Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Knicks are in Second Place? That's Unpossible!

Except in the Fantlantic, A Fantasy Basketball League that Simulates the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference

To refresh your memories, 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.

When we first looked at the Fantlantic everything was as it should have been. The fantasy standings mirrored the "reality" standings. The Celtics were dominant and had three of the top five fantasy players, the Knicks were bad and didn't have a single player in the top ten and the Nets had the other two players in the top five yet were horrendously underachieving as a team. There were no surpises and, frankly, I was worried that there would be nothing interesting to be gleaned from this league that I spent way too much time constructing.

But, after letting the Fantlantic marinate for a few weeks, some strange things happened. The differences between fantasy and reality basketball began to emerge. And, when we check in today there is true intrigue afoot as the New York Knickerbockers have moved up into SECOND PLACE in the Fantlantic. Perhaps the first step to becoming a better reality basketball team is becoming a better fantasy basketball team? After all, you can’t win over the course of the season if the numbers don’t add up. Now, that the Knicks are filling up a boxscore they need to learn poise down the stretch and all of the intangible things that keep them translating their Fantlantic progress to the officially sanctioned standings.

Standings

1. Celtics (53 points): The C' have extended their lead over the pack since we last checked in with the Fantlantic, even though they’ve dropped a few points (and few games) over the past month. Boston is still the best team but the sheen of dominance isn’t quite as lustrous as it once was. Nevertheless, Garnett and co. still lead the fantasy league in FG% and steals and rank second in FTM, FT%, 3PTM, 3PT% and assists.

2. Knicks (46 points): Without pesky things like losses muddying the fantasy ledger, the Knicks have used their recent run of better play to catapult themselves over three teams who remain above them in the actual standings. The hard-numbers used to tabulate these rankings confirm what anyone still left watching this team has seen: the Knicks are getting better. They are scoring more, they are taking higher percentage shots (well except for the Zach-hole), they are turning the ball over less and are racking up far more assists than they used to when everyone figured Marbury would just handle that whole passing-thing by himself. The most dramatic improvement has been in the points category, where the team has risen from last place into second. And, they are on pace to catch the Celtics, who lead this category. The last place slot in points-scored earlier in the season was particularly embarrassing for a team that starts four score-first players, and had started five until Marbury went down 10 games back. The Knicks lead all rebounding categories and are second in made field goals and free throw attempts. They're still last in assists, blocks and turnovers but they are improving everywhere else.

3. Nets (44 points): The emotional turmoil caused by Jason Kidd’s migraine problem has not translated to the Fantasy court just yet as the Nets have remained steadily lackluster in the Fantlantic. They still smelly faintly of tire fires and still hold down the same third place slot they had when we last looked in. The Nets hold, or share, 3 first place ranks (FTA, FT and assists) while being last in three other categories (FGM, FG% and FT%). I would expect these numbers to stay extreme once Kidd gets traded, with the exception of the assists number which should fall off dramatically. The five remaining figures (FTA, FT, FG%, FGM and FT%) are actually all connected. With Kidd becoming less of a factor and ultimately leaving you can figure that Vince will continue to chuck up enough shots to keep the team both first in FTA and FT (since he still gets the star treatment from the refs) and last in field goal percentage and the other efficiency stats.

4. 76ers (43 points): They're bad at most everything with two bright shining execptions. They have maintained their lead in the blocked shot department and somehow made the most field goals. They're last in all the 3PT shooting categories and I would imagine that the absence of Korver will ensure that doesn't change. Like the Celtics, there are no surprises here.

5. Raptors (39 points): Toronto must be the anti-Knicks when it comes to fantasy as their residency in the Fantlantic cellar is as confusing as the Knicks ascension. This is a team that is either the best or the worst on a statistical level. They rank first in more statistical categories than anyone else, leading the Fantlantic in FT%, 3PTM, 3PT% and turnovers. And, while they lead in all of those columns they are last in even more, ranking at the bottom in FTA, FTM, PTS, OReb, DReb and Reb. It would seem like they are a team whose poise and intangibles make them better than their raw production indicates while the Knicks lack of poise and intangibles makes them worse than their raw production indicates.

How did all of this happen you ask? Well, in fantasy basketball a team truly is the sum of parts and those parts have taken their teams only as far as their tangible output. There will be no place for Bruce Bowen on any team gunning for a fantasy league championship.

Top 15 Fantlantic Players (overall NBA rank according to Yahoo):

1. Kevin Garnett (8)

2. Chris Bosh (16) (+)
3. Jose Calderon (17) (+)
4. Andre Iguodala (18) (+)
5. Paul Pierce (29)
6. Jason Kidd (48) (-)
7. Samuel Dalembert (51) (+)
8. Ray Allen (53) (-)
9. Jamal Crawford (57) (+)
10. Anthony Parker (61)

11. Richard Jefferson (63) (-)
12. Vince Carter (64)
13. Jamario Moon (79) (+)

14. David Lee (84) (+)
15. Andre Miller (90) (+)


(+) means the player has moved up the rankings since we last peeked
(-) means the opposite

..other notable players include...

19. Zach Randolph (120) (+)

20. Nate Robinson (124) (+)
21. Sean Williams (130) (+)

23. Louis Williams (169) (-)
28. Quentin Richardson (194) (+)
30. Andrea Bargnani (208) (+)
37. Stephon Marbury (231) (-)
38. Fred Jones (235) (-)
40. Eddy Curry (252) (-)

44. Jared Jeffries (280) (+)
45. Josh Boone (287) (+)

And, still battling for the title of worst fantasy baller in the Fantlantic are two NJ Nets big men: Jason Collins and Jamal Magloire.


Stayed Tuned

Around the Internets

In which you will find new reasons to hate the Patriots

People from Boston think they're better than you. Each passing moment makes me want the Giants to win even more. And, I'm a Jets fan. IF only my wagering could make it so.

If disliking fans isn't your thing and you choose to focus on the field then please peruse this brief composition noting some of the ass-headedness of the New England Patriots.

And, lastly, your honor, please notice Exhibit Q when considering how arrogant the Patriots and their fans are.

Chatting up Chad

Knicks-related excerpts from today's chat with NBA-expert Chad Ford over at ESPN.com

Ill (san diego): do you think they will keep with the status quo or make a deal? gotta move either curry or zach and find a big with energy, hops and smarts. they have zero defensive presence in the paint and that is KILLING them.

