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Thursday, November 2, 2006
I love this breakup!

By Kieran Darcy
Page 2

Hi, my name is Kieran, and I'm a New York Knicks fan.

Walt Frazier
Walt Frazier was a big part of the Knicks' glory days.
Hi, Kieran.

So, where should I begin? Well, I've been rooting for the Knicks for as long as I can remember -- since Bernard King was putting on a one-man show in the mid-'80s. They had some pretty brutal seasons back then. But I lived in New York. And my dad filled my ears with tales from the Knicks' glory days -- of Clyde Frazier's smooth and Bill Bradley's unselfishness, of Willis Reed's limp and Marv Albert's lungs. I couldn't help but root for them. This disease is genetic, after all.

But then Rick Pitino came on board ... and Patrick Ewing kept improving ... and soon the playoffs were practically a given every year. The Knicks found diamonds in the rough like Anthony Mason and John Starks, and Pat Riley molded them into a team that came thisclose to winning a championship in 1994. I'm pretty sure I'm still suffering internal bleeding from that one.

RATINGS 101
LEADERSHIP: This encompasses ownership, management and coaching.

HIGH/LOW TIDE: What has the team's record been the past three seasons? Also, are they on an upswing? A downswing? A plateau?

YOUTH MOVEMENT: How many young players (say, under 25) does the team have in its rotation? It's always fun to watch and pull for young players.

SALARY CAP: How much flexibility will the team have to sign free agents in the next couple offseasons?

LOCATION: Ideally the city won't be too far from me. But it's more important to be a fun place to visit and see a game.

UNIFORMS: Maybe I've been editing Page 2's Uni Watch column for too long, but I care about how my team looks on the floor. And who knows, I might even buy a jersey.

GO-TO GUY: If I do buy a jersey, whose jersey am I going to buy? The guy who will be taking the big shots in the fourth quarter. You want a good one of these.

BAD SEEDS: If a team's roster is stacked with saints, it gets a 10. Got to detract points if there are some players you really don't want to root for.

TRADITION: It's nice to root for a team with some history and some past success.

UNDERDOG FACTOR: But you don't want to jump on a loaded bandwagon. Better to have a team without great expectations attached to it. A team you can really call your own. That will make success taste even sweeter.

We were teased by another Finals appearance in 1999. But truth be told, things have been headed downhill ever since the Knicks were one win away from a title in Houston. What was worse, drafting Frederic Weis over Ron Artest in '99, or drafting Renaldo Balkman and Mardy Collins in this year's first round? Or, I know, what about trading away all those draft picks and players for Eddy Curry?

How about this one -- who's worse, James Dolan or Isiah Thomas?

Heck, the Nets put up billboards in Times Square this fall -- that's like the Soviets planting a Communist flag at the White House.

It's enough to drive me to drink. But that's a topic for another self-help program.

The truth is, I don't mind pain. In fact, I miss the pain I felt on June 22, 1994. I miss the pain I felt after every playoff elimination. But the pain I feel nowadays? It's more like shame. And it's time to put a stop to it. Before I root myself to death.

I have to stop being a Knicks fan.

That's why I'm here. Today I turn over a new leaf. But I don't want to give up on the NBA altogether. After the excitement of last year's playoffs, how could I?

So I have to do something drastic. Something I never thought I'd do.

I have to pick a new NBA team.


Picking a new team to root for is not a task I've taken lightly. In fact, I've put together a 10-category rating system (see box at right). Each team will get a score of 1-10 in each category -- and the team with the highest cumulative score will be my new squad.

This is certainly not an exact science. Other fans might rate the teams differently, or even add or subtract categories. But this formula made sense to me. And here are my ratings:

NEW YORK KNICKS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
1 1 4 1 10 7 5 3 7 1

TOTAL: 40

Even though the purpose of this exercise was to pick a team other than the Knicks, I figured I'd give them ratings anyway. And sure enough, they finished dead last! They play in the best city in the world, but that doesn't make up for Dolan and Isiah's "leadership" and that collection of obscene contracts. Are the Knicks underdogs this season? Sure -- but I still gave them a "1" in the Underdog category because the team with the highest payroll in the league (by far) should never be an underdog.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
2 2 4 3 2 5 8 5 4 7

TOTAL: 42

I feel badly for KG. I'd love to have him on my squad. And I think Randy Foye is going to be an excellent pro. But this franchise is in a nasty downward spiral, I don't have much confidence in coach Dwane Casey and GM Kevin McHale turning it around, and I certainly don't have a strong desire to visit Minnesota in the winter. It gets cold enough right here in the Big Apple.

