Mar 15, 2010, 6:00 PM EDT
Watching the quality new ESPN 30 for 30 doc about the 90s rivalry between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers, a question I’d often wondered about returned to me: How is it that there’s so little history between the Knicks and the 76ers? Depsite being two of the historically dominant teams in the East, since the 1960s, they’ve only played each other four times in the playoffs (as many times as the Sixers have faced the Lakers in the finals), and not once in the conference finals. It’s weird how the the peaks of one team always seem to intersect with the valleys of the other–the Sixers were just coming down from the Wilt era when the Knicks won their two titles, the Knicks started missing the playoffs as Dr. J elevated the Sixers to finals contenders, the Sixers were stuck in between the Barkley and Iverson eras when the Ewing Knicks crested in the mid-90s, and then the Knicks started to bottom out as AI made the Sixers legit in the early 00s.
Well, at least for the moment, the Knicks and Sixers appear to finally be on equal footing. Sharing a dismal 23-43 record, both teams are strictly in lottery-bound, look-towards-the-future mode. There are, however, two essential differences between the two teams’ current situations. One is that despite their current dismal state, the Knicks are presumably in a state to turn their franchise around shortly, with the cap space to lure one or two major free agents in the off-season. The other is that Sixers is the only one of these two teams with much to look forward to in the upcoming draft, with the Knicks having shipped their first-round pick to Utah some years ago. So while one of these teams is relatively content to continue on their current path to oblivion, the other actually has motivation to play well and convince league leading lights that their team is a worthy landing spot. Try to guess which is which!
The Knicks proved that they’re still trying at least a little bit last Saturday, as they traveled to Dallas and blew out the new-look Mavericks–they of the 13-game winning streak and Western Conference #2 seed–on their home court. Whether that means that they’re actually starting to gel as a team or just that they’re due for one freakin’ whopping regression to the mean is, as of posting, still up for debate. Meanwhile, the Sixers presumably tried their hardest against the Miami Heat last night, but when you’re playing Jason Kapono for the better part of a half (who, to his credit, did actually make some threes–his first in the 2010 calendar year, somehow), trying is a relative concept. The Heat won the game by 13, marking the Liberty Ballers’ fourth loss in a row.
7:00 tip tonight from the Wach–time to start making memories. “It’s impossible,” says Sixers reserve swingman Rodney Carney about the prospects of the team tanking. “You get out there, your natural instincts are to try to compete to win
the game…We want to win every game we can, regardless of some higher draft pick
we could get. We don’t worry about that, and we don’t want to think
about it, either.” Hey Rodney, if the last week or so is what you guys look like when you’re following those natural instincts, then by all means, be true to your school. Just don’t tire yourselves out too much on our behalf.
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