So what can we say about the New York Knicks vs Atlanta Hawks Game 5?
First off, this season isn't fucking over! So Knicks fans let's keep our heads up. But If I may, I would like to thank this year's team for their rugged blue collar mentality. Defense hasn't been our strong suit especially, these last two games. It baffles me how we can't defend Trae Young and the high pick & roll. But, with the help of Coach Thibs, Knicks executive Scott Perry, along side work wide Wes, the Knicks are finally heading in the right direction and the culture seems to be stable and respectable for now.
As a kid loving all things New York, watching this team play this year can only be described as one thing, REFRESHING. Their ability to dig and fight their way back into the hearts of New York Knicks nation has been amazing to watch. This team actually gives a fuck. Now you would assume all professional athletes care about winning but that's not always the case.
One thing that I discovered during my time in the NFL, is that ball players love to talk about what makes a winning culture but they don't understand what that exactly entails. Its easy to talk about what helped you win and who was the difference maker. Winning at the professional levels requires a lot things to work at the same time while performing in a selfless manner. A culture can't be cemented if individuals on the team don't acknowledge their own faults and discomforts. It's not about what are you willing to do but who's willing to expose themselves. As I grew older in age, I had the opportunity to talk to coaches on a personal level. It became apparent good coaches shared the same urgency and anxiety about the game passing them by as I did. The will to win didn't come at the hands of talented ball players. The hidden force behind setting a winning culture was the ability to make comfortable and strong minded players uncomfortable. I struggled with injuries the later part of my years, but my heart was battle ready and the will to win never wavered. Leaving the training room late night after night wore me down. I would lay in a ice bath up to my neck. I would let my body go numb and close my eyes as I spit my peach flavored skoal tobacco in a Gatorade bottle with the room barely lit sitting in total silence. My discomfort was waking up in the morning not knowing how I was going to get through another practice, let alone another game. But, this is football and for fuck sake there ain't no crying in football! So I did what any aging ball player would do. I started opening myself up and focused my energy on trying to mentor the younger guy in the locker room. Not just about the game, but about life. I was fortunate to have outstanding guys grab me by the collar and drop gems in my ear about how to win and how to stay in the league. I'm naturally hard on people and some what judgmental at times. Wasting my time talking to guys I didn't particularly care for felt like a waste of time. However, you never know what a conversation or some positive reinforcement can do for someone, especially someone who you are counting on to win. Future HOF Hines Ward gave me a gem that I held on to. He told me when you walk into lunch room, don't be quick to sit with drinking buddies or the guy's in your position room. He told me to sit next to everyone, the kicker to the safeties, to the janitor. Because one day, when you are called on to be a leader or vocal you want the men in your locker to know your voice and know who you are. You must be consistent. So when it your it's your time to lead a group on to the field, they are not hearing a battle cry from a stranger but from someone who cares about them and winning.
I pray the Knicks understand and know how much Knicks fans appreciate what they've done so far. The winning culture can be sustained by each man's willingness to live in discomfort. Being down two games in a seven game series can be a hard mountain to climb, but I pray leaders like Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Julius Randle's words tomorrow night don't fall on closed ears. Knicks have a chance to rally back but it takes one play at time and one game at a time. If Clint Cappella really wants smoke, then set his ass on fire! Let's Go Knicks!!!