Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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

One week ago the Knicks won a big game against Denver. They had a winning record. They were undefeated at home. Curry and Randolph were dominant. The bench was stellar.

Today, Marbury skipped out on the team after a bust-up with Isiah. There has been no mention of how soon he'll back. All the papers are saying he might never come back. As ever, Isiah is calm and guileless. Quentin Richardson is down with an injury. Zach Randolph is not with the team due to the death of his grandmother. We have a losing record. We're starting a four-game western swing. Against the Phoenix Suns.

There seemed no other choice, really, than to just get on the computer and just ride this one out in real time. I've never done this before but I'm ready to go.

Preamble: In the moments before tip-off it seems like this game is the beginning of something. The beginning of the end? Or the beginning of the beginning? Hopefully it is the latter. Whether Steph returns to the lineup or not, tonight is a huge test for those who are about to take on the Suns. They've got every excuse a professional team could possibly have: travel, injuries, missing components, top-flight competition. However, if these guys can pull this together than it will send a message to Steph, Isiah and, most importantly to themselves.

Starting Lineups:

NYK
PG Mardy Collins
SG Jamal Crawford
SF Fred Jones
PF David Lee
C Eddy Curry

I like it all but Jones

Suns
PG Steve Nash
SG Barbosa
SF Grant Hill
PF Marion
C Stoudemaire

1st Quarter
-The Suns score with relative ease on their first two trips, while the Knicks first two trips see the ball go directly into David Lee. David Lee? He passes out of a double to Jones (3) and then puts in another himself (2).
-Amare can't be stopped by Curry. Fred Jones can't stop Grant Hill. We need to outscore them. Phoenix?
-Curry is scoring and we're hanging in 13-15 coming up on halfway through the quarter.
-Suns pushing through Knicks like subway turnstiles. Amare beats the whole team down the floor and gets a gorgeous pass from Nash. Isiah calls timeout. We're losing 13-19. Um, if they score first out of the timeout then we're officially not hanging in there.
-For the sake of this enterprise, Crawford scores first. 15-19.
-Collins manages to stop an ally-oop to Marion (from Nash) by hurting himself. Nate and Renaldo check in with 6 left.
-Suns are on an 11-3 run. Stoudemaire has a dozen points already and Curry heads back in to give it another try.
-Knicks are playing some defense. But missed free throws and missed shots keep them from closing the gap.
-Even when Nate sticks Nash, their subs are dropping in shots, 19-28.

Commercial Break: well, I'm not really sure how this experiment is going. First, I'm pretty sure no one is reading. Second, if you're reading and watching the game then everything is probably a bit behind. Worth noting is that Kenny Smith is teamed up with Gus for tonight's game. He is solid, honest and earnest away from his TNT buddies. He also is big on the way the uncertainty surrounding Marbury is a problem.

-Nate doesn't seem to miss Steph. He hits a three as the shot-clock expires to make it a three point game.
-Knicks lose a jump-ball after a tie-up and then Curry misses a layup. They're going to need those points to pull this out.
-1st quarter ends 29-34. Nate is rolling and the Knicks hodge-podge lineup can beat the Suns second team. We'll see what happens when the starting five is back out there.

