Wednesday, December 31, 2008

WILLLLL - SSUUUUNNNNNN

Chandler Proves Knicks Can Still Have Fun

Over-the-counter nasal spray clears up your stuffed sinus passages. As long as you don't let it all roll down the back of throat. Which tastes gross. But even if the spray does its job, it doesn't do a thing for the cold you've got. It certainly makes you feel much better for a few hours. But, It doesn't mean that you're cured of what ails you. In fact, once you start using that stuff you end up needing it around all the time. Last night's Knicks win was sort of like nasal spray. It cleared up a symptom (losing) but it didn't do anything about the underlying problem.

The Knicks scored 36 points in the first quarter last night against the Bobcats in Charlotte. Shots were falling from midrange and the team got 12 points right at the rim. Even Jared Jeffries hit a 19-footer. All was well in the Queen City. But, then the shots stopped falling and the Knicks didn't score more than 20 points in any of the other three quarters. They tallied just 37 points in the entire second half. That's 36 points in the first quarter and 37 points in the second half. That's not good.

This team is tired. And, they have gotten in the habit of hanging their heads when they get tired. Nate's been dribbling too much. David Lee's been missing layups. Chandler's been pressing on too many possessions and turning the ball over. And, our perimeter shots have become forced rather than open. This team needs more players on the floor. The excuse is too ready made and too obvious. This team needs to start entrusting the end of the bench with some minutes (please, no) or go out and fill the roster spots belonging to Stephon Marbury and Cutino Mobley with ballers who can contribute (please, now!).

Thankfully, Wilson Chandler found some gas in the tank in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to pull the win from the fire. The Bobcats pulled ahead, 82-83, on a Raymond Felton three-pointer with four minutes to play. And, tucked in that sentence is all the info you need to know about this game: the Knicks had not broken 90 points late in the fourth quarter. Last night the tempo in quarters 2,3 and 4 was orchestrated by Bobcats coach Larry Brown. No one at the Time Warner Cable Arena was experiencing Knicks basketball. If this team isn't breaking 100 points then we're not playing the game that D'Antoni is coaching. Before last night the Knicks had lost every single game that they didn't break the century mark.

And, last night would have been the same had Chandler not followed Felton's three by scoring seven straight for the Knicks. After that outburst the Knicks made free throws to hold on and secure the win. But the problems remain. We may have breathed easier last night but things are not really better. Nasal spray doesn't actually cure anything.

Bad teams use wins the same way people use nasal spray. They just want to momentarily clear up a symptom of a larger problem to keep their day on track. Bad teams just want to manage to win a game once a week to stave off the most noticeable symptom of their badness. Which is the losses. Bad teams just want to score enough points so that a game can be close enough in the last few minutes so that hopefully some player can step up and score a key bucket or get a key stop. They just want to get the immediate result that allows them to sleep through the night they are living in. Good teams, however, want to treat the root cause of the symptoms. They want to get better. They want to develop a style of play and a level of confidence that carries over from game to game and eventually cures their problems all together.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Conversation

Emails Exchanged Between WWOD? and an Eagles fan on Monday, About Sunday

FredEx4Life: Bittersweet Sunday. Happy for Chad or pissed about the Jets? I'm obviously happy the Eagles are in but not so much about the fact that the Andy & Donovan show will back for at least another year.

WWOD?: I am happy for Chad. For what it's worth. At the very least, that win further solidifies everything that was great about him when he was a Jet. Three playoff appearances and consistency. I'd take it now. That's for sure. By the second half, we knew the Jets weren't going to the playoffs and I think the worst thing that could have happened would have been a meaningless fourth quarter score to send the game to OT and then a win. Which would have ended the Dolphins' season and sent the Pats to the playoffs. That would have been terrible.

And, honestly, hold onto Andy and Donovan while you can. They may not be best-ever great but this team has been good to very good for a long time. They may make way too many mistakes to ever get too confident and they may have missed their best chances to win it all but you've been able to watch a lot of Eagles playoff games. Mostly because of those two guys. That is something.

