ESPN ’30 for 30: When the Garden Was Eden’ TV Schedule and Preview

What if I told you that the New York Knicks were once a winning basketball organization that bounded and astounded rather than vexed and perplexed? 

Younger fans only know the franchise through a dysfunctional front office deflated by James Dolan. They have not reached the NBA Finals since 1999 and have endured nine consecutive losing seasons before accounting for three early playoff exits during Carmelo Anthony’s tenure.

But over 40 years ago, Red Holtzman led the burgeoning franchise to its only two championships. Back in an era when the NBA altogether was not the marquee draw it is today, the Knicks captured New York’s attention and adoration, turning Madison Square Garden into the “Mecca of Basketball.”

In ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 documentary, actor and director Michael Rapaport will guide viewers through the Knicks’ golden days as the club today tries to regain its status on top of the NBA hierarchy. Based on Harvey Araton’s book of the same title, When the Garden Was Eden will transport New York hoops fans back to a more blissful time.

 

When the Garden Was Eden

When: Tuesday, October 21 at 9 p.m. ET

Where: ESPN

 

Trailer

 

Preview

Even as they falter today, the Knicks constantly fill the Garden and get showered with frequent national TV exposure. In a time when the product is not as good as the hoopla, it’s hard to imagine the reverse ringing true.

Yet they flew under the radar in a still-unpopular league dominated by the Boston Celtics. That, however, quickly changed, as Rapaport explained to the New York Daily News’ David Hinckley.

College games were more important than pro games. In the pros, you had these 7-foot players flying from one game to another in coach, just sitting with everybody else. Before the Knicks came along, the league was dominated by Boston. And that was great only if you were from Boston, because no other place really cared about it. Now suddenly when the Knicks were in it, New York was interested. Celebrities started showing up to the games. The media came. The whole thing started to explode.

To borrow one of Walt Frazier’s favorite words, the Knicks rode some serendipity to their first and only two championships. Bill Russell’s Celtics decimated the NBA, winning 11 of 13 titles before retiring after the 1968-69 season, clearing the way for a new regime.

It’s easy to see how that dynasty generated some envy that persists among New York fans today. In his review of the documentary, Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo declared Rapaport‘s obsession with Russell a rare mishap in an otherwise sharp film.

My only quibble is that he oddly forces a tangent into the smoothly flowing film in asking/pestering a couple of former players if they thought Bill Russell was overrated. He does this because he strongly believes this and his fishing for agreement on this topic stood out a bit as players laugh off the suggestion.

Maybe Rapaport just wanted to mess with Bill Simmons, the man who devised the ESPN 30 for 30 series and a devout Celtics fan.

Either way, regardless of the circumstances that preceded, the Knicks finally got their chance. Despite lacking a revolutionary superstar, the Knicks usurped the Celtics’ mantle with a bevy of talented players who meshed seamlessly together.

They also played tenacious defense. During the 1969-70 season, they allowed 105.9 points per game. That’s mediocre by today’s standards, but the next-best team, the Los Angeles Lakers, yielded 111.8 points per night.

They once again boasted the league’s best defense en route to their second Finals victory, relinquishing 98.2 points per contest in 1972-73. Their athleticism and spunk guarding often larger opponents won them games and a spot in NBA folklore.

When thinking back on those glory days, the first thought that springs to mind is likely a hobbled Willis Reed limping to the court to make two early baskets in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals. Frazier credited the big man’s gutsy performance for the deciding victory over Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Co., per NBA.com’s Encyclopedia.

“The scene is indelibly etched in my mind,” Frazier said later, “because if that did not happen, I know we would not have won the game.”

Yet the guard doesn’t receive enough credit for his indelible impact on the franchise. Well before he joined the commentary booth to marvel at the team’s newest precocious neophytes, Clyde churned out 36 points and 19 assists in that very game. He headlined the team’s lockdown defense with seven consecutive NBA All-Defensive First Team honors from 1969-75.

The film will certainly relive that famous series between the Knicks and the Lakers, but it’ll be interesting to see what else it teaches those born well after these guys ran the Big Apple. 

Araton’s book not only touches on the Knicks’ rise to basketball glory, but also the societal issues then plaguing the nation. Racial tension in the U.S. permeated onto the basketball court, which led a predominantly white fanbase to embrace forward (and later U.S. Senator) Bill Bradley for the color of his skin more so than his basketball acumen.

