Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Alive: Knicks versus Bobcats in real-time

Preamble: It's a Friday night. It's the start of the holiday break for students and white collar workers alike. And, I'm sitting at my desk with the television on ready to live-blog the Knicks/Bobcats tilt getting set to tip off in Charlotte.

The Knicks are coming off their most impressive win of the season (it is more impressive than the home win against Denver because of all that has transpired since then) against the reigning EC champs, the Cavs. David Lee was dominant. He put up 17 in the first half off the bench and finished with 22/11. Q actually made all those shots that he is force fed in the early going. Nate actually saw some playing time and comported himself well. And, of course Jamal scored some points. Win or lose, that kid will score some points. Waking up the morning after that game the questions abounded for both teams. Was this a significant win for the Knicks? Was this a significant loss for the Cavs? Or was this just a largely meaningless regular season NBA game? For their part, the Cavs assuaged some concerns last night be beating the Lakers in a game where Lebron contained Kobe in the fourth quarter.

Now, it's the Knicks turn. This team hasn't won a game more than 20 miles from the Garden. They are 1-9 on the road with their only road victory coming at the Nets in NJ.

1st Quarter

Tip-Off: And, we're off. Bobcats control.

The B'cats are all springs and speed and the Knicks are all cotton balls and bricks so far. It is amazing how complacent this team can look in the early going of games. Whether after the big loss against the Celtics a few weeks back or after the big win against the Cavs the other night, both games were followed up with sluggish first quarters. They are clearly not mentally prepared when they take the floor.

And, yes, David Lee is on the bench. Nazr Mohammed and Okafor each have offensive rebounds already.

Jamal Crawford has gotten the Knicks to the first timeout with a one-point lead thanks to 9 quick points in the early going.


The teams are just trading baskets right now. Defense amounts to defensive rebounding, which the Knicks aren't doing. I probably feel good about a just trading buckets because we've got better shot-makers. But they are getting too many offensive boards for that to really work out in our favor. We are trading buckets but they're getting two shots for our one per trip.

Ah, David Lee finally checks in with about 3 to go in the quarter.

And, the Bobcats counter by bringing in their white guy, Matt Carroll of Notre Dame.

Okafor is calling for the ball inside. The B'cats have several straight buckets in the paint and lead 22-30. In other words, things are going right to script. It's so frustrating watching teams attack us this way so consistently. It's like being a fan of the Major League version of the Indians and watching pitchers just throw curve after curve to Cerrano. Or, actually it is like watching the Cardinals throw curves to the 2006 Mets in the playoffs.

Jared Dudley checks in, finally, with about 30 seconds left in the 1st!

2nd Quarter

Dudley, the rookie out of Boston College who looks soft but plays harder than most, starts the second and hits a bucket to give the B'cats a 24-36 lead.


Yup, it's happening again. One-dimensional jump shooters (Matt Carroll) are killing us because the Knicks can't seem to rotate on defense or cover the open man. Meanwhile, the B'cats bigs are 8-12 and Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson are quietly working towards their averages.

Jeff McInnis is popping (and hitting) jumpshots early, early in the shot clock. Jason Richardson is trying to posterize Curry (who thankfully fouled him) and Isiah is subbing 4 at a time. Thankfully he went with the pull everyone but Lee strategy.

There is house-bottle of "Christmas" whiskey downstairs and a reason to drink up here. This "live-blog" could be short-lived.

Insult/Injury = Knicks missing easy shots/Nazr cleaning up the glass with 8 early boards.

Salt in wound (from previous overstylized metaphor) = Nazr quick turnaround jump shot over Curry. Nazr has 8 and 8.


With about 3 left in the half the only important question is whether or not the Knicks fall behind by 20. There are such things as moral victories.


There are also actual, literal losses. The Knicks already have many of these.

So, Isiah predictably calls a timeout after the lead balloons to 22. And, then the best part of the night occurred. MSG goes to commercial and their is Alien versus Predator commercial that has David Lee offering some commentary. His money is on the Predator.

Halftime: 44-67
Gus Johnson informs me (and the other seventeen folks watching) that this is the worst defensive half of the Knicks very, very bad defensive season. They gave up 67 points. I guess I'm taking Alien. Sorry. David.

3rd Quarter

"That's the advantage he has in the matchup. Nazr can face the basket and hit a bucket. Eddy can't do that."
-John Andriese on the ways in which "The Franchise" pales in comparison to a journeyman center.


Q just got pulled from the game and started jawing at Isiah as he walked over to the bench. He was clearly angry and letting his coach hear it. In a less than respectful manner. Isiah got up to walk down to Q at the end of the bench and Herb was quickly up to stay between them lest this encounter get any friskier.

And, with the Knicks in Nate Robinson and Fred Jones Survival Mode (NRFJSM is where these guys just try to keep scoring to keep the route from being too embarrassing) there is no sign of David Lee and we're about halfway through the third quarter. Isiah seems bent on alienating every single one of his players but Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph.


There was a time a few seasons back when I was campaigning hard for Nazr to be a reserve on the All-Star team. His knifing-through-the-lane finger roll makes me remember that. He's got a double-double already.

David Lee finally checks in with less than four to play in the third. He's in for Zach Randolph who just picked up another foul. Would he have come in at all if Randolph had stayed foul free? Why are we even conserving fouls at this point?

Lee has a putback dunk that gets the score under 20. It's Lee's first bucket. Of course, the Bobcats score immediately to put them back above the twenty-point threshold.


4th Quarter

The Knicks are down 19 to start the fourth. They real question is whether they lose by 27 or by 9? They third unit, lead by Nate, has brought some life to the squad. Losing by 9 is actually a possibility!


OK. They're two buckets and two stops from being right back in this game. 4 plays. They're also four plays from being down and out in another laugher.


The Bobcats make two plays. Their lead is comfortable again considering there is less than five to play yet they've got the starters on the floor. The Knicks have Malik Rose on the floor.

But the Knicks do have Nate Robinson out there with Malik. He grabs a defensive rebound, flies down the floor and hits a three. It's a ten point game. With three and a half to play.


Nate flies down the floor and gets fouled going to the hole. He's got the team on his shoulders right now. He misses both free throws and we're all reminded that Nate's shoulders aren't that wide. He's actually kind of small. Still, he's the best we've got right now. He's got 20 points in 26 minutes. Meanwhile, Curry, Randolph and Q are all on the bench.

Whenever a team is trying to come back late in a game I always remember something I heard Reggie Miller say many years ago when he was the best endgame player around not named MJ. He said that if a team could just cut the deficit to six points at the two-minute mark that they were on pace to come all the way back. For whatever reason I have always believed this.

The Knicks are down by 11 with 2:45 to go.

The Knicks are down by 13 when the game goes under 2 minutes remaining.

The Knicks do cut the lead to 10 and Nate is pinballing around the floor with the sort of energy that some of his teammates seem impervious to.


And, they're right on target for my "losing by 9" call of about an hour ago! This is a good thing. Remember moral victories?


Gus and John are impressed by the unit on the floor (Nate, Lee, Crawford, Chandler and Jones) and with good reason. They've brought the team within 9 and even if that is meaningless they've played with heart and passion and intensity.

Argh! Lee just missed two free throws when he could have sewn up my 9 point prediction!

Final Score: 95-105

The Budweiser Play of the Game involves Nazr Mohammed. Of course it does.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"They Were the Champions (of the Eastern Conference), My Friends"

And, the Knicks beat them down last night, 108-90

I am ashamed to admit that I watched the Knicks thoroughly outplay the Cavs with only faint amusement and even less enjoyment. Actually it was more like b-musement than a-musement. There was no high-fiving or extra-rounds-on-me drinking or any such jubilation. I was eating a sandwich and drinking some inexpensive red wine. There was a kitten biting my foot and I really wanted to watch the latest movie to come from Netflix.

It was actually frustrating to sit and watch this game knowing what tomorrow likely brings. It was frustrating to sit their with non-Knicks fans and say, "see, we are good!" knowing that they didn't believe me. And shouldn't believe me. Because on a nightly basis this team isn't actually good. Even though it could be. I swear it to them.

For all the brief moments of exhiliration, there were longer, more thoughtful periods of exasperation as I watched David Lee score 17 points in the first half. He is the most active player on the court and makes Lebron's 15 points in the first half seem quite pedestrian. To put it simply, David Lee is playing like a star. Again, he had come off the bench and again he was the player who brought the most potential onto the floor. And, I'm not talking about Curry-type potential, the sort of potential that a real estate mogul sees in a pristine piece of undeveloped property that they can erect condominiums and golf courses on. I'm not talking about potential that needs wealth and resources and time to potentially extract if your risk/reward investment pays off. I'm talking about the sort of potential that exists in a battery or with a J. Crew gift card that you recieve as a Christmas present from your boss. There is a specific and very practical potential in those objects and it is the responsibility of the person who holds the object to make use of that potential. Use the battery in your television remote and enjoy a long, lazy college bowl season without getting off the couch. Or use the gift card to go buy a nice cable-knit sweater to keep warm through the long winter. However, how many wallets have old gift cards stuck between CVS discount cards or Border rewards cards or whatever else fills our Costanza-esque appendages? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? Businesses love the invention of the gift card because so many go unused, meaning that they are taking in money in exchange for no goods and/or services. David Lee is that unused gift card, wasting away on the bench.