Of course, this is coming from a Knicks/Jets/Mets fan who has never had a team win a championship since he's been old enough to know the difference. So, maybe my sights are set a little low.

You Don't Know What You Chad, 'Til It's Favre


I've been moonlighting over at a Jets blog. So stop by there to check out my thoughts on the denouement of the 2008 season.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Thousand Words

Postcards of the Hanging

























Thursday, December 25, 2008

Past Visits From Jolly Ol' St. Knick

It's a white Christmas at my parents' house in northern New Jersey. It's ice not snow. But it's white. My mom is psyched about this. But, I was dreaming of a blue and orange Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. But instead I've got a green and purple Christmas and I almost broke my neck slipping on all the ice in my parents' driveway.

2008-2009 is the 61st season of the National Basketball Assocation. During that time the league has scheduled games on Christmas day in each season save one (the strike-shortened 1998-1999 campaign), and the Knicks played on Christmas in 38 of the first 40 seasons, and in 45 overall. In fact, the Knicks playing at the Garden on the 25th was about as dependable an occurence as a run on milk and cookies late on the 24th. The New York Knickerbockers tipped off against opponents in New York City on 38 of those 45 games. Although the home team didn't fare exceedingly well in those contests they were overwhelmingly tightly contested games, with 23 of them being decided by 6 points or fewer. And the opponents were generally among the league's best at the time, even when the Knicks were struggling.

The Garden was the marquee venue in the NBA and all eyes were there on Christmas day. For Knicks fans the highlights are the double-overtime victory over the defending champion Celtics in Patrick Ewing's rookie season, Bernard King's 61-point outburst the year before and the 136-135 win over Wilt Chamberlain's Philadelphia Warriors in 1961. The Knicks tradition of home games on Christmas was broken up when NBC began broadcasting NBA games in 1990. Although they did provide us with a phenomenal theme song they did take away our local tradition, even sending the Knicks on the road for three out of the four games they did schedule for the Knicks on the 25th.

Knicks on Christmas
12/25/1946 No game n/a
12/25/1947 Providence Steamrollers 89-75
12/25/1948 Chicago Stags 64-70
12/25/1949No gamen/a
12/25/1950 @ Philadelphia Warriors 86-84
12/25/1951Fort Wayne Pistons72-65
12/25/1952Boston Celtics80-75
12/25/1953Syracuse Nationals89-80
12/25/1954Syracuse Nationals109-101
12/25/1955@ Fort Wayne Pistons87-92
12/25/1956St. Louis Hawks105-107
12/25/1957@ Syracuse Nationals130-134
12/25/1958Boston Celtics120-129
12/25/1959Boston Celtics119-123
12/25/1960@ Syracuse Nationals100-162
12/25/1961Philadelphia Warriors136-135
12/25/1962Los Angeles Lakers126-134
12/25/1963Los Angeles Lakers126-134
12/25/1964Baltimore Bullets108-114
12/25/1965St. Louis Hawks111-131
12/25/1966Chicago Bulls133-132
12/25/1967Boston Celtics124-134
12/25/1968Philadelphia 76ers110-109
12/25/1969Detroit Pistons112-111
12/25/1970Buffalo Braves115-102
12/25/1971Golden State Warriors114-89
12/25/1972Detroit Pistons112-111
12/25/1973Capitol Bullets100-102
12/25/1974Philadelphia 76ers97-104
12/25/1975Philadelphia 76ers111-103
12/25/1976Philadelphia 76ers104-105
12/25/1977Philadelphia 76ers113-110
12/25/1978Philadelphia 76ers94-109
12/25/1979New Jersey Nets131-102
12/25/1980Boston Celtics108-117
12/25/1981New Jersey Nets95-96
12/25/1982New Jersey Nets110-112
12/25/1983New Jersey Nets112-110
12/25/1984New Jersey Nets114-120
12/25/1985Boston Celtics113-104
12/25/1986Chicago Bulls86-85
12/25/1987Detroit Pistons87-91
12/25/1988No gamen/a
12/25/1989No gamen/a
12/25/1990No gamen/a
12/25/1991No gamen/a>
12/25/1992@ Chicago Bulls77-89
12/25/1993No gamen/a
12/25/1994@ Chicago Bulls104-107
12/25/1995No gamen/a
12/25/1996No gamen/a
12/25/1997No gamen/a
STRIKE-SHORTENED SEASON
12/25/1999@ Indiana Pacers90-101
12/25/2000No gamen/a
12/25/2001Toronto Raptors102-94
12/25/2002No gamen/a
12/25/2003No gamen/a
12/25/2004No gamen/a
12/25/2005No gamen/a
12/25/2006No gamen/a
12/25/2007No gamen/a
12/25/2008No gamen/a

