In the back of the bar where you were watching the Yankees game last night, you might not have noticed it, but there was a little TV playing the Knicks game. Yes, the Knicks season has started. The Yankees’ postseason drama has distracted the city’s sporting populace from other endeavors, including the collapsing Giants (who would be at the center of everyone’s pain if anyone were paying attention) and the Knicks, who are somehow already four games in. How did that happen? Anyway: In that fourth game last night, the Knicks finally won. Over a good team, too.
The Knicks held off the New Orleans Hornets 117–111 Monday night (gotta love those big, inflated score totals), and, as much as you might enjoy making fun of the Knicks, they’re starting to look like a potential sleeper team in the Eastern Conference. Not to win the conference, obviously, but as a potential eighth playoff spot. Remember, two of the first three losses were in overtime: We’re a couple of shots falling in the fourth quarter from marveling over a 3–1 Knicks start.
What’s fun about this Knicks team, in the early going, is watching coach Mike D’Antoni mix and match his rotations and starting lineups. Larry Hughes didn’t even play in the first two games; now he’s in the starting lineup and guarding the opposing team’s best player. Al Harrington is now coming off the bench … and scoring 42 points! Last night’s power forward was Wilson Chandler. D’Antoni is just pouring mixtures from one test tube to another to see what explodes and what doesn’t.
You sense he’s getting closer to figuring it out. With Nate Robinson’s injury, Hughes has stepped up, playing more than 40 minutes last night; believe it or not, the backcourt of Hughes and Chris Duhon outplayed Chris Paul and Morris Peterson.
There’s still plenty of work to be done, and it’s not exactly encouraging that Jordan Hill, the lottery pick, has played only one minute and 45 seconds all season. But the Knicks are going to surprise some people at odd moments this year. Last night was just the first. Not that anyone was watching, of course.