Wednesday, November 21, 2007

With Arenas Out are Wiz desperate enough to...

Trade for Marbury?

It was announced late this afternoon that all-world guard and uber-weirdo Gilbert Arenas underwent knee surgery to repair a torn left meniscus. He tore the same meniscus last April and surgery on the same knee. He'll be out approximately three months. That's until like until the end of February at the earliest.

Ouch. I'm very disappointed as a basketball fan and as someone who bought tickets to Knicks vs. Wiz on January 15th. Gilbert is easily one of the five best attractions in the Association. On the court he is a vision of strength and speed. He seems to tower over certain players while flitting peskily around others. He is one of a kind. Off the court he cheats at video games lives in a vacuum sealed house kept at Colorado-like altitudes somewhere in the DC metro area and is just an all-around spaceman.

More importantly to Wiz fans and players he was the meal-ticket. They're screwed. Probably. They've got a lot of games to play before he gets back. Seasons are decided in a time frame like that. Windows open and close. Of course, the East is not very deep so everyone is still alive. Even the Knicks.

And, as a Knicks fan I can't help but get my gears working about what this could mean for us. Our team is desperate. I am desperate. Misery loves company and now we've got some. The Wiz are newly desperate. So, I say, let's play nice. Let's share. Let's trade.

Perhaps they would want to take on Stephon Marbury, who comes with baggage but who is also perhaps the ideal stop-gap until Arenas comes back. He is a scoring point guard who needs a new home and good be had for a lesser talent. And, looking at the numbers the Wiz have the expiring contract of Antawn Jamison as a trading chip. I checked with the ESPN Trade Machine (which I am severely addicted to) and a one-for-one swap of these two works out without even having to include spare parts.

It would give the Wiz a slightly unsavory but highly viable way of keeping afloat until Gilbert is back and then a third option (after Gil and Caron) if they could make it to the postseason. On the other side, it rids the Knicks of one of their myriad distractions. It also helps the fiscal nightmare that is the Knicks payroll. Of course, they're still on the hook for one jillion dollars to seventeen other players and announcers and carnies but actually acquiring an expiring contract rather than shipping one out would be a start.

Let's see.

Their Record is Already Worse than the Jets

Knicks run over in the Motor City

In his post-game comments Flip Murray, the former Division II collegian and current Pistons back-up, summed up the Knicks performance best:

"They looked like they didn't want to compete. They were just out there. All you had to do was look at their body language. I don't know what's going on over there, but they've got a lot of issues."

Yeah, that just about says it. This is a travesty. Those who should be the best played the worst. Those who aren't nearly as good proved it but tried hard.

Alright, back to baking pie. And happier things.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks at Pistons

-Will Isiah finally hear some applause? What means more to his old fans, sexual harassment or two titles?

"What Are They Doing? This is Basketball not Recess!"

And Other Leftover Thoughts and Quotations from Last Night

Knicks 82 - 108 Warriors

-Malik Rose, Mark Aguirre and one of the ballboys were the only three clapping when Isiah got introduced during the pre-game introductions. Their furiously fast-moving hands couldn't quell or mask the boos coming from the stands. It was loud.

-There was audible laughter in the crowd during the ferociously silly freestyle walking + Knicks = video montage that plays when the lights go down for the player introductions. From production values to offensive production, this team has fallen off the cliff in every observable facet.

-Stephon Marbury is still the team's most reliable offensive weapon. Curry can't seem to handle the ball in traffic or pass out of a double team. Zach Randolph's mid-range jumper is off and he is a vortex from which no light escapes. Jamal Crawford is Jamal Crawford. Meanwhile, Steph took the ball hard to the rim and shot (or was fouled in the process of shooting) seven times last night. He scored 11 points on those seven plays. Zach Randolph scored 4 more. Steph was fouled three times. Zach was fouled twice after grabbing the offensive rebound off two misses. The Knicks got an average of 2.14 points if Steph took the ball to the rim looking to shoot. Steph's relative efficiency going at the rim is especially noteworthy on a team that needed 79 shot attempts and 23 free throw attempts to reach 82 points.