2nd Quarter
-Nate misses a layup to start the quarter. Argh.
-Nash/Amare stay on the bench for Suns. Jared Jeffries checks in for NYK. Hmm...Gus says this is a good thing. Honestly, I don't know. I never liked him in the starting lineup, but he figures to get a chance to show what he's got tonight.
-Knicks are missing makeable shots. Suns are making them. Knicks timeout. Super.
-Gus announces that Mardy is hurt and his return is doubtful. Great. Grand. Kenny's reaction is "wow."
-Fred Jones is battling. I'm down on his talent-level but he's showing some heart. He steals and drives for a layup. And one. But he misses the foul shot. Another missed foul shot. He's got ten points.
-Grant Hill hits a three. Knicks trail 33-47. Hill looks good out there. Funny in the orange and purple. But good. Better than what we've got. They've got vets. They've got stars. They've got role players. I don't know who is who on the Knicks. Marbury is the longest tenured player on the team. I know that. Oh, wait.
-Another timeout filled with Kenny The Jet using his buzz word: uncertainty. He doesn't feel good about things. He clearly has no idea what is going on, which is weird.
-Jeffries picks out Curry with a nice pass. Knicks are losing by slightly less than they were before the ensuing basket.
-Marion checks back in to the game. Gus notes how hard it is for Diaw to find minutes. Their best are better. Curry can barely catch up to Amare to even foul him as he bounds towards the hoop.
-The Recipe: Nash slices into the paint, makes pass to cutting Big, Knicks foul, Suns make free throws.
-I can hear my phone ringing. I know its
-At 43-55 the route could be on. Suns miss but the ball gets hot-potatoed around until it ends up in the hoop. After another Amare block, Marion scores on the break with a beauty of an up-and-under. And, Nash steals it as the Knicks try to call timeout. Gosh. Missed shot, timeout.
-Oh, goaltending. That is a new way to give them points. Two minutes.
-Even when Nash loses the ball it ends up traveling directly to the hands of one his teammates. It's uncanny. Amare drains a nice baseline shot over Lee.
-Jeffries makes another nice pass in to Curry. Kenny the Jets remarks that Eddy just needs "to do what Amare does." Yup, that's all. Who woud've guessed that it was so easy. He'll be as good in no time once he gets that advice.
-Nash seems to be playing extra sloppy. Not that it matters. Knicks trail 51-63 at the half.

Half-Time
-phone calls and food

3rd Quarter
-Curry picks up a foul immediately. He sits with 4. We have a Malik Rose sighting.
-Gus and Kenny marvel at the "textbook" fastbreaks that the Suns are running.
-Malik Rose uses Curry's method of defending Amare. Get beat and then foul.
-Crawford hits another runner. We're hanging around.
-Nash continues to look uninterested. He turns it over to Nate who feeds Jones. He's fouled. Hits the first and Malik Rose is called for a lane violation on the second. Way to make an impact, Malik.
-Malik stays at it by tossing up a brick. Meanwhile, Grant Hill has made consecutive buckets. There may be a country for old men after all.
-Crawford misses layup. Barbosa makes layup. That about sums it up to this point. 60-78. Suns.
-The Rook Wilson Chandler checks in. Runs off a screen and catches a pass from Crawford. He shoots. Immediately. His high-arching shot misses. Balkman tips it in. Alright, another guy with quick release? Let's see what we got.
-As Kenny remarks that watching the Knicks "is almost like an exhibition game" Chandler bounces a shot off the top of the backboard.
-It seems like the only question as the third winds down is whether or no the Suns can get their lead to 20.
-The precocious Chandler gets the ball in about the same spot his last shot (the one that hit the side/top of the backboard). This time he drives. He scores. Three touches and three shots. It is beginning to look like this trip (or as long as Steph, Zach and Q are missing) is going to be an audition for a lot of the guys trying to break into the rotation.

4th Quarter
-Balkman fouls Nash to start the quarter. Curry checks back in. I'm not sure what Isiah was saving him for to start the quarter anyways.
-Grant Hill looks like he's never owned a set of crutches. Only against the Knicks.
-In attempt to stay within 20 the Knicks put six men on the court. Joey Crawford notices.
-Nash wakes up, hits another bucket. Knicks trail by 21. Maybe that sixth man could've helped.
-Curry, once properly subbed in, ends up fouling out.

And, I'm going to head to the bench with Curry. The Knicks are down 78-99. Isiah seems to be asking Malik Rose for help on the bench. They're both smiling. I'm not.

The Latest on the Greatest*

According to Marc Berman at the POST, Marbury has skipped out on the team and won't be playing against the Suns tonight.

