Undermanned Knicks Pull Off Gutsy Win; Talk in New York Still of LeBron

FanHouse was all credentialed up for Saturday night's Wizards-Knicks game in New York. Here's a report from Madison Square Garden.

They dressed eight players, but only played seven. Their five starters put in more than 40 minutes of work apiece, while their $20 million man declined an offer to suit up and play for his team. At times they looked gassed, and they nearly squandered a sizeable lead late in the game.

Yet the scrappy New York Knicks still somehow managed to pull off a very surprising -- and very inspiring -- 122-117 home win against the Washington Wizards Saturday night.

In fact, the only unsurprising thing about the Knicks' triumph was the fact that, despite a selfless and energized team effort, the talk in the locker room after the game was ultimately about New York's next game: a visit from the King of 2010, LeBron James, next Tuesday.

This isn't to say these Knicks are only geared for the future, however. Hardly. Thanks to all the guys buying in to new coach Mike D'Antoni's pass-quick-shoot-quicker system, the 'Bockers are fun to watch these days. (Although, when D'Antoni's wide-open offensive scheme results in four players putting up 22 or more points each, as it did on Saturday, then one might say that, from a player's perspective, what would there be not to like?)

But there's plenty to like from a fan's perspective as well. This past week, the Knicks gutted their long-term payroll. Their young players have shown plenty of promise en route to wins in seven of their first 13 games this season. And the Garden is rocking like it hasn't in years, with chants of "MIKE-DAN-TOE-KNEE" cascading from the rafters, effectively washing the echoes of "FIRE-EYE-ZAY-UH" from the walls of the World's Most Famous.

Yes, quickly and impressively, the Knicks have undergone a rebirth in the first month of the season. But New York being New York, where relentless acquisition is the norm, simple signs of improvement just aren't enough. Hanging out in the locker room after the game, one still gets the sense that this town's hunger for quality hoops won't be sated until LeBron is all done up in orange and blue the season after next. So naturally, there was plenty of talk about the King's visit to Gotham next Tuesday.

Over in one corner of the Knicks' locker room, a writer was asking Quentin Richardson, fresh off of 34 points and seven 3-pointers, if he planned on giving LBJ roses and chocolates upon his arrival. And over on the other side was David Lee (24 points and 12 rebounds) volunteering the information that the Knicks knew how big Tuesday's game was, and not just because Al Harrington, Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley will most likely be playing their first games as Knicks.

So I put the question to Chris Duhon (10 points and 11 assists) after hearing all this chatter: Was this team already talking about LeBron becoming a free agent in 2010? He testily blew me off, saying that LeBron doesn't play for the Knicks,and that they had a team of their own. And he's right, this team is doing just fine as they are. They shouldn't have to talk about someone else's star.

But Duhon (or "C-Doo" as he's known by the fans) wasn't in attendance for LeBron's 50-point explosion last season. He didn't see an energized King practically skipping up and down the Garden floor in glee, and he didn't see a local fan become so overwhelmed with adoration that he rather scarily ran up to LeBron during a late break in play. I did. And let me tell you, it was something very special.

And so are the Knicks these days. Even if for some locals, 2010 can't get here fast enough.

Undermanned Knicks Pull Off Gutsy Win; Talk in New York Still of LeBron originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Sun, 23 Nov 2008 10:14:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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