For the Knicks, Feb. 23 can’t come soon enough.
That’s the day New York arenas that seat at least 10,000 can allow fans back at 10% capacity, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Though the Knicks have seen a smattering of fans in arenas throughout the country, having them back at Madison Square Garden will be special, coach Tom Thibodeau said.
"I do think that [not having fans] has impacted home court some," he said. "I think the fans do make a big difference . . . The energy that they bring to a game is important. And that’s probably the biggest aspect; we saw that last year with the bubble. There were huge games, the Game 7s in particular, where, if that’s in somebody’s home arena, that will be a lot different."
Beginning on that Tuesday against Golden State, the Knicks will have three home games in a row before the All-Star break.
"Extremely excited," Julius Randle said about the fans. "Obviously, safety first. We want to do what’s best for everybody and make sure everybody is safe. But to have fans back in the Garden at that amount is amazing and we’re extremely excited to have our fan base come to the game and experience some of the energy we’ve been feeling. So extremely excited and thankful."
All-Star Game agita
This year’s All-Star Game has stirred up controversy, with some players concerned that it’s an unnecessary risk. Randle said he sees both sides.
"It’s been a tough season," he said. "Everybody is looking forward to that break. Everybody is looking forward to that down time . . . But I also understand the business of basketball and I understand where the NBA is coming from, wanting to put this on for our fans. That’s one of the most engaged games of the season with our fans, raising awareness for the virus and everything that’s going on, raising awareness for the HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] and stuff like that.
"Regardless, we’ll move as a unit and I’ll support whatever decision is made."