A little less than 20 years ago, when the Knicks entered the playoffs on a mission, they came up with two notable signs of solidarity -- and intimidation -- that became a tradition in New York.
Black socks with black sneakers and shaved heads.
The shaved heads-thing wasn't entirely followed, as high-top fade guys such as Patrick Ewing and John Starks kept their look, while Charles Oakley and the like looked downright menacing with the clean cut. But the black socks/black sneakers look, both at home and on the road, was uniform.
These days it's become routine for all NBA teams to wear black socks and black sneakers on the road during the regular season. I remember in my first season on the beat, at my first road game (in Memphis), I noticed the players wearing black socks and black sneakers and said, "Wait, isn't that a playoff thing?"
Silly new beat writer.
This year, as the Knicks enter their first playoff series in seven years, I mentioned to some of the players about reviving the old tradition. Landry Fields seemed quite uncomfortable with the idea of shavng his head.
"I was not informed of that," he said with a nervous grin.
Chauncey Billups is already clean-shaven, but the veteran of six straight Eastern Conference Final finishes in Detroit said he never really got into anything like that. So other than Ronny Turiaf -- who's beard, as the hilarious Russ Bengtson tweeted last night, "has grown a playoff beard" -- and perhaps the nappy jawed Bill Walker -- who, seriously, told me he finds getting his hair cut "unsanitary" because the barber's clippers are used on other people -- don't expect much visual bonding as the Knicks enter the postseason.
Really, such things are fun but it would probably be better to bring back a tradition that dates back to the early 1970s: winning a championship.
But since so many of you have asked about this, I'll share a small bit of news on this front that was initially passed to me last night that I was able to later confirm: the Knicks will be doing a little something different with their playoff look. While black socks/black sneakers are a given (and no longer a special thing because everyone's doing it), at home games the Knicks will wear orange socks.
We all know how much I love orange. And when I say love, I mean absolutely hate.
Orange socks were ordered and just arrived at the Garden on Tuesday. The expectation is that the Knicks will be rocking orange socks for Game 3 at the Garden.
Perhaps the only fitting characteristic about orange in this case is that it clashes with green, and, well, isn't the the idea?
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* - Amar'e Stoudemire told me after the game that he wanted to play in Wednesday's season finale in Boston, but the decision was made to sit him out for a fourth straight game. Later it was revealed that Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups will be put on ice as well. So Game 82 will be a JV scrimmage. So unless you're very curious to see Derrick Brown and Roger Mason Jr. play 40 minutes, you might want to keep the Rangers-Capitals playoff opener on the big screen and leave the Knicks game in the picture-in-picture window. Asked if there was any meaning to the game, Billups said, "No significance, none."
* - Amar'e was sporting a blue T-shirt before the game with the word "Clinched!" across the front. It's a product of the NBA that we've seen elsewhere -- Jamal Crawford's happiest moment in the NBA was when he got his in Atlanta last season -- and something the team had made up for the players. But most of the players didn't like the idea of celebrating merely clinching a playoff berth when the idea is to have bigger goals than just being there. Still, Stoudemire, who made that "Knicks are back" proclamation in July, seemed proud to display it.
* - Despite the efforts of some fans via Twitter, a Donnie Walsh chant never surfaced during the game. It proves that some things just can't be manufactured. Also, people should remember the Jeff Van Gundy chant didn't happen until the Knicks were putting the finishing touches on a sweep of the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs. The best line Van Gundy had after that chant came when the players were teasing him about it in the post-game celebration. Van Gundy said his name in a chant usually is followed by "sucks!" Walsh should get his due and I'm sure if the Knicks accomplish anything in the postseason, fans will have the awareness to acknowledge his work.
* - For those who made it to the Fixer Mixer, thank you. It was overwhelming for me to see that many of you show up and I hope the time was as enjoyable and entertaining as it was for me. Special thanks to Martin Whelan at Stout, and Newsday publisher Fred Groser, with whom I shared a paralleled basketball pedigree of the Catholic League and Division II. Of course I clearly have a ways to go to achieve his success. Not bad for a guy who went to St. John the Baptist. And, of course, a huge thank you to Lauren Andrich, Paul Fleishman and Frank Czuchan for their tireless work in putting the event together.
Also want to give a special thanks Cablevision's president of local media, Tad Smith, for his incredibly quick mobilization of the troops to turn what was originally a small idea into a major success.