Knicks fans suddenly facing a long summer

Slowly, the fact of the second started to sink in, tearing on the religion of the 16,512 individuals who’d gathered right here looking forward to a basketball respite, if not a full-on resurrection. Slowly the season started leaking away little by little, piece by piece, minute by minute.

At final, there was real quiet at Madison Square Garden. At final, the flock fled for the exits, headed for the subway platforms, headed for the summer.

Summer’s right here, and the time is true for sighing within the streets.

“Hopefully, we take this and use it as motivation for the work we have to do all summer long, for what we need to do next year,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau would say when it was over, when the Hawks had been executed ushering the Knicks out of the playoffs with one more decisive bit of dominance, this one a 103-89 schooling that ended this collection in 5 video games and ended this season faster than anybody in New York was ready for.

“Trial and error is a big part of learning,” Thibodeau mentioned

One extra time, the Knicks had been unable to summon the magic of the 72-game common season, when each time they wanted to search out a four-leaf clover to stave off catastrophe they discovered one. It is a credit score to their everlasting file that the Knicks competed as arduous as they did within the 4 months main as much as this postseason. It’s why they had been right here within the first place. It’s why they impressed such perception, and hope.

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, who were such key contributors during the regular season, struggled mightily in the playoffs.
Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, who had been such key contributors in the course of the common season, struggled mightily within the playoffs.
NBAE through Getty Images

And, in the end, why Wednesday was so bittersweet. One extra time, fourth time in 5 video games, the Hawks took management of the sport’s narrative and refused to let it go. One extra time Trae Young was good, and his wingmen saved making shot after shot, and the Hawks’ protection crippled the Knicks’ offense.

You saved pondering: perhaps a tidy 8-2 run can flip issues round.

But as soon as the Hawks seized the sport there was nothing near that. The lead simply saved rising. A few occasions, early within the fourth, the Knicks shaved the result in single digits, and there was a spasm of hope. And but, earlier than the Garden trustworthy might even clear its collective throat and begin a roar, the lead was again to 11, again to 13, again to 16.

That sort of evening. That sort of collection.

“We have something to build on for the future right here,” Julius Randle would say.

But the phrases tumbled out with nice problem for Randle, who must stay with the residue of this collection all summer, all subsequent season. The Knicks most likely wouldn’t have had sufficient even when Randle had been the equal to his regular-season self; the Hawks are that gifted, and in contrast to all three video games they performed (and dropped) to the Knicks in the course of the common season they had been at full energy.

But you must imagine — need to know — that the collection would, as a minimum, have seemed completely different. It would’ve felt like much less of a mismatch. A yr in the past, stung by a disappointing common season, fueled with ambition, Randle attacked his offseason in Dallas with a ferocity that paid dividends all throughout the season.

“A man utterly possessed,” is the way in which his basketball coach, Tyler Relph, described it in the course of the winter.

You need to imagine these 5 video games will function Randle’s gasoline this time.

“It’s tough to process that right now,” Randle mentioned.

There might be a lot of that the subsequent few days and weeks — among the many Knicks, amongst their fans, amongst all the dormant basketball spirits that growled again to life this yr. Unlike the Knicks’ most up-to-date playoff disappointments — not like 2001, when a long period was ending, not like 2013, when a transient window of prosperity was closing — there may be a tangible sense that that is the event of one thing, not a denouement.

“This team laid a foundation for the future, to get the Knicks back on track,” mentioned RJ Barrett, who had his personal up-and-down playoff debut. “Shoot, I’m 20. I’m hoping to be here for a long time. This was a really good experience.”

Said Derrick Rose — clearly hobbled in Game 5, maybe the additional minutes of the previous few weeks lastly presenting him with a invoice: “Who wouldn’t want to play in New York? Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this?”

That query, after all, would be the central nervous system of this offseason. It will occupy and obsess the minds and imaginations of each Knicks fan, as quickly because the hangover of this collection, the fog of frustration, fades.

“Guys gave us everything they had,” Thibodeau mentioned. “They were a joy to be together every day.”

A brand new day beckons. Another step awaits. Summer’s right here, faster than anybody was ready for.

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