New York Knicks off to best start in 19 NBA seasons with 7-1 record
Buzz in New York is rivalling that seen over Linsanity last year, as tight defensive play results in 7-1 record and soaring ticket prices
The New York Knicks' best eight-game start in 19 seasons is building a buzz that may surpass last year's "Linsanity", according to league analysts and sports merchandisers.
Knicks tickets have the highest resale value in the National Basketball Association, and sporting goods stores are expanding their selection of team gear because of the success.
New York's 7-1 record is their best since a similar start in 1993 and comes a season after fan excitement over the rise of Jeremy Lin, who moved to the Houston Rockets as a free agent. But they are less than a 10th of the way through the schedule, with the NBA's oldest roster and uncertainty about players such as All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire returning from injuries.
"Lin was a national story, and a great story, but I'll bet if you ask Knicks fans what's a better story, it's 100 per cent this season's start," former Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr said. "Winning trumps everything."
The Knicks, who chose not to match Houston's three-year, US$25 million contract offer to Lin, have been without Stoudemire so far this season after his left knee surgery. Eight games into the 82-game regular season, New York have been winning by limiting turnovers and playing solid defence in their first full season under coach Mike Woodson.
The Knicks committed nine turnovers in an 88-76 home victory yesterday against the Indiana Pacers, lowering their NBA-best average to 10.4. New York, who next play tomorrow morning (Hong Kong time) at New Orleans, are holding opponents to 90 points per game.
"We're shutting teams down, we're doing what we have to do, we're trusting one another and helping one another," Carmelo Anthony said after scoring 26 points against Indiana. "When you get everybody to buy in, it's fun out there."
Heading into this past weekend, Knicks ticket listings on the secondary market had grown an NBA-high 9 per cent since the start of the season, according to ticket-aggregator TiqIQ.com Five of the site's 10 most expensive games involved New York.
The Knicks' US$306.56 average listing on TiqIQ.com while top in the NBA, was still 8.5 per cent behind its peak during Linsanity, according to the website.
Lin, 24, a graduate of Harvard University and the first Taiwanese- or Chinese-American to play in the NBA, became a global sensation in February after taking over as the starting point guard for the Knicks and leading them to seven straight wins.
Modell's Sporting Goods was getting daily shipments of gear to satisfy demand for Lin merchandise in February. This season, the company is expanding its Knicks collection and adding the jerseys of Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and Tyson Chandler to New York-area stores.
"We used to just carry one or two marquee players," said company president Mitchell Modell, a Knicks season-ticket holder. "This year it's the whole team. We're seeing great enthusiasm, and we're opening up our selection as we speak."
While losing Lin, New York added Kidd, a 39-year-old guard; Marcus Camby, a 38-year-old centre; Rasheed Wallace, a 38-year-old forward; and Kurt Thomas, a 40-year-old forward.
The team opened the season with six straight wins that included victories over defending-champions Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. NBA analysts stressed that the Knicks' age - their roster is the league's oldest at an average of more than 32 - may cause a late-season fade.
Charles Barkley said he would pick New York to win the NBA title - if it were the year 2000.
There also are concerns about how the team will deal with the return of Stoudemire, 30, the second-leading scorer last season with 17.5 points per game.
Jeff Van Gundy, who coached the Knicks from 1996 to 2001 and now works as an analyst for ESPN, said that Stoudemire must be prepared to come off the bench if Woodson asked because that would keep Anthony in his "proper role". Both Stoudemire and Anthony are forwards.
"I think that's their best line-up," Van Gundy said.