Seeing Lee lead the team in a win like this is all the more reason to fire Isiah Thomas. A win like this shows that there might be something salvageable here if we remove Isiah from the equation. This team has the horses to compete on any given night with almost any team and if you got them to the playoffs (and up to a 6 seed) then who knows what could happen in the AAA league that is the Eastern Conference. At the very least you buy some time and some goodwill for the new coach and the new general manager. You might also get a chance to really test the mettle of this group (under better conditions) before you hold the fire sale that we all know is coming and will cost us our better players along with our bad ones.

And even if the team doesn't turn it around after Isiah is removed they will still be better off. We'll be in line for a top pick in the draft and can draft one of these frosh phenom guards to be Steph's understudy for one season before taking over when his contract comes off the books. We'll be at the front of the line in the coach/GM searches when the season ends and every coach and exec out in the world will have all season to ponder if they want to throw their hat in the NY ring. Moreover, we'll have a chance to give Herb Williams a shot at coaching the squad and hopefully the sample size (if Dolan acts soon enough) will be enough to make a yay/nay decision on him for next year. We'll have the same chance to evaluate these players anew as well. What happens to this team if Isiah is gone and Lee and Balkman start? What happens to this team if Eddy Curry becomes a one-dimensional scorer who is deployed strategically off the bench? Who knows what could happen with a different coach and a different approach? I don't know. I hope it could be better and I think it is important to find out before we blow this whole thing up.

Therefore, a win like this shouldn't be something that "saves" Isiah's job or stays his execution. A win like this is all the more reason to fire him. Immediately.

The Recaps:
The Times
The Post
The News

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Bill Parcells. The Tuna has been offered a high-level gig (VP of football operations) with the Atlanta Falcons. At first it seems an odd fit, mostly because I can't imagine Parcells in SEC country. But, for a guy who is notoriously unable to stay away from the game this could make sense. Roger Goodel has probably called seventeen times begging him to take the job, whatever it is exactly. With one move this whole mess in ATL could be turned around. Parcells brings credibility and (football) integrity back to the city that needs it most.

2. Roger Clemens. The Rocket continues to deny even knowing what steroids are. I'm not sure if he knows how this strategy worked out for Barry Bonds, but, if not, someone might want to tell him.

3. John Salmons. The Sacramento Kings guard dropped a career-high 31 points on the Nets last night and added the assist on the game sealer (by Francisco Garcia).

4. Sean Williams. The center kicked off the Boston College team and left with only a NBA career to live off instead of having his degree, had eight blocks for the NJ Nets last night. They lost and keep losing but Williams is showing that he is the real deal once you get him on the court. Off the court....well, that's another matter.

5. Dr. Art G. Nathan. This dentist from Freeport is outside the Garden at this very minute attempting to lead some sort of "Fire Isiah' rally. I wish I was there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chatting Up the Knicks

(Knicks-related excerpts from this afternoon's chat over at the Worldwide Leader with NBA columnist and stat-whiz John Hollinger)

Laird (NYC): What is keeping the Knicks from being the worst team in the NBA?

John Hollinger: (3:10 PM ET ) Kevin McHale.

* * * *

Laird (NYC): If you were the new GM of the Knicks, would you keep any pieces currently on the team? I think other than David Lee and Renaldo Balkman, get rid of them all!

John Hollinger: (3:23 PM ET ) I might be tempted to keep Zach Randolph, if I could put the right players around him. And I'd hang on to Wilson Chandler and Randolph Morris. But otherwise, hard to argue with that strategy.

* * * *

Jason (Santa Monica, CA): Suppose the Knicks were willing to part with Randolph, Curry, Crawford, Richardson and Jeffries and they wanted nothing back except expiring contracts. Are there any other teams willing to pay these guys even if acquiring them costs literally nothing?

John Hollinger: (3:29 PM ET ) I doubt it. Maybe on Crawford or Randolph, but no way on the other guys -- Curry and Richardson don't have insurable contracts, which makes them radioactive for a lot of the league's teams, Jeffries is grossly overpaid for what he provides, and Zach makes too much and has a questionable attitude.

* * * *

Anthony (Toronto): Is Jason Kapono the most one-dimensional player in the league?

John Hollinger: (4:04 PM ET ) I actually think Eddy Curry has him beat. At least Kapono can handle and pass pretty well. Curry can score on the block. That's it. There's no other area where he's even mediocre.

* * * *

Stronger than Breathalyzers

Spotted driving erratically about 40 miles north of Atlanta, Charles Oakley was pulled over by local law enforcement. Although he PASSED THE BREATHALYZER TEST, he was still arrested because that's how the law works down there.

The Smoking Gun has all the pertinent paperwork on display.

I don't know if it's funny or sad. I'm going to go with slightly funny. No one was hurt and he wasn't legally drunk so I'm just going to enjoy the mugshot.

I mean it's not Tony LaRussa falling asleep at the wheel, drunk and at an intersection. It's not that, for sure. That was sad.

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Adrian Peterson. The Purple Jesus lead the Vikings over the rival Bears last night on MNF and into the thick of the playoff race. Turning a botched handoff-exchange (with former Jet and forever Badger Brooks Bollinger) into 6 points late in the game, Peterson lifted his team to an 8-6 record. The Vikes eliminated seemingly half the field from contention last night and gave themselves a chance to catch the Giants if their Rite of Winter Losing continutes.

2. That One Time. A "moment" gets the nod today because every MLB player named in the Mitchell report who isn't completely and utterly arrogant is following Pettitte's ploy of admitting "that one time" that they used steroids or HGH. Brian Roberts is the latest to go this route. Meanwhile, Roger Clemens still falls into the completely and utterly arrogant grouping. Let's see how that works for him.

3. Mike Dunleavy. The former Dukie scored 22 straight in the third quarter en route to a career-high 36 points as his Pacers beat the Knicks at the Garden.

4. Walk-On Football Players at Florida State. I hope those third-string defensive backs and eighth-string O-linemen were paying attention during meetings all year because a lot of them are going to get a chance to play. FSU has suspended as many as 20 players for the upcoming Music City Bowl (against Kentucky) as well as the first three games of 2008 for some sort of academic cheating. Apparently, there is some crooked stuff going on with athletes at FSU. They may not be studying very hard. Bobby Bowden must be rolling over in his grave.

5. Dirk Nowitzki. The Big Blonde One scored 31 last night, including a pair of free throws in the waning seconds, as the Mavs edged the Magic. I would be OK with watching seven games of that come June.


"We don't grind and we don't compete like we should for 48 minutes and I've never ... a lot of things that can be said about me and teams that I've coached and the way I played, but I've never been accused of not having heart or competing. Tonight was very discouraging to me because we didn't collectively play with heart and compete like I know I do."
-Isiah Thomas on the Knicks performance


These comments from Isiah immediately following the latest debacle at the Garden (full write-up to follow in the AM with links to the papers) make it seem like there is a chance that the "Fire Isiah" chants are still off the mark. Listening to these sentences spill forth in monotone it seems like Isiah might not be fired tonight (but he sure could/should be), but he just might quit tomorrow instead. Six of one half dozen of the other. I'll take it either way.

He sounds like he has finally stopped his (good) habit of accepting blame for his team's poor play. Tonight he pointed his championship ring wearing finger right at the team that he put together. Unequivocally he called them heartless and gutless. By and large he is right. Tonight was a debacle. In the search for absolute zero we have a new benchmark.

Regardless of his robotic and colorless delivery (this was no Denny Green or Jim Mora post-game talk) the words are clear and they will be indelible in the papers tomorrow. They will not be the glue for this fractured squad. And since this team clearly isn't about to be shamed into playing better (as someone who has been at the Garden a lot thus far I know this because we've tried) it would seem like Isiah might be poised to dump this team before he can be dumped.

And, I couldn't really imagine his departure going any other way. Isiah is too egomaniacal to let Dolan even get a line in edgewise during his protracted death scene. When that scene comes it will be a monologue. Arduous and delivered with a wink and smile as if it is a victory rather than defeat. Meanwhile, Dolan is too inept and spineless to turn up with any sort of definitive action. If he were a man of action he would have acted. If he were a man who built things he would not have stood as more scaffolding was erected around such a shoddy frame. But he is not a man accustomed to action or to building, rather he is just someone who oversees what has already been built and holds in trust the gains of those who have acted on his behalf and that is why it is likely that he will just sit slumped in his courtside seat and let history happen around him.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Pacers

Remember when this was one of the hottest tickets in town? Knicks versus Pacers! The NBA on NBC! Remember when? Now, the team is sending out emails letting everyone know that tickets can be had for the low price of ten bucks (password: PACERS).

This was arguably the truest rivalry of 1990s Knicks teams since it actually saw both teams emerge victorious at various points. After all, MJ's Bulls beat the Knicks and the Knicks beat Riley's Heat. Meanwhile Reggie just slayed the Knicks a few times even though the Blue and Orange came out on top most of the time.

Tonight's biggest storyline is the return of Stephon Marbury. How does he look? Is he ready? I hope he gets a warm welcome from the crowd tonight. I'll be doing my part. Other than that, keep on eye on Curry. Can he put together back-to-back good games?

