New York Knicks

Tracy Morgan repping the Knicks

MTL Courtside: The Knicks & Hassan Whiteside are where the magic is at

PLUS the NBA’s night of not enough stars.

Woah. We’re halfway through the 2020–21 season and the league is damn sure living on a prayer. With coronavirus cases every week, there is no telling how the league’s schedule will be affected. 

All things considered, the NBA has handled the pandemic better than any other North American sports league. Yes, some teams’ choice to have fans in their “distanced” crowds is concerning but the players continue to take matters extremely seriously — for the most part. 

These next few weeks will be crucial for teams looking to solidify their shot at being in the playoff picture. Here is the latest look at life in the league:

A night of not enough stars

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game

Despite all odds, the 2021 NBA All-Star Game is upon us. A dozen of the finest players from each conference will duke it out in Atlanta, Georgia on March 7.

Of course, there is not enough room for everyone to be a star but it is hard not to note some glaring omissions. 

In just his third year in the league, Canadian hooper Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having his best season thus far. At 23.2 points per game and 6.3 assists, Gilgeous-Alexander has assumed his role as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s new leader in dignified fashion. Give him another year or two (and an improved team) and we’ll be sure to see Shai making the team.

Always look on the Whiteside of life

Hassan Whiteside

The trade deadline is approaching. Teams will have until March 30 to make their best offers for players and picks. A looming issue for many teams this year is a lack of big men. Contenders such as the Raptors or Lakers are both lacking solid centres that could take their defence to the next level.

For teams facing such adversities, trading for Hassan Whiteside could be their best bet. In the 11th year of his career (two injured seasons aside), the veteran is still putting up impressive stats, averaging 8.3 points and 5.7 rebounds this season with the Sacramento Kings. Better yet, Whiteside’s 2020–21 paycheque is a mere $2.3-million league minimum, which could mean serious cap space relief for any team that pursues him. This could be a win-win for the aforementioned teams and the Kings, who are a young team with tons of potential but have clearly missed the mark on this year’s playoffs.

The Knicks are good? The Knicks are good!

The New York Knicks

“I see orange-and-blue skies again,” director Spike Lee jubilantly exclaimed in an interview with The New York Times. If there was not a pandemic, you could be sure to see Lee sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden, head to toe in the aforementioned colours. 

New York Knicks fans are loyal to the soil. There have been very few pockets of time over the last 20 years that the team was truly great. No matter how bad things get, they will be there to support.

Until they couldn’t. The pandemic has stopped fans from attending their beloved Knicks games. At $5-billion, the Knicks are the highest valued NBA team. It didn’t matter if they won or lost, the Garden could always count on diehards and tourists in attendance. 

With no crowd this year, the Knicks were given no choice. At long last, they had to become… a good team.

Luckily, the team has assumed such a role with style and grace. New coach Tom Thibodeau and first-time All-Star Julius Randle have helped lead the team above .500 just before the season’s halfway mark. The last time this was the case was 2012–13.

Everybody loves an underdog story. With the Knicks silently securing a fourth seed playoff position, hopefully their momentum will extend into the season’s second half. ■

This column originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Cult MTL. For more Montreal sports coverage, visit our Sports section.