NEW JERSEY NETS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
6 6 5 3 2 4 8 6 5 3

TOTAL: 48

Love watching the three stars on the perimeter. And I'm excited to see the rookies too, especially Marcus Williams -- even though the whole laptop thing still bugs me. But the bottom line is, this team's from Jersey. And they're the Knicks' cross-river rivals. Even though I'm giving up the Knicks, I still can't root for the Nets.

SACRAMENTO KINGS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
4 5 4 4 3 5 7 7 4 6

TOTAL: 49

Ron-Ron's presence guarantees that this team will be an interesting watch. But the Kings seem more likely to be on the way down than up. And how long will Artest be happy there anyway?

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
4 2 9 4 4 5 4 5 5 9

TOTAL: 51

Are they chock full of young talent? Yes. Can a team be a much bigger underdog? No. But Portland is coming off an NBA-low 21 wins last season -- two less than the Knicks. The Blazers will probably win a few more games this year, but they're clearly a long-term project. And I'm not trading in one long-term project for another.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
5 7 5 5 4 5 7 5 3 6

TOTAL: 52

Still hard to root for a team owned by Donald Sterling, as exciting as the Clips might be. Tim Thomas didn't exactly light the world on fire as a Knick. And Sam Cassell still gives me nightmares. Seriously.

UTAH JAZZ
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
8 6 4 4 2 6 5 8 6 4

TOTAL: 54

They've got a proven coach and a pretty unique star in Andrei Kirilenko (who has a pretty unique relationship with his wife, don't forget). But I've got no interest in traveling to Utah during hoops season. And having grown up in the Stockton-Malone era, it's hard to think of the Jazz as much of an underdog.

DETROIT PISTONS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
7 9 2 5 4 4 7 7 8 2

TOTAL: 55

Despite the fond memories I have of Antonio McDyess and Nazr Mohammed's brief tenures with the Knicks (that's a joke, by the way), I can't support this team. They're way too good.

INDIANA PACERS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
8 6 4 4 5 5 7 6 6 4

TOTAL: 55

To this day, whenever I think back to Reggie Miller's eight-points-in-8.9-seconds explosion against the Knicks in the '95 playoffs, I feel legitimately ill. With or without Reggie, I could never root for the Pacers.

PHOENIX SUNS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
7 8 4 3 7 4 6 8 6 2

TOTAL: 55

They're a joy to watch. And if Amare Stoudemire is able to approach his old form, I think they've got a good shot at winning the title this year. Which is exactly why I can't become a Suns fan. They've simply got too much.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
8 8 3 3 3 5 9 8 7 2

TOTAL: 56

Tim Duncan's great. But you know what? He's a really boring superstar -- have you ever heard that one before? All jokes aside, the Spurs have won 179 regular-season games over the past three seasons. That's no fun.

BOSTON CELTICS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
4 4 9 5 3 3 8 4 10 7

TOTAL: 57

You can't beat the Celts' tradition, and they're also loaded with young players -- not to mention Paul Pierce. But there's no way I could root for a Boston team, even if the team was good. I'm a Yankees fan. 'Nuff said.

CHICAGO BULLS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
8 6 7 6 5 4 5 5 9 2

TOTAL: 57

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Never. If not for MJ and Co., my childhood could have been so much sweeter. And anyway, I have to deduct major points for having P.J. Brown on the roster. I'm tired of reading about how P.J. Brown is a gritty veteran player and a great presence in the locker room. Doesn't anyone remember what P.J. Brown did to Charlie Ward and my Knicks? Come on!

DENVER NUGGETS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
6 6 7 5 6 2 8 6 5 6

TOTAL: 57

I covered Carmelo's first college game, and have loved watching him play ever since. I'd be psyched to have him on my squad. But I'm not a big fan of the Carolina blue. Or Kenyon Martin.