Chad Ford: (1:34 PM ET ) I think they should try to move one of the two. Randolph has more talent but he has a bigger contract and more off the court baggage. Curry's a center and has a more palatable deal, but he doesn't rebound or play defense. Pick your poison. I'm not sure the Knicks could get a lot for either guy, but they might be able to get cap relief which could really benefit them in the summer of 2010. It's time to start looking ahead Knicks fans. Keep developing David Lee and Nate Robinson. Pick up high lottery picks the next two years and then get a major free agent in 2 years.

*
Bill sandiego: Didn't they trade that future pick that's unprotected in 2010????? Thomas is a master trader????

Chad Ford: (1:39 PM ET ) Yes, the Jazz will own the Knicks pick in 2010. But that still gives them two years, 2008 and 2009 to get a high pick.

*

Athan (san antonio): if the knicks get the #1 pick, how will isiah thomas screw it up?

Chad Ford: (1:45 PM ET ) Tyler Hansbrough with the NO. 1 pick

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 5
My Holiday Vacation
(Or, the latest story ever told)


One of the perks of my job is that I get vacation between Christmas and New Year’s Day. And, it’s not just days off that I get, it’s paid days off. Every year I fly to the Bay Area in California, my home home. I eat free meals, go on hikes and sit in my mom’s kitchen. Oh, and I don’t watch sports. This year’s trip was no different. It was relaxing and perfect.
But then I got back to New York and it was cold and I had no idea what was going on in the wide world of sports. It was unsettling. Three weeks later I still feel out of touch and the fact that feeling out of touch about sports makes me feel unsettled makes me even more unsettled. It’s complicated. Like Nancy’s life on “Weeds.” Except not at all like that and way less complicated.
The straw that really broke the bee’s bonnet was all the college football bowls happening when I was away. Rose, sugar, orange, banana, apple, kiwi—there were so many bowls! I didn’t even know what a bowl is and being away from a certain Mr. McSporty I wasn’t being forced to watch any so I wasn’t figuring it out. The only time I came close to watching sports was when my grandfather showed me how awesome it is to watch football on his giant HDTV.
For three weeks now, I’ve been back at my desk reading sports columns and blogs more than I want to admit, at least when I’m not looking at kittens in cups on cuteoverload.com, but nothing is really sticking. I’m hoping that the Super Bowl can get me back into the swing of things. I knew it was the playoffs the Sunday before last. We bought a lot of beer and it was nice beer so I could tell this was a big deal. And I know the Giants won, that the Super Bowl is soon, that Tom Brady buys flowers for one of his girlfriends and that I wish someone would buy me flowers. (That’s true. Ahem.) But I still don’t feel like I know what’s going on.
Who ended up being the winner of college football? Did they fire Isiah? When you feel part of something, the pain of feeling left out is disconcerting, even if you never wanted to be included in that thing in the first place. You know?

Magic believes in Knicks

Knicks may need actual magic for him to be right

Hall of Fame player and famous smoocher of Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson has, in speaking with Howard Beck at the Times and other reporters from other papers, thrown his support behind our Knickerbockers:
"They’re going to make the playoffs. I think that they’re going to be a tough eight or seven seed, too because you can see that they’ve turned the corner. Now everybody knows their roles, their minutes. I watch every game. I love the way Robinson is playing. Crawford has been one of my favorite players. I can see when teams are starting to make their run, and I think that they’ll settle in after the All-Star break and make their run. No way that I don’t see them making that eight, seven seed.”

I wonder if he actually believes this or if he still really trusts what Isiah tells him. Being less than five games out of the 7/8 slots heading into the second half isn't the worst place to be. That's Miami. Anyway, thanks Earvin.

Thursday's Starting Five

1. Michael Beasley. He said it would be and it was so. Future No. 1 pick Michael Beasley backed up his guarantee and led Kansas State to a HUGE win over the previously undefeated Kansas Jayhawks. He went 4-for-4 from behind the arc en route to 25 points. Shedding defenders that were coming at him in waves, the super frosh did everything. The third time that he got down on his knees during a stoppage in play and helped the staff towel off sweat from the floor is when I knew, for certain, that he is someone I would want on my team. He’s a monster and he cleans.

2. Lebron. He got a layup! That was all I could blurt out when it happened. Everyone knew that Lebron would get the ball in his hands with his club down by a point with 5.9 to go. I knew it. My roommate knew it. And, surely, all the Blazers knew it. And, in spite of that, he got a layup! Once again, LBJ has shown to be stronger and faster and more focused than anyone else. He actually outscored the entire Blazers team in the fourth quarter.

3. Baron Davis. After last year's postseason run, the Bearded One had re-entered the best point-guard debate and had grabbed a share of the spotlight along with his high-flying team. Fast-forward 7 months and a fellow named Paul, Chris Paul and his New Orleans Hornets team had stolen a lot of that thunder. Exacting some measure of revenge Davis hit the game-sealing 3 pointer as the Warriors beat the Hornets.

4. Allen Ivereson. By hitting 6 free throws in the last half minute he led the Nuggets to a come-from-behind win at Memphis.

5. Al Jefferson. He’s back in the starting five. And he's getting comfortable. The Rain Check had 26 and 20 as the Wolves beat the Bulls, convincingly.

Benched: David Beckham was notably absent from the first lineup picked by new England (which is different than New England) skipper Fabio Capello. Becks is stuck on 99 appearances and has made it known that, at the very least, he wants to hit the century mark. Complicating matters is that Capello and Beckham had a falling out when the two were paired at Real Madrid. In other words, Drama!

Skeleton Crew Can't Dance With Jazz

Knicks lose to Jazz, 89-100

Quentin Richardson only made it through six minutes. He had the flu.
Eddy Curry only made it through the first four minutes. He had the flu.
Fred Jones returned and got a little run. He still has the flu.
There was no Renaldo Balkman. He had the elbow-to-foreigner's-head-suspension.

The team never fully recovered from starting the game with Q and Curry in the lineup. Sluggish and discombobulated, the Knicks borrowed this first quarter from mid December. They were down quickly and didn't have any of the spark they showed the against the Warriors or Lakers. Maybe those two losses in games they could have won, demoralized the team. Or maybe it was just that two-fifths of the starting rotation was a running a fever. I don't know. All I know is that I was far more interested in the second half of the Kansas State v. Kansas game than the first half of the Knicks game.

