BASKETBALL: Nothing But Nothing

Now, I don’t get to watch a whole lot of basketball these days, but I caught a good deal of Saturday night’s Knicks-Pacers game, and it seemed to me that the loss pretty well symbolized the Knicks in the post-Ewing era, with the team busting out for a 24-0 run in the third quarter and still managing enough inconsistency to blow the game at the end. The run was largely feuled by some hot shooting by Keith Van Horn (who finished the game 5-14 from the field), some gritty play by Kurt Thomas, and most of all by outstanding play at both ends of the court by Dikembe Mutombo, who promptly had to take a breather to rest a strained groin.
It’s no accident that a good stretch by a broken-down big man made such a difference, even fleetingly. Ever since Father Time caught up with Patrick Ewing, the Knicks have been treading water, lacking an identity without a big presence in the middle; the Sprewell-Houston era featured some memorable victories, especially the trip to the finals that was accomplished with minimal assistance from Ewing, but without a dependable point guard or big man, you need something on the order of Jordan and Pippen to win, and instead the Knicks had Sprewell — always an inconsistent offensive presence — and Houston, a born second banana and not one of Pippen’s quality. And year after year, the team never seems to bring in any new talent. Until the Knicks can get that signature star who takes the team away from being built around a center who hasn’t been there for years, they’ll keep on playing like an amputee who favors his missing leg.