Meanwhile, the Pacers are a .500 team thus far who can't win two in a row. All-Star PF Jermaine O'Neal is still top-flight but PG Tinsley was recently involved in a shooting that has assuredly put the team under a microscope in Indy. They won their last game and are 1-9 on the road so I hope they stay true to previous form tonight.

Knicks Versus Pacers

The Good:

The Bad:

The Ugly:

Around the Internets in Eight Minutes

-There is one and only one Gus Johnson and he even makes the Knicks listenable.

-If this trade rumor is true than Herm must have liked what he saw yesterday from Chad.

-NJ is the hot spot for high school hoops.

Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!

-Apparently, one-time Isiah devotee, Jermaine O'Neal, is a long-time devotee. In today's News O'Neal places the blame for the Knicks' struggles squarely on the players and reiterates his belief that, "Isiah is a great coach."

-The News is also the hotspot for all of your Malik Rose news. The aged and undersized power forward missed Sunday's practice because he couldn't make it through the snow. I was out on the roads in the wilds of the Tri-State area and that excuse is clearly nonsense. Of course, everyone knows that. Rose, who has asked to be left inactive on game day, wants the same buyout offered to several former teammates.

-Jerome James still owns sneakers? The Post claims that the most indicitave blunder of the Thomas regime has designs on playing some defense once he returns from injury.

Monday's Starting Five

1. The Miami Dolphins. They have won a game this season. Cleo Lemon tossed a short pass to Greg Camarillo over the middle and this wide receiver whom most people have never heard of dashed over fifty yards down the field to defeat the Ravens in overtime. Understandably the Dolphins celebrated like they had just completed an undefeated season rather than like a team that just broke up the no-hitter that the league was throwing at them. Of course, this was all made possible because Billick played not to lose at the end of regulation and then the uber-reliable Matt Stover actually missed a field goal attempt in OT.

2. Arsenal. The Gunners were 1-0 winners over Chelsea in the latest installment of their London derby. Arsenal captain William Gallas put the home side ahead to stay with a clinical header after Chelsea keeper, Petr Cech badly misjudged a Fabregas corner shortly before halftime. In a predictably physical affair 10 yellow cards were handed out and John Terry was awarded one of those for a late clattering of the ebullient Fabregas. However, he was at the recieving end of such a tackle by Eboue, who was shown yellow himself for the trouble. The win leaves Arsenal up 1 point on ManU and 6 and 7 points ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.

3. Rich Rodriquez. The West Virginia football coach is about to sign on with the University of Michigan. The WVU alum passed on the big bucks that Alabama offered last season but he could not pass on the Big House in Ann Arbor. This is a HUGE blow for the Big East as West Virginia has gone 32-5 over the last three seasons and gave the conference a team that was nationally respected. It'll be interesting to see if Rodriquez brings his style of offense to Michigan or if he leaves it with Noel Devine and Co. in Morgantown.

4. Andy Pettitte. This Texan is far more savvy than his friend and mentor Roger Clemens. By stepping forward and "confessing" his two-time HGH use Pettite has taken control of his involvement in the Mitchell Report brouhaha. The public has taken him at his word in spite of the fact that there is no better reason to believe him now than there was a few years ago when he flat-out denied ever using any PEDs. Nevertheless, being forthcoming (even with falsehoods) is a far better PR move than obfuscating and admitting nothing. Roger should take note.

5. Stephon Marbury. After missing the past four games and five of the last seven games while mourning the death of his father, the beleaguered point guard returned to practice yesterday and plans on playing tonight when the Knicks take on the Pacers at the Garden. The Knicks have struggled without their point guard and by all accounts Steph has been struggling mightily as well ever since his father was felled by heart problems during a Knicks game on December 2nd.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

They won?!?!!!!!

I turn my backs for one night and they go and win a game!
Knicks top Nets, 94-86

There are few things that can get a struggling big man back on the straight and narrow then playing against the New Jersey Nets and Jason Collins. Curry stayed on the court for 38 minutes and scored 23 as the Knicks took their second straight from their cross-river sometimes rivals. .

The Recaps:
The Times
The News
The Post

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Curry Blows in Windy City

Knicks Lose to Bulls, 96 - 101

Starting Lineups:

Fred Jones
Jamal Crawford
Jared Jeffries
Zach Randolph
Eddy Curry

Kirk Hinrich
Ben Gordon
Luol Deng
Joe Smith
Ben Wallace

With Chicago native Quentin Richardson out with a knee injury the Knicks move another bench player into the starting lineup, Mr. Jared Jeffries. With Q, Curry and Isiah all from Chicago and Jamal and Curry both former Bulls and Q and Wilson Chandler both former DePaul players (not graduates or students) this Knicks squad has a strong connection to Chicago. Still, Isiah is booed when he is introduced because this town sees him as a Piston not as a local kid that made the big time. Heading to Indiana for college and then plying your pro trade in Detroit can make Chicago disown you pretty thoroughly. As they say, you can't go home again. I guess.

Jones hits a three, scoring the Knicks first points of the contest. Starting for the still grieving Stephon Marbury, Jones takes the shot that has traditionally been drawn up for Q at the start of every game. He hits it. And I must admit that in spite of my initial reluctance to see Jones getting time, he is making the most of his minutes. I still strongly believe that he doesn't have a job on a contending team but on this team, as it is currently playing, his effort is valuable in spite of his relative lack of game. He is fighting and scrapping for a job and therefore isn't taking plays off. He is playing with a purpose and with the passion of a guy who wants what his teammates already have: guaranteed money. At the very least he is going to take it hard in hopes of getting his. And that puts him ahead of most of his mates, who already have theirs.

Speaking of guy's with huge contracts and incredibly shrinking game, Eddy Curry literally whiffs at grabbing a rebound that caromed right to him off a Joe Smith miss in the openings minutes. On the Knicks next offensive possession he throws up a brick on a hook shot and, then, follows that up by fouling Ben Gordon as he scores at the other end. He hits the free throw.

Curry is a disaster right now. He has no confidence. Last year that baby hook was the new weapon that was going to make him the best offensive center in the East. It was why he dominated Dwight Howard in their matchup last year right before the All-Star Break. This year that shot looks ridiculous and desperate.

Gus Johnson and Clyde cannot ignore Curry's struggles, even if such honesty is roundly frowned upon by the Garden. Gus admits talking to Eddy about the recent stretch of poor play and shares a few bits of that conversation. Essentially, Curry admits that he can't play with Zach. We all know this at home. Everyone in the media and on the street corner called this when the deal was announced around the draft. At least once a game these two end up trying to post-up their man on the same block. Even worse, Zach - who is undeniably better at this point - gets pushed too far from the basket as Curry does his best to hold the paint hostage. This keeps a Big who can actually rebound away from the rim and forces Zach to become a six foot ten inch version of Jamal Crawford, which is fine when his shot is falling but when it's not then we lose him entirely from the offense.

The most shocking part of the conversation that Gus reveals is the phrase, uttered by Curry,"last year when Channing was here."

Curry is openly pining for Channing Frye! Now, don't get me wrong, Channing was a solid ballplayer who had his moments as a Knick. He was a soft but showed a nice shooting touch and on the right team could put in high teens every night. However, Zach Randolph is a superior player. As a scorer and a rebounder. It is deeply disturbing on so many levels that Curry would say something like this to Gus who is clearly going to share this quote with the wider world. This is a shot at Randolph and at Isiah. It is also an admission of failure that is more conscious than we've previously been privy to. It is ridiculous and disheartening to hear Curry wistfully look back to last season when the team was less talented and missed the playoffs but he scored more. And, this says nothing of the fact that the team has kept him rooted in the paint and made Zach adjust more to him than vice versa.

Regardless, Curry is replaced by David Lee a few minutes thanks to another foul and a turnover. He is just plain bad right now. Offenses gameplan to attack him on our defensive end and he isn't even making shots to match what he is giving up on the other end. All we can hope for while he is on the floor is that we trade baskets. That is our best-case scenario with 34 on the floor. And, even that is becoming less likely with each bricked hook shot.

Jamal, Zach and Fred Jones account for all the Knicks points over the course of the first quarter and maanage to keep them close. Mardy Collins makes an appearance of the bench, replacing Jeffries about midway through. Again, Isiah chooses to replace a frontcourt player with backcourt player. He has been pulling Curry for guards often during the big guy's heinous stretch. In this instance the substitution is dubious on two levels. One, where is Balkman? Two, why Mardy over Nate? Not too long ago Balkman and Robinson where key contributors off the bench yet Jeffries has started tonight and Mardy is the first guard to check in. Mardy has been ineffective ever since he got the starts during the ill-fated West Coast swing while Nate has scored consistently (if wildly) every time he's snuck onto the court lately.

Either way, Lee is the substitute seeing the most action. He is matched up with former University of Florida teammate Joakim Noah and the Bulls are running their offense through Noah down on the block. He can pass and handle extremely well for a someone who is at leats 6 feet and 10 inches tall. The two former Gators are battling one another and no matter what else is happening elsewhere on the court (not much) it is clear that this matchup matters to these two. Lee was always the upperclassman, the big brother and the more traditionally put together player whereas Noah is the wild-haired and snaggle-toothed upstart who won the titles are Lee left for the Majors.

Lee and the Knicks trail Noah and the Bulls 19-23 at the end of one.

