Though the winning is a novel twist, the 2012-13 season has been as tumultuous as any for the New York Knicks.
This team's fans are well accustomed to quirky characters and the stories surrounding them.
From Walt Frazier to Latrell Spreewell to Stephon Marbury, the Knicks have a rich heritage of guys who display their individual style both on and off the court. When Clyde was winning titles, there was nothing better; when Starbury and Isiah Thomas were ruining New York basketball, there was nothing worse.
The Knicks' refreshing success has not eliminated the turbulence though.
Even if the controversy over whether Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire could coexist died down naturally, New York entered the season with the oldest team in NBA history, plus J.R. Smith; normalcy was never an option.
With so many fascinating personalities to celebrate, let's look back through New York's highs and lows through the amazing and bizarre things they have done.
Nov. 2: Rasheed Wallace, New York Knickerbocker
Any conversation about NBA characters ought to start with Rasheed Wallace.
Though Knicks fans expected him to slot in behind Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby in the rotation, they were quick to embrace the fiery goofball.
The crowd roared as the 38-year-old big man lumbered off the bench and onto the Madison Square Garden floor. When he nonchalantly up-faked a defender on the perimeter and knocked down a three in garbage time, it added that much more flourish to the Knicks' season-opening drubbing of the Miami Heat.
Dec. 2: Rasheed Wallace, Referee Whisperer
The refs hit Sheed with a technical for fouling Luis Scola after the whistle. Wide-eyed but subdued by his standards, the Knicks' unlikely go-to big off the bench expressed his disagreement to no avail.
When Goran Dragic missed the freebie, Wallace bellowed out his trademark "Ball don't lie," but the refs were having none of it. They issued him a second tech and tossed him after less than a minute of play, sending Sheed to the locker room shaking his head.
It was a classic Sheed moment, an example in his old age of how fleeting his fun could be. Less than two weeks later, he was labeled day-to-day with a foot injury. There is still no timetable for his return.
Dec. 5: The Insane Heroics of J.R. Smith, Part I
The craziest part of J.R. Smith's buzzer-beater against the Charlotte Bobcats isn't that he effortlessly nailed it through tough coverage. That's Smith's thing—knocking down shots he has no business making.
No, it's that Smith got exactly the look he wanted. From the moment he began his drive, he was looking to take a long two from the left elbow, fading away and to his left to see the basket over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
It's pandemonium for everyone but J.R. when the shot falls. His Sixth Man of the Year campaign has been a pleasant surprise to Knicks fans, but it's clear he is never surprised by his own success.
Dec. 11: Jason Kidd Shocks Barclays
Hurricane Sandy pushed the Knicks' first trip to the Barclays Center back a month, but Jason Kidd made the wait worthwhile.
Kidd knocked down a three-point dagger and drew the foul to give New York the win over the Brooklyn Nets. It was a product of ball movement and marksmanship—Kidd's biggest contributions to the Knicks offense.
For the greatest player in Nets' history to ruin their homecoming in the NBA's newest marquee rivalry is wonderful irony for Knicks fans. No one listened to Jeff van Gundy question Kidd's leg kick when that shot fell; they were too busy savoring the moment.
Dec. 17: Chris Copeland Earns His Stripes
The highlights from Jeremy Lin's return to New York aren't so hot for the Knicks, but the silver lining from that night was Chris Copeland's breakout performance.
It was just the second start of the 28-year-old rookie's NBA career, but he displayed a diverse arsenal of offensive skills as he poured in 29 points. Since then, he has reached that 20-point mark three more times—twice coming off the bench.
Copeland proved that night that he had the ability to stick at the highest level, but don't think that stopped the rookie hazing. He may not be much younger than some of them, but the rook still had to respect the vets and rock the onesie.
Dec. 21: Welcome to "The #Post90s"
If you woke up on the first day of winter and wondered what Iman Shumpert was doing while he rehabbed his torn ACL, "The #Post90s" was your answer.
Going by the name 2wo 1ne, he comes through with some worthwhile material on this mixtape. He hadn't even played a game in 2012-13, but his flow was in midseason form.
Between the deep cuts he's sampling—that's "Tennessee" by Arrested Development backing the titular track—and his unpretentious approach to the athlete-rap crossover, Shump churned out the rare musical side project that is genuinely likable.
Dec. 26: The Insane Heroics of J.R. Smith, Part II
We can safely assume that that wasn't what he was going for this time around.
J.R. Smith is just really good at this kind of thing. There's nothing more to say about it.
Jan. 3: Ooping Out of Nothing
Okay, there's something more to say about this.
You know a dunk is powerful when it stands out more in your mind than the 17-point win over the San Antonio Spurs does. The Knicks cruised with Raymond Felton on the shelf with a broken pinkie, and yet Smith's alley-oop still resonates.
For crying out loud, that wasn't even an alley-oop pass!
Smith would have gotten a fundamental backdoor layup had he just not leapt. Instead, he caught the ball waist-high and was still able to finish with a reverse jam.
That's the maddening beauty of J.R. Smith's game in one short clip—he excels in moments that could have been much easier.
Jan. 17: The High-Top Fade Takes the Floor
It was a heartwarming experience to see Iman Shumpert getting some in-game run after nearly nine months.
For our purposes here, however, this is about the hair.
Of course the high-top fade has more swag than any other 'do in the league—that much is self-evident. What's interesting is how it makes him a more imposing leaper. He didn't quite have the hops to pull off the posterization in this one, but watch the hair and it appears like he's a foot above the rim.
Perhaps this optical illusion will someday be a competitive advantage for Shump; perhaps not. Either way, the hair is just terrific.
Feb. 21: J.R. Smith's Guide to Pipes, or, the Day the Knicks Won the Internet
Per Deadspin, a J.R. Smith Instagram gem, presented without commentary:
Please take a moment to allow this all to sink in.
Now, per Black Sports Online, Smith's response to the Deadspin coverage:
First, #Knickstape, then we get Shump's rhymes and now this. In the NBA's battle for Internet supremacy, the New York Knicks claimed victory on Feb. 21, 2013.
And they didn't even do the Harlem Shake.
Mar. 22: Kenyon Martin, Next Man Up
Why did these stories just fade so far away from the state of the team?
Well, while destabilizing, there is nothing dramatic about an old team hurting.
Amar'e got injured yet again. Thomas went down. Melo and Tyson Chandler got banged up. For all the energy and life this Knicks team has at its best, it was in the midst of a resigned sigh of a decline.
That's just not Kenyon Martin's style.
Even at age 35, Martin's game is all physicality—sacrificing his body on hard screens and fighting for every ball above or below the rim. In short, he was just the guy New York needed if he had just the slightest bit left in the tank.
Finally, the Knicks have a more athletic and equally savvy replacement for Rasheed Wallace.
Starting at center a week after his contract was extended for the remainder of the season, Martin scored 19 and hauled in 11 boards to help the Knicks clinch a hard-fought playoff berth.
His play was spectacular because he was solid, bringing bulldog mentality and intensity to a team in need of both.
When a long, turbulent NBA season weighs on a veteran team, yes, players do break down, but they also do something more: Fight back.
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