Other things I do know:

1. David Lee was the only player to have +point differential during his minutes on the floor. And, having played over 37 minutes (third most behind Crawford and Randolph) this is no insignificant stat.

2. Mardy Collins needs to continue to play. And, improve. Fred Jones is a filler. Yes, he'll try hard and hustle but he is not the answer at the point. While Collins may not be either, now is the time to find out. Let him keep the 1 seat warm for Nate in the first few minutes and occassionally spell Crawford, shifting Nate to the 2. I'm fine with letting him struggle a bit if it will help the team sort out what they're doing at that position in '09.

3. Without Curry in the paint, this team works from the free throw line and out. Nate drives and kicks to Crawford or Crawford drives and kicks to Nate. Randolph takes flat-footed mid-range shots when the ball hits his hands. Without Curry in the paint the only high-percentage buckets we ever get are on coast-to-coast drives by Nate and dunks by Lee. At least, when Lee isn't getting his shot-blocked.

3. With Curry in the paint, we're not much better. But some of the perimeter shots are open.

4. There is no one on our team who can play like Deron Wiliams. Even when Nate or Jamal end up with double-digit assists it doesn't happen like when Deron does it. He manages a game when he is playing well, setting the tempo and changing it when necessary. To make matters worse (for the Knicks), the Jazz were able to sub Williams for Ronnie Brewer and not miss a beat. Meanwhile, our four-headed point guard monster (Nate, Jamal, Mardy, Fred) is haphazard and can only "control" a game when Nate is fast-forwarding past everyone, including his teammates.

5. The main structural flaw with the post-Marbury, post-dominant-Curry era is that our best two players are also are biggest problem. Nate and Jamal are far and away the driving force of the team, but their uneven play and poorly defined roles at the point is what keeps us from being able to execute our offense down the stretch.

6. There isn't too much to make of the almost comeback. It's the NBA. It's Fantastic. And, everyone makes a run.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Re-Runs: Another Come-From-Ahead-Loss

Knicks lose to Lakers, 109-120

With television writers continuing to strike across Los Angeles, the Knicks had no choice put to re-use the same script from Sunday night's game against the Warriors. The same interesting premise paired with the same predictable and well-worn ending. The Knicks lose. Instead of Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson showing the steely nerve required to win close games late it was Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic. And instead of Biedrins surprisingly coming up big in the paint it was Ronny Turiaf. Other than the different actors, everything else about the episode was the same.

The Knicks came out and played well. They ran and they made shots. They played with fire and were the better team for long periods. Nate was a terror and Jamal showed he is emerging as one of the game's better gunners. Curry was a non-factor and with him tethered to the bench it was a team that was easy to root for. However, at the end they faltered. It was no shock and no great insult. I'm not sure how many almosts I can take before it becomes too frustrating to spin positively but I'm not there yet. Quite simply, the games are worth watching again and for now that is still enough.

Some thoughts:

-At the half, even with the slim lead, I felt like the game was the Lakers to lose. We had managed only a three-point advantage even though Kobe had effectively taken himself out of the LA offense. He wasn't shooting or being aggressive at all. He had clearly decided to have one of his statement halves when he racked up assists and "trusted" his teammates.

-Randolph going at the basket = good.

-Randolph taking set-shot from 15 to 18 feet = bad. I know that he makes these sometimes but he's too tall and too streaky for this to be his first-choice on O.

-If Q Rich could consistently bring the same intensity that he brings whenever he plays the league's best he would be the heart of this team. Unfortunately, he needs to matched up against Kobe, Lebron or Paul Pierce to bring his A-game.

-Balkman still gets lost on the bench for too long. He barely played more minutes than Mardy Collins. Isiah really doesn't know how to construct this lineup and substitute over the course of a game. Well, except when it comes to Curry. He has learned how to substitute for him.

-Whenever the Knicks switched to a zone defense it was painfully apparent that Eddy still doesn't know what he's doing. After allowing a dunk FROM A ZONE the Knicks called a timeout and every single player and coach individually asked Curry, "What the f&#k?"

-If the Knicks push the ball down the floor then David Lee will score points in bunches. He didn't do anything special last night like develop a jumper, rather he just kept getting the ball and getting it to the rim.

-The 4th quarter plan of one-player dribbling out the shot-clock while everyone else stands still below the foul line is not something I would recommend. I know that Jamal has shown a penchant for late-scores but we can't have that be "the plan."

-The offensive execution got so bad down the stretch that I actually said, "they really need to put Curry back in." As bad as he is, his presence does force our offense into some sort of cohesion.

-Kobe is a strange fella. Watching the first half, I knew that the game was his for the taking. The only real question was when was he going to takeover. Early on he seemed far more interested in bickering with referees than with game itself. Eventually he did get angry enough (with refs who were giving him the star-treatment in spite of his petulance) to start looking for his shot and attacking the basket. This is about when the game tilted the Lakers way. I assume that he knows what he is doing and that he is taking a page from Phil Jackson's book by messing with his teammates. Sort of like when Phil refuses to call timeouts during bad runs of play (during the regular season) so that the team will learn to play through it (for the playoffs). Maybe it was like that?

-DJ Mbenga is hilarious. If he knew the rules of the game he could be someone to watch. On the other hand, he may only be worth watching since he doesn't know what he is doing

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Johan Santana. I saw Johan pitch at Shea last season, against the Mets. He tossed an effortless complete game shutout. You could tell it was easy for him. In fact, the game was almost as easy for the Mets. Early on they knew they were beaten. Totally comfortable and confident that the spacious Shea outfield could keep most everything in play, Johan threw strike after strike in the later innings trying to hit bats and get outs. He did both. All the friends of friends of friends of his say that he wanted to get to Mets all along and that he has always wanted to be in the NL. So that he can bat. Because coming out of Venezuela he was a hard-hitting centerfielder compared (by his fans) to Griffey.

2. Mets fans. No fan base needed such an infusion more. Red Sox fans didn't need it. They've won two titles in the past four years. Yankees fans are too arrogant to admit they need anything and deep down just didn't want the Red Sox to get him. Nothing else could have turned the page on last year's epic collapse like this. Now, we're heading into 2008 and the storylines will be: the last hurrah at Shea, the beginning of the Santana era and the 35th anniversary of Tug McGraw's "You Gotta Beleive" team.