The wayward Curry takes a break from holding a towel over his stitched-up lower lip to start the second quarter. Bulls backup PG obviously takes note of this fact and proceeds to drive straight into the paint. Two points. On the other end Curry manages to pick up a ball that Lee has tipped off the offensive glass. Curry goes back up with it. He misses the put back but does grab his own rebound. His second offering is blocked by Deng.

It takes two and half minutes for Curry to have another shot blocked. In the interim Mardy drives wildly at the hoop, David Lee posterizes Noah and Balkman finally checks into the game. However all that is mere prelude to Andres Nocioni's piece de resistance: The 6-7 small forward from Argentina blocks a dunk attempt by the 6-11 center Eddy Curry. Nocioni weighs 220 pounds. Curry weighs 285 pounds. And Nocioni turns away his dunk. A dunk. Kirk Hinrich picks up the shattered pieces of Curry's manhood and streaks down the floor. He dishes to Nocioni who nails a three from 25-feet. Bulls lead 23-32.

On the Knicks next possession David Lee scores again, he has accounted for the team's last 6 points. Mardy fouls Noah after he beats Lee to the hoop. Noah makes two free throws to get the Bulls lead back to nine. And, he were are. In danger of being down ten (again) in the first half the Knicks are trying to get the ball back in to Curry. Ben Wallace is fronting the post. Crawford lobs the ball just over the outstretched arm of Wallace. Curry grasps the ball, he spins and goes up for the dunk.

Nocioni blocks it. Again. Another blocked dunk. That was it.

Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph did their best to score enough points to give the team a puncher's chance and the Knicks would actually get themselves close enough to the Bulls were they were obligated to start fouling them late but they were not serious competitors after that moment. They were wholly emasculated by Curry's performance. Isiah knew it and kept Curry locked to the bench. He was replaced less than three minutes from the second block. He was replaced Malik Rose. They combined for 0 points.

Worth Noting:By the time the last horn sounded Hinrich had a triple-double and Randolph had another statistically impressive outing, 27 and 15.

A Vote of No Confidence

"I think Eddy is the type of player that, you know, who once he gets his offensive flow and his offensive rhythm, you know, everything else, know, kind of comes around for him and, you know, there's certain things that, you know, he probably ever won't be good at doing and, know, we just want to make sure the he keeps doing the things that he knows how to do well and, uh, make sure that he continues to do them well."
-Isiah Thomas on Eddy Curry

Before the game Isiah, for the first time that I've seen or heard about, addressed the extremely poor play of Eddy Curry. Or, "The Centerpiece" as he is touted in all the team's promotional material. Such frank discussion about Curry's deficiencies is as refreshing as that first blast of winter air on Seventh Avenue after being cooped up in the 400 level of the Garden during another home loss. Such honesty from someone who never is fortright is also a sure sign of how far out of favor the big man has fallen. Not too long ago Curry was the player around which this franchise was going to be built and know he is a guy who, according to Isiah, probably won't ever be able to play defense. He is at best a one-dimensional player who currently is struggling with his only strength.

The ironies and contradictions that this quote is pregnant with are enough to develop psychology syllabi around. Is this Isiah the coach blaming Isiah the GM for thinking Curry could be turned into a well-rounded player? Is this Isiah the coach endorsing Nature over Nurture? Curry is what he is and that is what he will always be. If so, why was he willing to bench Steph for not being something other than what he has always been while he seems accepting about such flaws when it comes to Curry? Either way, Curry is struggling so mightily that even the most obfuscating coach this side of Foxboro has been forced to admit it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

Performance Enhancing Drugs Edition

When People Try to Seem Clever By Reluctantly Agreeing that their Favorite Player Probably Did Use Steroids or HGH But Then Say That There's No Evidence That Steroids Help You Do Better at Baseball, So It Really Doesn't Matter Anyway.

Are you people serious? Are you that naive and helplessly devoted to the heroes of your youth that you can't admit that some of them are flawed, tax-evading, adulterous cheating-at-baseball jerks? Is your grip on reality so tenuous that to admit such a thing would crush your consciousness like an egg shell?

People who do steroids do them because STEROIDS MAKE YOU BETTER. They can't make you good but they can make you better. If you were naturally slated for a career with the Toledo Mud Hens then steroids will get you a few years with the Chicago White Sox. If you were naturally slated for a few years with the Kansas City Royals then steroids might make you a journeyman who bumps around the Majors for a decade. If you were naturally slated for a solid career with a few All-Star appearances then steroids will make you a perennial All-Star who will garner a few MVP votes in your most productive seasons. If you were naturally slated to be a perennial All-Star who would garner a few MVP votes in your most productive seasons then steroids will make you a two-time MVP with a decent shot at the Hall of Fame. If you were naturally slated to be a two-time MVP with a decent shot at the Hall of Fame then steroids will make you Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. You will break copious amounts of records and win awards with more regularity than most people have bowel movements.

For those that say that steroids don't really affect baseball performance and just affect size, let's look at Barry Bonds' career numbers. From 1986 through the end of the 1999 season Mr. Bonds hit 445 home runs. That's an average of 31.7 home runs per year over fourteen years. Looking at the numbers you would say that Bonds peaked in 1992, 1993 and 1994 when he was in his late twenties. With a few more seasons under his belt Barry could have cracked the 500 home run club even if his power numbers continued to decrease as they had been doing for the last four seasons. That sure sounds like a hall of fame career to me. Doesn't it?

Yet that's when the things skew wildly, culminating in the 73 home run season in 2001. He was 36 at the start of that season. 36 is old in baseball. Really old. AARP old. Bad knees, being traded and finishing your career in a uniform that doesn't make sense old. What Bonds did is literally unbelievable. He had never had a 50 home run season before 2001. He had never had a 60 home run season. He only broke 45 home runs one time. This was more than twice the number of home runs he hit on average per season during the first fourteen years of his career. These numbers have been crunched everywhere so I won't keep going, but you get the message. Right?

So, you should know that I can see through your clever rouse of trying to placate me by conceding that Player X took steroids while remaining defiant about the significance of that fact. I appreciate your willingness to agree with everyone else. That's great, we're all thrilled that you'll concede that point to REALITY. However, you really start grinding my gears when you start talking about how hand-eye coordination and timing and focus and concentration are separate faculties from power and speed and therefore Todd Hundley would have jumped from 15 home runs to 41 in one season whether he was shooting up with steroids or not.

Oh, wait the defensive strategies that you use to protect Clemens and Tejada and McGuire don't apply to a guy like Hundley or Guillermo Mota or Brian Roberts?

Oh, you know why? Because the things you say don't make any sense at all because your overly emotional attachment to the bulky fellow featured in the Costacos Brothers poster on your bedroom wall prevents you from dealing in reason or logic on this issue. And, your unreasonable assertions really grind my gears.

Around the Internets in Eight Minutes

Vintage NBA Video Edition

1) The S.W.A.T. Team

2) The NBA: Where Amazing Happens

3) 3:43 of the Best Dunks Ever

4) The Jovial Enforcer Slaps Pippen in the Face

5) Shawn Kemp Dunking Basketballs

Friday's Starting Five

1) Mario Williams. He is number one in the Starting Five. He was number one on draft day. And apparently he deserves it. He was dominant last night as his Texans beat the Donkeys on NFL network. Williams has 3.5 sacks last night and looks like he is on his way to the Pro Bowl. Meanwhile, the sky is falling on Reggie Bush and it feels like Vince Young has thrown one and a half touchdown passes since Halloween.

2) Frank Thomas. Apparently Thomas was one of the only players who voluntarily cooperated with Mitchell during his investigation. Thomas willingly cooperated and came out smelling like a daisy. If you throw out a few injury plagued seasons, a seemingly clean Frank Thomas might emerge as the best power hitter of his generation. I'm OK with that. Maybe it'll make those rookie cards that I was hording go up a few bucks.

3) Tony Taylor. Who? The first gent to plead guilty in the Vick dogfighting case. He was sentenced to just two months in prison for his role. The other two, non NFL, guys charged received 18 and 21 months respectively.

4) Kobe Bryant. The Lakers beat the Spurs last night. Kobe put up 30 and he is allegedly happy in Los Angeles. All I take that to mean is that he'll still be there when they come to NYC next Sunday.

5) TJ Ford. Thankfully the Raptors guard is OK after getting knocked down very, very hard by Al Horford of the Hawks. After being released from the hospital and flying home to Toronto I hope that someone is having a long talk with him about his future. Not as a ballplayer but as an upright, walking around guy. Ford was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the openings of the vertebra the spinal cord runs through, in 2001. That sounds pretty serious. I'm just saying.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"That's Not True...That's Impossible"

What? No! Please God in Heaven Say it Ain't So! Please tell me that Lenny "Nails" Dysktra never took performance enhancing drugs.

I haven't had a chance to sift through the HUNDREDS of pages of the Mitchell Report. Yet. Since, you know, I have a real job. One that requires attention and task completion. However, here is Deadspin's list of players named within the report.

All of this anticipation to know that some of the guys we thought did steroids did, in fact, do steroid and that a lot of the people who we thought did steroids but aren't on this list probably did them too but in a less obvious way that saves them some public embarrassment.

