ALBANY -- Yeah, New York fans, the Knicks have to play this coming season. The team really wants to, you know. Besides, it's an NBA rule or something. It's only October. The start of the season is merely weeks away. But many fans and media alike who follow this team are fast-forwarding through fall, winter and spring and are already looking at July 1.
Such is the life of your 2009-10 Knicks : It's not about wins and losses, but cap space and the stellar 2010 free-agent class that hits the market July 1.
LeBron. D-Wade. Chris Bosh. Joe Johnson. And those are just the headliners. Knicks fans can dream their dreams of future glory. What's another lost season?
If you don't mind, the Knicks would like to play those David Stern-mandated 82 games anyway.
They called Sunday's preseason game between the Knicks and the woeful New Jersey Nets at Times Union Center the "2009 NBA Classic" ... which is like calling a Detroit Lions-Kansas City Chiefs exhibition "Preview to the Super Bowl." Neither metropolitan area team will be a factor in the playoffs, on the off chance one qualifies.
If you care -- and you really, really shouldn't -- the Knicks won 115-107 in front of 7,047.
No, these Knicks are not title contenders. Coming off a 32-50 season, they've done little to improve other than to preserve and expand room under the salary cap.
But there's some talent here -- motivated talent, considering the number of one-year contracts the team is carrying. And coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style will mean even when the Knicks lose half or more of their games this year, they could be entertaining.
So, yes, rookie Toney Douglas will be wearing No. 23 this season, not LeBron. (I don't see him coming to New York anyway, but why kill the dream now?) Dwyane Wade will suit up for Miami, Bosh for Toronto, Johnson for Atlanta. To a man the Knicks say they are not focusing on any 2010 extreme makeover.
"I guarantee you the players aren't that way," D'Antoni said. "I'm not that way, that's for sure."
What would you expect them to say?
"We underachieved last year and we need to overachieve this year," D'Antoni said. "We are better than most people think."
Forward David Lee, the restricted free-agent who re-signed with New York, said with a number of Knicks like him sporting one-year deals there's plenty of individual and team motivation. But he knows current Knicks can't duck the reality or avoid the questions that will follow this team all year.
"It will quiet down and then LeBron will come to town," he said. "It will quiet down then D-Wade will come to town. Chris Bosh will come to town. Joe Johnson will come ..."
If you think about it, this could be an enjoyable season for Knicks' fans. Finally, there's some hope surrounding this team, even if it's not for the current year.
Point guard Chris Duhon said the team doesn't discuss the prospects of King James or Wade coming to Manhattan, other than how it will affect the team right now.
"We talk about it only in that we will have to answer that question probably a thousand times," he said. "We are focused on this year. We are confident with the team that we have."
You might as well enjoy that team while it's here. No, July 1 can't come soon enough, but Knicks' fans will need something to do between now and then anyway.
Mark McGuire can be reached at 454-5467 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org Visit his blog at http://blogs.timesunion.com/mcguire.