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Knicks don’t really have rivals

In New York, it’s no longer early

Return with us to the thrilling days of the Celtics- Knicks rivalry, or as it’s known in Boston:

“Come again?”

If the Knicks were down so long, a 15-9 start looked like up to them, Boston’s Paul Pierce was so surprised to be asked about their “rivalry,” he laughed.

If people outside Gotham missed it, the Knicks were “the story of the early season ... more than the Heat, more than the West. More than the Celtics,” according to the New York Daily News’ Mike Lupica.

Pierce then hit the game-winner with 0.4 left — and took formal bows to the Madison Square Garden crowd while officials watched the replay showing Amare Stoudemire’s shot was late and Spike Lee went berserk.

“I guarantee you that Boston respects us,” Stoudemire said afterward.

Well, a little.

“Come on, man, you got to beat somebody to have a rivalry,” Boston’s Kevin Garnett said.

“I know, years past, [Larry] Bird, [Patrick] Ewing, Bernard [King] but right now, come on.”

Attack of the mad chickens

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Next up were the old Knicks rivals from Miami, who rumbled them annually in the ‘90s, with LeBron James, who snubbed them last summer, dubbed “LeChicken” by the New York Post.

“We’re gonna kick LeBron’s [backside],” Lee told the Daily News.

Unfortunately, as ESPN’s Jalen Rose noted, if some players don’t like notoriety, LeChick — er, LeBron isn’t one.

Thirty-two points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists later, the Heat won by 22.

Maybe Gotham should zip it until after those rivalries get renewed.

Or he opened upU.S. for China

Showing good things don’t always happen to nice people, Yao Ming, who missed last season and all but 91 minutes of this one, has another stress fracture that may end his career at 30.

Yao not only revived the Rockets, he opened China’s vast, and now uniquely NBA, market.

Denied permission to leave until he was 21, Yao was obliged to spend summers with the national team, accelerating his decline.

He also showed a peculiar Chinese graciousness with no pretension whatsoever — and a surprising sense of humor.

“I haven’t died,” Yao told ESPN’s Rick Bucher last week. “Right now I’m drinking a beer and eating fried chicken. What were you expecting, a funeral?”

Fastbreaks

Greater fool theory in action: Orlando GM Otis Hill, who signed Rashard Lewis for $20 million a year and assumed Vince Carter’s $17-million salary — giving him the NBA’s most overpaid wing tandem — just dumped Carter on Phoenix with Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus, sent Lewis to Washington and got Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and former Magician Hedo Turkoglu.... Bottom line for Magic: Wow. For Suns: Arghhh. For Wizards: Now for fond reminiscence of Arenas when he starts lighting it up.

With losses mounting, Charlotte owner Michael Jordan, who let Raymond Felton go to the Knicks for a two-year, $15-million deal, joined Coach Larry Brown in blasting the few players that remain.... Stephen Jackson: “I guess it comes down to leadership. I guess it’s Gerald [Wallace] and my fault.”... This is a staple of Brown farewell seasons, such as 1996-97 in Indiana, when Reggie Miller gave the all-time reply: “If Larry says we lack it, we lack it.”

mark.heisler@latimes.com


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