Christmas 1985


Christmas 1984


Christmas 1992

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas Two Years Before Knicksmas

Twas two years before Knicksmas, when all through MSG
Not a hoops fan was stirring, not even Spike Lee.
Retired numbers were hung from the rafters with care,
In hopes that King James soon would be there.

The Knicks players were nestled all snug in bunk beds,
While visions of Laker Girls danced in their heads.
Walsh stroked D'Antoni's 'stache, and Dolan his paid lady friend,
This three had resolved to wait two seasons 'til two thousand and ten.

When out on the avenue there arose such a clatter,
They sprang forth to Seventh to see what was the matter.
Away down the stairs they flew like Chris Paul,
Tore open the doors and bounded past the booths for will call.

The gray pavement-hued slush on the cars' breasts of yellow
Gave the pallor of death to passing Knicks fans, a lady and fellow.
When, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a souped-up sleigh, and eight Knicks legends held dear.

With a tall, slender driver, with a hat brimmed wide,
Coach D knew in a moment it must be St. Clyde.
More rapid than showtime his courtiers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!"Now Patrick! now, Willis! now, on Pearl and Mason!
On, Bradley! On, Oakley! on, DeBusschere and Clifton!
To the top of the East! to the top of them all!
Now dash to! Dash fro! Dash after the ball!"

As Nash's Suns, before Shaq, used to fly,
With quickness they ran, walking like Kenny through sky.
So up to the Garden roof St. Clyde flew,
With the sleigh full of future free agents, and LBJ too.And then, in a twinkling, Walsh heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each size-21 hoof.
As D'Antoni drew in his head, and Dolan turned 'round,
Down the chimney Walt Frazier came with a bound.

He was dressed in purple fur, from his toe to his hair,
And his clothes were tailored and all without compare.
A bundle of players he had flung on his back,
And he looked like Boras, just opening his pack.

His words how they twinkled! his vocabulary how varied!
His game was like roses, lesser teammates he carried!
His play-by-play calling came with the tightest flow,
And Just For Men kept his beard from being white as the snow.The proof of his life shone when he smiled bright with his teeth,
And his winning aura encircled his fedora like a wreath.
He had an angled face and the just slightest bulge of a belly,
But foes still shook when he slashed, he turned ankles to jelly!

He was fit for his age, his handle top shelf,
Yet D'Antoni laughed when he saw him, in spite of himelf!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave the coach know he had nothing to dread.

He talked of posting and toasting as he undid Isiah's work,
And put new Knicks in hightops, calling Dolan a jerk.
After brushing aside bad contracts, bringing in all-pros
And giving a hat tip, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, ready to fix a new mess,
And away they all flew, gone in seven seconds or less.
But New York heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Knickmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Sports-Gifts You Might Be Unwrapping This Week

