The Knicks' return to respectability - highlighted by Wednesday's narrow, thrilling loss to the Celtics - has been the talk of the town.
But for one prominent New Yorker, the revival has meant hearing less talk from strangers.
"Now the Knicks are at a level where they can compete, and that's great for the league,'' commissioner David Stern said Thursday. "And if you're a New Yorker, and I am, and I walk the streets of Manhattan, it means every cabdriver and truck driver doesn't stop me and say, 'Hey, Commish, what are you going to do for the Knicks?'
"The answer is they're taking care of themselves. So it's fine. It's fun.''
TV viewers seem to agree.
The MSG figure alone was nearly three times the network's average for the Knicks this season, and it was MSG's highest-rated Knicks game since Oct. 30, 2001. Michael Jordan returned to the NBA as a Wizard that night, drawing 4.76 percent of area homes.
For the NBA and its TV partners, the Knicks' revival is a huge boost after a lost decade. "I don't think you can understate the importance, being New York, all the media here, the advertising community, so many decision-makers and influencers,'' ESPN president George Bodenheimer said.
"There's buzz in New York now. It's good for business. Really, it's all good.''
Tonight's ratings could top Wednesday's if the Heat-Knicks game remains close to the finish.
"Anybody that tells you that everything's been all figured out from a production standpoint is way ahead of the game,'' Bodenheimer said. "We're experimenting. But I think there's a good opportunity that it'll look very good from the camera positions where we can do it and with the intensity on the court.''