MIAMI HEAT
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
8 9 4 3 8 4 10 2 7 2

TOTAL: 57

After the Knicks-Heat playoff wars of 1997-2000, I thought I'd never ever be able to enjoy watching a Miami Heat player. Dwyane Wade is THAT good. But watching Alonzo Mourning still makes me want to punch a wall. And I'm not adopting the defending champs. Now I just need to fax this to Pat Riley.

SEATTLE SUPERSONICS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
3 3 5 6 5 6 8 8 5 8

TOTAL: 57

I've gotta be real careful here, because my bosses here at Page 2 are Seattleites, and one of them is a huge Sonics fan. So all I'm going to say is, despite that brilliant immediate-help first-round selection of Mouhamed Sene, I'm gonna have to pass.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
5 8 4 4 4 7 9 8 4 5

TOTAL: 58

There's no way I can hop on the LeBron bandwagon. That's just too easy. If LeBron ever signed with the Knicks, I'd get season tickets. (Well, if I won the lottery between now and then, I'd get season tickets.)

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
6 6 6 6 4 6 7 7 3 7

TOTAL: 58

I trust Jerry West. I don't trust former Dukies Brian Davis and Christian Laettner nearly as much, if they do take over the team. Gasol's obviously good, and I'm curious to watch Rudy Gay. But the rest of the roster just doesn't excite me.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
5 5 6 2 8 5 8 6 6 7

TOTAL: 58

Love Philly -- went to college there, in fact. But I'd much rather watch the Big Five than the Sixers. Their payroll is second in the NBA to the Knicks' -- albeit a distant second. And much of it's spent on two stars who wouldn't even sit on the bench for the team's final home game last season. No thanks.

ATLANTA HAWKS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
2 3 9 9 4 6 6 7 4 9

TOTAL: 59

Lots of exciting young players to watch. Especially Joe Johnson. But they've just been too bad for too long. And I'm not all that confident it'll get turned around anytime soon.

DALLAS MAVERICKS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
8 9 5 2 4 6 9 7 7 2

TOTAL: 59

Part of me would love to root for a Mark Cuban team. Part of me would hate to root for a Mark Cuban team. Doesn't matter though -- the Mavs' have too much talent to hop on their bandwagon.

HOUSTON ROCKETS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
8 5 4 4 5 3 8 8 7 7

TOTAL: 59

At first, I thought this team would be perfect for me -- despite my painful memories from the '94 NBA Finals. Jeff Van Gundy, who I still love, is the head coach. Plus Houston has a unique franchise center who's still improving, as well as a perennial All-Star on the perimeter. But the team's rather short on young impact players, and the uniforms are really hideous. Anyway, it's better off this way -- Houston's too good, when healthy, for me to hop on board.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
6 6 4 5 7 6 9 6 5 5

TOTAL: 59

Gilbert Arenas will keep things interesting every night, and he's still getting better. But he's the only player on the roster I really want to watch.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
6 4 7 4 6 7 7 8 3 9

TOTAL: 61

Chris Mullin was one of my favorite players to watch growing up. And he's got some exciting young players on this roster. But it'd be too hard to root for a Don Nelson team. Don't exactly have fond memories of his brief tenure in New York.

TORONTO RAPTORS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
5 3 7 8 6 6 6 9 3 8

TOTAL: 61

It'll be fun to watch the No. 1 pick, Andrea Bargnani, develop. And to watch T.J. Ford zip up and down the floor. And to watch Chris Bosh continue to emerge into superstardom. But I'd prefer a team in the U.S. of A.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
9 6 3 6 4 4 10 6 9 5

TOTAL: 62

I was surprised at first at how high the Lakers scored. But not once I thought about it. They've got arguably the best player in the game -- certainly the player I'd want above all others if I needed a last-minute shot to win a game. And they've got a coach who's won nine championships, tied for the all-time record with the late great Red Auerbach. Plus the Lakers even have a bit of "underdog" to them since Shaq and Kobe split up. But as a New Yorker, I can't root for an L.A. team anyway.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
3 5 8 7 5 8 7 7 6 6

TOTAL: 62

A team projected to start three players under 25 (Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villanueva, Mo Williams) is a team I can get excited about. And they even ditched those ugly uniforms with the purple! But I just don't have quite enough confidence in the coach, or their prospects the next couple years.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
6 3 9 10 5 6 4 8 2 10

TOTAL: 63

The Bobcats are entering only their third season of existence -- something about that appeals to me. Plus I'm an even bigger college basketball fan than I am an NBA fan, and the Bobcats are practically an NCAA all-star team from the past few seasons. But they've got a long way to go to become a contender. North Carolina's heart is in college basketball, not the NBA. And I'd really rather not root for Michael Jordan in any capacity.

