Editor’s note: The Classical has an on-goining series titled, “Why We Watch.” Their content is superb and I encourage you all to check it out, but with the playoffs coming up, we’re going to run a series piggy-backing theirs, titled, “Why We Should Watch.” This new series will give you a little behind-the-scenes information about the Knicks’ starting lineup and one or two key bench players. Hope you enjoy!
On April 18, 2012, Chris Copeland had himself a 20-point, 7-rebound outing at SportOase, a basketball arena in Leuven, Belgium which houses a modest 3,500 seats.
On April 18, 2013, Chris Copeland is 24 hours shy of a 33-point performance in front of (an admittedly docile, if not giddy) 19-thousand, playoff-hungry, Madison Square Garden faithful.
As we, Knicks fans, heard many a times from Walt Frazier’s endless supply of token phrases and puns, “how quickly can fortunes change.”
When Copeland walked off the Garden floor on Wednesday, he probably glanced up to see the early dispersion of a crowd showing diminishing interest in the night’s basketball activities — a sight Cope has undoubtedly witnessed before in Europe. But that sight, that night at the Garden, capped a pivotal year in Cope’s mercurial basketball career.
After 6 years, chronicled by a D-League appearance in Fort Worth and stops throughout Europe’s second and third rate leagues in Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, Copeland has finally found a niche on a NBA rotation. The dread-laden forward has carved out critical minutes with his unique offensive versatility that is almost Melo-esque at times, though awkwardly Predator-action-figure-like at others. With his quirky jab step, momentous rim-ward bully drives, and spot-up precision, Copeland punctuated a 486-point, on 48% shooting and 42% from deep, rookie season with back-to-back 30-point games for a 54-win team heading into the postseason as the 2nd seed. Not bad for a guy who was a journeyman in a different continent not too long ago.
Let’s, however, keep this in perspective. The ever-changing inactive list for the Knicks presented Copeland with the proverbial golden opportunity to make a case for himself; the slew of injuries robbed Mike Woodson of many Cope-less alternatives, after keeping him locked away in what seemed like an eternal doghouse. Given the Knicks’ adaptation of the “small ball” philosophy and their consequential success with it, Copeland ably filled various voids in the absence of New York’s injured stars — the scoring, the rebounding, the occasionally passable effort on defense. Copeland even started at center when the Knicks were left with no healthy player over 6-feet, 10-inches. (Nate Robinson discount double-checked the Knicks into a crushing defeat that night, but let’s not get into that.)
Who knows where Copeland will go from here? For all the jokes of “Copesanity” we love to throw around on Twitter, Cope more than likely will not field many “poison pill contract” offers this summer. The fact remains that he’s closer to the twilight of his playing days than the dawn. Who knows if Cope will even stick around MSG next season? But, who cares about all of that right now? You made it, Cope. And you made it here. In the eyes of the infamously disillusioned New York Knicks fans. In the spotlight of the gaudy “Mecca of Basketball” cult slogan. In the trenches of an injury-riddled 82-game grind. In the shadow of Carmelo Anthony’s re-emergence to the NBA’s elite. Following a sports story phenomena that spurred way too many puns and left a fan base effectively divided. Through Woodson’s glares, hollers, and head-scratching minute-allocation. Under scrutiny of the notoriously unforgiving New York area press. You were forced to grab a microphone and sing Jason Kidd a Happy Birthday lullaby in front of 19-thousand people. You were paid roughly $19-and-a-half million LESS than a player you leapfrogged in the Knicks depth chart. You dislocated your shoulder with little to no sign of concern, or even remorse, from your glazed-faced mentor. Hell, you’re 29 years old and you wore a pink backbag for the better part of 6 months.
And yet, you’re inches away from starting in your first NBA Playoffs series.
You made it, Cope. You’re finally here.