Somewhere in wilds of Strong Island a well-meaning aunt or grandmother is walking into a discount clothing store like a TJ Maxx and is scrambling to find the gift for her sports-loving relation. She doesn't really even need to go to the effort because you surely still don't think you are grown up enough (even though 30 candles is closer than 20) to have to buy her anything. But, she likes giving gifts and wants you to think well of her as you embark on your adult life. Perusing the marked-down designer slacks and Cosby sweaters she finds a rack with modestly priced Jets jerseys. She knows that you're a big football fan and is sure you like the team that practices at Hofstra and not the Giants like her father did. Besides, even she knows that these jerseys are usually very expensive. It must be some last-minute sale. And, this is surely her lucky day as you would never know that she got such a great deal. So she grabs the $30 jersey and heads up the cash register happy with the "cool" gift she got you. Even though she spent more on others, this may be the gift that she is most proud of. She hopes that maybe you'll even wear it while watching Sunday's Jets game...This has to be happening somewhere. Right?

Week 16 Schadenfreude

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday's Starting Five

1. Win and You're In. Dolphins, Chargers, Broncos, Cowboys, Ravens and Vikings. Forgetting the various in-season melodramas and the pre-season predictions, these clubs have all that you could ever ask for. They play one game to enter the postseason tournament. If they win then they are in. It's simple. They control their own fate. At least, they do in an NFL-playoffs sense. I wouldn't begin to postulate the ultimate fates of these men. Although I get the impression that Sunday afternoon will represent the confluence of the NFL-related fate and the ultimate FATE of Chad Pennington, who brings a 10-5 Dolphins squad into his old haunt in NJ to face the woebegone Jets just months after they wanted him gone to make room for Brett Favre.

2. Rajon Rondo. If a team starts five ballplayers and THE BIG THREE board a train heading south out of North Station in Boston then how do the other two starters reach TD Banknorth Garden? Do they take the Green Line in from Newton? And, do they necessarily need to be called "the little two" in order to maintain equilibrium? Rondo seems unconcerned with the implications of his teammates' nicknames as they pertain to his stature as he took over the Knicks @ Celtics tilt in the few moments that it got close Sunday afternoon (the Knicks did manage to pull within seven points before being brushed aside with just slightly more effort than the Pats discarded the Cardinals at Foxboro). He scored 18 of his team-high 26 points in the third quarter. 12 of those 18 came consecutively and all but two of those points were scored right at the rim. This win raised the Celtics record to 17-0 when Rondo scores 17 points or more. Of course, this team has won all but two if its games so I don't know how far down the rabbit hole it's worth going with stats like that.

3. The Same Old Jets. Just in time for Christmas, they're baaack.

4. Yo La Tengo. Last night the indie rock legends from the Garden State (whose name translates to "I got it!" and was inspired by the New York Metropolitans) began their near-annual eight-night Hanukkah stand at Maxwell's. Go to Craigslist and find yourself some tickets. Each night features a surprise opening act (past performers include Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Electric Boogie and the singer from the New York Dolls), a comedian (Todd Barry, David Cross and others have filled this slot) and Yo La Tengo themselves. And, all of this happens in front of about 200 people and no performer makes a dime (all the money goes to a different charity each night).

5. Derrick Ward. Any Giants fan will tell you that the difference maker versus the Panthers was really Brandon Jacobs. And, anyone who makes their hay analyzing football would likely agree. But between us sports fans, that Ward had one heck of a ballgame last night against the Panthers as the Giants and Panthers played out round one of what could be a two-tiered tango for the NFC's berth in the Super Bowl. Drafted by the Jets out of Fresno State in 2004, the fourth-year player (signed by the Giants off the Jets practice squad in 2004) piled up a Jacobian 215 rushing yards on just 15 carries against the Panthers before a national television audience on Sunday Night Football. The weather was bitter cold at Giants Stadium but the crowd was anything but as the normally grouchy septuagenarian season-ticket holders had mostly sold their seats to their rowdy and enthusiastic grandkids, nieces and nephews. In fact, the only one yelling at "sit down" may have been Ward as he blew by opposing defenders. He averaged over 14 yards per carry and keyed the drives that set up the tying drive in the fourth quarter and the winning drive in overtime.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Of course they do...


