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Knicks revival means David Stern walks the streets easier

In this file photo, David Stern, NBA Commissioner,

In this file photo, David Stern, NBA Commissioner, announces that the 2011 NBA Draft will be held at the Prudential Center, Newark, NJ. (Oct. 27, 2010) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

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.

Wednesday's game was a ratings hit, averaging a combined 6.27 percent of homes in the New York area on MSG (3.61) and ESPN (2.66), huge numbers for the regular season.

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.

Celtics-Knicks certainly was great theater. "The second half it was rockin'; it was awesome,'' ESPN analyst and former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "It was electric.''

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.

In addition to the regular MSG and ESPN telecasts, the game will be shown in 3-D by ESPN, the first NBA game sent into homes using that technology.

"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.''

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