Spring is in the air in New York, and for the first time in seven years it rings of basketball fever.
On Sunday, the Knicks head north to play the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, ending the Knicks' postseason blackout that extends to a first-round exit in 2004. And coming in off a huge late-season surge — the Knicks won seven of the last nine games — fans have high hopes.
"It's about time!" said Carlos Pizzaro, 29, of the Bronx. "They gave up a lot to get Carmelo Anthony … [but] they will benefit in the long run. They have a great shot."
Felix Martinez, 58, of Williamsburg, agreed, saying he thinks Anthony can give the sixth-seeded Knicks the edge to come up big against the third-seeded Celtics.
"I think they'll make it all the way," he said. "I’m sure [Carmelo] will boost it up. I mean, it’s the playoffs!"
The Celtics (52-26), a longtime playoff powerhouse and division rival, are coming in battered and bruised, suffering injuries to some of their star players, including center Shaquille O'Neal. And though the Knicks (42-40) are younger andfresher, experts warned not to hope for too much.
"It should be entertaining, but I think Boston is just too strong," said Mike Kurylo of knickerblogger.net. "They have a better team structure. When the Knicks traded for Carmelo, they kind of got a 'Franken-team.' They really don't have a team concept."
Seth Rosenthal, a Knicks blogger at postingandtoasting.com, agreed, but said coming in with that late-season momentum will be key.
"To have the taste of winning in your mouth coming into this series is huge," he said. "I'm not counting out the Celtics, but the Knicks aren't as doomed as I would have thought a couple weeks ago."
But for some fans, it just feels good to be in the playoffs.
"Oh yes, they deserve it," said Thaddeus MacKrell, 83, of Roosevelt Island. "I'm hopeful. I think they can do it."
amNewYork and the Knicks are both run by companies owned by the Dolan family.
(with Dina Davis)