It’s Fan Appreciation 101 to root for your team to win, but as anyone who’s taken higher classes in Team Supportation knows, that’s just the tip o’ the iceberg. Sometimes you gotta see the larger picture, which may require you to hope your team actually loses for say a better draft position. The Indiana Pacers finished the season playing some of their best ball, but that annoyed many true-blooded Indy fans since it destroyed their lottery chances. Other times, you may root for your team to lose so that the owner finally wises up and sees it has to fire that crappy coach or GM (or both — hello Isiah Thomas and Mike Dunleavy Sr.).
Frequently, as a member of the faithful, you may even have to root for outcomes in games featuring other teams. Say you’re battling for the 8th seed in the playoffs, then you gotta watch the games involving the other teams in the battle so you can root against them. Or maybe you’re assured of being in the playoffs, but you know you match up against one team better than another. Now you gotta cheer for the right teams to win and the wrong ones to lose all so that everything falls perfectly for your one true team.
However, with the Knicks’ eliminated from the playoffs long-ago, what’s a Knick fan to root for? Things that will help us out in free agency. I spent the last month of the regular season caring less about the Knicks’ wins/loss total than about the outcome of the Raptors/Bulls’ battle for the final playoff spot. I figured that if the Raptors don’t make the playoffs, then surely Chris Bosh’s chances of remaining in Toronto drop rapidly. Does this mean he’s a sure-fire Knick, or even that he’s my top choice? No, but I like to improve my odds as much as possible. Had the Pacers finished with the fifth worst record instead of the tenth, they still might not have won the lottery, but it wouldn’t have hurt.
Thus, for a true Knick fan, here are the things for which we should be rooting in order to increase our chances during the free agency period:
1. Cleveland vs. Chicago
We want LeBron. Step one is getting him to decide he has to leave Cleveland. As I’ve written before, I do think that the best case scenario could be if the Cavs DO win it all but that they have to scrape and claw the way there, going to multiple game 7s, so it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to repeat and yet allow the King to leave his home state feeling like his mission was accomplished. However, just as powerful an anti-Cleve incentive would be if they lose, but it has to be in a certain manner.
First: we know they’re unlikely to lose to the Bulls, so this is what we want happening in this round. One: have the activity of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson expose how old and immobile Shaq & Big Z are. Heck, even ol’ man Brad Miller can hit the outside shot, exploiting Shaq’s laziness at leaving the paint. We must make LeBron realize that these guys are going downhill fast and that this is a ship to abandon before it sinks any more.
Two: have Derrick Rose torch Mo Williams. Mo was an All-Star last year ‘cuz the Cavs were so darn good that the league felt there was no way it could’ve been just ‘cuz of LeBron. Turns out, no, LeBron really is just that damn good. Mo kinda disappeared in the playoffs last season, so while he seems like a nice guy, I can’t help but wish him ill and that he sucks again.
Three: have Antawn Jamison keep missing free throws. I have no idea why Jamison has been unable to hit his freebies since being traded, but it’s a great thing for Knick fans to keep rooting to happen. Poor free-throw shooting is contagious so besides making yet another aging All-Star look flawed, it should bring out the awful in Shaq’s attempts too. Plus LBJ’s one flaw is his sometimes inconsistent shooting from the line, so if he can see the impact of missed gimmes, maybe it’ll make him work on that kink over the summer so he can come to us perfect.
Four: no injuries. If Shaq, Jamison, Mo, Varejao, or whoever gets injured and the Cavs don’t win it all, then chances are LeBron’ll wanna give it another shot. There’ll be the feeling of We-Would’ve-Won-It-If-Only-So-And-So-Didn’t-Get-Hurt, and he won’t be able to leave.
2. Phoenix vs. Portland
This is a tough one ‘cuz it features two potential bigs on opposing sides, Amar’e Stoudemire and Marcus Camby. Then again, with today’s news that Camby’s on the verge of re-signing with Portland, suddenly things become clearer. And if Camby really is gonna get $20 million for 2 years, then he’s probably too rich for our blood anyway, so let’s focus on A’m'a’r'e. The Suns have been saying recently that they have their best chemistry and team during the Steve Nash era. If it’s true, and the Suns end up being real contenders this year, then Mr. STAT (Standing Tall And Talented) might forgive all past grievances if it seems like this is his best shot at a ring. So besides the Suns losing, what are cheering to happen?
First: With Amar’e it’s not just about the rings, it’s also about the lack of respect. The fans have always embraced Nash, making him the face of the franchise who they adore, not the younger Amar’e. Recently they’ve wised up, realizing they better show Stoudemire some love, so now he gets the lame “M-V-P” chants when he shoots free throws that used to be the sole domain of Nash (but c’mon Phoenix fans, if you can’t even pick an MVP for your own team, can you really say one of ‘em deserves to be the whole league’s MVP?). So while we wanted LeBron’s teammates to do poorly, here we want Amare’s teammate Nash to be phenomenal. We wants Phoenix caught up in Nash hysteria and to shove Stat outta the limelight.