3. Yao Ming. Hitting 14 out of 15 free throws at the center position is impressive. Doing so in a game decided by four-points is clutch. The secret weapon of the Red Army ended up with 36 points altogether and 19 rebounds as the Rockets beat the Warriors.

4. Kevin Durant. The anointed Rookie of the Year hit the go-ahead jumper as the Sonics upended the Spurs last night, halting a 14-game skid.

5. Andy Pettitte. A man who seems to have learned from the travails of Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, Pettitte will reportedly back up McNamee's claims when he testifies in DC this week, revealing that he "discussed" HGH with Clemens before he ever used it.

Benched: Peter Gammons. The baseball institution let slip an uncharacteristic show of homerism when giving his take on the Santana trade last night. Obviously shaken that neither the Red Sox nor Yankees acquired Santana, he spun the story as being about his dearest teams holding on to the Ellsbury and Hughes respectively rather than about any of the players actually involved. It was a disapointing display by someone who I do respect very much.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I was thinking, maybe, since you're coming to town so soon, that, maybe you'd want to come to a Knicks game with me. What do you think, Johan?

In non-Knicks news, in other words, the kind of news that most New Yorkers care about, the Metropolitans have in place a deal to acquire Johan Santana from the Twins in exchange for four prospects, not including Fernando Martinez. The last hurdle is finalizing the contract extension, which should be many years for much money. The Mets and Santana have 72 hours to settle on terms.

I have goosebumps and Metsblog.com has crashed. In t-minus seventeen seconds the Mets will announce that single-game tickets for the upcoming season are going on sale next Saturday. That is a safer bet than any Super Bowl prop you're going to find.

Whew! I feel giddy about baseball for the first time since July. This changes everything, for Mets fans, going into the season. It'll be all about looking forward rather than looking back.

Can't Sleep On Nate Any Longer

Over at the Worldwide Leader, basketball number cruncher John Hollinger has put together an All-Sleeper Team, composed of the 15 players who are having break-out seasons and deserve the attention of the NBA-watching public. And, our very own Nate Robinson made the list:

Nate Robinson, Knicks
In our zest to chronicle the assorted sideshows at Madison Square Garden these days, we perhaps have missed a story right in front of our faces -- Robinson's development into a real, live NBA player. It doesn't seem possible that a 5-foot-9 shooting guard can cut the mustard, but in his third pro season, Robinson is pumping in 20.6 points per 40 minutes and, even more shockingly, snaring 5.0 rebounds.
Of late, Stephon Marbury's absence has given Robinson a bigger opportunity to shine, and he's taken full advantage. In 14 January games, Robinson has averaged 14.7 points and 4.7 assists and shot 47.1 percent; in fact, he and Jamal Crawford form a far more effective backcourt than anything else the Knicks have tried over the past couple of years, which is one reason the team's play has improved of late.

As Hollinger notes, the rush to document the madness and malaise at the Garden has led to positive developments, either with Nate or even with the team's good play lately, being overlooked. It is refreshing to hear a pro writer admit this. Hollinger is a stand-up guy and as smart a basketball scribe as exists today.

The other sleepers on his list were David West, Brendan Haywood, Josh Childress, Devin Harris, Andrew Bogut, Louis Williams, Rashad McCants, Thadeus Young, Ryan Gomes, Dorell Wright, Shawne Williams, Kris Humphries, Francisco Garcia and Ronny Turiaf.

Mardy or Mighty Mouse?

After much speculation and foreshadowing, the Memphis Grizzlies released veteran point guard Damon Stoudamire today, according to SI.com.

Stoudamire, the diminutive handler formerly known by the handle Mighty Mouse, was drafted out of the U of Arizona by none other than our very own Isiah Thomas when he was mismanaging the Toronto Raptors. With the Knicks only true-point guard (and even that's a stretch) Stephon Marbury sidelined indefinitely, while recovering from surgery, is a reunion in the works?

I hope not. I don't doubt that Stoudamire would be an upgrade over Fred Jones and that he would help this team and do a better job of feeding Curry inside than Crawford or Nate, BUT I'd rather see Mardy continue to sneak onto the floor to spell (or start!) Nate and Jamal.

Letting Crawford, Nate and Mardy handle the point guard duties for the rest of the season is the move of a team seeing what it's got heading into 2009 and beyond while signing a 34-year-old is the move of a team clawing at this year's eight seed without heed for what comes next.

Besides, the Nets could use him to back up Marcus Williams after they trade Kidd.

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Chris Paul. The New Orleans Hornets stung Denver last night 117-93, led by CP3's 23 points, 17 assists and 9 rebounds. The Hornets spanked the Spurs even worse over the weekend and have been holding their slim lead over Phoenix in the West thanks to 9 straight wins. This is the best team in basketball right now. And Chris Paul is the M-V-P. Hands down. Remember when coach Byron Scott was taking a point-guard led Nets team to the Finals? Do you think Jason Kidd does?

2. The Flu. With the phlegm and the used tissues and the occasional vomiting, it's not as sexy an accessory as Tom Brady's boot but it is what the Giants have brought with them to Phoenix. Apparently a few players left Green Bay under the weather and the team was a bit late in arriving in Scottsdale yesterday because Aaron Ross was sick on the team plane.

3. Kobe Bryant. Nothing will make him feel better about the woodshedding he got from Lebron in the fourth quarter on Sunday than tonight's visit from the Knicks. He scored 39 on his December visit to the Garden and has lit them up over the past few seasons.

4. Michael Beasley. The all-world frosh at Kansas State predicted a win against undefeated Kansas on Wednesday. His coach supports his confidence. Will he be back on this list on Thursday?

5. Chris Webber. He's back. And, he's back with Don Nelson and the Golden State Warriors, where it all started. These two famously combusted years ago and sent the club into a tailspin from which it has just recovered. I wonder how this will go?

Benched: Koby Clemens. The Rocket's son comes out and laments how hard all this steroid stuff has been on him and his father. Oh, I'm sorry, Koby. I can imagine that it is rough to go home to your gazillion dollar estate in your tailor made Hummer that your dad bought you and think about former family friends injecting horse medicine into your father. Is all of this distracting you from the baseball career that your father had built into his own contracts? It must be tough. Good luck with all that.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lupicas, Thomsens and Bermans: Oh My!

