summer Classic, the basketball league at St. Francis. By all accounts the league is operating as smooth as ever and a festive, fun atmosphere is enjoyed by all. Standing O for Kev Raph.
** Rockaway Little League playoffs are underway. Check out the action at Fort Tilden….The Family Run Walk is scheduled for Friday, July 23. Keep reading The Wave for details. What else is going on? Look for a mini-boom in tennis as the new courts at Beach Channel attract players; fishing continues to be great because the waters remain so clean; and surfing’s growing in popularity. Sometimes things seem disappointing because turnout is low---but you know what?---there’s a lot going on.