The New York Knicks are the only unbeaten team in the NBA, but their history has been so drab these past four decades that even their best fans will react with cautious enthusiasm.
The Knicks have not advanced past the first round of the play-offs in this century. They have made it to the post-season only three times in 12 years and have won two NBA titles in their 65 years of existence, the most recent in 1973.
New York is widely considered the premier basketball city in the world, but pre-season expectations for years have ended in flame-outs. Many of their problems can be traced to their routinely befuddled owner, James Dolan, whose teams seem more skilled at developing soap-opera twists than winning games. But right now they are 4-0 and have won each game by double figures.
And they are playing without the all-star forward Amar'e Stoudemire (out until November with knee injury) and the rising star guard Iman Shumpert (knee, at least January), and they failed to sign Jeremy Lin, losing him to the Houston Rockets.
They have been succeeding thanks to several ageing veterans such as Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, men whose best seasons have long faded from the rear-view mirror.
They are led by a coach, Mike Woodson, promoted only after Mike D'Antoni resigned with a month left in the 2011/12 season. But they defeated the champion Miami Heat by 20 and also have a victory over the Dallas Mavericks and two over the Philadelphia 76ers.
"I have no doubt that they are legit," said former NBA star turned TV pundit, Magic Johnson.
They are led by Carmelo Anthony, who is doing more than scoring. He leads the Knicks in scoring (27.3 points per game), is second in rebounding (7.3) and, perhaps the biggest shock, is playing defence.
"It's just me knowing what I want," Anthony said.
The Knicks brought back point guard Raymond Felton and added Kidd, a point guard who is operating as a shooting guard.
Kidd, 40 in March, twice led the New Jersey Nets to the NBA finals, and won a title with Dallas in 2011.
He is considered one of the most intelligent players in the game.
"Jason Kidd is going to raise everyone's intensity and focus," said Rick Carlisle, the Dallas coach.
"That's just how it works."
With centre Tyson Chandler and forward Ronnie Brewer giving them strength under the basket, and Woodson intent on getting Anthony the ball in the places he prefers, the Knicks are off to their best start in almost 20 years.
In a weak Eastern Division, the Knicks may finally be able to keep New York's long-suffering fans excited deep into the season.
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