What the Pros are writing about the Knicks,

Beating me to the punch, Frank Isola (at the News) wrote in his official "blog" that Charles Oakley should have his number retired too if the Garden is extending that honor to Adam Graves, probably the fourth-best player on the Rangers championship squad in 1994. Obviously, I couldn't agree more about putting aside "34" and had the same thought when I heard Brian Leetch make the announcement the other night about Graves upcoming honor.

If you missed the Leetch ceremony then you should see if you can catch it re-aired on MSG. You had Brian Leetch out on the ice, be-suited and blushing his way through his own speech and, then, he tells the crowd that he has a very special announcement to make. The excitement was palpable and Leetch had the pleasure to let his teammate, who was in the house, know that he too would get his number up in the rafters.

I know that Graves was part of a championship team but Oakley was the soul (Ewing was the heart) and the conscience of a decade's worth of great Knicks basketball. And, seeing his number besmirched by Curry on a nightly basis makes me feel even more certain that it should be retired from circulation. He is as singular a Knick as there ever will be and his example (on the court) is something that players should measure themselves against every time they put on the team colors.

I'm putting together some numbers and we'll get back to this later in the week.

**

And, that's really all I've got on the newspaper front. I don't know if it's the rise to .500 ball or if it's because Dolan and his goons have literally scared them away but the beat reporters covering the team have been very quiet the past week or so.

Monday's Starting Five

(An all NBA Edition following a banner day/night in the Association. With no football on television the NBA picked up the slack. There was a slate of 10 games, two-buzzer beating winners, an average margin of victory of 4.4 points and seven contests decided by 3 points or less)

1. Lebron James. The King (and the Cavs) reigns in Los Angeles. And so does actual rain, which leaked through the roof and paused the game during the first quarter. LBJ scored 41 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter and put the clamps down on Kobe in the late going as well.
2. Hedo Turkoglu. The Istanbul native hit a deep, deep off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer to knock off the Celtics. And, yes, the C’s were without KG.
3. Andris Biedrins. The lanky Latvian cleaned 26 rebounds off the glass in Oakland last night, many of them over and around the much more substantial Eddy Curry. This was a season-high for the NBA and the latest indignity suffered by Curry on the court.
4. Kevin Martin. Not to be outdone by Hedo, the new K-Mart went almost the length of the floor before dropping in a winning midrange jumper at the buzzer. Of course, beating the woeful Sonics at the alarm isn’t a good as beating Boston.
5. Al Jefferson. Looking to become a regular in this space, the Rain Check scored 40 and grabbed 19 as the T-Wolves overtook the Nets last night.

Benched: The Nets. By snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Minny on the same weekend that Kidd's trade demands go public, Ratner's bunch are currently (meaning at this very moment) the most dysfunctional team in the NY metro area. Ouch.

They Believe, We Hope

106-104, Warriors defeat Knicks

I'm not sure how to feel about last night's loss to the Golden State Warriors. Am I just glad that the Knicks are watchable again? After all, the game was compelling to the final ticks of the clock. Or am I disappointed that they lost?

Well, I guess I'm both. I walked away from the television (and went downstairs to watch The Simpsons episode that I'd skipped to watch pre-game coverage) feeling slightly frustrated but definitely upbeat and in a good mood.

I was in a good mood because the Knicks are officially playing better. And, they have been for the last ten+ games. My dad says they've improved from awful to bad while I'd like to think that they've gone from awful to mediocre. Either way, things are getting better. And, even more confounding is that depending on the personnel on the floor this can actually be a likeable team nowadays. Nevertheless, last night's loss was painful because the game was there to be won. The Knicks had a ten point lead in the third quarter and a narrow margin in the black heading into the fourth. And, they squandered it. Stephen Jackson had a huge fourth quarter, Biedrins kept the Knicks off the offensive glass and Davis and Ellis hit the back-breaking shots that Crawford and Nate have been hitting in recent wins.

Taking the longview, this was not a bad loss, in any sense. It was a closely contested road game against a top-flight opponent on track for the playoffs. And the Knicks just came up a couple of plays short. What they needed in the final minute was one defensive stop and then one basket. That's it. They were a two possession swing from winning. They didn't get it, though.

However, right now it is more important for this team to develop some consistency when it comes to the Philadelphias and the Miamis of the world. We need to learn to beat the teams that are eminently beatable and then hope to steal a few games from the playoff caliber teams, like Golden State. We almost got one of those last night. Almost.

The Take-Away

1. Eddy Curry's deficiencies as a rebounder can cumulatively cost the Knicks over the course of a game. After two and a half seasons of watching Curry play for the Knicks this is probably isn't news to anyone. Usually he's contributed to losses by allowing an easy bucket or an offensive rebound in the waning moments rather than allowing someone to alter the game itself. Biedrins thoroughly dominated the glass, at one point grabbing consecutive offensive rebounds by reaching directly OVER a stationary Curry, and finished with an NBA season high 26 boards. His effect on the game cannot be understated. On the other hand, Curry's seventeen points overstate his effect on the game.

2. The Knicks offense should be able to run with the Warriors. With Robinson, Lee and Balkman on the floor the Knicks get up and down. Nate showed last night that he could outrun the Golden State Gazelles at will. He's fast.

3. Mardy Collins isn't done just yet. Starting because Fred Jones is sick, Collins handled himself well while on the floor, especially in the first quarter. He played hard and was rallying to the ball on defense and on the boards. When he came back into the game in the second-half he did get abused by Davis immediately. The same thing happened when these two matched up in the Garden. Nevertheless, it was good to see him get some PT and not waste it. His stat-line isn't very pretty but the Knicks were +13 while he was on the floor. Ideally, I'd like him to keep developing and take away Fred Jones' gig as the guy who plays the first few minutes before Nate takes over.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"We are caring enough to really share the ball."--Eddy Curry

This quote means two things:

1. The Knicks won tonight, beating the Sixers.
2. They've been stealing from me all year.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Sixers

The Knicks have been off since Monday's defeat to Boston. It feels to me like they haven't played in weeks. I hope they're ready to come out with some energy tonight and that they've been sitting in their basements, drinking coffee, watching Paul Pierce highlights and just thinking about tonight's game for the past 72 hours. I hope everyone remembers the home-and-home sweep from last month and that someone has been playing those game tapes on a loop at their practice facility all week.

Just like tonight, the Knicks were starting to look a little better the last time they had a Friday night matchup with the Sixers. And, then they surrendered any momentum that they'd built by getting humiliated two nights in a row. The Saturday leg at MSG was the second worst performance I've seen in person all year.

