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Walt Frazier sees similarities between Tom Thibodeau's Knicks and Red Holzman's Knicks

The Knicks' Walt "Clyde" Frazier scored 36 points

The Knicks' Walt "Clyde" Frazier scored 36 points and had 19 assists during to help the Knicks clinch the championship on May 8, 1970.  Credit: From the lens of George Kalinsky

Bill Bradley set up a Zoom mini-reunion recently with fellow former Knicks Dick Barnett, Jerry Lucas, Phil Jackson, Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier. He likely could have charged admission just to listen in, but it was a private affair.

"It was great," Frazier said in an interview with Newsday. "We probably talked maybe an hour-and-a-half about the good old days . . . You never lose that camaraderie, that esprit de corps. The guys don’t change; they just get older."

One other thing that never changes about those Knicks is the fact every Knicks team since the two NBA champions of the early 1970s has been compared with them – usually unfavorably.

But as Frazier and his friends appreciate, the current Knicks are doing a reasonable imitation of their hoops ancestors, to the surprise and delight of many around the NBA.

"I’m just excited about the team," said Frazier, MSG Networks’ longtime Knicks analyst. "Obviously, the coach deserves a lot of credit, the way they’re stepping up now, becoming clutch. It’s actually reminiscent of the Knicks when I first came in under Red Holzman.

"Holzman was a lot like [Tom Thibodeau] – well-prepared, holds you accountable, defense is the catalyst, teamwork. I see a lot of similarities there with what’s happening.

"Memories abound seeing what’s going on with the players and the coach, the team. I think it’s something real, and it’s only going to get better in the future."

In the present, watching the team win – and the style in which it has won – has made the job more fun for Frazier and his longtime play-by-play partner, Mike Breen.

"It’s been an amazing year," Breen said. "You can’t wait to go and watch this team play again, because they play the way I fell in love with the game for. They play together as a unit. It is the ultimate whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They are the epitome of that.

"That’s why it’s been so much fun, not just that they’re winning, but the way they’re winning and how much they really do seem to play for each other and play for their coach, who their respect for is just off the charts."

Frazier said he has enjoyed not traveling this season because of COVID-19 protocols, even though he misses some cities on the NBA itinerary, such as Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

But he does feel for the fans not being as much a part of the excitement as they would be in a normal season.

"When we first started [in the mid-1990s] we couldn’t believe we were doing Bulls and Knicks, Miami-Knicks," Frazier said. "It was: How great is this? And we’re getting paid! We have front row seats. Can you believe it?

"It’s the same thing now, the energy. Now the main thing we say to each other, how ironic that there are only 2,000 fans in the stands, after all this suffering by the Knicks fans, that they can’t enjoy this now that the team is thriving and the Garden is not at capacity."

Frazier said he still gets goosebumps thinking about calling playoff games at old Chicago Stadium, when "you couldn’t even hear your ears in that place."

The playoffs are when he gets most nostalgic about being a player.

"In the playoffs, I think about that all the time; it’s indelibly etched in my mind," he said. "You can’t wipe that out. It’s always there . . . The Knicks being back in the playoffs this year, I’m going to be living vicariously."

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