Thursday's Starting Five

1. George Mitchell. The former Senator from Maine and Disney executive who is currently under the employ of the Boston Red Sox will release his report on PEDs in baseball this afternoon. The sports world is aflutter with anticipation, nervousness and holier-than-thou-ism. Based on the obsession with the number of names included it seems likely that this is just more "gotcha" politics at work rather than any substantial referendum on what went wrong and how to fix it. Frankly, I don't care if we can confirm that Roger Clemens did steroids with Andy Pettite in a heart-shaped jacuzzi at the Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos and I'm afraid that is all we're going to get today. Moreover, if the "evidence" is largely based on the information provided by one former clubhouse employee of the Mets then I will not think this "report" is worth too much. After all, if no one, absolutely no one, in the game cooperated and no expansive testing was done then what are we looking at? If the government wanted to write a report on the recreational drug problem amongst American youth and they based said report on the testimony of the guy who sold pot at my high school who was trying to stay out of jail for selling MadDog 20/20 to minors then I wouldn't be too impressed. I mean, they might know a lot about about a few friends of mine but not much about anything else. In other words, Radmonski's knowledge about Todd Hundley doesn't solve any problems or tell us anything that we can't gleand by thinking about 15 homers in 1995 followed by 41 in 1996.

2. Game film. I like how the Pats in some wondrous attempt to dupe a public that they have no respect for "outed" the Jets for having game film, for filming a game last season with permission in the same manner that every team does every week. The best part: that for the first twelve hours of this story the headline on every sports website and ticker read like the Jets had been caught cheating just the same as the Pats. Thankfully, by this morning it seemed like everyone saw this smokescreen for what it was and realized that the story was a nonstarter. Now, we can get back to wondering how many dozens of points the margin of victory will be.

3. The Big Baby. Pressed into starting duty last night for the Celtics, Glen Davis came through characteristically BIG. I see him as a darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate (and I saw Durant in person last night).

4. Roger Clemens. Finally, maybe, just hopefully, we can put aside some of the hero worship at long last. After last year's grand theft payroll from the Yankees, the multiple faux-retirements and his (allegedly) being named in the Mitchell Report can we finally stop thinking this guy can walk on water? He is the pitching version of Barry Bonds. He is great at what he does and was before he hit the hot sauce. But he is also an endlessly egocentric ballplayer who cheated his way back to glory after slipping a bit in Boston.

5. Steve Nash. Busts his tooth and still helps the Suns beat the Jazz. Between the bloody nose during the playoffs and the chipped tooth last night this Canadian is really giving those hockey fans in the great white north something that they can get behind.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Remember this guy?

Well, he remembers you. And, that spot on the floor about midway around the horn between the elbow and the corner and 16 feet from the hoop. Kurt Thomas skipped down the court popping his jersey and jawing with the crowd after hitting a HUGE shot from that favorite spot of his. O'l crazy eyes helped seal the victory for the Sonics down the stretch with five points in the last 2 and half minutes.

Around the Internets in Eight Minutes

-What's Worse? A sip of curdled milk or the smell of someone else's vomit? What Worse? Cam Cameron as your coach or Isiah Thomas?

-Larry Bird + 1982 + tight, blue jeans + roller skating = AWESOME

-NBAer Mike Miller owns a monkey. Hilarity ensues.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Sonics

There are only two reasons to watch or attend tonight's game:

1. Kevin Durant

2. Kevin Durant

Talk Show Fodder

That is what the Knicks are these days. Here are some folks wondering why.

We said, He said


Isiah: "I fight 'til I die. It's not about giving up or quitting. To me, it's win or die. I literally mean death, I don't mean 'walk away.' I mean death. That's how I have coached. We've got a job to do here and we're going to get it done. I'm confident we have the right players and confident we have the right people, and we'll dig our way out of this."

We: "Boooooooooo"

Zach Randolph: "It's real hard. I ain't never been in a situation like that and I don't understand. I guess they say it's New York fans, but you know it's real tough. Honestly. Especially for me, because I've never experienced every time a player walks off the court you're booing.


Guy sitting in front of me: "You don't deserve to wear number 34"

Me: "Jesus Christ Curry, grab a f*#king rebound!"

Eddy Curry: Wimper, wimper.*


Dolan: (via flunky Barry Watkins) "I'm not considering removing Thomas from his dual role as president and coach."


Isiah: According to courtside fan, Thomas invoked the phrase "Sixth Man," explaining what a crowd should be. Thomas mentioned Indiana and North Carolina as crowds that the Garden should emulate.

*I'm paraphrasing

The Better Half

(ESPN has Erin Andrews, FOX has Pam Oliver, ABC has Michelle Tafoya and What Would Oakley Do? has Becca. Please join me in welcoming our first-ever sideline reporter/guest columnist. "The Better Half" will appear in this space each and every week and will feature the best, brightest and prettiest sports-related musings in all of the land in an attempt to explain what our girlfriends and wives are thinking when we ask them if they want to order wings before the Giants game starts.)

The Better Half
Episode Four
If I Was That Bad At My Job I'd Be Fired By Now: A Haiku Inspired By
Courtney Rabb

Went to the Knicks Game
And guess what? They lost again.
Please Fire Isiah

Wednesday's Starting Five

1) Bobby Petrino. The now former-Falcon has flapped his leathery wings over to Arkansas where he will be head coach of the football team, replacing the ignominiously fired and comically named Houston Nutt. It seemed appropriate that this press conference was held in the middle of the night. Petrino has never stayed at one gig for more than four years (Louisville) and seems eager to out-Saban Nick Saban in his own SEC backyard. And, if I were Brian Brohm I might be a little nervous. Everyone assumed that in spite of his team's lackluster season (although he still put up great numbers) that he would be drafted by his old coach in Atlanta near the top of the draft and get all that top of the draft money. What now?

2) Fukodome. Superstar Japanese outfielder with any number of obscene nicknames has inked a 4-year deal with the Cubs.

3) The Jets. Opened up as 27-point road 'dogs to the Pats. I hear the line is currently a bargain at 24 points. The Jets are not going the Steelers route and are speaking meekly about their chances. Meanwhile, every fantasy football team is adding Patriots in anticipation of the 80-points that Brady and Moss are going to hang on these guys in retaliation for revealing the spying that they do. You've got to wonder what each coach has cooked up for the other. Does Belichick leave his punter inactive and go for it on fourth down every time? Does Mangini have some sort of Chad/Kellen combo gameplan to catch the Pats off guard?

4) George Mitchell. The long-awaited report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball by a one-time politician, one-time Disney exec and current employee of the Boston Red Sox (talk about conflictS of interest) is set to be released tomorrow at 2pm. Will this be the moment that we've all been waiting for (definitive appraisal and judgement of the steroid era with concrete suggestions for addressing the issues of records and the manner in which future and retroactive punishment should be handled), a rupper stamp of the league's slightly beefed up testing or a pointless sacrifice of a handful (anywhere from 5 to 50) of players without any substantive change or alteration in the drug culture? We'll see. Soon.

5) Lebron James. The King was back on the court last night and the Cavs beat the Pacers to get back on track. Lebron took the floor (suprisingly as a sub) with recently returned from exile forward Anderson Varejoa.

Benched: Tuesday. Who needs it? I don't.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

11,500,000 more reasons to fire Isiah Thomas

According to the NY Times (and then everyone else), Madison Square Garden settled with Anucha Browne Sanders and ended all appeals. The Garden agreed to pay Sanders $11.5 million which is $100,000 less than what she had been awarded in the original sexual harassment trial. I guess MSG sees that savings as a moral victory. I guess. If you describe moral victory as tacit admission of guilt and forfeiture of massive amounts of capitol that could otherwise be reinvested in your organization.

Of course, Isiah was defiant and maintained his innocence when asked about all this after the Knicks loss to the Mavs. In spite of such hilarity, my favorite part of the latest chapter in this cautionary tale is that the Garden decided to settle "at the strong request" of David Stern.

Perhaps with the appeals no longer pending Dolan and his cronies will fire Thomas. Maybe. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Fantlantic

Or, A Fantasy Basketball League that Simulates the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference

One of the many (legitimate) knocks against Isiah Thomas and the current incarnation of the New York Knickerbockers is that they've been built like a fantasy team rather than like an actual team. The team starts five scorers and has no defensive-minded role players in that first unit. The team has no chemistry and is chock-full of me-first fellows. Every single player in the starting lineup could put up thirty points on any given night. And, they all want to every single night. Yep, that does sound like a fantasy team to me.

And, perhaps if the NBA somehow bent the rules and allowed the Knicks to start Balkman and Lee every night along with the other five guys in some sort of "Utility" positions then, just maybe, the team would be able to compete like they were truly intended.

Scouring the world for such illogical means for hope and burdened with an overabundance of free time when not at work I set about creating the Fantlantic. The Fantlantic is the Fantasy Atlantic Division and it includes all five teams from the Atlantic Division (Boston, NY, NJ, Philly and Toronto) of the NBA's Eastern Conference. Each team is composed of the players currently on their roster and all players are active nightly so that all stats count.

The Fantlantic lives on the Yahoo Fantasy Sports website and is a rotisserie league, meaning that rankings are tabulated by comparing the stats accumulated by each competing team in a variety of categories. The categories being scored in this league are field goals made, field goal percentage, free throws attempted, free throws made, free throw percentage, three-point shots made, three-point shooting percentage, points, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and turnovers. This is the maximum number of categories that Yahoo allows.