Going into the All-Star break this is a big game. It's a should-win and a must-win if the team has any hope of coming out the gate in the second-half with a good vibe. In spite of Monday's loss, things are still coming together and the last ten games have been the team's best stretch since the first ten games.

Can they keep it going?

"No, baby. That's just jokes. That Ed sure is funny."

Or, how the Knicks are officially a source of humor far and wide.

The Knicks have been laughed at for a while now. Looking at this season as a whole (and, yes, a case can easily be made that the team has been a joke for a longer time) I would say with certainty that the tipping point from mediocrity too punchline occurred on November 29, 2007.

That, of course, was the night of the epic loss at the hands of the Celtics. Two days earlier, our old friend Reggie Miller primed the pump with these choice (and accurate) words on the ball club:
"Right now, they are a league-wide joke," Miller said. "It's sad because they are an historic and iconic franchise. But people think they are late night comedy jokes."

Within hours of those words being uttered the Knicks were down by 52 points in the second half on national television, Sir Charles and Kenny the Jet were in hysterics at the ineptitude and the damage was done. From that point on the team has been late-night monologue fodder. Just a week and a half ago Letterman took another shot at the team in a monologue. Isiah, Dolan and everyone else associated with the franchise has seemingly gone out of their way to find every banana peel since then. In other words, kicking out fans hasn't helped the image problems.

Just when you think it can't get worse, when you think that we're putting some things together and Nate is looking good, it invariably does get worse and these two recent events showcase that nicely.

1. While on a road trip to LA Suns guard Leandro Barbosa fell victim to a hoax where his hotel gave him a message saying that Suns GM Steve Kerr wanted to meet him to discuss a trade to the New York Knicks. Barbosa, understandably, freaked and went storming off to track down his coach. He later said the joke about being traded to the Knicks was a "terrible thing... Every time I hear the word ‘trade,’ … it’s just not a comfortable word for me at all. This is my team. I went a little crazy.”

The Punchline: The Knicks are now a threat. If you misbehave...we'll send you to the Knicks. Nice.

2. LA Clippers coach, Mike Dunleavy said, responding to owner Donald Sterling saying that the 12-5 Clippers could be a playoff team despite not having All-Star Elton Brand all season, that the Clippers would be foolish to make trades that would only help them this year. This seems like a fairly benign and sensible statement. But, Dunleavy then justifies his feelings with this gem:
"I would only make deals to help our future — anything else is suicide. Anything else and you become the New York Knicks. Now if you want to do that and take on big contracts and long-term deals to potentially hit a home run or get some kind of turnaround, that's not the direction I would go as a businessman or if I owned the team."

The Punchline: Your management style is so foolish you could work for the Knicks. Oh! Snap!

Friday's Starting Five

1. Monta Ellis. The diminutive guard scored 39 points in a see-saw win over the Nets last night. Ellis and the Warriors rolled up 22 straight to overtake the white-flag waving Nets in the fourth quarter. Baron Davis also chipped in with a triple-double.

2. Novak Djokovic. The third-seeded Serb defeated Roger Federer at the Aussie Open at some point in the past day. He beat the guy who never loses and he did it in straight sets in the semi-finals at a hard-court Grand Slam tournament. Is this the beginning of the end of Federer's run of unparalleled dominance or just a little hiccup? It has been three years since Federer didn't at least appear in the Finals of a Grand Slam event.

3. Brian Leetch. The MVP of the 1994 playoffs and one of the best to skate in the Garden had his number retired by the Rangers last night. I happened to catch the beginning of his speech on the radio and my favorite part was when he was dishing out some obligatory thank yous. Right off the bat (or stick or whatever they use in hockey) he thanked Dolan for putting together the event. At the mere mention of his name the crowd immediately shifted from deafening, fawning applause to ravenous boos. Of course, Leetch won them right back, but that moment was pretty hilarious and worth having to move my car for street cleaning.

4. The Hoopcats. Arizona made non-Lute news for the first time this season by beating No. 6 Washington State last night in Tuscon. Chase Buddinger notched 22 and led the three-point onslaught that slayed the Wildcats in the second half.

5. Randy Moss. He'll be practicing with his team (and maybe with his QB) in the coming days rather than going back to Florida to deal with whatever he's got going on down there.

Benched: Dwyane Wade. He secured a starting spot in the All-Star game even though he's been hurt most of the season and his team has lost 15 games in a row? I think he is a great player and give him all the credit in the world for battling night after night when he is clearly hurt, but Wade is NOT a 2007-2008 NBA All-Star. He's just not.

Also benched: Jason Kidd. He seems to have resorted back to his pre-NBA Finals ways, back when he was gifted and difficult and the sort of player that you could reasonably trade straight-up for Stephon Marbury. Everyone who watches can see that he is mailing it in and last night he let two different guards go off on him, Ellis and Davis.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

And, time. Pencils down and please hand in your NBA Midterm Reports

It's that time of year, again. The tax papers are in the mail, the holiday gift certificates are all but spent, the media uses the Super Bowl bye-week to destroy your interest in the game and the basketball writers around the country are dusting off their red pens and dishing out "midterm grades" to all of the teams in the NBA. Below you'll see that I've rounded up the comments, compliments and complaints that have bee directed at the Knicks during this year's midterm season.

First we'll start off with Tim Legler's Eastern Conference Grades from the Daily Dime on ESPN.com:
New York Knicks (Grade: F) -- I honestly don't know where to begin. The Knicks could have earned at least a D grade if they hadn't been such a disaster off the court. It's one thing to play poorly or underachieve. It's an entirely different level of ineptitude when a team lacks passion, chemistry, unselfishness and the concept of basic winning basketball fundamentals. Thank goodness for David Lee and Renaldo Balkman, the only two Knicks who bring the right mind-set to the arena every night.

A former Academic All-American at LaSalle, Legler predictably sticks with the tried and true alphabet grading system for his story. Not surprisingly, the Knicks flunked the first half of the season. I agree. In fact, I have no back-handed commentary on anything that the champ of 1996 Three-Point Shootout has to say about the team. The only thing I would amend is that I would add Nate Robinson to the list of players who bring the right mindset every night. Of course, I would like to hear something about Crawford's improved play and the other positive signs in the past two weeks but I can't really argue with Legs knowing that space is limited and he's considering the first-half as a whole.