Second: It’s not enough for Nash to be great, we want Amare to suck. Kinda like he already did in Game 1. You can thank me for that, ‘cuz I’d already started working on that from the get-go. If you all join in, our mental powers should ensure an awful series for him. The key is that it’s so bad that Phoenix fans rip him a new one. If they hate him enough, he’ll hate ‘em right back. Hey, that may sound like a vile thing to wish on a guy you want, but a fan’s gotta be willing to do whatever it takes.
Three: Pray for Stoudemire to keep getting destroyed defensively by LaMarcus Aldridge. Besides this helping with the last goal of ruining his rep, it also should hopefully motivate him to work on his lackluster D in the off-season. Right after he signs with the Knicks.
3. Miami vs. Boston
I don’t think Wade will leave Miami no matter what, but I think KG’s an obnoxious punk, so root for Boston to lose. Yeah, I know my reasoning has nothing to do with the Knicks, but sports can be emotional like that.
4. Utah vs. Denver
I’m not even sure if I want us to get Carlos Boozer between his history of injuries and un-team-like behavior, but I guess we should keep our options open. For LeBron we rooted for his teammates to suck so he’d wanna leave, for Amare we rooted for him to suck so Phoenix fans would encourage him to leave, here we’re rooting for both Booze AND the team to suck so that Utah management realizes it shouldn’t pay to try and keep the free agent. Unfortunately between the injuries to Andrei Kirilenko and now Mehmet Okur, there’s the ol’ We-Could’ve-Been-Great-If-Everyone-Was-Healthy excuse, but I don’t think that’ll be enough.
Thanks to coach Jerry Sloan, the Jazz’ll always be a really, really good team, but no one truly believes they have a chance to win it all. Yeah, maybe if everything went right they could have made it to the Western Conference Finals. Heck, maybe they could’ve even made it to the NBA Finals. But be the last team standing? Naaaah. They not only would need to bring back everyone they had this year, but get a significant upgrade too. Considering that earlier in the season they gave away starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer to cut costs, it seems unlikely they’ll add more pieces. Even if Booze agrees to take less money, is it still worth it for the team to pay the luxury tax just to keep the team in the West’s top four rather than top eight? Now that I think about it, I guess we can encourage the Jazz to think more along those lines by rooting for the following:
First: root for back-up power forward Paul Milsap to play great. He did last year and that’s what made the Jazz realize Boozer was expendable. So let’s get more of that.
Second: hope that Boozer gets bullied by Denver’s Kenyon Martin and disappears.
Third: cheer for Deron Williams to be insane. The franchise will see he’s the real heart of the team. Also, if he plays phenomenally and Boozer sucks, maybe they two will have friction and then management will have to pick a side (& of course they’d take D-Will’s side).
Additional Possible Playoff Rooting:
-Root for Joe Johnson’s Hawks to be really good, but for the arena to not fully sell out, making him long for a real fan base.
-Root for Chicago to look dysfunctional so that no free agents would pick them over us. Maybe have Luol Deng that Rose is a ball hog.
-If there’s any truth to LeBron being soooo interested in Dallas that he would force and orchestrate a sign-and-trade, then I guess we either want Dallas to look awful (seems unlikely at this point) or conversely for them to look great so that he’d seem like a bandwagon jumper if he joined them. If Dallas makes it to the conference finals, NBA finals, or heck even wins it all, then LeBron joining them would look lame on his part.
-Lastly, if we wanna look long-term, then maybe we should also be hoping that Denver loses too so that Carmelo Anthony will eventually decide to leave in 2011. Although it’s unclear exactly what would most push him away? Is it better if he plays poorly and is booed, or would that just bring him back stronger? Do we want Chauncey Billups to keep getting all the glory? Or maybe we want Chauncey to get injured, along with K-Mart, making ‘Melo pine for younger souls? Ahh, this may be even too tough for me to figure out the specifics at this point. Perhaps over the summer I’ll sign up for Fan Appreciation 501 and then I’ll get back to y’all.
Topics: Amare Stoudemire, Anderson Varejao, Andrei Kirilenko, Antawn Jamison, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Indiana Pacers, Isiah Thomas, Jerry Sloan, Joakim Noah, Joe Johnson, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Garnett, LaMarcus Aldridge, LeBron James, Luol Deng, Marcus Camby, Mehmet Okur, Miami Heat, Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams, Paul Millsap, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Ronnie Brewer, Shaq, Steve Nash, Taj Gibson, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Zydrunas Ilgauskas