Well, well, well. I don't know what this means exactly, but I'm sure we'll hear something "official" as we get closer to tip-off if Marbury really is going to miss the game.

*at least according to himself

Star-buried

According to a Frank Isola article in today's NEWS, the Marbury era could soon be coming to a close in New York. Thomas and Dolan could be preparing to offer the first big acquisition of the Thomas era as the sacrificial lamb for the myriad disasters of the past six months.

Forgetting what this says about either Dolan or Thomas (or that it could just be idle travel-day speculation) this could have a potentially huge affect on the team we see each night on the court. It could be good. It could be really good. It could be bad, which actually can't be that much worse.

Based on the PT being doled out so far the starting lineup could look like this:
PG Nate Robinson
SG Jamal Crawford
SF Quentin Richardson
PF Zach Randolph
C Eddy Curry

Um, no thanks. I enjoy Nate's passion, his hustle and his ability to jump over Spud Webb but he cannot be our starting point guard. He is too erratic and essentially a younger, smaller, more athletic but slightly less talented version of Marbury. If Steph gets shown the door then Mardy Colllins, the second-year point guard out of Temple who impressed down the stretch last year, has to leapfrog Nate into the starting lineup. He is bigger. He can be a physical presence on defense and seems mature enough to carry (and not in the Crawford sense of the word "carry") out a pass-first mandate and distribute the ball to the four other scorers on the floor with him.

The removal of Marbury would also remove another veteran presence from the team. However, in Marbury's case you would be removing a vet who is seemingly a malcontent and is too set in his ways to adapt his (exceptional) skillset to the team's current personnel. With Marbury gone this team would be a very young (but still experienced) team whose strength would be their frontcourt players: Curry, Randolph, Lee and Balkman. This foursome is young enough that they are still impressionable and can be hurt by having the wrong locker room influence just as much as they could still be helped by the right one. With Q and Malik Rose the only vets of note on the squad, there is no question that Marbury's presence is felt strongly. And, if he is not

As Isola notes in his story, Marbury has clashed with most vets paired with him on the roster since he is arrival. And, most of those players were shipped out in another of Isiah's far-fetched, cap-busting trades. And, that brings us to the most intriguing part of this news: it signals a repudiation of one of the two signature roster moves that Thomas has made during his stay. To release Marbury or to offer him for fifty cents on the dollar to another club will be an obvious admission of failure by our coach and general manager. It will also open the door to reevaluating all of the moves that Thomas made to placate Marbury, his star. To give up on Marbury-who has not been anything other than who he has always been-is to admit that most everything aside from the Curry and Randolph deals, all of the wheel-spinning and salary hikes, were for naught.

And, if we get to that point then maybe Isiah will soon be following his prized pupil out onto Seventh Avenue.

Happy Birthday Vincent Frank Testaverde!

44 years ago today the world was blessed by the birth of an American treasure: Vinny's right arm.

The Brooklyn born, Testaverde currently laces up his cleats and dons his well-worn leather helmet for the Carolina Panthers. He is already the oldest quarterback to win a game in the NFL (doing so at the tender age of 43) and looks to break his own record this week when the Panthers take on another NFL graybeard, Brett Favre. Vinny had already thrown 96 interceptions before everyone's favorite denim-wearing riverboat gambler had even donned a Packer uniform.

The winner of the 1986 Heisman trophy and the number one overall draft pick in the following year, Testaverde would play for the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in less than auspicious fashion over the course of six seasons. Throwing an epic 35 interceptions in '88, he would endure a bumpy tenure down in Tampa before departing for Cleveland.

Moving along with the equipment to Baltimore prior to the 1996 season, Testaverde would put together a Pro-Bowl campaign for the new team. Landing with Jets in 1998, Vinny would finally live up to his potential in his eleventh season in the League. Throwing for 29 touchdowns against only 7 picks he would stake the Jets to a lead in the AFC Championship game before succombing to Elway and the Broncos in the second half of that game.