The Fantlantic has been accumulating and compiling stats since the season tipped off last month. I waited until now to share this with the home-viewer because the "conference season" for the Atlantic didn't really kick off until this past week. The Knicks played at NJ last Wednesday and then had the double-dip with Philly this weekend. Meanwhile Boston also played Toronto on Friday. We've now got enough of a sample-size to see what this all looks like.

1. Celtics (55.5 points): The C's lead the fantasy league in FG%, DReb and steals. They are second in FTM, FT%, 3PTM, 3PT%, points, and assists. They are not last in any category and are the most balanced and consistently dominant team.

2. Raptors (48 points): Toronto ranks first in more statistical categories than anyone else, leading the Fantlantic in FGM, FT%, 3PTM, 3PT%, points, assists and turnovers. However, they show weaknesses in the other stat categories with last place rankings for FTA, FTM, OReb, Reb and blocks. They actually have fewer blocked shots than the Knicks. Impressive.

3. Nets (45.5 points): Oh, mediocrity. Thy home is the Meadowlands. Thy smell is tire fires. The Nets hold, or share, 4 first place ranks (FTA, FT, DReb and Reb) while being last in four other categories (FGM, FG%, steals and turnovers). And, not surprisingly, they rank right in the middle (3rd) in every other category.

4. 76ers (39 points): They're bad at most everything. They have a safe lead in the blocked shot department and that's about it. They're also last in all the 3PT shooting categories showing that offensively and defensively their strength is closer to the rim.

5. Knicks (37 points): The Knicks aren't much worse off than the Sixers from a fantasy standpoint, no matter what happened this past weekend. However, they are currently at the bottom of the Fantlantic. Most embarrassingly they rank last in points scored. For a team that starts five score-first players with offensive (in both terms of the word) reputations this must be particularly galling. The only bright spot is their top ranking in offensive rebounding. However, the fact that they miss so many shots (2nd worst FG%) probably helps make this possible.

Thus far, everything has played to form. The Celtics are good. The Knicks are bad. No surprises yet.

Therefore, the most interesting aspect of the league has been the ability to see the rankings of the individual players and how they compare to one another from a fantasy perspective. The Celtics have three of the top four fantasy ballers in the Fantlantic and their entire starting lineup figures in the Top 25. Conversely, the Knicks don't have anyone ranked in the top ten. Jamal Crawford is the highest rated Knick at 13 and David Lee isn't too far behind him. Meanwhile the Nets have two players in the top five and they still are an awful underachieving team.

Top 15 Fantlantic Players (overall NBA rank according to Yahoo):
1. Kevin Garnett (3)
2. Richard Jefferson (21)
3. Paul Pierce (31)
4. Ray Allen (34)
5. Jason Kidd (41)
6. Andre Iguodola (44)
7. Jose Calderon (50)
8. Carlos Delfino (56)
9. Chris Bosh (57)
10. Anthony Parker (66)
11. Samuel Dalembert (69)
12. Vince Carter (71)
13. Jamal Crawford (93)
14. Jamario Moon (94)
15. David Lee (99)

..and other notable players include...
18. Louis Williams (118)
20. Andre Miller (126)
23. Stephon Marbury (146)
29. Quentin Richardson (186)
30. Eddy Curry (190)
33. Nate Robinson (213)
35. Zach Randolph
36. Fred Jones (220)
48. Jared Jeffries (318)
52. Mardy Collins (362)

The battle for the worst fantasy baller in the Fantlantic is currently being waged between two NJ Nets big men: Jason Collins and Jamal Magloire.

Each week I'll give an update on the latest standings in The Fantlantic to see how much of a correlation there is between fantasy sports and reality sports. We'll find out if Isiah Thomas is any better as a fantasy sports manager than he is a reality sports manager. So far, it doesn't look like it.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Mavs

That was quick.

We're about a month into the season and I'm already out of people to attend games with. I actually cannot give away a Knicks ticket to girlfriend, friend or family member.

But, I'm going. I think. Alone, most likely. I'll swing by on the way home from work, spend a few minutes in a ten dolllar seat and see what happens. Maybe the Knicks will show up and make me glad that I am pathologically interested in what they do. Maybe Dirk Nowitzki will perform some feat of agility and athleticism that will amaze me enough to soften my views on the Germanic peoples. Or maybe the Knicks will allow the Mavs to put up 37 or more (which has happened on at least two occassions) in the first quarer. allowing me to go home early.

In fact, if the Mavs put up 37 in the first then I will definitely be heading home after one. Well, unless the score is 37-37. Then I'll probably hang around for a bit longer. Like until halftime, when the score would likely be 43-74. At that point, I would depart to catch the Monday Night Football game upon which every fantasy league depends: Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints.

Other reasons why I will leave the game after one quarter:
1) The Knicks are down by a dozen.
2) Eddy Curry has zero rebounds.
3) Zach Randolph has zero rebounds.
4) Erick Dampier has ten or more points because neither Zach nor Eddy can stop him.
5) Fred Jones has more turnovers than assists.
6) Jamal Crawford has more turnovers than made field goals.

If any (or all) of these things happen I'd be out early enough that my whole night isn't shot and I can be home just in case the Knicks were to stage some sort of comeback.

And, the game:

The Mavs have won 10 of their last 11 against the Knicks. And it took overtime last year to scratch out that lone win. Still, the Mavs have struggled on the road so far this season (4-6), so there is some reason to think that our bizarro home-court advantage will throw them off. I don't think teams are prepared for the hostility in our building. Yes, most of that hostility is directed at Jimmy Dolan and Coach Thomas but I think it is unnerving for everyone down on the floor. In any case, it will take some extra-ordinary (in other words, not ordinary) play by some person or persons in this game for the Knicks to win. The Mavs have the reigning NBA MVP and Dirk might only be the second best player on this team right now. Josh Howard put up 47 over the weekend and that's not a fluke. The guy is very good. And so are his teammates. They have to play poorly (by their standards) and the Knicks have to play to their potential and not to their record for this to work out in our favor.

And, for your pre-game viewing pleasure:

Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!

(What the Pros are writing about the Knicks today)

-Andrew Marchand reports on (and presumably on 1050 ESPN Radio in NYC) that Stephon is not going to play tonight. I was shocked that he played this weekend and totally endorse him sitting out as long as he needs to deal with the death of his father. The circumstances surround his death were awful. And, unlike most athletes who can use the court/field as a refuge, Marbury is constantly reminded of his father's death during home games because his father died at a home game. Work can't be an escape if every trip down the court brings you past the center-court seats that his parents were occupying last Sunday night. In a related note, I was happy to see that fans cheered Marbury when he was introduced on Saturday night. There was not even a trace of booing to be heard from my seat. There were no ovations or effusive chants but it seems like he at least got back to a baseline of acceptance. I hope so.

-Marc Berman at the Post is reporting that Malik Rose wants to be listed as inactive on gamedays if he doesn't figure into the rotation. This would allow him to engage in a full-on workout each and every day so that he can be in shape if is to be traded or to find himself thrust into duty because of injury. Rose is still due a fair amount of money so he would probably only be dealt in a deal with one of the younger and more desirable players on the roster. Hmm....

-Knicks are still 3rd from bottom on the ESPN and SI power rankings for this week. I'm actually pleasantly surprised that we're not last. Minnesota holds that distinction.

-Forbes Magazine ranks the Knicks as the most valuable NBA franchise. Let's give Jimmy Dolan another couple years and I bet he can drop us down a bit.

Around the Internets in Eight Minutes

-Say it aint so, Ed! I'd imagine that hell must have frozen over seveal hours before it got cold enough for the burliest official in the history of officiating and burliness was forced to don long sleaves.

-There are some who think that Tim Tebow draws power from Earth's yellow sun.

-David Eckstein is, apparently, pretty darn nervous about this Mitchell Report.

Monday's Starting Five

1) Tim Tebow. The sophomore sensation from Florida won the Heisman on Saturday night. He's responsible for over 50 touchdowns so far this season with 20+ each on the ground and through the air. He is 20 years old, a beast of football player, the son of a clergyman (just like the two other Florida QBs who have won the Heisman, Spurrier and Wuerffel) and very, very religious. If Jon Kitna was not above jealousy then he would be feeling it now since JC is clearly doing his rooting on Saturday rather than Sunday. Which, I guess, makes sense.

2) Pretty Boy Floyd/Boxing. Split decision. The Pretty One is 39-0. I was walking to the subway after a few post-Knicks game drinks on Saturday night (an absolute necessity) and there was a huge crowd gathered outside of the bar across the street. About two dozen folks were standing in the cold to watch the fight through the front window. It's been a while since that has probably happened in midtown and I think it is a good sign for boxing.

3) Randy Moss, Jabar Gaffney and anyone else who got matched up against Anthony Smith. Seemingly every big-play the Pats made came right over the outstretched arm of the mouthy second-year safety. Even if the "guarantee" was taken largely out of context he still got torched.

4) Armanti Edwards. The QB from Appalachian State rushed for 313 yards and four touchdowns AND tossed for three more touchdowns as he lead his squad to the finals of whatever we're calling Div. 1-AA these days.

5) Owners of the #1 draft pick in their fantasy football league (this includes me): Finally LT shows up with a huge game when you, hopefully, needed it most.

