COMMENTARY | It was only last year that a fairly short hot streak for an unproven player from Harvard caused mass hysteria among New York Knicks fans, and that simply avoiding a four-game sweep at the hands of the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat sparked a celebration complete with orange and blue streamers descending from the rafters at Madison Square Garden.
What a difference a season can make.
These days, the Knicks are achieving a lot more and setting their sights much higher. That playoff win over Miami last year was New York's first in more than 4,000 days (using that measure of time, as I did here, puts into perspective just how long 11 years without a postseason victory really was).
Yet, for those who either never witnessed, or understandably prefer to block from their memories, the years between the departure of Patrick Ewing and the arrival of Carmelo Anthony, the current season has provided a myriad of accomplishments, the likes of which Knicks fans haven't seen in almost too long to remember.
Although the Knicks' biggest goals for the season are still in front of them, what they've already attained this year compared to so many poor preceding campaigns, is worth mentioning.
And, as the calendar turns to what New York hopes will be a highly successful May, and even June, much of what the Knicks -- collectively and individually -- have crossed off their list, culminated in April.
Here's a timeline of (already) one of the most prosperous seasons the Knicks have had in quite some time:
January 24: Tyson Chandler Finally Becomes an All-Star
A year ago, Tyson Chandler's Defensive Player of the Year Award was a big deal for Knicks fans. This year, Chandler took his game a step further, joining Vlade Divac as the only players to reach their first all-star games in their 12th years of NBA service.
January 24: Two All-Stars for the First Time in a Dozen Years
With superstar forward Carmelo Anthony having already been voted as an All-Star by the fans, Chandler's selection as one of the Eastern Conference's best gave the Knicks two All-Stars in the same season for the first time since Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell did the same for New York in 2001.
April 7: First 50-Win Season in 13 Years
One of the Knicks' most impressive wins, their 12th straight, during a season-high 13-game winning streak, came in Oklahoma City and gave New York its first 50-win season since 2000.
March 18 - April 9: 13-Game Winning Streak, Longest in 19 Years
The resilient Knicks, who started 18-5, before ending a disappointing 20-21 stretch with a four-game losing streak, started a regular season-ending 16-2 clip with a 13-game winning streak -- their longest since 1994. The streak ended with yet another milestone…
April 9: First Division Title in 19 Years
Ever since their preseason training camp, the overriding motivator for the Knicks all season long was to finally capture a division title and simultaneously end the Boston Celtics' five-year reign atop the Atlantic Division. New York did exactly that by following up its big win in Oklahoma City with a 21-point rout of Washington, during which the Knicks treated their home fans to a franchise record-tying 20 three-pointers.
April 14: Highest Seed in 19 Years
Five days later, New York sent a potential message for a possible Eastern Conference semifinals showdown, with a home win over the team that was on its heels (the Indiana Pacers). The victory locked up the two seed in the East, the Knicks' best since 1994.
April 17: Carmelo Anthony's First NBA Scoring Title
A late season, highly efficient scoring binge secured the first league scoring title for Anthony, who with 28.7 points per game, dethroned defending three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant.
April 17: Most Home Wins in 13 Years
On the same night that Anthony officially became the season's best scorer, the Knicks won their regular season finale against Atlanta, to finish 31-10 at MSG, marking the most home victories for New York since the same season the Knicks last won 50 games overall.
April 22: J.R. Smith Wins His First Sixth Man of the Year Award
As a testament to both the fine job done by head coach Mike Woodson and the solid leadership displayed by the Knicks' most senior veterans this season, reserve guard J.R. Smith warmed up to the idea of foregoing a starting role in favor of being the best bench player he could be. The result was Smith earning his first NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.
April 30: Jason Kidd Wins Another Sportsmanship Award
With so many other good things happening for the Knicks in April, the month couldn't end without yet another honor. And, on the final day of the month, guard Jason Kidd made history as the first player to win the NBA Sportsmanship Award in consecutive seasons, after receiving the distinction with Dallas last season.
Immediately, the Knicks, with a 3-1 Eastern Conference quarterfinal lead on Boston, will try to close out their first playoff series win in 13 years on Wednesday night (May 1).
If they can win that matchup (be it in five, six, or seven games), they'll aim for even loftier targets: their first trip to the Eastern finals since 2000, their first NBA finals appearance since 1999, and ultimately, their first NBA title in four decades. And, along the way, Woodson could become the NBA Coach of the Year (for reasons I detailed here).
However, while New York is a hot 19-3 over its past 22 games, Miami is a ridiculously good 40-2 going back 20 games further. Thus, there's more than a decent chance that the Knicks might not win more than a couple of playoff rounds.
If that's all they get for this season though, it will be plenty compared to where they've been for more than a decade.
Jonathan Wagner is a New York Knicks beat writer for New York Sports Day and a co-host discussing the Knicks and other sports topics on the New York Sports Geeks internet radio show (powered by Sportsideo). Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanJWagner.
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