Are the Knicks Back?

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SULLIVAN: When you've been down as much as this ship of fools, starting 2006 with six wins in eight games wasfor a Knicks fan, anywaylike feeling a spring breeze blowing down 7th Ave. during the heart of winter: You know it can't last but it sure feels good while it does.
The good news is the core of youth on this team.

I said before the season began that the key to this team is the trio of Channing Frye, Nate Robinson and David Lee. That was some draft for the Knicks, picking up these inspired team players. Frye looks like Rookie of the Year, Robinson is one of the most exciting (and smallest) Knicks ever and Lee is jumping and pumping like a speed freak.

I think that as 2005 ended Stephon Marbury, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas looked at each other before they crashed the car and realized that they all would go down. Marbury's stock was dropping like Enron. He read that if he failed with the Knicks it would be the fourth team he has brought down in his 10-year career. Look it up. Every team this guy has come to has gone into the sewer. His posse probably finally pulled his coat, and Marbury has been nothing short of brilliantfinally. Brown started playing Robinson and Lee and the team jelled. Isiah did nothingand thank God for that.

These Knicks bring back some fun memories. Jamal Crawford coming off the bench like a skinny Cassie Russell. David Lee burying corner jumpers like Dave DeBusschere. Eddy Curry moving his girth like Walt Bellamy. Brown is even starting to look like Red Holtzman. I swear I heard him yell, Oy vey as Nate Robinson dunked the ball. This team is going to be fun to watch.

HOLLANDER: Easy does it, big girl. I hate to kick a little sand in your pussy, but when a 6-game winning streak lifts your winning percentage to .371, that ain't a good team. It's the law of averages.

In the last two weeks there's been improved play at the Garden. I'll give you that. But more than anything, the Knicks' winning streak was a freak convergence of four important factors making them look a lot better than they deserve.

Stabililty: In the first 27 games Larry Brown used 18 different starting line-ups. For the streak, Brown has settled on the same five. It's about time.

Health: Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson, two key players, are healthy and giving quality minutes. Early in the season, they missed 14 games between them.

They Beat Losers: Three of the teams they beat during the streakSeattle, Washington and Atlantahave losing records. Atlanta is the worst team in the league.

Road Fatigue: Two of the three big winsover Phoenix and Dallaswere against teams at the end of long road trips. Every bookie knows that even the best NBA team has extremely low odds of winning at the end of a road trip. No matter who they're playing, they want to go home.

The Knicks' one quality win on the road against a winning team was over Cleveland. I applaud that. But as far as LeBron King James goes, don't include me among his loyal subjects. He needs to win something besides a McDonalds All-American game. Until then, I'm not convinced.

I might have been slightly more convinced the Knicks were going somewhere had the Raptors not beaten them like a Guantanamo detainee, halting the streak at six in Toronto. The Raptors and Knicks have nearly identical records, and Toronto was coming off a torrid seven-of-nine steak of their own. I think of all the recent Knicks games, Toronto was the statement game. And it was enunciated with certainty by Toronto: 129-103. New York is the doormat of the Atlantic Division.

So, put the pom-poms down and compose yourself. You're supposed to be a professional sportswriter.

SuLLIVAN: Far from being a homer, I call them like I see them. And when I see improvement I applaud itunlike you, the man who sips Scotch on the rocks while humming Sinatra's My Way at the end of the bar. Hollander, you are dripping in sports-journalism cynicism, and are jealous that I can still muster some enthusiasm for a young team.

You are like a monster reincarnation of that evil bastard Dick Young. You snip and snipe while the Knicks have gotten better andmore importantlyare now fun to watch. You do remember fun, don't you, Dave?

What do I have to do for you? What do the Knicks have to do? Will it ever be enough? Or are you back in those lost nights in Jersey when you dreamed of being Walt Frazier's cellmate while he broke you into prison life? Your arguments are like the new fish in Ozquickly dead, and as weak as a Marcus Camby box-out. Get excited again, Hollander. Put the bottle down and start to live, damn it!

HOLLANDER: Yo, dumbass: Camby leads the NBA in rebounding. Just so you know.

And, what? All year long you're calling for Isiah's head, and now you're eating the peanuts out of his shit? Man, you took a running long jump to get on this bandwagon.

Look, I like what Marbury is doing, finally. I love seeing the young guys out there, finally. I really enjoyed seeing Richardson shut down LeBron in a close fourth quarter, expending effort on defense for perhaps the first time in his NBA career. But let's not get carried away. Let's string together a few more three- and four-game streaks. Let's win some games on the road. Let's see Marbury continue distributing, facilitating and leading. He's the key to this season. I want to see if he's truly matured and is willing to change his game for good. I want to see him show the pride and physical courage to overcome his shoulder sprain when the team needs him as they try to amount to something.

From a clinical standpoint, it is fun to watch these young guys take their knocks. I have high hopes for each of them. As long as they play the right way, these Knicks could end up as another successful Larry Brown reclamation.

For now, though, tamp down the enthusiasm. Invoking DeBusschere? What are you smoking, bro? The Knicks are still nowhere.

You know, iconic Sin- doorman Pete Kress, an avowed sports non-enthusiast, reads our column every week, and likes it. But he asks me: What is wrong with that Sullivan guy? All I can say is, A lot.

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