Benched: Mike Vick. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison. That's a long while.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Knicks 167 - 206 Sixers

This was the weekend that the Knicks were going to get healthy. This was supposed to be the weekend when we opened up the conference schedule (which began with the W at NJ on Wednesday) on a positive note and settled in for long homestand. Instead, the Knickerbockers were thoroughly outplayed in a 96 minute, home-and-home set with the Philadelphia 76ers this weekend. The first four quarters took place in Philly on Friday and the second four took place at MSG on Saturday night.

The Knicks were outscored by 4 points in the 1st quarter(s).
The Knicks were outscored by 13 points in the 2nd quarter(s).
The Knicks were outscored by 7 points in the 3rd quarter(s)
THe Knicks were outscored by 16 points in the 4th quarter(s).

The Knicks were outrebounded during that span, 68 to 92. Eddy Curry managed only 7 rebounds for the whole weekend. He is listed at 6 feet and 11 inches tall. He weighs 269 pounds. Yet, in a combined 46 minutes of play he only collected 7 rebounds. 8 players tore down that many in a single game this weekend. Kyle Korver had more rebounds this weekend with 8.

Curry also had 18 points in the span of two games. His entire career is predicated on his offensive production. We allegedly condone the lack of rebounding and defense and intelligent play because he can fill it up. And, yet Samuel Dalembert (a center whose entire career is predicated on rebounding and defense and shot blocking) scored 20 points on Saturday alone.

Of course, Curry was not the only Knick with an abysmal showing. As a team the Knicks made only 62 of 156 shots while the Sixers made 85 of 167. The Knicks needed to take 41 three-point attempts to get 13 of them to go down yet the Sixers got 11 to fall pure while only tossing up 22 attempts.

Most notably, Zach Randolph racked up 6 points this weekend. 6 points. Our indomitable, unstoppable offensive juggernaut of a frontcourt contributed 24 points through the weekend. 24 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, 6 assists, 1 steal and 5 turnovers. It took them two games against a bad team to do this. Those are great numbers for a single all-star but not the aggregate total for two players who claim such status.

And, yes, I am a masochist for putting all of these numbers together. But then again so was everyone else who sat through the second half of Saturday's game. Saturday night was as bad as it gets and yet Isiah Thomas has not been fired. He hasn't even been put on notice that he's got to shape up or be shipped out (on the 110-foot S.S. Severance that Dolan has docked at Chelsea Piers). In fact, Dolan apparently came out yesterday with a vote confidence for his overmatched coach. I am utterly befuddled by this and need to stop attempting to decipher the logic of such inaction. It is entirely illogical.

New York Knicks: This is Your Life

The television program Outside the Lines paints a devastating portrait of Jim Dolan and the Knicks. From Earl Monroe, Derek Harper and Allan Houston, Jeff Van Gundy and David Stern they've really got just about everyone you'd want to hear from. I think I can even hear myself booing during the clip from the Warriors game.

It's more important to watch than any game the Knicks are likely to play any time soon and is great thing to take a look at after the Jets fall behind this afternoon.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pre-Gaming: Knicks at Sixers (Redux)

Two hours until tip-off of the back end of the home-and-home. The Knicks went down meekly last night. Stephon wasn't himself at all. Curry can't play defense. David Lee put up numbers given the minutes. Q is a professional caliber player both mentally and physically. Same old.

If the Knicks fall behind tonight it could get ugly at the Garden. The Sixers are not good enough to sweep a weekend against a team hoping to succeed. And, it's Saturday night so we're all going to be drinking and looking to have good time. Either with the Knicks or at their expense.

We'll do a big recap on all 8 quarters between these two teams tomorrow. I'm pretending that we're playing UEFA-style aggregate scoring and that the Knicks can still win the weekend...

We'll Always Have Vegas

P.S. You ain't gonna catch me riding dirty. Seriously. You will not catch me.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Clyde: "This is a revelation, folks, that you're seeing from Evans."

Gus Johnson: "That's usually what happens with this Knicks team. They will face an opponent and allow a player that normally doesn't do a whole lot to start the game extremely well."

So, Curry started. He and Randolph have seemingly given up a half dozen offensive rebounds to the Sixers in the first few minutes and the Knicks trail early. Andre Miller and Iguodola are feeding the ball into the post to Dalembert and Evans who are eating the Knicks frontcourt alive. These guys are not skilled offensive players but Sixers gameplan in the 1st is to ride them against such a bad defensive unit. It's working so far. Lee and Balkman can't get on the floor soon enough...

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Sixers


Actually the games are Friday and Saturday. And one is at the Garden and the other is in Philly. But these two teams are engaging a battle for last place in the Atlantic Division and somehow it feels sort of like going out to Long Island to watch big, beat-up monster trucks slam into each while on fire. You know?

The Knicks are more talented while the Sixers have more hope. Their Isiah Thomas was just fired (Billy King) and replaced with the Ed Stefanksi of the NJ Nets. And, the just lost to the Celtics by ten points. So, if you do the math then they should still beat the Knicks by forty.

According to other people, Marbury will be playing tonight. Eddy Curry is a game-time decision with his practice-related injury. Here's what he had to say about that:

"It was a freak accident," Curry said. "I don't know how it happened. Just something freak. Everyone was cracking up. I just rolled it, fell to the floor."

This quote from Eddy seems to confirm my suspicion that he injured himself just messing around during the shootaround. If he had rolled his ankle during a scrimmage or during some other sort of useful and strenuous activity then I doubt that "everyone was cracking up" when they saw it.

Reading this quote really makes me hope that Curry doesn't play. His defensive inabilities are too glaring for him to be our starting center. I'd much rather see us play a bit smaller with Randolph at center and Lee at power forward. Zach might actually be able to pull Dalembert away from the hoop which would open up space for everyone else inside. If Curry plays than Dalembert can park himself in the paint and block shots at will from anyone who penetrates.

Other things to watch for:
-Andre Miller. He's been on a tear as of late and is the most trade-able asset in the league right now. Every night for him is an audition for everyone else.

-Nate Robison. He has been laminated onto the bench lately.

-The Tone. Tonight is the first of back-to-back, home-and-home games and it will be important to set the tone from the opening whistle. A slow start could potentially cost us two games.

The Better Half

(ESPN has Erin Andrews, FOX has Pam Oliver, ABC has Michelle Tafoya and What Would Oakley Do? has Becca. Please join me in welcoming our first-ever sideline reporter/guest columnist. "The Better Half" will appear in this space each and every week and will feature the best, brightest and prettiest sports-related musings in all of the land in an attempt to explain what our girlfriends and wives are thinking when we ask them if they want to order wings before the Giants game starts.)

The Better Half
Episode Three
I Was There

It wasn’t exactly dinner and a movie. But it was still a date with two parts: A movie and a basketball game, one right after the other. Something she wants to do (and he does too), then something that he wants to do (and she does too). I had been eagerly awaiting the Todd Haynes movie I’m Not There, about the multiple personas of Bob Dylan. I remember being driven to school in my dad’s car when I first heard "Ballad of a Thin Man," I think my freshman year of high school. Not only did I fall in love with Bob Dylan (I do remember that moment in the car very specifically), but I was forced to realize that everything my parents liked wasn’t lame. It was a big day.

Anyway, the Dylan movie was weird at times, but it was still great. Cate Blanchett (one of the six different people to play Bob) is one of the most amazing people on earth. If you don’t agree then I don’t really want to be your friend. She was Bob Dylan. I hate using the word uncanny, but it was uncanny. And I fell in love with Dylan all over again. It only takes one Dylan harmonica blast to give me that burst of ohmygodheissoamazing. One of my favorite parts was at the end, where Haynes shows a real clip from Dylan’s show at Royal Albert Hall in ’66. It’s that part where he plays the harmonica forever and ever during Mr. Tambourine Man. It’s beautiful and perfect, and a gorgeous ending for the movie.

Chris and I exchanged opinions (he likes the movie too) on the subway while scrambling south from Columbus Circle (where we saw the movie) in hopes of catching my favorite part of the pre-game, when the lights turn off and they announce the players one by one. It’s so exciting! My dismay that the game has begun (and the Knicks are losing) when we get there is assuaged by the fact that the concession stand by our seats is serving knishes along with the usual stuff. Which is a big deal. Sometimes they have them and sometimes they don’t. Frankly, it is a problem.

Armed with potato-y goodness we settle into cramped seats in the middle of the row. The Knicks are down by 9 points at the end of the first quarter, and I think I should have stayed at the movie theater to see Margot at the Wedding. The team continues to be down by 14, 10, 14, a hundred thousand million for like an hour. But then the Knicks start to catch up and then they take the lead. I am cheering. I am so nervous. Milwaukee (that's who the Knicks were playing) has a chance to tie but they miss two three-pointers. The Knicks win!! It is one of those movie moments, tingly feeling and sparkly. It is the sort of excitement that once felt like a distant excitement that other people felt and that I never got, but now it is mine and it is such a rush.

On the subway, I remove my magnetic Knicks schedule (they were handing them out when you got there) while digging through my purse, and two people ask me if the Knicks win. I say yes, and both ask again like they didn’t hear me right. And, THEN one of the guys says, “That was a quite a game last night.” I totally know he is talking about when they lost by seven jillion points to the Celtics so we talked about the game! Like friends or like strangers with something in common.

I’m a New Yorker talking about the Knicks while riding on the subway. It’s big moment. And a good night.

