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April 9, 2013

Reliving the Dream of Linsanity

Knickerbloggers take a look back at the tumultuous 2011-12 season.

Michael Gluckstadt

There was something dreamlike about the Knicks' 2011-12 season. A few weeks felt as if they may have been taking place in the mind of an Asian-American middle-schooler who had drifted off in biology class. Though shortened by a lockout, the season contained enough narratives for four or five mini-seasons. And then it was over. Injured, battered, outclassed, and down in five games to the Heat, the Knicks limped into the offseason and let go of one of the most exhilarating, unexpected things to ever happen to their fan base.

Jeremy Lin, from <a href=''>apangan3's</a> Flickr feed
"A lot of us had a kind of simultaneous realization that someone needed to capture the craziness of Linsanity—the whole year, really." — Jim Cavan

Jeremy Lin, from apangan3's Flickr feed

A group of Knicks bloggers, many of them affiliated with the site Knickerblogger, have set about recounting that dream. "Right around the end of last season, I think a lot of us had a kind of simultaneous realization that someone needed to capture the craziness of Linsanity—the whole year, really," says Jim Cavan, a contributor to Knickerblogger and the New York Times's Off the Dribble blog. "We wanted to do it in a way that parlayed an in-the-moment feel."

The result was We'll Always Have Linsanity: Strange Takes on the Strangest Season in Knicks History, a brief anthology of recollections from the tumultuous season, consisting of, in Cavan's words, "a mix of prose and polemics, stats and rants, reflection and raw reaction." Clocking in at 99 pages—as is the style of publisher 99 PressWe'll Always Have Linsanity contains contributions from nine different authors including Cavan, Posting and Toasting founder Seth Rosenthal, Hardwood Paroxysm's Jared Dubin, Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger, and Jason Concepcion, also known as Twitter's @network.

In the following interview, conducted over email and edited for length and clarity, Gelf asked the assortment of Knicks bloggers about their favorite moments at the Garden, whether they consider the Brooklyn Nets to be genuine rivals, and whether or not they're still rooting for Jeremy Lin in a Rockets uniform.

Gelf Magazine: As Knicks fans, how have you adjusted to life after Lin? Is everything like it was before, or has there been a change in how you relate to the team?

Jim Cavan: When you're dealing with an owner who treats trafficking in pettiness and vindictiveness like a badge of honor, you get used to shit like this. I think we've all "moved on" to varying degrees, but the way the whole thing unfolded will probably leave a bitter taste for a while.
Seth Rosenthal: I don't think there's been much of a change. The Lin exodus felt particularly egregious, but this is an organization long characterized by puzzling moves. I've always been simultaneously in love with the team and creeped out by the ownership, and I remain that way.
Jared Dubin: I think I relate to the team the same way: with a combination of love, bemusement and sarcasm.
Jason Concepcion: They've been winning so it's been relatively painless.

Gelf Magazine: Are you rooting for Lin to succeed in Houston? Why or why not?

Jim Cavan: Absolutely. Even if you thought cutting him adrift was the right move, it's hard to not root for the guy. He's a young, talented player with significant upside playing on a team bursting with young talent and marshaled by a management that seems to know what it's doing. This isn't a prodigal son we're talking about here; Lin wanted to be in New York. He's not, but by no fault of his own. Go West and win titles—that's what I say.
Seth Rosenthal: Sure. I get a pang of jilted bitterness now and then about every ex-Knick (as in, I want every ex-Knick to be merely OK so everyone STOPS MAKING FUN OF US), but Lin's a gifted, likable, entertaining player. I'd root for him even if he were never a Knick.
Jared Dubin: Yes. He's fun.
Mike Kurylo: Nothing would make me happier than Lin doing well in Houston. If he can turn himself into one of the league's stars, it will make it possible for him to come back to the Knicks as a slow-footed 39-year-old.

Gelf Magazine: What do you make of his first full season as a starter?

Seth Rosenthal: Well, that's the other thing. I haven't been paying very close attention. From a distance, it seemed like the major thing holding him down for a bit was his shooting, but that's come around considerably. I think he's made it clear that he is—at the very least—already a capable starting point guard, and that's really something for a 24-year-old.
Jared Dubin: Some ups and some downs, with familiar strengths and weaknesses. When he's allowed to run a lot of pick-and-roll, and when he attacks the basket with straight line drives, he's extremely effective. If his drives get strung out or if he's relegated to spot-up duty, he's not nearly as effective.
Jason Concepcion: A bespoke hat.

