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The Reverse Psychology Of A Knicks Fan

Madison Square Garden All-Access Tour

Former NBA player Gilbert Arenas believes New York Knicks fans use reverse psychology while rooting for their team and it actually works against them rather than in their favor.

Arenas discussed the chances of the Knicks winning a playoff series on his newly named podcast, Gil’s Arena.

“I trust the Knicks, I don’t trust the (Madison Square) Garden,” Arenas said.


Heat On Randle

“I’ve never trusted the Garden because the Garden hates their Knicks players if they’re performing badly or not at the level that they’re delusional with,” Arenas stated in his podcast.

For example, Knicks fans were highly critical of Julius Randle last season after he made the All-Star game, second team All-NBA, and led the Knicks to the playoffs the season before. Many people on basketball Twitter called him a “fraud” because he took a step back in production. Randle’s performance had many Knicks fans ready to put him on the trade block.

Randle averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on 45% from the field, 41% from three-point range, and 81% from the free throw line two seasons ago. But last season, Randle averaged 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists on 41 percent from the field, 34 percent from three point range, and 75 percent from the free throw line.

This season, the 28-year-old forward has beaten those “fraud” allegations and bounced back with a second All-star season in a Knicks uniform. 

Randle currently averages 25.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists, on 46 percent from the field, 35 percent from three point range, and 75 percent from the free throw line. 

The Fluctuation of Barrett

RJ Barrett, former third overall pick, has become a lightning rod for criticism amongst the Knicks fan-base this season. Many Knicks fans have been critical of his erratic play this season after a promising third season in the NBA. Barrett averaged 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists on 40 percent from the field, 34 percent from three point range, and 71 percent from the free throw line last season.

The twenty-two year-old forward has experienced some high-highs and some low-lows this season. 

Barrett’s highs can be characterized by his scoring uptick against the Toronto Raptors, having put up thirty-points on three different occasions on their squad as well as an explosion against the Chicago Bulls with forty-four points. Most recently, his thirty point performance against the Miami Heat in a 106-104 victory in Madison Square Garden. Barrett’s lowest low was his shooting slump from November 13th to November 20th in which he shot 31% from the field or lower in five consecutive games.

Barrett currently averages 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on 43% from the field, 32% from three-point range, and 74% from the free throw line.

How The Garden Favors The Opposition

Arenas explained that playing at Madison Square Garden actually favors the road team rather than the Knicks, especially if a superstar like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming to town.

“When they get to booing five minutes into the game because the score is 0-4, it then favors the road team and they’re gonna cheer for the road star,” Arenas stated assertively. “I do not trust them in the playoffs. I trust the team because they want to win. It’s just them fans….they’re the worst fans in sports history when it comes to supporting their actual team.”

Former NBA player Rashad McCants encourages Knicks fans to keep the reverse psychology going.

“(If) you’re getting your a— cooked….you ain’t getting no cheers,” McCants firmly said. “You’re getting cooked? You better put them gloves on. We’re not cheering for you for getting roasted by Mr. Hibachi (Gilbert Arenas).”

Tough At Home

Although Arenas never played for the Knicks, he gave his perspective of what a Knick player may experience mentally when an opposing superstar is in town.

“Think about the guy that has to guard him (opponent’s superstar) that has the Knicks jersey on and they’re cheering for him (the opponent superstar),” Arenas proposed. “How do you think he feels? That’s what the players mentally go through. The only reason he’s roasting is because y’all are cheering for him (opposing star).”

Arenas described his own experience playing at MSG as “amazing.” Arenas averaged 22.0 points in 11 career games as an opponent at the world’s most famous arena.

Former Knick Brandon Jennings cosigned with Arenas on his experience as an opponent at Madison Square Garden. 

“(It was) amazing for me, I was dropping 30s in there,” Jennings said. “I already knew once I got it going, they were gonna start cheering for me.”

Jennings averaged 15.9 points in fourteen games as an opponent at Madison Square Garden including two games in which he scored 30 points or more.

A Knick’s Perspective

The nine-year NBA veteran also saw the other side of opponents having their way at Madison Square Garden unlike Arenas. Jennings briefly played for the Knicks during the 2016-17 season.

Jennings admitted that he felt love from Knick fans initially but it was short lived as was his time in New York.

“In the beginning, yeah because we had the new team (Jennings, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee),” Jennings recalled. “….Once we started (losing) it was like anybody came here…. I remember Bron (LeBron James) and them (Cleveland Cavaliers) was playing with the cup (the cup flip challenge) ….people were coming in clowning us.” 

Past Dejection

Jennings was referring to the nationally televised game on December 12th, 2016 on ESPN in which the Knicks lost to the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers 126-94 in embarrassing fashion at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks were 16-14 through thirty games but a six game losing streak from December 25th through January 4th changed the trajectory of the organization’s season and expectations moving forward. The Knicks would finish that season 31-51 which was twelfth in the Eastern Conference. 

“At first it looked like it was love but then we started losing and we became the Knicks again,” Jennings said.

Jennings asked out of New York after the Knicks failed to live up to playoff expectations during that season and eventually signed with the Washington Wizards for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.

The California native averaged 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists on 38% from the field, 34% from three point range, and 75% from the free throw line in fifty-eight games as a Knick.

Sixth Man Advantage

Arenas reflected on his stint with the Golden State Warriors and acknowledged how the Oakland fans still supported their team through the down years of that organization.

“When I was at Golden State and we were trash, them Oakland fans were still rocking….still rocking no matter what,” said Arenas.

Arenas believes Madison Square Garden has a sixth man advantage of their own like Oakland fans did but Knick fans don’t use it to their team’s advantage.

In lieu of the boos from the New York crowd, Arenas jokingly suggested Knicks owner James Dolan make use of the sound system from the 2020 Orlando bubble at home games should they stay on track to make the playoffs.

“If you get in the playoffs, I need you to do this: you know that sound system they had during the bubble?” Arenas jokingly asked. “You might want to use that to drown out the crowd when they start booing. You just hit the button and then it starts cheering….keep it positive. That’s what they need.”

MSG Potential

Arenas believes the Garden has the potential to be an intimidating place for opponents if Knick fans place their energy right.

“They can start off the game destroying the opponent making it a scary event,” Arenas stated confidently.

Josiah Johnson, the co-host of Gil’s Arena, ended the Knicks segment imploring Knicks fans to turn their reputation around and perhaps help the Knicks reach new heights.

“I need Mero, Spike Lee, Ben Stiller….y’all gotta talk to the Knick fans….get it together and help change this s—,” Johnson pleaded. “Y’all gotta really get together and elevate this squad to greatness.”

Current Standing

The Knicks hold a 39-27 record as of March 7th which surpasses their win total from last season by two victories. The team is currently riding a nine-game winning streak in which they recently defeated the second-seeded Boston Celtics 131-129 in a double overtime thriller.

The Knicks did so without their starting point guard Jalen Brunson. Immanuel Quickley however was an unlikely hero for the Knicks, scoring a career-high 38 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing out 8 assists.

The Knicks hold the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference with sixteen games left in the season and would face the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today.


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