Look, there is nothing wrong with savoring what you saw Wednesday night. There is nothing wrong with admitting you got a little caught up in the frenetic pace the Knicks employed, and the fact that for the first time since Prohibition there were basketball players wearing Knicks uniforms who actually looked interested in defense.
There is also nothing wrong with thanking the NBA for arranging a timely opening-night visit from the Hawks, who vigorously played the part of the quintessential Homecoming Game foe.
The Knicks certainly aren’t wringing their hands over any of this.
“Don’t worry about anyone else,” a beaming Enes Kanter said afterward. “We worry about us.”
And, yes, there will be enough worry to go around across the next 81 games. There surely will be a surplus of nights when it will be the Knicks on the business end of the kind of 126-107 pounding they laid on the Hawks at Madison Square Garden, and nights when the Garden won’t crackle and hop as it did Wednesday night.
(And we can all just go ahead and write it down that they won’t get the kind of emotional boost they got at the first timeout when, down 10-2 and without a field goal four minutes deep into the season, a bearded fan wearing one of the blue “New York Forever” T-shirts that greeted all 18,249 fans banked one in from half-court to win 10 grand and, according to more than a few Knicks, roused them from their early slumber …)
“I was expecting us to play hard,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said after winning his debut. “I didn’t know how well we’d play.”
The first part is the important part, for this game and for all the ones to come. There are different kinds of bad teams, after all, and if we are all in agreement that the Knicks are still a bad team until proven otherwise, then it will serve them well to employ the kind of energy they did in this one: fullcourt and fast, with an emphasis on intensity.
That kind of bad can still be eminently watchable.
“We don’t have the luxury of being a team that can change from game to game,” Fizdale said. “We are trying to create a system of habits.”
Good ones, preferably. And as first impressions go, the new coach made as favorable an impact as he ever could have hoped. He knew from the moment he woke up Wednesday that this would be a different kind of day, that as much as he would try to honor his gameday routines there is only one day in your life when you’ll be introduced as the Knicks’ head coach for the very first time.
Before the game, Fizdale spoke of his brother, Robert Walker, who flew in from Los Angeles to be with his kid brother on such a huge day.
When they were young it was Walker — nine years Fizdale’s elder — who gave the Knicks coach his first pair of basketball shoes.
“On a day like this, you remember how you got here,” Fizdale said. “One day in your life triggers this, one person. My brother did that for me.”
And afterward, with his brother and oldest friend in the house, with his mother watching on television, with a commemorative game ball freshly placed in his possession by his giddy players, Fizdale had to concede: “This was a dream come true.”
The Knicks are still in for a long haul. They aren’t bashful about that. There were 1,563 T-shirts that covered 1,563 unoccupied seats for the opener. Failing to fill the Garden on opening night, even in the recent spate of sinkhole seasons, used to be unthinkable.
Knicks fans — far and away the most loyal and most scarred of all the local fan bases, and by a large margin — understand this is what the team needed after years of neglect and nonsense, after years of ownership interference that was followed by the raging, relentless incompetence of the Phil Jackson Regime.
That doesn’t mean they’re prepared to pay for the privilege of seeing this all firsthand, up-close, unfiltered. There are consequences to be paid for two decades of deplorable basketball, and there should be.
“Everyone who went out there did something to help us,” Fizdale said. “That’s pretty good.”
For now, pretty good is perfectly fine.