The Lions have become a kindergarten class.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Dennis Northcutt All-Stars

Like many of you, I play in too many fantasy football leagues. I've got my "main" league with my high school buddies. I've got the league that belongs to one of my best friend's DC crowd. There's also the league of my co-worker's friends. And, of course, there's the two Yahoo public leagues that I play in. Oh, and I sort of ghost-managed my girlfriend's team for a while as well (but ultimately stopped when I realized I was managing a middling club in an all-girls league). It's enough to drive a man to drink. Or to invent wild and unnecessarily complex gambling schemes Or, at the very least, to wild binges of time wasting at the work place.

But, the overindulgence has taught me one thing. There are several archetypal fantasy football teams. For starters, there are the Eucatastrophy Teams from whom everything breaks right from the beginning, where every waiver pick turns out to a breakout player. If this is your team then you drafted Drew Brees in the middle rounds (or didn't but snagged Kurt Warner off the waiver wire after Week 1), drafted the Purple Jesus with your top pick (rather than LT), snagged Michael Turner with your second, lucked out with a discounted (because of that suspension Steve Smith), took a chance on Roddy White and then nabbed Michael Forte off of waivers in the early going. That, or something like it, happened for lots of people. I even had one team like that this year. It scored the third-most points in a 12-team league and was the only squad that didn't dip under a 100 points (we have a lot of scoring categories) in any single week. I was absolutely stacked. And, of course, I finished tied for LAST PLACE, with a 4-10 record. Because fantasy football is a godless game which rewards the auto-drafters and not-changing-guys-out-for-bye-week mouth breathers. But, I digress. Most of these squads are playing for the championship of their respective leagues right now. I'm up against one of them myself.

The bizarro version of the stacked Eucatastrophy Team is the Skin-of-the-Teeth Teams. These are the teams with mediocre but solid players who squeak out wins almost every week. Generally no one has a monster game but everyone chips in something and there is a rarely and 0fer to be seen. This formula works fine during the regular season only to fall short in the playoffs when a team's lack of game-breaking talent is exposed. Such teams may have featured Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch and TJ Houshmandzadeh. There are also the Hodge-Podge Teams, making deep runs featuring boom-busts guys and leftovers like Phil Rivers and Isaac Bruce. There's also the Auto-draft Automaton Clubs relying heavily on Peyton Manning, the Ravens defense and Terrell Owens. But these three types are who we thought they were. They're good but not great and likely facing an uphill battle beating the fully loaded squads that they must be up against at this point. Should they just plug in the Average Joes or guys in doomed matchups that they've got on the roster and start planning on how to spend their second-place money? Nope. And, why not? Because, really, the best part of playing fantasy sports (aside from potentially winning the money of your friends, family members and coworkers) is the smug feeling of being righter than everyone else.

And the best way to do that at this point is to manage a squad like The Dennis Northcutt All-Stars. This strategy is not for everyone. Be Warned: If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant then steer clear of this team. Do not even handle broken pieces of this team. Seriously, your babies will be deformed. You also don't need to adhere to this if you are running out a Eucatastrophy Team this weekend; in that case you best dance with those ladies that brought you. But, if you're the manager of a Skin-of-the-Teeth Squad, a Hodge-Podge Team or any other variety of entrant on the wrong side of the betting odds then this is your big chance. Don't blow the big check and the fabulous prizes by listening to the fantasy experts who still want you to start LaDainian Tomlinson over Sammy Morris.

Fantasy league managers can be a lot like reality league managers, they will often do the safe thing that protects them from ridicule even if it also insulates them from victory. They'll sign the retread manager rather than go with the unproven commodity. They will take the safe path that doesn't draw attention rather than the bold one that might. Just yesterday I found a perfect example of this while reading the transcript of a chat that Matthew Berry (ESPN.com's fantasy sports ringleader, whose work I do read regularly) conducted with readers. In response to a query about starting 49ers running back DeShaun Foster (presuming first-stringer Frank Gore is inactive) over Clinton Portis, Berry responded thusly:
I know. But I think Zorn is coaching to save his job here and what if you lose? You're gonna look back and go... what was I thnking? I benched Clinton Portis for DeShaun Foster.....
Now, what he really meant was, "I totally follow the logic of your suggestion but I cannot condone it because if you play Portis and lose then nobody will consider you foolish whereas if you play Foster and lose then you may be open to criticism from others who will second guess your non-conservative choice."