Gelf Magazine: Who in your view is the quintessential Knicks player? And what era do you view as the ultimate Knicks team?

Jim Cavan: It has to be Clyde, right? Flashy yet hardnosed, titillating but tempered, even-keeled and clutch under pressure—Frazier captured so many of New York's dualities so perfectly. His offensive repertoire was ahead of its time, but it was Clyde's defense that set the tone for those bygone banner-winners. Even today, nothing catapults the Garden crowd from fervor to frenzy better than floor burns and defensive stops. And Clyde is a huge reason why.
Seth Rosenthal: I figure someone like Latrell Sprewell or John Starks, right? Too weird/troubled for the rest of the league, but embraced by New York? And I don't know how we're defining "ultimate," but the '73 team stands out as the paragon in my mind. My personal ultimate team is obviously '06-'07.
Jared Dubin: Patrick Ewing. The '90s Knicks, because those are the teams I grew up with.
Jason Concepcion: Clyde Frazier. Though the sperm and egg ingredients that would become myself had not yet combined, I would have to pick the '69-'70 and '72-7'3 Knicks title teams.

Gelf Magazine: Assemble your all-time Knicks roster, based on personality.

Jim Cavan: Without any further explanation: Clyde, Starks, Bradley, Oakley, and Balkman.
Seth Rosenthal: Renaldo Balkman.
Jared Dubin: PG - Clyde; SG - Shump; SF - Sprewell; PF - Oakley; C - Sheed.
Jason Concepcion: J.R. Smith, J.R. Smith, J.R. Smith, Rasheed Wallace, Charles Oakley.

Gelf Magazine: What differentiates Knicks fans from those of other teams?

Jim Cavan: What other crowd can tout the elevating din when a ball whips around the arc for a wide-open corner three? Standing ovations for garbage-time crowd-dives? Four-syllable chants for a player signed 12 hours before tipoff? Their hubris might sometimes betray the fact, but Knicks fans just really know their shit. Money might decide where the TV cameras turn, but it's the city's basketball genes that make MSG the best place on the planet to watch a game.
Seth Rosenthal: There are more of us.
Jared Dubin: Seriously though, I think it's the crushing neurosis.
Mike Kurylo: For New Yorkers, there is commonly a choice between teams. People who like superstars, even at the expense of being obnoxious, tend to go with the Yankees, Giants, and Rangers. Gothamites who prefer the underdog, at the cost of never finding happiness, root for the Mets, Jets, and Islanders. But the Knicks were special in that they were the only team for New Yorkers to choose from, hence they combined the fans of both sides. Unfortunately Knicks fans have all of these qualities, and are doomed to a life of being brash and dissatisfied.
Jason Concepcion: They don't root for the Knicks.

Gelf Magazine: Assess Jeff Van Gundy as a coach, a broadcaster, and a basketball mind.

Seth Rosenthal: I was like eight when he was a coach, but he definitely seems like the coach most in tune with what Knicks fans expect of a coach. As a basketball mind/broadcaster, I think he's thoughtful and creative, if a little whiny.
Jared Dubin: My favorite. Hilarious. One of the best.
Mike Kurylo: If I had three wishes, one of them would be to have a pocket-sized Van Gundy that I could summon to help me with anything in life. Well, except to run the offense of a basketball team.
Jason Concepcion: Excellent defensive coach, a little too loyal to veteran players; entertaining broadcaster; bald.

Gelf Magazine: Where is the best seat in the Garden?

Seth Rosenthal: My sense of section numbers is messed-up now, but I like the intermediate sections. It feels weird to sit very close (as I've done on a couple of lucky occasions) and have the whole crowd behind you, and it's obviously no fun to watch a bunch of bugs run around, so I like what in my mind are the 200s. You're far back enough to really take in the crowd and watch it bow and swell throughout the course of the game, but you're close enough that you don't find yourself relying on the Jumbotron to watch the game.
Jared Dubin: Next to Spike. You get on TV a lot and look incredibly sane in comparison to the guy next to you.

Gelf Magazine: What's your favorite Knicks memory, in-person and otherwise?

