More people in New York watched Game 6 of the ALCS than watched the Giants lose to the Cardinals on Sunday night. If the NFL can't compete with the Yankees, there's a good chance that the first game of the 2009-2010 Knicks season will go unwatched on Wednesday night. That's okay, because the only people the Knicks need to watch them this season don't currently live in New York.
Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni have already done the snake oil bit on Knicks fans and have them believing that after one more tiresome year of mediocre basketball will lead to a brighter tomorrow. Now they've just got to sell LeBron James on why moving to New York will turn out better for him than it did for every other basketball player over the last decade.
That's why the actual business of playing basketball isn't actually the annoyance that the Knicks have made it out to be over the last two years. James, Dwyane Wade or any other player who values more than money and appearances on Page Six isn't going to sign with a team that will struggle to eke into the back end of the playoffs at the expense of trying for a championship. Can the Knicks convince anyone that they can actually play meaningful basketball games?
It doesn't look that way. Barring a trade for a player who will be here beyond June, representing a major change in direction, the Knicks don't have any player who could reasonably described as the third or even fourth fiddle on a title team. They have a solid fifth guy in David Lee, although he'll probably quickly go from underrated to overrated this season as the hordes figure out that he's not getting any better than he is right now. They have two hopes for guys who could make a leap into the decision-making process for a free agent in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.
Chandler is a terrific athlete who has shown that he can do a lot of different things well on the court, but has yet to show that he can do them all at the same time or that he can do any of them well enough to move beyond being an average player. Gallinari can shoot, but we've seen so little of him that we don't know what else he can do. Hopes are high that he can do a lot, but he needs to show it and show it consistently to make a difference.
After all, just about every team can boast of having an athletic guy who hasn't shown he's much of a basketball player and a skinny guy who can shoot the rock. Because the team can't get rid of the loathsome Eddy Curry-Jared Jeffries duo and because they were counting on a more robust economy, the development of Chandler and Gallinari is vital to entertaining notions of the kinds of players that Walsh has been promising since coming on the job.
Knicks fans have bought Walsh's spiel hook, line and sinker, but they're a desperate group. NBA superstars will take a little bit more and it doesn't appear that Walsh has it.