To put it simply, it’s expectations. That, and the gross underperformance of former contributors on this team. What we expected to see from this year’s New York Knicks is far and away above what we’ve gotten. Losing is always frustrating, but even more so when you’re supposed to be winning.
Higher expectations than results for this team have turned the season into a hellish ordeal that fans, Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony alike just want to end as soon as possible. It’s been three consecutive seasons in the playoffs for the Knicks, with last year’s team being the first to win a playoff series basically since the turn of the century. The Knick faithful were just starting to enjoy basketball relevance provided by Amar’e Stoudemire and then Carmelo but now it’s destined to be gone as the 22-40 Knicks are all but out of the playoff race. And it’s not like there’s a clear path of brightness heading into the future.
Last year’s successes made Knicks nation feel like there was more from where that came from. The skill level of this team is higher than its record and features much of the same talent it did a year ago. However, the loss of leadership from guys like Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby went underestimated as many of us saw the Knicks taking the Atlantic division for a second season in a row this season.
The 54 game winners enjoyed a ton of success and went to the Eastern Conference Semifinals before falling in six games. The way this year has turned out, the 180-degree flip has us sitting in front of the television wishing we had a melon baller to scoop our eyes out. Knicks fans wanted at least a return to the same spot they did a year ago, not hit rock bottom seven different times.
Not just wanted a return to success, expected. The word ‘expectations’ didn’t match up with the Knicks for such a long time but this season it did. And what happens the first time in about fifteen years when Knicks fans expect something? This happens. That’s what makes 2013-14 so frustrating and worse than many other Knick seasons. We thought we were building something, maybe not a champion but a team that could compete at a high level in the playoffs for a number of seasons, not just one and done.
Like I said, losing is always frustrating. New York went nine consecutive seasons (from 2001-2010) finishing under the .500 mark and five of those were 50+ loss years. That decade of basketball incompetence stretched seven coaches not counting two interim stints from assistant Herb Williams. The Knicks were one of the NBA’s biggest laughing stocks for much of that time and now after a brief spot in sunlight, the Knicks are back in a dark place.
The only thing that made it a little bit easier watching the 2000s Knicks was knowing what they were. We try to have grand expectations of ourselves here in New York, but we knew when Jeff Van Gundy left nineteen games into 2001-02 that things were going to slide downhill and get tougher. We couldn’t even kid ourselves even when New York managed a playoff berth after finishing 39-43 in 2003-04. The four game sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Nets was swift and the Knicks never had a chance. We were a bit more realistic when trapped inside futility and last year’s breakout season had us primed for a huge letdown that we are mercifully almost done with.
Those years of turbulence were followed and preceded by ones that were the same for the most part. When being in a funk for that long, it gets to be all you know. Not that living inside basketball mediocrity for a decade is okay or what any of us wanted, but it didn’t give us hope and then just take it away. That’s what 2012-13 was for the Knicks and their fans; hope. Now, those hopes are dashed faster than you can say ‘Isiah Thomas.’