Meanwhile Charley Rosen over at FoxSports.com eschews the grading route and poses the questions facing each team in the Association during the second half of the season.
New York Knicks:
-Will Jerome James be the Knicks' savior?
-If the Knicks have to deal either Eddy Curry or Zach Randolph, the former should be designated to go — if only because the latter (even though he's much more of a pain in the butt) will at least rebound and occasionally pass.
-The Knicks are a mathematical anomaly — their total is less than the sum of their parts.
-By hook or by crook (both methods being SOP at MSG), shouldn't the Knicks get a real point guard, play Crawford at the shooting-guard slot, and bring Nate Robinson off the bench?
-And why doesn't Dippy Dolan heed the vox populi and put Zeke out of his misery?

I have a hard time taking this guy seriously for two reasons. 1) He works for Fox. 2) He wrote a column a few years back about the players in the NBA who he considered most overrated that, shall we say, upset me. He named Barkley, Ewing, Robinson, Malone and several other prominent and future HOF players in his article and offered very suspect and incomplete evidence to back up his assertions. It was the worst sort of ill-conceived, attention mongering Skip Baylicosity and is indicative of the sort of stuff that you would expect from a FOX outlet or bad talk radio. But, Rosen poses some interesting questions here, so I'll just focus on that. I agree that the fate of Jerome James is an interesting subplot in the second half. As Curry and Randolph show that they are completely inept defensively will James see more playing time? He is allegedly healthy and seems to understand that he is essentially starting from absolute zero as far as the rotation and the fans are concerned. This bit of self-knowledge puts him ahead of some of his teammates and coaches. If James plays well enough then perhaps we could unload him in the offseason or perhaps we could be free to trade another of the bigs. I don't like what James represents about the Isiah Thomas era and I've frequently expressed the fact that I want him banished, so obviously the fates have made it so that he could potentially be a factor down the stretch. Of course.

Jack McCallum attempts to do Rosen's question ploy one better over at SI.com, but he fails miserably with his hilariously unfunny use of the failing economy as a prop.
Sell! Run for your lives and sell!
New York Knicks (NIX)
Price at beginning of season: $11.75
Current price: One cent
Analysis: Buyouts impossible for overcompensated workforce. Leadership crisis. Stockholders in near revolt. Company has taken the "standard" out of Standard & Poor's.

I must confess that I do like McCallum's work even though I think this conceit is pretty hokey and can barely tolerate Marty Lyons when he does the same thing during the weekly pre-game Jets broadcasts on the radio. I think that McCallum tried to be too clever here. After all, there isn't anything to take away about the team. Yes, I can infer that they're not doing very well but if I'm reading this sort of an article than I already know that. C'mon, Jack. You're better than this

Thursday's Starting Five

1. The New Orleans Hornets. Led by my MVP pick Chris Paul, the NOH took over first place in the Western Conference with last night's victory over red-hot Portland. That means the Hornets have more wins and fewer losses than teams like the Suns and the Spurs and the Mavs and, well, and everyone else in the hoops' version of the AFC. They'll be in The City in March.

2. Jose Calderon. Thrust into a starring role when TJ Ford went down earlier in the year, Calderon has been one of the best point guards in the Association this season. He converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 10.5 seconds left to lift the Raptors over the Celtics.

3. Mike Smith. The 2003 and 2006 winner of the Most Generic Name Contest was named HC of the Atlanta Falcons yesterday. After courting Cowher and Parcells, um, this sort of feels a bit anticlimactic. Smith was, most recently, the Defensive Coordinator for the Jags.

4. The Baylor Bears. With Curtis Jerrells lighting the way the Bears knocked off in-state rival Texas A&M (at College Station) in a five-overtime affair last night. Jerrells had 36 points, with 11 coming in the final overtime, to secure the victory in the longest game in Big 12 history.

5. Al Jefferson. The second biggest piece in the Garnett trade had a career-high 39 points to go along with 15 boards as the lowly T-Wolves beat the Suns last night. Even more surprisingly, this was the second straight game between these two that ended this way.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"You know I noticed that somebody wrote in my chart that I was difficult in January of 92 and I have to tell you I remember that appointment exactly"

Your favorite out-patient and mine, Stephon Marbury underwent surgery yesterday to clean out bone spurs in his right ankle. The prognosis is that he is difficult, brooding, egotistical and likely to never suit up in a Knicks uniform again.

The professional speculators at the papers all think he'll be traded to a team looking for cap space going into next offseason or that the Knicks will simply buy him out over the summer. Oh, and his doctor said the he will recover fully after "successful" surgery. Yeah, someone said that too.

The media has created a situation in which it would seemingly be a surprise if Steph comes back. I'm not quite there yet. Mostly because I don't know how they will be able to move him to another team if doesn't get back on the court this season, with the Knicks. But, whatever happens we can be sure it will be dramatic and end poorly.

"You are not going to believe what happened to me at the doctors office today ...I was looking at my chart and it said I was difficult . Why would they write that ?"

Around the Internets

If you like the Mets, indie music and Hoboken, NJ then this sit-down between indie stalwarts Yo La Tengo and original Metropolitan Ed Kranepool where the connection between the band's name and their favorite baseball team is revealed is just for you.

Someone compared the big-time freshman playing college ball this season to the students at West Beverly.

THIS is why I'll be wearing a Lawrence Taylor or Phil Simms jersey two weeks from now.

Larry Brown isn't the only one who should be worried about spying, because someone clearly eavesdropped on this call between Brett Favre and Tony Dungy.

And, if the first link didn't sate your Mets appetite or perhaps you like loopy, gold glovers rather than musicians then check out this fascinating and unabashedly honest interview with Keith Hernandez. This guy never disappoints and this is seriously a must read for any baseball fan.

Spy Hard

In a recent interview with hitherto unknown Philadelphia Magazine former Knick coach and current executive VP of the 76ers Larry Brown spins yet another tale of woe about the awful working conditions at MSG.
"Imagine when you get to work, they don't talk to you," Brown said. "They had security people standing close to me in press conferences, and spies throughout the arena."

He claimed, believably, that the media policy was so oppressive that he was constantly monitored and shadowed during all moments when he could have potentially come into contact with a member of the media or anyone with high speed internet connection. And, to top it off they weren't even nice about it!

