I became a New York Knicks (pro basketball) fan way back in 1968 at the age of 12. I was hanging out with my Dad in the small waiting room of a local automobile repair shop and a Knicks game happened to be on the waiting room TV. Man, who was that cool Knicks player with the mutton chop sideburns? Why, of course it was point guard (PG), Walt “Clyde” Frazier. The Knicks finished an impressive 54-28 in the 1968-69 season, but lost to Boston in the Eastern Division Finals. However, everyone sensed the Knicks were gelling and on the verge of something big. Clyde guided the Knicks to an NBA championship the following year, 1969-70, and also in 1972-73. I remember it like it was yesterday.
But it’s been a painful 50-year drought since then. The Knicks had some shining moments during the Patrick Ewing era (1985-2000), but could not win a championship. One of the most glaring deficiencies over the decades has been at the PG position. For you non-basketball types, the PG is somewhat comparable to football’s quarterback. The point guard brings the ball upcourt, calls the plays, distributes the ball, sets the tone, and carries the team when he has to. If a team doesn’t have a good PG, the general rule is they won’t do well. Not for lack of trying, the Knicks were unable to draft or acquire a point guard anywhere near the caliber of Clyde for 46 years (an aging Frazier was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1977).
Knicks fans are finally seeing positive signs. The Knicks hired GM Leon Rose and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau in the Spring of 2020 and together they’ve been systematically turning the team around. The Knicks finally addressed their PG deficiency by acquiring Jalen Brunson from the Dallas Mavericks in July 2022. Brunson was primarily backup to superstar PG Luka Dončić at Dallas. Brunson showed signs, but everyone criticized the Knicks for signing him to a fat free-agent contract even though he’d never been an NBA starter.
Well, Brunson proved everyone wrong by having an excellent 2022-23 season and leading the Knicks to a very decent 47-35 record. The 5th-seed Knicks beat Donovan Mitchell and the 4th-seed Cleveland Cavaliers 4-games to 1 in the first round of the playoffs and they’re now battling the 8th-seed Miami Heat in the second round. Jimmy Butler and the Heat got the better of the Knicks in Games 1 and 3. The Knicks were actually embarrassed by the Heat in yesterday’s Game 3 loss. Ach, the Knicks were severely outmatched. Oh, well, Knicks fans can wax philosophical by enjoying the fact that the team made it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and now have a better-than-average PG.
Postscript: How did 2X Hall-of-Famer (inducted as both a player and a broadcaster) Walt Frazier get the nickname, “Clyde”? In his 1967-68 rookie season, Frazier sported a fedora similar to that worn by Warren Beatty in his portrayal of bank robber Clyde Barrow in the popular 1967 film, “Bonnie and Clyde.” Knicks trainer, Danny Whelan, made the connection and tagged Frazier with the moniker, which immediately stuck. But the nickname went deeper than fashion. Not only was Frazier an excellent PG on the offense, he was also known for his defensive prowess and Frazier’s frequent theft of the basketball from opposing players played into his Clyde/bandit personna.