Jim Cavan: Ewing summiting the scorer's table in '94. Without a doubt.
Seth Rosenthal: My favorite in-person memory is one of my oldest. My best friend and I, as third-graders, watched the Knicks beat Bryant Reeves and the Grizzlies, then forced our dads to stick around loooong after the game ended to catch Walt Frazier on his walk out of the arena and get his autograph. It felt like we were totally alone in the Garden with Clyde (and the security guard, who tried and failed to keep us from getting to him). Otherwise? Probably Larry Johnson's four-point play. I was with the same best friend, watching (I believe) on his parents' bed.
Jared Dubin: In-person would probably be the Spurs game I covered this season and getting to talk to J.R. Smith for 10-15 minutes afterwards. Favorite Knicks memory, period, is probably the Allan Houston runner. It's that or LJ's 4-point play.
Jason Concepcion: LJ 4-point play.

Gelf Magazine: Steve Novak or Hubert Davis? Tyson Chandler or Charles Oakley? J.R. Smith or John Starks? Mike Woodson or Pat Riley?

Seth Rosenthal:Steve Novak, but only because I don't remember Hubert Davis. Charles Oakley, but only because Tyson Chandler doesn't have any big playoff moments yet. John Starks for the same reason as Oakley over Tyson. Mike Woodson because I'm young enough to think of Pat Riley ONLY as a Heat person.
Jared Dubin: Novak. Yes. J.R. Definitely not Pat F'ing Riley.
Jason Concepcion: Novak, push, depends, Riley.

Gelf Magazine: Is Brooklyn a real rivalry? If not now, will it ever be?

Seth Rosenthal: I'm not the arbiter of realness, but I definitely hate the Nets. I don't hate them any more or less than I did when they were in New Jersey. I suppose the fact that they have a growing and increasingly vocal fan base increases the potency of the rivalry, but I guess it won't match the rivalries of my youth until the two teams meet in a couple of playoff series.
Jared Dubin: The fans hate each other, which is all a rivalry really is anyway. So yeah, I guess it is.
Mike Kurylo: It will be when they've been there for a few years, and at a time when they are strong enough to establish dominance over the Knicks. There are a lot of Brooklynites that who just waiting to switch their allegiance, but they can't be serious about it until the Nets can humiliate the Knicks.
Jason Concepcion: Quasi-rivalry. Less a civil war; more of a neighborhood border dispute over tree branches. Also, fuck the Nets.

Gelf Magazine: How will history judge the Amar'e/Melo era?

Seth Rosenthal: Don't know, don't really care.
Jared Dubin: Like they judge the Ewing era, but less wistfully.
Mike Kurylo: Depends how they do in the next few years. Can they topple Miami? Can they make it to the Finals? There's your answer.
Jason Concepcion: Unkindly, but in the middle spectrum of unkind Knicks historical verdicts.

Gelf Magazine: How should Knicks fan feel about James Dolan? Is it possible to root for a team while rooting against its owner?

Jim Cavan: Mikhail Prokhorov owes James Dolan a uranium mine. Without the latter's crack-shaky hand and nepotistic buffoonery, Brooklyn might still be searching for a team to call their own. Having an owner like Dolan is like living in a fourth-floor Venetian apartment right along the canal whose landlord happens to be the rich, drunken progeny of some 15th-century Lombard banker. The view, the colors, the history—they're all amazing. Until you go inside and realize that rats are coming out of the sink, the lights go off every time you flush the toilet, and you swear you can smell rotting flesh in the walls. You hate it, but it's Venice. You know?
Seth Rosenthal: He strikes me as dark, deeply troubled, and petulant. I've spent my whole life rooting for the team while hoping he'd go away, so yeah, I'd say it's definitely possible.
Mike Kurylo: It's not only possible, it's mandatory.
Jason Concepcion: Results speak for themselves. Yes.

Gelf Magazine: What is your favorite Clydism?

Jim Cavan: "Snortin' and cavortin'." It was the '70s.
Seth Rosenthal: I guess I'm supposed to say "posting and toasting," but it's definitely "feline quickness." I love that.
Jared Dubin: Posting and toasting.
Jason Concepcion: Not a Clydism, per se, but when he goes "get outta there" when an opposing player takes a clutch shot.

Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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Article by Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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