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It’s springtime in New York City: the snow has thawed, the hot dog vendors are in short sleeves. Hopefulness has begun to permeate the city, as it does every year around this time, when the tulip bulbs in Central Park start to sprout, yet again, anew. The sun is shining, the NBA playoffs are right around the corner, and New York Knicks fans are ready to get hurt again.

“Aggressively optimistic” would be a fair characterization of these particular fans, who have seen, historically, considerably more bad than good basketball from their team. No matter how dark things have gotten for Knicks fans over the years, no matter how bleak the outlook under widely despised team owner James Dolan, they’ve stayed true to their franchise. But this year feels different, recent injury luck notwithstanding, and the infectious hope for what’s to come for the team is, finally, far from delusional.

It’s admittedly a little unsexy to describe what enabled the once nearly universally derided Knicks organization to go from laughing stock to legit playoff threat as down to an “alchemy” of factors, but that’s what’s happened. The flashiest change, of course, landed in New York when Jalen Brunson emerged from beneath the 6ft 7in shadow of Luka Dončić in Dallas and was reborn as an All-Star under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. He posted back-to-back 40-point games this month, the first Knick to do so since Carmelo Anthony in 2014, and is shooting up the rankings of the local fans’ most beloved players faster than a New York minute. But a lot had to happen to undo the “unserious” label that has beleaguered a franchise that has managed just two playoff series wins in the last 20 years.

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