The timing for this film also feels appropriate, as Phil Jackson’s arrival into the front office creates a connecting point between then and now. The Zen Master began his 10-year tenure with the Knicks in 1967, contributing to their second championship by scoring a career-high 16.6 points per game during the 72-73 season.

As Rapaport told Newsday, he shot the film before Jackson’s hiring, but the news presented the director with too sweet of an opportunity.

“It made for great drama; it made the film better,” Rapaport said. “It almost feels like we made the film after the Phil Jackson thing, which isn’t the case. But it was just the perfect ending to an already fascinating story.”

As disheartened fans gear up for another rebuilding phase in hopes of eventually snapping a 41-year-old championship drought, this documentary gives them a chance to relive better days, all while realizing how sweet it’d be to see the Knicks return to the top of the basketball world again.

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Oklahoma City Thunder season preview: Roster analysis

As October draws to a close, we are just eight days away from tip off to yet another NBA season. With the disappointment of last season’s finish behind them, the Oklahoma City Thunder are focused on winning a championship once again. This time, however, they will have to start their quest without reigning league MVP Kevin Durant for the first two months of the season. The four-time scoring champ had successful surgery on a Jones fracture in his right foot that will keep him out for roughly six to eight weeks. Without Durant, the rest of the players on the roster will have to step up and help lead the Thunder to a fast start, which may require some adjustments on the fly from head coach Scott Brooks.
With Durant in the fold, the Thunder project as one of the strongest teams in the league. Without him, Russell Westbrook is the unquestioned leader, but the question remains if anyone else can shoulder the immense scoring load that Durant leaves behind when he is on the sidelines.
With a full and healthy roster,

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Memphis Grizzlies season preview: Player projections

So far in this Memphis Grizzlies three-part season preview, we’ve taken a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Grizzlies’ roster [Memphis Grizzlies season preview: Roster analysis] and how the team could fare in the Southeast Division and the Western Conference this season [Memphis Grizzlies season preview: Team projections]. In this article, we’ll take a look at key individual players on the team and project what kind of numbers they might put up this season.
Starting Five
PG: Mike Conley, Jr.
2013-14: 17.2 PPG (career-high), 6.0 APG & 1.5 SPG
2014-15 projections: 16.5 PPG, 8.0 APG, 2.0 SPG
Conley saw his role on the offense increase last season, having to shoulder some of the scoring load due to the lack of a solid perimeter scorer on the roster. As a result, he averaged career highs in points per game and field goal percentage (45%) last season. Expect Conley to continue to be a leading scorer on the team, although his points per game average will be reduced slightly due to the additio

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Part Two: Brooklyn Nets season preview: Team projections

Previously I broke down the Nets Roster and analyzed their strengths and weaknesses. This is a continuation of that, previewing the upcoming season and what to expect from this team. This is part two of a three part analysis of the Brooklyn Nets’ upcoming season. You can read part one of the Nets’ season preview here: Brooklyn Nets season preview: Roster analysis
The Nets’ place in the Atlantic Division
Being in the Atlantic division, the Brooklyn Nets do not have much competition around them. The Boston Celtics are in rebuilding mode and are not much of a threat. They have some young guys who can definitely play, but they have not proven themselves in the NBA just yet. They are currently the 26th ranked team according to ESPN’s team rankings and will probably not make the playoffs. The New York Knicks were not a playoff team last year (a big disappointment for Knicks fans) and I honestly expect the same from them this year. Knicks fans like to think that their team is going to the Finals every year,

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Los Angeles Clippers season preview: Player projections

We have hit the middle of our three part preview of the 2014-2015 Los Angeles Clippers, check out the Part 1 if you have not already. The question we are faced with now is how much better can this year’s Clippers team be in this incredibly deep Western Conference. The answer to that question is going to be the function of two things. How much better did this Clippers team get over the offseason? And how much better, if any, did the top tier of the Western Conference get this offseason?
DeAndre jordan and Blake Griffin during the national anthem previous to the Clippers preseason opener vs the Warriors.(photi credit Getty Images)
Okay, so part 1 of our preview handled the personal changes the Clippers made, but from a logistical and tactical standpoint the Clippers have to do a few things differently this season if they hope to crack the top two in the West and truly contend for a championship.
Offensive projections:
Nothing is changing, expect a lot of dunks, a lot of Blake Griffin and DeAndre in the post,

