Commentary

Broken Bockers must re-earn respect

STAT or no, Knicks are done. But they can show something -- anything -- in Game 3

Updated: May 3, 2012, 11:40 AM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

The temptation to lament Amare Stoudemire's sudden lapse into a pit of stupidity and carelessness should be superseded only by the reality that focusing on it will get the Knicks absolutely nowhere right now.

Yes, it was stupid for the Knicks' resident $100 million man to take his frustrations out on a glass-encased fire extinguisher instead of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat on Monday night. It was selfish of Stoudemire to put himself in position to miss Game 3 with his newly lacerated left hand. And there's no need to even address how pathetically weak it was for him to choose Twitter as a podium for him to express his contrition, as if hiding behind 140 characters or less will shield him from the ire of fans sick and tired of being associated with wasted talent.

But what difference does any of it make at this moment?

"Still doesn't help us right now, though," one member of the Knicks said, unwilling to attach his name to the utter disgust in his heart following a 104-94 loss in Game 2 of this first-round series Monday night. "We need [Stoudemire] and we probably won't have him. Where does that leave us now?"

Another loss and an 0-3 hole against the Heat would be the immediate answer. What else is there for us to believe after watching James and Wade lead Miami to a 43-point advantage over the first two games of this series?

The loss, and the demoralization, leaves the Knicks with a star (Carmelo Anthony) who should seriously start wondering if he should have forced his way onto this franchise. It leaves them with the Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler, forced to vacillate between the center position and unofficial team psychologist much more than he had ever anticipated.

But the good news is that it also leaves the Knicks in the enviable position of finally being able to find out who's worth what. To find out whether Landry Fields will ever serve a purpose. Or Toney Douglas, for that matter. Or Steve Novak, J.R. Smith or anyone else claiming he sincerely wants to be on this Knicks roster for next season and beyond.

"Nobody wants to lose," Anthony deadpanned.

We're all about to find out how sincere Anthony is with those sentiments, along with the rest of the Knicks.

Only Boo Boo the Fool doesn't know it's all over for the Knicks. Based on what has been displayed in Games 1 and 2, the only intriguing question that remains is whether this season ends in a sweep on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, or whether New York will have the decency to delay the inevitable by pushing it to a Game 5 back in Miami next Wednesday.

Yet such a predicament still has a sliver of a silver lining:

"We've got games to play and a helluva team to compete against," Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson proclaimed. "We'd prefer not to be in this situation, but here we are. It's a good opportunity to find out what we're made of."

And Thursday provides the perfect opportunity.

A rabid, hostile crowd might spark Anthony to a 40-point explosion. It should further inspire Chandler and erase the lethargy (due to the flu) we've seen from him over these first two games.

The pandemonium we should expect inside of MSG on Thursday night could provoke an offensive explosion from Smith. Actually make the aging-and-injured Baron Davis relevant for more than 20 minutes and -- brace yourselves -- allow us all to be reminded that Fields actually does belong in an NBA uniform in the month of May.

Because we've seen nothing from him that tells us otherwise.

"But the Knicks are still a good team," Wade said after Miami's Game 2 win. "We're taking every game just one game at a time, but we need to with them. You gotta respect them. What they're capable of."

Actually, the Miami Heat really don't have to at this point. And the same can be said for the rest of us.

If the Knicks want respect, winning a game would help start that process. So would a Willis Reed-type return by Stoudemire, who has acknowledged he "could be ready to play on Sunday."

But until then, it will be left to Fields and Smith to keep Wade out of the lane. For Anthony to make James remember he's a star, too, instead of deferring to the anointment of King James. Somehow, Chandler could help by patrolling the paint and helping to turn the Heat into a jump-shooting team, and coach Woodson could continue to make the necessary adjustments as he did for Game 2 to keep this series competitive.

Apologies ... make this series competitive.

Stoudemire's injury doesn't help in that regard. The fact that his lacerated left hand was self-inflicted actually makes the perilous state the Knicks find themselves in feel even worse for the rest of us.

But there's no need to engage in such feelings of futility right now.

"I think fans are actually thinking I had a closed fist and I punched through a glass door," Stoudemire explained. "So I think they've got the wrong perception of what actually happened."

Actually, they don't. All the fans are thinking of right now is that a pivotal Game 3 is almost here and the man who arrived in New York swearing "the Knicks are back" will be in street clothes -- for the second consecutive year.

Nobody has time for Stoudemire right now.

We will, however, once this season is over.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, host of a weekday show for ESPN New York 98.7 and a regular on "SportsCenter" and "First Take."

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