The Knicks lost to the Mavericks 113–97 at the Garden last night, in a game that was essentially over after the Mavs made a big third-quarter run. (How over was it? Anthony Randolph and Andy Rautins got to play.) Danilo Gallinari scored 27 points, and Toney Douglas scored 22, but that was about it for the night. It was yet another lousy game (shooting at least) for Raymond Felton, whose last month has all but assured he won't be announced as an All-Star reserve tonight. The Mavericks have won six in a row and are looking terrific. Even at home, it's not a horrible loss.
That doesn't mean there wasn't concern at the Garden last night. First, of course, was the short term: This weekend, the Knicks play the 76ers twice in three days, in a home-and-home. The Sixers happen to sit at the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, just three games behind the Knicks. The general assumption has been that the Knicks are safely ensconced in their sixth seed, but with one bad weekend, the Knicks could be one game away from dropping down. (And they're a lot closer to a seventh seed than they are a fifth.) According to ESPN's John Hollinger, the Knicks still have an 88 percent chance of making the playoffs. But they're still wavering around .500 — a little too close for what anyone would prefer.
But the real buzz in Knicks-land revolves around a column written yesterday by esteemed Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski. Wojo is an old-school beat guy who knows the wives and girlfriends of everyone in every front office and locker room in the NBA, and he popped up yesterday to remind everyone that, as much fun as this Knicks season has been, they are still owned by James Dolan. We'd all almost forgotten.
In the context of the still-pending Donnie Walsh contract extension, Wojnarowski reminds us of the dysfunction that anyone who has ever talked on the phone with any MSG employee, ever, knows still exists there.
Through several regimes, the Garden has always been a cesspool for the survivalists and backstabbers and con men. Kill or be killed. Walsh doesn't engage, and maybe it hurts him. Dolan likes yes men, sycophants, and the Knicks president has never played along. When Dolan tried to push Thomas back onto Walsh as his GM last summer, Walsh threatened to resign. He wouldn't let his franchise be thrown into that kind of dysfunctional chaos.
Wojnarowski goes into detail on the hiring of former Denver Nuggets executive Mark Warkentien, hypothesizing that he was brought in just so the Knicks could deal with William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley. (Wesley is an old Wojnarowski phantom.) He rambles a bit on the predraft workout of Brandon Rush that hurt his knee four years ago, which he uses mostly to bring up the I-word again. Someday we will live in a world where we will be able to make it through a column about the Knicks without the I-word being used, but we are not yet there.
The column works mostly to point out just how much fantastic work Walsh has done since he came here, how much of a mess he had to clean up, and remind ... hey, why hasn't he gotten an extension yet? How much more could he have possibly done? And the answer to that, as always, is Dolan. There is always that front office weirdness there, that possibility that the whole executive team will be fired because one guy went to the restroom at the wrong time during a JD & the Straight Shot set.
The Knicks have overcome so much in the last two years, have brought the thrill back to the Garden, have put together this young, likable team on the fly, with plenty of cap space to spare. It has been a brilliant job by Walsh. But they are not back yet, and as long as that Dolan cloud is hanging over the organization, you can never feel truly secure that they will be. Nothing has been completed yet, and this could all come crashing down, and all we suffered through for the last decade could return. That's why Wojnarowski's column was so effective, and why it came at exactly the right time to stoke everyone's fears. You can never feel secure. You're never over the hump. Not yet. Not with the I-word still showing up all the time. Still.
If you need to feel any better, though: Here's the Garden booing Justin Bieber.