I couldn't disagree more with this logic. This is not how you win a one-game playoff. You can't be worried about feeling foolish when you lose. No one cares how you feel when you lose anyway. Because you are loser. This is about trying to win. Be bold. Be proactive. If Foster gets the start (and Gore considers himself 50-50 for the game) then he is the smartest play this week. He's going up against a woeful rush defense on speedy turf and won't be splitting carries. There is no doubt that Clinton Portis is the better football player and far more accomplished sartorially but that has little to do with Week 16. In Week 16, Foster is the play. You sit Portis in that situation because he has been injured, feuding with his coach and is facing a good team. Given a better one-week alternative, you sit LT (general suckiness), Chris Johnson (brutal matchup), Kurt Warner (supposedly bad weather an no need to win with playoffs clinched) and a ton of other "must-start" guys.

Without further ado, here's a list of potential members of The Dennis Northcutt All-Stars who may be able to help you pull of the shock win this week in your fantasy football league. I'll be starting these guys provided they are available in lieu of banged-up All Pros (Portis and LT) or studs with tougher matchups (Chris Johson vs. Pitt and Kurt Warner vs. The East Coast). And you should too.
QB: Shaun Hill, San Francisco 49ers
It's very possible that Hill has made a few starts in your league already but he's worth a look. Especially because he may have been dropped after last week's no touchdown performance against the Dolphins (who haven't allowed a TD in a while). Hill is taking the pass-happy 49ers into St. Louis to face the woeful Rams defense. While Brett Favre is battling the march of time and the rain in Seattle, Hill will be throwing free and easy in a dome and running plays called by an offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, who probably wants to hang 50 points on his old team. Before last week's no touchdown day against the Dolphins (although he still played well, completing 30 passes) he'd produced two scores in 4 of the 6 games that he'd played in. The Niners are going to score 3 to 5 touchdowns against the Rams and Hill is likely to get credit for a few of them. He's likely to get you at least two scores here and could explode against the pathetic Rams defense.

QB: Dan Orlovsky, Detroit Lions
Here me out. Aside from bringing us the best NFL blooper in recent years, Orlovsky could be the key to toppling a heavily-favored foe in the money game of your fantasy league. Forgetting that fact that I think the Lions could actually defeat the Saints in Detroit this weekend (New Orleans is 1-6 on the road and has nothing to play for), I don't think anyone would be shocked if the Saints won this game 38-24, with Calvin Johnson terrorizing the Saints secondary for three scores in the loss. That's totally plausible. Right? And, that means that lil' Danny from UConn tossed himself three TDs and probably almost leveled up stud-QB Drew Brees (who I'm facing in two championship games), who should probably surrender a few scores to Pierre Thomas. Just think about this before starting Tyler Thigpen against a Dolphins defense fighting for a playoff berth that hasn't given up a touchdown in a month.

WR: Dennis Northcutt, Jacksonville Jaguars
I know that this name would have been far more useful to you yesterday. Timeliness is not my strong suit. But this is the sort of situation to look for. Due to a teammate's suspension, Northcutt emerged last week (over 100 yards receiving, team-high 5 receptions and 1 TD) as his club's top option in the passing game. He's not nearly as talented or long-term reliable as many of his peers but this week he was a lock for a ton of looks from his quarterback. And that's all that should matter.

