Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
When someone writes a book about this nutty Knicks season -- not that I'm volunteering -- he or she probably will start near the end.
Every story needs a punchy opening, and Amar'e Stoudemire delivered one Monday night when he lost a fight with a glass-and-metal case that did its job protecting a fire extinguisher in AmericanAirlines Arena.
It was a summation of all that had come before in a season of spectacular ups and downs, but one destined to end badly against a drastically healthier, hungrier opponent in the Heat.
Technically, the Knicks have at least two games left, both at home, and who knows, they could steal one and earn a return trip to Miami. Stranger things have happened several times this winter and spring.
But mostly this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series has turned into a sad sideshow, and it is far more about where this team is going than where it is now.
One thing that seems certain is that Stoudemire and his trade-unfriendly contract ($60 million over the next three seasons) are not going anywhere, and that neither are his similarly well-paid frontcourt teammates, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
So the states both of Stoudemire's psyche and his game are pivotal moving forward, and Monday's incident raised new concerns about the former to add to existing ones about the latter.
It was a shocking display of immaturity from the original centerpiece of the "New Knicks," a guy who said and did all the right things upon his arrival in 2010 and generally has conducted himself with class.
Stoudemire did not speak to reporters after the game, but he did convey regrets through a pair of Twitter posts.
The first said: "I am so mad at myself right now, I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start."
The second said: "We all have done things out of anger that we regret. That makes us human. Bad timing on my part. Sorry guys. This too shall pass."
But what exactly was going through his head when he sucker-punched that box? If it simply was frustration over another playoff loss, it can be overcome.
If it in part was frustration over another night on which the offense was all about Anthony as Stoudemire faded into the court's woodwork for much of the game, that is a more complicated matter.
Regardless, there is no excusing what Stoudemire did, letting down his teammates, his still-interim coach Mike Woodson and most importantly fans who paid to be at the Garden Thursday and Sunday expecting a credible postseason show.
He knows that and is enough of a mensch to try to make up for it in coming months and years. But the larger issues of his abilities to play alongside Anthony and to play at his former level are not as easily solvable.
It would have been nice to see him work on all that for another couple of games in the crucible of a playoff series against the No. 2 seed in the East. Now that opportunity appears to have passed, and soon the season itself will, too.
So it has gone in 2011-12, now more than ever one of the strangest years any New York sports team ever has had.
The first chapters of the sequel already are waiting to be written.
The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden
and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.