-Right or wrong, the booing of Steph was impressive at the start. This was a dedication to dislike that is usually seen in college ball. You don't see this sort of passion at the pro level too often. Each time he touched the ball on offense the crowd come alive with derision. This went on for over half the first quarter and flared up sporadically the rest of the way. This was JJ Redick in the Dean Dome treatment. As you can probably tell, I still think the Knicks need Steph to have any chance of winning games and I definitely side with him in his feud with Isiah Thomas. Still, it was pretty awesome how much the crowd was on him. These are the same fans who make the Garden the best place on the Earth to play ball. This is the same passion that makes this the best-ever home court advantage in the NBA. When things are going well. No fans will be louder when a team is on DEE-FENSE. Last night, we showed the flip side. The passion doesn't go away when the team is bad. It just needs a different outlet. Last night looked darn close to sold out. We're ready. But the team isn't.

-Isiah was thoroughly out-coached by Don Nelson. Thoroughly. The lineups he was throwing out on the floor in the second half were characteristically haphazard and ill-suited to taking control of the game. He was reactionary rather than proactive. He is in panic mode no matter how cool he may seem in the post-game press conference.

-Baron Davis is real good: 39 minutes, 31 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block against just 2 turnovers. He is a joy to watch. He didn't elicit the oohs and aahs that Iverson got when he was here but he was possibly even more impressive. He is a thick man. As soon as Mardy came in for Steph late in the first quarter (the score at this point was 15-15), Davis upped the defensive intensity seven-fold. He had no respect for Collins and overplayed him on defense. He was ALL over him in ways that he wouldn't risk with Steph. As a direct result of Davis's savvy, the Knicks had consecutive turnovers during the first two possessions with Collins on the floor (one by Mardy and one by Jamal). The Warriors went on a 6-0 run.

-Mardy Colllins is not ready. He may still be the point guard that all the fans desperately want him to be. He may. But he wasn't that guy last night. Last night he was as overmatched as Isiah. He was a liability on defense. And timid on offense.

Oakley would fire Isiah

And, whoever runs the video screen at MSG

Apparently, Charles Oakley was in attendance at the game last night. My roommate, who caught some of the game on television, told me that. What? Those of us at the game had no idea that one of our most beloved heroes was sitting in the same auditorium and breathing the same vitriol as we were. We had no idea because Oakley was never shown on the GardenVision screen at any point. Of course, I could tell you that the scourge of ESPN Classic, Robert Wuhl, was there. Because he merited some screen time. They give us Wuhl and no Oak? This is a travesty and has to be an intentional slight against the team's past. Someone, somewhere in that building hid him from us. Perhaps because Oakley would remind us of a time when hustle and heart and passion where the hallmarks of the players who donned the home uniform in that building. Perhaps because he came from a team that was perpetually in contention for a title on the basis of their brute strength and force of will. Perhaps because he would have brought each and every fan to their feet and only bad things could happen for Isiah if that ever happened.

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 Two
Home-Game Away From Home

Yesterday I had an usual (for me) clothing predicament. I was going to the Knicks/Warriors game and I didn’t know if I was supposed to wear my Warriors shirt or my Knicks hat. I’m from Berkeley, but I live in New York. It’s a quandary many have faced before—who do you root for when your hometown team plays your local team? And, when you’re a not-so-sports loving girl, do you stand by your man (a Knicks fan), or do you stay loyal to your roots? Since I couldn’t quite answer such heavy questions at 7:30 in the morning, I packed both the shirt and the hat. Planning on making the decision later, by making lists of course!

Pro Warriors shirt:
  • I am from California

  • I was raised a Warriors fan

  • Chris got me a special Warriors shirt that I never wear, so here’s a good opportunity

  • Pro Knicks hat:
  • I will be at Madison Square Garden

  • Chris likes the Knicks. A lot. He has Knicks boxers. His brothers have Knicks wallpaper

  • I know a lot (relatively) about the Knicks and follow them sorta kinda

  • Eddie Curry’s tush

  • Nate Robinson’s nimbleness

  • Knicks win? That just didn’t seem fair, because if it weren’t for the second thing on the Knicks list then I probably wouldn’t be at the game to begin with. Shouldn’t things like loyalty and what my dad and brother like override big butts?

