HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Celtics and Knicks might be wondering if anyone in Boston and New York is noticing them. Then again, it’s probably best they don’t.
With those two cities currently hypnotized by the Super Bowl — Patriots vs. Giants, in case you’re living in a vortex — the basketball teams are wallowing in their misery somewhat quietly. All of New England is riveted on Tom Brady and Wes Welker and Vince Wilfork and Bill Belichick. Most of New York (the non-Jets fans anyway) is in a lather over Eli Manning and Justin Tuck and Tom Coughlin. Boston is going completely Gronkers over Rob Gronkowski (how’s the ankle?) while New York is busy doing the salsa in honor of Victor Cruz.
The Knicks? The Celtics? Are those guys playing?
Well, yes. And not too wonderfully. These two have another five days to get it together before the home fans awaken from their football hangover and take notice of what’s going on at the Gardens, TD and Madison Square. Carmelo Anthony, now back from a mini-break to hear wounds (the physical ones, not the psychological), needs to somehow rally the troops. Meanwhile, the Celtics await a full and healthy return by Rajon Rondo to make a pre-All Star Game push to respectability.
Strangely, both of these veteran teams are looking up at the young Sixers in the Atlantic Division. And that must be a weird feeling. The Sixers don’t have a single star player, and couldn’t get beyond the first round of the playoffs last spring, and can’t pack the house despite their record, and they’re still holding pole position in the division. That’s pretty humbling for the Celtics (10-10) and Knicks (8-13), who figured to be battling each other for those honors.
The Celtics had to hold off a rally from the Cavs last night while the Knicks saved face against the lowly Pistons. The Knicks aren’t saying anything about the job status of coach Mike D’Antoni, although the players are supporting him in public.
Anyway, Boston and New York have clashed royally in baseball (Yankees vs. Red Sox) and now football, while the basketball rivalry has simmered significantly. Over the last decade or so, when the Celtics were up, the Knicks were down, and vice versa. The closest thing to an intense rivalry was Celtics vs. Jason Kidd and the Nets roughly a decade ago. That’s too bad, because when the football and baseball teams were either lousy or just OK, the basketball teams had some epic meetings, mostly when Larry Bird battled Bernard King and later, Patrick Ewing.
The forecast isn’t terribly promising for either team. The Celtics are about to be broken up this summer, or sooner if possible; Danny Ainge mentioned the other day how he’d trade anyone, pronto, if the right deal came along (it won’t). This is the last go-round for the Big Three and only Paul Pierce, a Celtic his entire professional life, has a good chance of returning. As for the Knicks, they’ll have to study the Melo-Amar’e Stoudemire pairing and see if these players are truly compatible, or merely getting in each other’s way. And even then, they’ll need help, especially in the backcourt, in order to be taken seriously as a title contender. This doesn’t appear to be the year for basketball to join baseball and football in terms of passion and prestige along I-95.
In the meantime, Boston and New York will catch these teams a bit later. There’s a big game Sunday.