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Forward Mason Admonishes Knick Faithful

NEWSDAY

On the eve of the Knicks’ home opener, Anthony Mason had some harsh words for New York fans.

Mason believes playing at Madison Square Garden should be an advantage for the team. Yet, he is not sure that always is the case, considering the way the team was booed in its two losses there this preseason. He cringes at the thought of hearing the same Tuesday night against the 0-2 Phoenix Suns.

“It’s annoying to get booed, because we’ve never been a team not to play hard,” the Knicks forward said Monday. “We give them one or two games where we don’t do well, especially in the middle of a learning process, and we get booed.

“People here either boo or cheer. They sometimes do it in the same game. You win 10 in a row, and then you lose and get booed. That’s just the way it is here. People are quick to judge.”

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The Knicks, 3-3 in the preseason, bottomed out in the preseason with an ugly 94-82 loss to the Utah Jazz Oct. 22. Three days later, they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, 101-93.

Last season, playing at Madison Square Garden wasn’t a significant advantage for the Knicks. The team was 29-12 at home in 1994-95. Over the two previous seasons, the Knicks lost a total of 13 games at home.

Knicks Coach Don Nelson said establishing a home-court advantage is a priority, adding that the way the team played at home in the preseason was not what he wanted.

“It’s extremely important, because you can’t do well in the league unless you have a great home-court advantage,” Nelson said. “Our fans are so good and boisterous and supportive we should have that, but the team has to earn the support. We have to go out there and play good, hard basketball.

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“New York fans expect expertise and good play all the time, and when they don’t get it, we hear about it.”

Nelson had nothing but praise for the way the team has played in its 2-0 start. In their opener against the Detroit Pistons, the Knicks made 54 percent of their shots with four players scoring 18 points or more. Saturday, against the Milwaukee Bucks, it was the Knicks’ defense that won the game as they managed to keep stars Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson in check.

“I’m really happy. We’re the only team in the league with two road wins,” Nelson said. “Lets not underrate that. I hope to continue that in the home opener. I don’t think many people thought we would get off to a strong start.”

Certainly those who saw the Knicks play during the preseason at Madison Square Garden verbally expressed their doubts. Mason, a native New Yorker and a sports fans, said he never has booed any New York team. He added that the way Garden fans act can have a positive impact on the Knicks’ opponents.

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