The Knicks are winners of 50-plus games, Atlantic Division champions and enter the playoffs this weekend as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
I'm not going to lie: I could've ended this week's column right there and felt as if I'd said enough. Man, has it ever been a long time since it felt this good to watch the Knicks! The rhythm, the fluidity, the ball movement -- and the masterful play of Carmelo Anthony! We haven’t had a star of this caliber, this Herculean ability to score, in at least 15 years.
Our Knicks have not won a playoff series since the days of millennial paranoia, way back in the year 2000 (hard for me to say that phrase without being reminded of that old Conan sketch), and we now stand but one short day away from the start of the postseason. The city is feeling sharp. Spring has sprung; its inhabitants are ready to celebrate. It's a beautiful time for me to be back in New York.
Clearly, all I can think about right now is the Knicks. With all this excitement afoot, I needed to talk turkey. So I tracked down my old pal and fellow night owl Justin Sullivan, drummer in The Babies, for some late-night shoptalk as he was packing for a tour. The rub: He somehow likes the Celtics, the very team the Knicks are poised to battle in the first round, so it was time for a little sports-inspired tension between friends.
"It's two competing emotional subplots for me. Not really liking Melo -- I never forgave him for criticizing Lin's request for more money; have you ever heard of a player criticizing another player for asking for more money? And also really loving Paul Pierce. I'm a pretty unabashed front-runner. I got into them in '08. Big Bulls fan in the '90s; got pretty into OKC recently. I say this all knowing it's ridiculous."
And when was his love of basketball-viewing born? "Well you know, the usual: watching at my parents' house. Knicks-Pacers battles, Knicks-Heat, Knicks-Bulls. '90s-style memories. The Knicks of the '90s were not fun.”
I loved the Knicks of the '90s! They were bangers, brawlers! Ugly but pretty, like Lenny Dykstra.
"I wanted grace and beauty and perfection. I was a kid and thought the world could still be like that. The Knicks of the '90s are better suited for someone's 30s. Like, 'oh man, I gotta get this done, however I can.'"
I guess I was wise beyond my years. But, to be frank, the methodology behind my fandom was always simple: It all started and ended with a blind love for the Knicks. For Justin, as with many a musician I've come to know, an emerging love of and participation in music left the world of sport at arm's length.
"I dropped sports for a long time. Even now, I feel like my interest in sports is this quasi-secret. I like listening to the radio at home, reading about it and maybe watching a game somewhere in a quiet place with someone with a similar sensibility. There is something nice about having this secret world you can turn to when you get burnt on the usual topics of conversation. I don't feel a real need to talk about my irrational like and dislike of certain teams, and that's where the radio comes into play. You can be in dialogue with your fellow weirdo obsessives."
"It's like talking about the bass drum slipping or where you keep the extra sticks, or the spots in the song where you like to cheat a little if you're not having the best set. Even your own bandmates don't really care that much! But another drummer gets it. So the analogy is sort of: It's not about feeling guilty for the interest, it's just about preferring to wait for the right company, even if that company happens to be the callers on the radio."
Even if he describes his interest in sports as pseudo-secretive, Justin certainly sees parallels between sport and music. “People are excited by watching something live, where they don't know exactly what will happen. Sure, they can assume what will happen, even predict it -- the band will play the hit, leave the stage, come out for a two-to-three-song encore, Melo will drop 30, the Magic will lose -- but there's at least the chance that something unpredictable will happen, even if it rarely does (in both cases). People want the chance to see something that has never happened before even if, 99 times out of 100, it doesn't. I feel like I may be biting this idea from something I read, but it's definitely true."
Since Justin is such an outspoken Melo skeptic, I wanted to see what he'd made of Linsanity, that strange, special and now seemingly ancient era.
"Jeremy Lin. What a beautiful time for radio. I listened to the whole thing and my favorite part is that the announcers calling the game got so caught up in it. They sounded like little kids! And I remember when he hit that shot to win the game against Toronto, whoever was calling the game exploded with what can only be described as pure glee. And I felt it too! I was just pacing around my apartment, smiling with them. And that was a real moment. I don't need to try and then explain that moment to friends of mine who aren't into sports. I could, but there's something nice about just letting it be what it is. Like the drummer connection, or the way I feel about the punk bands I liked as a teenager and still like now, even though I know they sound insane to people. I don't need to put Crimpshrine on for people and be like 'no, you don't understand, here's why it's good.' Either you get the beauty of that band or you don't. Either you get the potential magic of something like Jeremy Lin or that YouTube video of Kevin Durant playing at Rucker, or you don't."
• RIP the short-lived return of Rasheed Wallace. He coined the timeless and ever-relevant phrase "ball don't lie" and taught this Knick squad to put three to the dome anytime they nailed one from behind the arc. The aftershocks of his brief reappearance will most certainly be felt throughout the postseason. Long live Rasheed!
• When we were out in L.A., I ran into a great old friend from high school who reminded me about the Dana Barros jam he used to catch late-night on The Box. Feels like he's definitely going for a Smif-n-Wessun kind of vibe here ... and I'm not complaining.
• Check out some more shots from the tour over on the Tumblr page.
• Breaking news: Just found out I’m going to be in the building Monday night for Game 2 of this series against the Celtics. You will most certainly be hearing about it next week.