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Members of 1972-73 title team reflect on life after glory days

The 1972-73 Knicks pose for a photograph with

The 1972-73 Knicks pose for a photograph with the championship trophy during a halftime ceremony. (April 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Back together again at Madison Square Garden for a "legends night" celebration, the surviving members of the Knicks' 1972-73 championship team were not tempted to organize an informal pickup game.

"Not at this age," said Dick Barnett, the oldest of them at 76.

Forty years after they ruled the NBA, they noted how much the game has changed. (You could start with the advent of the three-point shot, and how Jerry Lucas guessed he might have led the league in scoring.) And how all of them turned out in basketball retirement.

"I roomed with Phil [Jackson]," Lucas said. "I had no idea he was interested in coaching. He had no idea he was interested in coaching. It just kind of fell into his lap, and now the history books have been written: 13 rings, 11 championship rings as a coach. Remarkable, remarkable career."

Whether that career is over, "I'm not going to talk about that," Jackson said. "It's not the time to talk about it."

He called the current Knicks a "good team, starting to make a run." He recalled that his last Garden appearance as a spectator was 1986. And he acknowledged not only his affection for that 1973 team but for the venue.

"We were small, quick, good ballhandlers, a great passing team," Jackson said. "Seven guys in double figures, a roster filled with Hall of Fame players. And we bonded in a way which I tried to coach the players that I coached over the years in the same way."

During Friday night's halftime ceremony, Jackson -- a role player in '73 -- received an ovation equal to those for the starting five. He recalled: "The first time I was booed here, I was surprised. But I should have known that would've happened, regardless, when I was coaching the Bulls. One of those series, the floor was moving up and down and I was standing on the floor, during a timeout, waiting to talk to my team, and I realized how special a place this is. What a magnificent arena."

Earl Monroe, speaking for the old-timers, told the fans, "We deserve you as much as you deserve us . . . and let's keep our hands crossed, our fingers crossed, for the [current] team."

Many of the old Knicks couldn't have predicted their futures. "[Bill] Bradley's the only guy we knew who had political aspirations," Walt Frazier said of the former New Jersey senator. "I never saw Jackson as a coach. I never saw me in broadcasting. I never saw Barnett as Dr. Barnett" with his PhD in education.

"But they say that was one of the smartest teams ever. And I think that alludes to how guys have thrived after their playing days."

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