WR: Deion Branch, Seattle SuperHawks
You've actually heard of this guy. He's been good. He was even the Super Bowl MVP one time. But a conspiracy between injuries and Seneca Wallace may mean he's available in your league. Go check. If he is then pick him up and play him. Branch faces a leaky Jets secondary this weekend (29th against the pass) and all the subplot factors point towards a big day. He's a former Patriot and probably dislikes the Jets. The Jets are terrible on the West Coast (zero wins in three tries). The Seahawks should be fired up for Mike Holmgren's last home game. And, Branch has actually been playing pretty well with Wallace for the past two weeks (9 catches and 2 TDs). His 2008 season was an injury-marred abortion but he could still be the MVP of your fantasy squad.

WR: Jason Avant, Philadelphia Eagles
Cut from the same cheesecloth as Northcutt, Avant very recently emerged as the Iggles' sort-of No. 1a option, having caught a team-high (tied with Desean Jackson) 5 balls for 101 yards. Reggie Brown was on the bench and Avant was caught 3 balls on 3rd down from McNabb. The 25-year-old wide receiver out of Michigan is owned in just 3% of ESPN leagues and is worth a flier if you're a big underdog.

RB: DeShaun Foster, San Francisco 49ers
See Above. This post could easily be entitled The DeShaun Foster All-Stars as his sudden, undeserved opportunity and perfect matchup are exactly what this strategy thrives on.

More players coming...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Money For Nothin' and Tickets For Free...Full Price


Marbury Pays To Watch Knicks in LA

Let me preface all that is to follow by saying that I do think Stephon Marbury is a pair of pants that never came with an Inspected By.. sticker and needs to be removed from the Knicks roster.

Stephon Marbury who has been banished by the Knicks - meaning that he is barred from attending practices or games as a member of the team - turned up courtside in Los Angeles last night as the Knicks took on the Lakers. He bought his own ticket for the game. And, I thought it was a shrewd and funny move. In fact, I am totally for him showing up at last night's @Lakers game in plainclothes and buying a ticket along celebrity row (near the Lakers Girls) at the Staples Center. Good for him. Marbury, who has been out on the Left Coast working out and getting himself into shape for his eventual acquisition by another team, has fallen from the back pages since Plaxico shot himself in the leg and both football teams went into parallel tailspins.

When Plax shot himself he didn't only derail the Giants run to the Super Bowl. He also derailed the buyout process for Steph. With unlicensed firearms far more alluring then any team's "new direction" or healthy but unwanted players, the buyout drama was lost deep inside the tabloids. The Knicks banished Steph, Plax forever changed a well-worn metaphor and all of sudden no one was clamoring for a resolution. Marbury was out of sight and out of mind.

Well, that's not fair and not helpful for anyone involved. We need to get this buyout done. Steph needs to be allowed to play elsewhere and the Knicks need to be allowed to turn the page. Frustratingly, the Knicks are dragging their feet and haggling over money when they have already ceded the high ground. Which is a near impossible thing to do when you're fighting a land war against Starbury. I believe Vizini said that. But the Knicks managed to pull it off. Which is nice.

Looking back, it's clear that Walsh and D'Antoni (and Dolan) should have cut their ties with him before training camp opened. Because since then he's done everything right and made them look like reactionary hacks. And to top it off, they decided to add "cheap" to the list of adjectives used to describe them. Marbury was willing to hand back $1 million if they bought him out but the club balked. They said that he needed to hand back $3 million. And, for what? For being healthy and eager and not shot? They want him gone so they need to eat the money. He showed on Opening Night ready to play and they decided that they weren't going to play him. Ever. This is actually fairly simple.

And, still the Knicks did their best to ignore this fact. They want to make it shady and complicated. Last night the MSG network
never even sent anyone over to interview Marbury (on the radio Gus Johnson did relay bits of his pregame conversation with Steph). MSG showed images of the scrum of reporters (featuring a very Grimace-like Marc Berman) around Marbury during hafltime but didn't think it was important enough to get one of their guys/gals over their to ask a question or get a soundbite.

