As my fellow Knick fans also know, there rarely has been that kind of commitment and performance since 1973. This is not to disparage the two NBA finals teams (1994-95 and 1999-2000) but those teams cannot be compared to the two hallowed championship teams. The current NBA season is only one quarter finished and this year’s Knicks are (so far) one of the best teams in the league. It’s dangerous to get too excited particularly with a team that is full of veteran (older) players that are at risk of being injured because of their collective age (the Knicks are the ‘oldest’ team in the NBA). But in watching the games so far this year, and I’ve watched quite a few, the high-functioning team aspect has been in evidence in every single game – win or lose.
Imagine being a leader (Carmelo Anthony) who has always performed at a high level on an individual basis. Carmelo was the unquestioned leader of the USA Olympic team that won a gold medal this past summer in London. That experience appears to have resonated with ‘Melo as his NBA play this season is not only remarkable for his scoring ability, but his commitment to defense, passing and TEAM is palpable. Prior to this season the Knicks were a collection of individuals with more talent than many other NBA teams. Under the leadership of head coach Mike Woodson the Knicks are currently showing how the old adage ‘There’s no ‘I” in team’ is so true.
It’s not a coincidence nor should it be undervalued that the coach of the ’69-‘70, and ‘72-’73 teams Red Holzman, was Mike Woodson’s coach in Woodson’s rookie season. Woodson learned at the feet of a leader who knew well how to get his team to perform at the highest level night in and night out. Former Knick coach (and now L.A. Laker head coach) Mike D’Antoni tried his best to get the players to buy into his system but it never quite worked out. For many reasons coach Woodson has been able to reach his players and motivate them to play for each other more than for themselves. In a player’s league like the NBA that is all too rare. Just ask LeBron James (and head coach Eric Spolestra) who led the Miami Heat to a championship last year by altering his style to make other players around him function at their highest level.
The Knicks are not the favorite to win the NBA championship this season and may not even be the best team in the Eastern Conference (the Heat have that title until they are dethroned). However after twenty-one games the Knicks have proven that a highly functioning team feeds off its leaders and a team’s commitment to one another is one of the most beautiful things to watch be it sports or business.
I know that I have been inspired watching the Knicks’ metamorphosis into a high functioning team and hope it results in an NBA championship, but if not it will be easier knowing that the team is first and what can be achieved when that happens.
Does your team have a leader that inspires you?