Another Knicks season comes to a close on Wednesday night in Toronto. It's another loser, of course, and there hasn't been anything to play for in quite some time, but the end of this year has played out differently than the eight losing seasons that preceded it.
Some of that has to do with the makeup of the roster. Instead of inept veterans playing for bloated salaries, the Knicks have featured a cast of characters that seems like something out of a World War II B-movie. Tracy McGrady is the fallen hero, J.R. Giddens is the guy with a checkered past and Bill Walker's towel provides the comic relief. Earl Barron joins the squad just before the big battle from who knows where, Sergio Rodriguez and Danilo Gallinari provide some foreign flair and David Lee is the golden boy who doesn't know how he got stuck with this platoon in the first place. It's a fun group that tried hard for the most part and it's been appreciated.
The other, bigger part has to do with the fans who kept turning out in droves even after the season became an afterthought. The Knicks wound up with the fifth highest attendance in the league -- keep up the good work, David Stern -- and there were plenty of nights where the Garden rocked like the games actually mattered for anything other than Chris Duhon's fantasy owners. There probably weren't many of those, so there had to be something else at work.
The something else was faith in the plan being executed by Donnie Walsh. Knicks fans were never unrealistic about the chances of the team they saw in front of them this season. They knew this wasn't going to be a good team and knew that the entire focus was going to be on next year yet they still came out, spent their money and lost their voices in support of the team. They were cheering for rebuilding and for the organization finally swallowing deep and riding out a bad team so things could be better in the future.
Imagine if the Knicks hadn't wasted so much time getting to this point. Imagine if James Dolan hadn't been all too willing to swallow the swill served by Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas about how New York wouldn't accept a rebuilding team. They were right, the city embraced a rebuilding team and held it tight so that the team knew how much it would be loved for doing things the right way.
Knicks fans know the game and they understand the realities involved in building a winner. The Knicks tried to lie to them time and again about what was happening right in front of their faces but the fans never bought it and started to revolt. Finally, Dolan let someone with a clue take over and start the process. It's a shame it had to take so long.