Around the Internets in Eight Minutes

-The true story behind BC getting screwed by the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

-Remember Slamball? Darius Miles does. And it confuses him.

-If you thought that I was wasting a lot of time for no particular purpose than you need to see this comprehensive list of every unnecessary nickname that Chris Berman has made us endure during his broadcasting career. My favorite Mets-related are probably Todd Good Housekeeping Zeile and John Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

-Thanks to Anna Rawson the LPGA is going to on TV a lot.

"Desperation is a Stinky Cologne"

Seemingly every web page I visit today has a banner advertisement for tomorrow night's Knicks/Sixers tilt at the Garden.

Nate is getting more face time with these ads on than he has gotten playing time in the past week. I hope he is getting some kickbacks on this. For his sake.

I'd make fun of this some more but I'm actually going to the game. To experience Knicks basketball.

Friday's Starting Five

1) Allen Iverson. Yeah, he is the Answer. He scored 35 points had 12 assists and 6 steals as the Nuggets beat down the Mavs.

2) Lute Olsen. The father of the hoopcats is extending his leave absence for the entire season. He is still remaining mum on the reasons. Some people respect this. Others get angry. If you like, you can watch them argue this on television.

3) Todd Collins. Perennial backup comes in for knee-capped Campbell and leads Skins over Bears. Collins hadn't scored a touchdown since nineteen ought twelve and hadn't tossed a pass in the NFL in three years. And, he was still good enough to beat Rex Grossman.

4) Greg Schiano. The Rutgers head coach is being interviewed for the Michigan job. It is both a good thing and a bad thing that Michigan wants to take Schiano out of Piscataway. It becomes a great thing if he turns them down like he did with Miami last year. Potentially losing their coach and Ray Rice at the same time could land Rutgers back where they came from. Real quick.

5) The SEC. Tebow (Florida), McFadden (Arkansas) and Dorsey (LSU) take home nearly every major College Football Award at last night's awards-giving-out fiesta.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Around the Internets in Eight Minutes

-Ever wonder if Vic Frankenstein had only been able to choose the worst traits of NBA players when making his MONSTER?

-Whoever writes the NFL Injury Report will be sad when Steve McNair finally retires.

-Like Star Wars? Not as much as these people.

Thursday's Starting Five

1) Allen Iverson scored a season-high 51 last night against the Lakers but Kobe scored when it mattered and the Lakers won. At one point in the third quarter, I think, Iverson was 17 for 20 from the field. Meanwhile, Marcus Camby had 20 rebounds to go with zero points. Between 'Melo and Iverson there aren't really too many extra shots to go around.

2) Texas Tech. Bobby's boy went on a 42 to 1 run to out-tech Louisiana Tech. So, I guess the Knicks and the kids from La. Tech should probably form some sort of support group. They can do trust falls and talk about those recurring dreams when they are down by one hundred million points in a public place.

3) Andruw Jones. The expanding center fielder inked a two-year deal with the Dodgers worth over $36 million. And, another Mets nemesis has packed up and moved out of the division...

4) Todd Bertuzzi. Sort of. Apparently there are television networks in Canada. One of them reported that Todd Bertuzzi's brutal 2004 hit on Steve Moore (who ended up with a broken neck and a concussion) was actually ordered by Bertuzzi's coach at the time. This wasn't mentioned until now? Even when Bertuzzi was sitting at home during his 17-month suspension?

5) Nominees for the Offensive Player of the Year, Preferably on a BCS Team Award were announced last night. Tim Tebow comes to New York City for the first time in his life, covered in Bible pages and soaked in holy water and forearm sweat. Once here, he'll probably get a nice steak dinner with Chase Daniels and Darren McFadden. Colt Brennan will eat alone.

There's No Place Like Home. Except for New Jersey.

Knicks beat Nets (100-93) to pick up First Road Win of the Season.

In spite of those surprising reports that Marbury might play, the Knicks took the court in NJ last night wihout him. However, his was not the only absence. Eddy Curry missed the game because he injured his ankle in the morning shoot around. Seriously? Your best player is going to miss the game and you hurt yourself warming up? Obviously it is entirely possible to roll an ankle practicing. Heck, I've done it just getting out of bed. But, having seen the Knicks shoot around prior to the five home games I've attended, this news makes my brain hurt.

The Knicks shoot around during the pre-game is haphazard and devoid of purpose. Of course it is. Could it be any other way? While other teams are running synchronized layup lines, bounce passing, waiting their turn, saying please and thank you and rebounding their teammates missed shots; the Knicks are ten men moving independent of the next. Randolph is heaving up off-balance three point shots. Nate is driving wildly to the hoop. Some folks are taking layups. Others are taking foul shots. Almost no one is practicing anything that they will do in a game situation. Well, unless we're going to call that play were David Lee needs to a take a fadeaway turnaround bank-shot from the right corner. Meanwhile, Eddy Curry is normally hanging out as far from the basket as he can lest he accidentally have to rebound a missed shot. He's either "stretching" just as well as I played violin in the 3rd grade. In other words, he's faking it so that his parents, who came to the gym at Woodside Elementary school to see the musical show with all of the other parents, think that he is playing. And, when he isn't fake-stretching he is yapping it up with the opposition or just sort of standing their by himself. A couple of times I swear he is dancing. So, the thought of him hurting himself in a shoot-around is infuriating because, if what I've seen is any indication, this injury occurred during some half-joking game of horse between Curry and rolly-polly assistant Brendan Suhr.

Still, the most conspicuous absence of the night was that of Jason Kidd. He had a headache. Which he called in about sometime during the middle of the day. Oh, wait it was a migraine. Or, as the papers and the radio peoples are reporting all of the place, he was having a tantrum because he is on a mediocre team and wants out. Kidd didn't choose to sit out last night when the Nets played the Cavs, perhaps because Cleveland is one of the team's that he would like to be traded to and he wanted to make a good impression on his future teammates and coaches. And, by sitting out against the Knicks he forfeits what could be considered an automatic win for his team since the Knicks are 1 - 3,540 against the Nets since Kidd joined the team. He has their number. Bad. Everyone knows this. Especially his bosses and they know how badly each win is needed if the Net aren't going to fizzle out again this year.

In any case, the game is played. Literally hundreds of people are in attendance. I am related to two of them. The Knicks are less lost on offense without Marbury and Eddy than the Nets are without Kidd. David Lee squeezes his way into the starting lineup along with Fred Jones. The enigmatic Fred Jones. Lee wins the tip against the hapless Jason Collins. The Knicks continue the trend of letting Q take those first few shots. He misses two straight before Randolph and Crawford take over the offense and lead the Knicks to an early 14-6 lead. Meanwhile, Jefferson and Carter account for all but two of the Nets buckets in the first quarter.

9 missed field goal attempts and 4 missed free throw attempts in the second quarter allow the Nets to close within two at 40-38 but the Knicks hold on, the wheels don't come off. Crawford hits a few free throws, Q hits a 3, Randolph hits a jumper and then gets to the rim on the next trip. The Knicks end the first half on an 11-3 run.

The second half largely follows this same script. Nets make run. Knicks respond. Nets make run. Knicks respond. I expected the Knicks to buckle during the Nets final rush midway through the 4th quarter. Especially when Bostjan Nachbar hit consecutive threes and the lead was suddenly down to five with 6 minutes to go. But again the Knicks didn't waver. Too much. Crawford made bad shots look good down the stretch and the team made 10 of 11 free throws during that time. Crawford paced the Knicks with 29 on 7 for 17 shooting. On the flip side, Vince only netted 19 points on 7 for 17 shooting while Jefferon lead the home team with 31 points.

A win is a win. Is a win. The Knicks are no longer winless on the road. Which is nice. They are also 1-0 in the Atlantic and set to face Philly twice this weekend in a home and home. I remember when those were the norm. Oh, nostalgia. Anyways, this game probably has more implications for the Nets than the Knicks if Kidd really has declared mutiny. That is a problem. Trust me, I know.

The Recaps:
The News
The Post
The Times

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Around the Internets in Eighty Minutes

-If you're one of the last few folks that thinks the BCS works...then read THIS fascinating look at the balloting for the coaches's poll, which gets factored in with the computer polls (who all have Virginia Tech at #1). The coaches ballots are often completely bogus and are skewed to give their own team the best chance of making it into the top two.

-The Numbers are in. And it's hard to believe Notre Dame's awful play got so much press with so few people watching.

-Peter King HEARTS Brett Favre.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Nets

The first, second and last question. Does Steph play? If he does, will the emotion be a springboard or an excuse. If he doesn't , will his absence be a springboard to success or an excuse for failure. All seem equally plausible. Well, failure seems slightly more plausible than success given the team we're dealing with here but you know what I mean. You can never tell how a player or a group of players will react to something like this.

Of course, like Joe Gibbs' Webberiffic second timeout at the and of the Redskins game on Sunday, the person most likely to blow this is Thomas.

On every level, from the selfish to the selfless, I hope that Marbury takes some time away from the team to be with hs family and deal with what just happened. I hope it refocuses him and gives the fans a bit more time to get over that West Coast disaster. Selflessly, I'm sure he could use the break. Selfishly, I would like to see what this team looks like without him for a week.

Of course, if he wants to trek through the Lincoln Tunnel to get out to the Meadowlands than I would let him play all 48 if that's what he wants to do.