By, Charles R. Trimble III – Knickswag Contributor
When the Knicks removed the interim tag and officially named Mike Woodson the Head Coach last May, he made it a point to stress that players had to be held accountable, defense had to be a priority and winning the Atlantic division was a must! However, with the Knicks struggling with injuries and literally limping to the finish line, is winning the division more important than entering the playoffs as healthy as possible? I believe it is!
I believe winning the division, which has been the team’s #1 goal all season, creates a sense of accomplishment and really validates that the franchise is moving in the right direction after years of irrelevancy. The last time a Knick team entered the playoffs as division champs was 19 years ago and that team advanced to the NBA Finals. Dethroning the Celtics and entering the playoffs as division champs will do more for the mental health of this team than entering the playoffs relatively healthy but runner-ups to Brooklyn or Boston. The Knicks have already proven to be a little fragile mentally so do you really believe they could overcome the malaise of losing a division they led for almost the entire season? I don’t think so.
The 91-92 Knicks faced a similar dilemma, losing the division title to the Celtics by 1-gm after leading the majority of the season, but that squad, led by Pat Riley, was far more mentally tougher and was able to respond by advancing to the 2nd round before succumbing to the eventual world champs in 7. Are you really confident the 2012-13 Knicks could repeat that feat?
Funny as it sounds but I believe a Knicks team entering the playoffs with the swagger and confidence of a division winner would resemble more of the team we witnessed at the start of the season at 18-5. I believe that if winning the division takes a back seat to getting healthy, and the division is lost, then the team we saw on last weeks western road trip will probably be the team that shows up for round 1 of the NBA playoffs, healthy or not!
The Knicks need to start a tradition of winning again and there is no better way to do that than to hoist an Atlantic Division banner to the newly renovated rafters of MSG. If the organization dropped confetti after just one playoff win last season, I can only imagine the celebration in store for the fans after clinching the division title.
There are many important steps a team must take in becoming a championship contender, winning the division is the 1st. When was the last time a NBA Championship team wasn’t a division winner? I couldn’t recall either. That’s why the Knicks must win the division at all costs!
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