    I was still unsure about who to support when the lights at Madison Square Garden dimmed. But when the announcer called out each Knick player, I knew that it wasn’t big butts that ensured my decision, it was that I got a genuine thrill from going to a Knicks game. This excitement came from my newish knowledge of the team—and the sport in general. And both of those came from going to the games themselves.

    I’m always surprised at how much else is going on besides the actual game. People were booing Stephon Marbury and chanting “Fire Isaiah!!.” Drama! Scandal! The celebrity sightings include James Blunt (ew) and Robert Wuhl (an actor I’m sure made his last appearance as a random reference on Family Guy). This is disappointing, but it’s the holidays and the Knicks blow. Hard. The highlight of the night was probably when someone yelled, “eat a hamburger” to a skinny Warrior.

    Yeah, the Warriors are all really skinny, and Eddy Curry just stands there with the ball like he’s a grown-up holding candy and all the kids are trying to reach it. I love it but still become totally bored by the Knicks suckiness. I start poking Chris and asking him questions about the movie Michael Clayton, which we saw a week ago. Chris asks if I have changed back to being a Warriors fan, and I say no. Chris asks, do I want to go the next home game on Saturday? I don’t. BUT, I’ve still got my Knicks hat on.

    After all, I was never an avid Warriors fan. They were just another team I was raised to root for, like the Giants, the Forty-Niners, and the Cal Bears. And even though that does carry a certain weight (which I don’t mean to poo-poo), it shouldn’t mean I have to stick with my hometown teams forever. Right? Sometimes you have to move on! Be your own woman. My fandom for the teams here in New York is something I never had for my teams at home. I am choosing to accept and embrace that. Even when the Knicks really blow. Which they did. Hard.


    One way or another this game was going to be significant. The team had lost six in a row. They'd been swept on the most disastrous road trip since the Second Crusade (rout at Damascus was even worse than loss against Nuggets). Steph was starting. Isiah was coaching. Or, at least, sitting in a seat where coaching would normally occur. If the Knicks won then perhaps the debactacular West Coast swing could be looked back on as the season-turning, gut-check moment. We could say that benching Marbury worked. That it focused the team. On the other hand, if the Knicks lost in an embarrassing enough fashion then perhaps this would be the impetus for Jimmy Dolan to finally fire Isiah Thomas. One way or another this game was going to be significant.

    The Warriors beat the Knicks 108 to 82. The Knicks were never closer than 9 in the second half. Never closer than 13 in the fourth. They turned the ball over 27 times. Against the worst defensive team in the league. The boos poured forth from the crowd as frequently as Baron Davis's shots made their way through the net. The "Fire Isiah" chants began in earnest as the last seconds of the first half ticked away. The Warriors ended the half (and the competitive portion of the ballgame) on a 9-2 run that was keyed by NY turnovers. Isiah was, again, badly outclassed as coach.

    The ball (metaphorically) is officially in Dolan's court (literally) now.

    It can't get worse than this. The team is a disgrace. It is a joke. Knock, knock. Who's There? The Knicks. It is a cautionary tale. It is a reason for people with severe problems to feel better about their lives. Oh, don't worry. It could be worse. You could be a Knicks fan. They have transcended sports and become a part of the popular culture in the way that only the sublimely good and bad can ever do. The '07 Knicks and the '07 Patriots both have what it takes. The team is worse than their record states. They are synonymous with failure and hubris and folly. They are Watergate. They are Laser Discs. They are Waterloo. They are David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue. They are Colin Powell at the UN in 2003. They are Michael Jordan playing baseball. They are Godfather Part 3. They are Joey, Baywatch Nights and every failed spin-off in the history of network television. They are Bud Dry. They are The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith combined. It can't get worse than this. However, it can stay this bad. And, it will stay this bad as long as Isiah Thomas is affiliated with this franchise. He has failed at the task set before him. He has butchered the roster. He has banished tradition. He has crippled the financial flexibility of the team. He has alienated the fan base. He has alienated his peers. He has alienated his players. It can't get worse than this.

    But how long will it stay this bad?