A freak achilles tendon injury in the opening game of the following season halted hopes of a Gang Green return to the postseason and lead the team to draft Vinny's future replacement, Chad Pennington out of Marshall.

Notable Accomplishments:
1986 Heisman trophy winner
1987 number one overall pick in the NFL draft
1988 threw 35 interceptions
1996 became first starting QB in history of Baltimore Ravens
1996 selected to Pro Bowl as member of Baltimore Ravens
1998 lead New York Jets to AFC Championship Game
1998 selected to Pro Bowl as member of New York Jets
2000 orchestrated the "Monday Night Miracle" as Jets came back to defeat Dolphins after falling behind 30-7 going into 4th quarter
2005 threw last touchdown pass (to L. Coles) on ABC's version of Monday Night Football
2007 threw touchdown pass for the 21st consecutive season (to S. Smith)

Notable QBs replaced by Vinny:
Steve DeBerg
Bernie Kosar
Glenn Foley
Quincy Carter
David Carr

And another reason why Vinny is better than your team's QB: the man who gave us the "Vinny-Face" after so many poorly thought-through interceptions is also one of the original investors behind the extremely successful Outback Steakhouse chain. The guy is loaded beyond comprehension.

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.)

Episode 1:
The Better Half
Watching Sports When You Would Rather Not Be


It's not that I don't like sports. Or going to games. Or watching them on TV. It's just that I would prefer that I didn’t do those things. Most of the time. If I were actually asked about it, I wouldn’t choose to spend the day in a parking lot in New Jersey drinking cans of Keystone Light with a bunch of bald men in ill-fitting mesh shirts only to go sit in a cold stadium where something exciting happens every 20 minutes (1 football minute > 20 football minutes). Because, it's Sunday, and I want to take a walk or see a movie or buy things I don't need. Or watch Bring It On while struggling through the crossword puzzle in the Sunday Magazine until I go outside and get ice cream before making bow-tie pasta and turkey-sausage for dinner and getting ready for bed. I mean, I’ve got three episodes of America's Next Top Model on my DVR and don’t really know what you mean when you say this might be Chad Pennington’s last start for the Jets. So, I just want to sit in a warm apartment and drink free, non-$4.50 water with my friends, wondering if it’s okay to think Michael Cera is adorable, if a little young.

But, somehow (actually not somehow as in I don’t know how, but because of my boyfriend) I've ended up watching or attending more sporting events over the last few years than I have in my entire lifetime. And I haven't minded. I mean, no, that's a lie. I've minded a lot of the times, but I've also come to really enjoy it some of the time too. Even the Keystone Light. Who knew guzzling cheap domestic beer in a parking lot and tossing the old pigskin around could be such a blast! It probably helps that I am awesome at throwing and catching a football.

I even voluntarily had my birthday at Shea Stadium this year. The Mets beat the Oakland A’s really, really badly and “Happy Birthday Becca” got shown on the big screen out in center field by the Apple. I think that is like the sports equivalent of having your wedding announcement in the Sunday Styles section.

So, ladies and gentlemen, but mostly ladies, my goal is to bring you the other side of the story each and every week. The better half of the story. There will be no play-by-play, statistics, score analysis (I don’t even think that is something), but rather I might, for example, explain the twin masterpieces that are Jose Reyes’s cheekbones. Or how it makes me feel when he steals a base (awesome, flushed, inspired). I will also discuss the highs and lows of my man’s sporting life (and my own love/hate brand of sports fandom) from a female point of view. From the indescribable feeling of seeing a Wright hit make it over the fence when the Mets are down in the 8th inning or how funny it is to see Eddy Curry's bulbous behind scurry across the court and make a basket to the frustration when you know that on some nights you are a distant second to whatever is on ESPN. Anyway, you get the idea. It’s a roller coaster of a ride, my friends, and there’s more drama than the writers of Gossip Girl would know what to do with.

I’ll see you next week. Same time. Same channel.