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Part Three: Minnesota Timberwolves season preview: Player projections

This is the final part of the Minnesota Timberwolves season preview, the first was a roster analysis of the team, while the second was a prediction for how the team will finish in the division. For this final part, I will be making my predictions about the lineups the Timberwolves will use and how the players getting minutes will do over the season.
Starting Five Projections:
Ricky Rubio
At point guard, Ricky Rubio will again be the starter, and I think he will get more opportunities to score with Kevin Love gone but will shoot a lower percentage as he changed up his shooting form over the off season. His assists and steals should still be around the same in my opinion, with Rubio also still picking up a solid amount of rebounds for the point guard position.
Prediction: 12 points, nine assists, four rebounds and between two and three steals per game while shooting 36% from the field and shooting 30% from three.
Kevin Martin will be the starting shooting guard, and since he isn’t much of a defender or reboun

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Milwaukee Bucks season preview: Player projections

In the third and final part of the Milwaukee Bucks season preview, we will be looking at the potential starting five and their expectations for the upcoming season. For part one, looking at the Bucks roster for the upcoming season, click here. For part two, looking at the team’s projections for this year, click here.
Throughout the first three games of the preseason, coach Kidd has not started the same five players twice. He seems to be giving players a chance to show what they can bring to the team and how well they play with other likely starters. The Bucks have a lot of talent which hints that the starting five to begin the season most likely won’t be the same starting five in the middle of the season or even the end of the season.
Point Guard
The starting point guard of the Milwaukee Bucks will be Brandon Knight. Knight is the obvious choice for the role and has played well in each preseason game. Knight is a great scorer, but he only averaged 4.9 assists for Milwaukee last season. With Jason Kidd coa

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Los Angeles Lakers Season preview: Team Projections

This is the second part of the season preview for the Los Angeles Lakers and now it’s time to make some projections for the team. The team is in a make or break it season for GM Kupchak, they have banked on landing major free agents and failed twice now. This season, all the analysts have been taking potshots at the Lakers and believe that this could be another lost season for Kobe and company. I’m not entirely convinced that the Lakers are out of it.
Let’s start with the Pacific division. It’s loaded with great teams that could all go to the Western Conference playoffs. The good news for the Lakers is that they probably won’t be the bottom-dwellers, as the Kings will no doubt take that role this season. Sacramento has some great players but have yet to put things together and seemingly continue to take on bad contracts. After that, the division gets tough. Phoenix is going to supposedly line up like a college team and rollout the three guard lineup. For a team that was surprisingly good last year,

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2014-15 Season Preview: Phoenix Suns

Guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe led the Phoenix Suns to a 48-34 record last season, surpassing expectations and taking the NBA by storm.

Last year, the Phoenix Suns and first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek shocked the nation after finishing ninth place in the Western Conference when many NBA analysts predicted they would tank.
What does this year’s squad have in store for us?
What we know for sure is that the Suns will have depth and talent at the guard position. Goran Dragic was a candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award last season and Eric Bledsoe, despite missing a large chunk of the season to a knee injury, agreed to a long-term extension with the team after a very long free agency standoff. Phoenix also brought in former Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas to play a sixth man role, drafted Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, and signed Dragic’s brother Zoran to a two-year contract. With Hornacek’s fast-paced offense in place, it wil

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Sacramento Kings Season Preview: Team Projections

It’s just about half way through NBA preseason, and isportsweb is back for its second round of season previews. In our first preview, we picked apart the Kings roster. Now, it’s time to create a bold forecast of just how successful this young Sacramento team will be in 2015.
The Deep Pacific
The Pacific division is extremely competitive, let alone the entire Western Conference. The Golden State Warriors, L.A. Clippers, and Phoenix Suns are all on the brink of being surefire playoff bets. Due to the combative nature of the Pacific division, the Kings will have to try to compete on a much larger scale that is the Western conference. It is unlikely for Sacramento to overtake the Warriors or the Clippers this season. In order for the Kings to have a legitimate chance at the playoffs, they will need to surpass the Suns for that three-spot.
Best Case Scenario
In a perfect world, the Kings take the eight-seed and make the playoffs. Over 30% of the Kings wins last season came against teams that made the playof

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