My desire for this to be over soonest rather than later is not based in any deep-seated sympathy for the Coney Island product. I don't feel great about him getting all of this money for nothing while most people I know are struggling. But the contract is signed and he didn't draw it up. So, I just want the Knicks to free up that roster spot, which seems destined for Patrick Ewing Jr. (presuming that Mobley's spot goes to a shooting guard). Although I do enjoy D'Antoni's Seven Players Or Less philosophy I would like to get some more live bodies on the bench. If the team is going to stay close to .500 through the winter then they're going to need bodies warmer than Anthony Roberson and Jerome James.

Until this buyout gets done I hope that Steph just keeps showing up at every road game. Maybe that will force the hand that feeds him to send him packing. We know Steph can afford the tickets.

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Kobe Bryant. Even his jump shots have a chip on their shoulders. He elevates so quickly and fires these line drive daggers at the back iron with such velocity that they're through before you can even say out loud how unconnected that shot was to whatever the Lakers seemed to be doing on offense. Or, how full of hate they seemed. Bryant's MVP persona, the one that passes the ball often in the first half, is still a mystery to me. He's an enigma wrapped in a rapist. He played a game-high 41 minutes against the Knicks but you really didn't notice him until the fourth quarter. And, he didn't score consecutive field goals for the Lakers until he tied the game with a three (following a two-pointer on the last LA possession) with 5:50 to play in the fourth. Vintage Kobe would sprinkle such scoring binges throughout each and every game he played. Of course, last night he did score 9 of his 28 in the fourth and those two back-to-back hoops did tilt the game in the Lakers favor. I guess, what it comes down to, is that I'm still not sold on "unselfish" Kobe. I think he actually does more harm than good. He needs to embrace his true nature. The 20-3 Lakers almost lost a home game to the 11-13 Knicks and that shouldn't happen when Kobe Bryant plays 41 minutes. He has been subjected to too many Jedi mind tricks by Phil Jackson and now wants to try to pull off some of his own (which did seem to work on the weak-minded MVP voters). But, he can't only attempt four free throws. He's got to be aggressive. We all know that's how he really likes it.

2. Mike D'Antoni. I'm drinking the kool-aid. And so is everyone on the Knicks roster. Even after losses, these Knicks are upbeat and forward thinking. Me too. I felt great at the end of that loss to Lakers. They believe in the brand of basketball that they are playing. They believe in each other. And they believe that each day is step in the right direction regardless of the results.

3. D.J. Augustin. I've never been the guy. Not at anything. I've been pretty good at some things. And decent at a handful of others. But I've never been the one against whom others were or ever will be measured. Which means I had far more in common with Augustin than with Derrick Rose when the two matched up in Charlotte. Rose is the measuring stick. But Augustin took the wood to him, dominating the highly touted point guard from Memphis, getting off for 29 points and 7 assists. And, his team won the game in OT. Bobcats coach Larry Brown is molding this kid and reminding us that, in spite of his cutthroat nomadism, he still knows how to coach 'em up.

4. Zach Randolph. If a science-type person looks at a map of the cosmos and sees a ring of stars surrounding one focal point then the science sort can infer that something occupies that central space, even if they can't directly observe it with their own eyes or the instruments that they have at hand. They can infer certain qualities about the central point just by observing the effects that it has on the stars around it. This is the same manner in which I can learn things about Zach Randolph. I can't really see his "skills" when I look at a Clippers game (or when I used to look at a Knicks game) but I can observe the ways in which he effects the box score and infer certain things about his unobservable skill set. Last night the stat sheet read 22 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 win.

5. Albert Haynesworth's Agent. The gargantuan defensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans was selected to participate in the Pro Bowl. This was no surprise. Haynesworth has been indomitable this season. He's a monster truck. What did make some news, though, was that the selection activated a clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent at the end of this season. Haynesworth's agent Chad Speck negotiated a clause stating that his client became a free agent if he was selected to two straight Pro Bowls. He went last year. And, he's been selected again. The 27-year-old should earn a fortune. Well played, Mr. Speck.