Despite a current six-game losing streak that has extinguished most playoff talk, our New York Knicks have at least resembled an actual professional basketball team most of this season, which is a marked improvement over most of this decade. With all the cap space and freewheeling offense suddenly found at the Garden, visions of LeBron James and a future that’s not so embarrassing are filling fans’ brains.
But before you get too excited, take a look at the NBA All-Star festivities in Phoenix this weekend. You’ll see just how far the Knicks have left to go.
The Knicks have no players in the All-Star game itself — again. The last time anybody from the Knicks made it was 2001 (Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston). David Lee’s breakout season had him pegged as a candidate, but he wasn’t voted in as a reserve by coaches. (And if he can’t make it now, as the best player on a team seemingly invented to pump up statistics, you have to wonder if he’ll ever make it.)
So, what to watch? Well, Nate Robinson plays the Dunk Contest again tomorrow night; he won it in 2006, partly by jumping over fellow “tiny” man Spud Webb. (The dunk contest loves short basketball players.) And Wilson Chandler will play for the sophomore team in the Rookie Challenge game tonight. If you’re desperate, Chris Tucker and Michael Rapaport will be in the celebrity game. (Sorry, no Meat Loaf.)
For old-time Knicks fans, though, the most fun might be the Development League’s Slam Dunk contest, which will feature Patrick Ewing Jr. dunking for the Reno Bighorns. If you’re thinking how the lone All-Star attraction for Knicks fans involves watching the son of a team legend dunk for a minor-league team is a sad example of how much further the Knicks have to go to reach relevance, well, you’re right.