There was a moment at the end of last night’s Knicks game that pretty well sums up how different things are at the Garden this season: After scoring 41 points to lead the Knicks to their 24th win — one more than they had all of last year — Nate Robinson walked over to Will Ferrell, sitting courtside, to present his pal with the jersey he wore to win the Slam Dunk Contest earlier this month. Let’s look at these elements one at a time.
First, Nate’s 41 points (off the bench, no less). It’s not so much the sheer number of points; it’s the way he took over the game in the second half, scoring 32, including the go-ahead basket with 26 seconds left, off a steal of an inbounds pass. MSG’s announcers may have gotten a little carried away after the game, suggesting that there’s no more than five players in the league who could turn in a performance like that, but still, it was impressive stuff. Then there’s the win total, which is self-explanatory, but still worth pointing out, it only being February and all.
But the Will Ferrell stuff says a lot about where this team is, in its own way. There’s the simple fact that a bona fide celebrity would attend a Knicks game to see one player in particular. Needless to say, nobody was going last year just to see Zach Randolph. (Robinson and Ferrell first met last year, and Nate’s since made a habit of ending interviews with the line “Shake and Bake,” from Talladega Nights, which is weird but endearing.) Then there’s the way that Robinson, ever the showman, played it up for the crowd, high-fiving Ferrell after big shots before making a beeline for him after the game. The Knicks haven’t had a player quite like that since Larry Johnson retired.
Mike D’Antoni mentioned afterwards that other than Nate’s big night, there wasn’t much to be happy about. Which is true from an X’s and O’s standpoint — the first half was ugly, and newcomer Larry Hughes was awful. (Props to MSG’s Al Trautwig for finding out whether Hughes was familiar with this website. Believe it or not, he isn’t.) But that’s sort of beside the point: The Knicks found a way to win, the fans had fun, Will Ferrell got a cool souvenir, and the memory of the Isiah Thomas Era faded away just a little bit more.