Words by Phlip
It’s funny watching the rekindling of old rivalries when you don’t have a dog in that particular fight.
Recently on a car forum I admin for, in an off-topic NBA conversation, a fellow Lakers fan and myself played unwilling intermediaries between Miami Heat fans and New York Knicks fans. As in-conference rivalries go, we all remember the Zo Mourning/Larry Johnson kerfuffle in 1998, which qualifies this to me as the only real rivalry that Miami has in their still young (they were started in 1988) history.
The argument from the fans of the Knickerbockers (I feel guilty when I say that word for some reason) argue that the Knicks have “arrived,” and that the arrival of Tyson Chandler had made this their year. The Heat fans reminded them that they have a coach who seems to think that defense is overrated, they STILL don’t have a point guard worth mentioning, and that Baron Davis 1) is currently out injured with a bad back he suffered DURING the lockout, and 2) is the type of person who sustains major injuries like that WHILE locked out. Score one, Miami Heat fans… The natural response is to mention the backslide of the rest of the contenders in the conference with injury/age damning Boston and whatever will happen to Dwight Howard in Orlando.
This is where two lifelong Lakers’ fans got involved, reminding both sides (conceding that we HATED to have to say it) that while EVERY OTHER CONTENDER in the NBA managed to stay the same if not getting only marginally better or just outright got worse, the Miami Heat has gotten WAY better as far as assembled parts of their machine.
Then it got fun…
While simultaneously stating that UNLESS the Lakers score Dwight Howard (hopefully while KEEPING Gasol) they’re a 4th seed at best and likely first round exit, we explained that as of opening night, Miami should be the next NBA champions. Yes, the body pieces are in place, but it seems that the chink in Miami’s armor was the metaphoric Black Lion to their Voltron, and they just didn’t have it mentally. After three televised (well, two and one cutaway to the final moments of one) Miami games in which they romped in two and gutted out a victory in the third, I am convinced that they’re ready. LeBron is getting his 30+, while NOT shooting jumpers like a Duke graduate, D-Wade is D-Wade, Bosh is assertive enough to stave off – or at least delay – questions of his “orientation” and with the surprise rookie point guard, they make it look both easy and planned. Last season, it was easy to dislike the guys because they and their fans were brash and arrogant and ignored the flaws. It has been said that those without knowledge of their history are doomed to repeat it, and for some reason it seems that (some) Knicks fans are all but willing to embody that, mirroring the perceived cocksure ([||]?) language shown by their team.
The issue is that through the same number of games (ignore Miami’s at-the-wire win for this), the Knicks blew a lead to the Celtics and got bailed out by officiating, then went to Oakland and got their faces chipped by a Golden State team with superior backcourt play and an innate ability to expose a group not willing to play defense. I understand the prevailing reasoning behind using amnesty on Chauncey Billups and his high salary cap number, but I WILL NOT believe that Mike Bibby, Baron Davis and/or Jeremy Lin will be serviceable replacements for him when it comes to times that matter.
The long-and-short of this is that the season will be a LOT longer for Knicks fans than it will be for Heat fans.