ORLANDO MAGIC
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
6 4 9 9 7 7 4 9 3 5

TOTAL: 63

I was kind of rooting for the Magic. They've got a young superstar in the making (Dwight Howard), along with a very underrated young point guard I loved watching in college (Jameer Nelson). The development of Darko should be fascinating. And who doesn't like Grant Hill? But expectations are starting to skyrocket about Orlando. It just felt a little too much like cheating to jump on that bandwagon right now.

NEW ORLEANS/OKLAHOMA CITY HORNETS
Leadership High/Low Tide Youth Movement Salary Cap Location Uniforms Go-To Guy Bad Seeds Tradition Underdog Factor
6 5 6 8 8 5 6 9 3 9

ONE GAME IN
For the record, I did the math and picked my new team before the Heat and Bulls tipped off the season on Tuesday night. So on Wednesday night, courtesy of NBA League Pass, I got to watch my new squad take on the Boston Celtics.

I was a little worried about how the Hornets would come out after a very moving tribute to Red Auerbach in Boston. But my boys had great energy from the get-go. Byron Scott had them playing a full-court press. And the team jumped out to a 54-41 halftime lead.

Things got a little dicey in the second half. The Hornets couldn't stop Paul Pierce -- and if Pierce had shot well from the free-throw line, the Celtics would have won. But the Hornets were able to pull it out, 91-87.

I really think this team is going to be fun to watch. They're not overwhelmingly talented, but they have some nice pieces. Peja can score, Chandler can block shots, and David West is very underrated. Plus they've got some scoring punch (Bobby Jackson) and high-energy guys (Jannero Pargo, Linton Johnson, Cedric Simmons) off the bench.

But best of all? Chris Paul. I watched him plenty in college, but I must confess I didn't see him play much in his rookie NBA season. Boy, is he good. He dished out 10 assists in the first half -- then, when his team needed him to score to shut down a Celtics rally, he scored the team's last 12 points of the third quarter. The Celtics' broadcasters were drooling over him -- with good reason.

And yes, after the game ended, I flipped over to watch the Knicks finish blowing a 19-point fourth-quarter lead. Yes, the Knicks pulled the game out in triple-OT. But I'm not turning back.

No, instead I'll be ponying up for a full season of NBA League Pass. Eighty-one more games of Chris Paul and company. Can't wait.

TOTAL: 65

Unless you're a recent expansion team, you can't get more underdog points than a team that has to play its home games in two different states because of a natural disaster. And yet, the Hornets are on the rise. They won 20 more games last season than the season before. They've got the NBA's next great point guard in Chris Paul, last season's Rookie of the Year. And this past offseason they brought in an excellent perimeter marksman (Peja Stojakovic) and a 7-footer with oodles of talent still trying to live up to his potential (Tyson Chandler).

I've always wanted to go to New Orleans -- Katrina didn't change that. And I've never been to Oklahoma City, but would be curious enough to check it out. More importantly, the Hornets should be a fun watch this season, and hopefully beyond. They'll have to fight tooth and nail to even make the playoffs. But I think they've got a decent shot.

And hey, guess who is the Hornets' VP of basketball operations? Willis Reed! Now THAT'S a former Knick I can root for.


Well, there you have it. I am officially a New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets fan! (Whew, that's a mouthful.)

Feels a little weird, I must admit. But refreshing, too.

There's still time, all you fellow disgruntled Knicks fans out there. Or Hawks fans. Or Trail Blazers fans. The season has just begun. Fill out your own grades. Pick a new team. Free your mind! And the rest will follow.

As for me ... will I relapse, and become a Knicks fan again? I hope so, one day.

But right now, I ain't too optimistic.

Kieran Darcy is an associate editor at ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at kieran.d.darcy@espn3.com.