And, to show that the salty, self-serving Brown hasn't changed too much since we last saw him, he gets in a nice dig at his former boss when volunteering that he has no plans to replace Mo Cheeks on the sideline in Philly even though he wants to coach again at some point down the line.
"I don't want it to end the way it did in New York," Brown said. "I don't wish that on anybody."

Nice, Larry. I'll always believe that Brown had a better chance of turning the squad around than Mr. Thomas and that he got a raw deal, well, except in the financial sense. But this sort of feels like he is piling on here out of spite. Why take a pot shot at the easiest target around when your own team is floundering as well?

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Steve Nash. A season-high 37 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds is what it takes to blow the doors off the Bucks in the fourth quarter and lead his team to another victory.

2. Billy Gillispie. Future NIT semi-finalists Kentucky Wildcats STUNNED No. 3 Tennessee last night. In silver-lining news, Chris Lofton (TEN) broke the SEC record for career three-pointers during the game.

3. The GOAT. Roger Federer ousted American James Blake from the Aussie Open at some point (last night? this morning? three days ago?) not too long ago. Federer is one match away from his 11th-consecutive Grand Slam final and is looking for his third straight championship Down Under.

4. Ron Artest and the Sacramento Kings. Healthy and back in the lineup the King from Queensbridge scored 27 as his team hung up a season-high 128 on NJ. Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin also returned this week and this team feels like a contender all of a sudden.

5. Matt Ryan. The departing Boston College quarterback beat out Tim Tebow and host of other worthy competitors to win the Manning Award, which goes to the top QB in college (and allegedly the apple in Parcells' eye). "How did this happen?" you ask. Well, unlike every other award this one takes into account performance in a team's bowl game.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Paul Pierce hearts (G)Men?

There was a tangible buzz in the crowd yesterday leftover from the Giants victory over the Wrangled One and the Packers in Sunday's NFC championship game. Blue and Red sweat pants abounded and the previous day's wing-sauce stained shirts were being worn with pride. At several points I thought I saw Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The first time was at the Nathan's across the street where I enjoyed the usual pre-game #2 meal with lemonade and the second was on line for the men's room at halftime.

Regardless, the running subplot, at least in the hearts and minds, was the fortuitousness of the New York versus Boston matchup the day after the same had been set for the Super Bowl. It didn't take much mental energy for folks to reach this realization but it was a day off work and pretty early so it's the best we could do, collectively. And, the parallel does work, to a point. In each case the Boston team is a juggernaut and seemingly destined for success. The similarities shrink like Favre did in the cold when you try to compare the NY teams.

As I mentioned earlier the most electric moments of the afternoon where when the Giants who were in attendance were introduced to the crowd and shown on the big screen. Plax, in particular, received the loudest ovation. While being shown on Gardenvision he held up his big mitts and proceeded to make squeezing motions. I'm going to guess that he was bragging, deservedly, about his good hands during the game on Sunday but if I were less kind and more of a muckraker I could easily say that it looked like he was miming something else altogether. Either way, it was Plaxico's next move that really drew the most attention. He held out his hand and dramatically pointed to his ring finger, right around the spot where a Super Bowl ring might go.

Alright, to the point, as the Garden was booming with a feel-good, Giants vibe, Paul Pierce made his way over to Plaxico and his teammates to shake hands and congratulate them. At first it just seemed weird because he was doing this while the game was happening. It wasn't during a timeout or at the end of the quarter. The ball was stopped but it was just an inbounds or something brief. Moreover, you didn't see any other players going out of their way to make a scene. Just Pierce.

And, since Pierce is a NBA-lifelong Celtic it is really even stranger. Shouldn't he be pulling for the Pats in two weeks rather than going out of his way to suck up to the Giants the day after the championship games?

Oh, well, I'm sure the rational sports fan across New England won't take any offense at something as innocuous as this. Right?

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. The Giants. The "Let's Go Giants" chants the past week have been louder than any PRO-Knicks chanting at the Garden since the second home game of the year against the Nuggets. And, this doesn't figure to change any time soon during the next few weeks. Essentially this team can no longer do any wrong. They have shown remarkable poise at moments when others have crumbled and they are playing with house money in the XXXXII. The Giants are officially Davids to the Patriots Goliaths and they are beloved for this.

2. Rashard Lewis. He hit the game-winner as the Magic knocked off the Pistons in Orlando. Playoff preview?

3. Georgetown. Hours after ESPN Classic replayed the 1985 game when Pearl Washington's last second shot overcame a monstrous Ewing performance at the Carrier Dome, the Hoyas got a measure of revenge by defeating the Oranges in overtime. G'Town holds down the 9 slot in the rankings.

4. Ryan Gomes/Kendrick Perkins. Unheralded bigs of the world unite!

5. Kobe Bryant. The Lakers beat the Nuggets last night and Kobe was NOT the team's hi scorer. Derek Fisher was with 28 points. Yes, that Derek Fisher. And, in this upside-down universe, Kobe had his season-high in assists, with eleven. Alleged sex crimes aside, Kobe is proving a lot of people wrong on the court this season.

Greater Than, Less Than

Celtics > Knicks
Giants' popularity > Knicks' popularity


There were six incredibly loud ovations during the game yesterday afternoon. None of them were received by a member of the New York Knicks. In order, they were received by Kevin Garnett (upon his introduction), Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, RW McQuarters, Plaxico Burress and Kevin Garnett (upon his exit from the game). The closest any member of the hometeam (the Knicks not the Giants) got to that sort of thunderous applause was when Quentin Richardson got himself and Pierce ejected from the game.

If Saturday night's win over Miami was a litmus test of sorts. Are we better than the worst? Yes. Then, yesterday's MLK matinee was a reality check. Are we worse than the best? Yes. And by a good amount.

The most telling moments of the game took place in the first quarter. Yup, the first quarter. Meaning that the most important parts in the game weren't the hi jinx with Q and Pierce. Nor was it the individual spurts by Pierce, Allen and finally Garnett that put the game away. It wasn't the weird non-timeout where the Knicks were seemingly waiting around to fight while Boston was actually huddled up diagramming plays. Nope, the most revealing moments of the game where when Kendrick Perkins, one of the "small-2" in the Celtics starting five, scored 15 of Boston's first 17 points. Aside from proving that the best way to a career-high is through the Knicks frontcourt, the way that the Celtics kept feeding Perkins the ball showed that they are not only talented in the muscles and tendons and quick-twitch fiber sort of way but also in the brains and savvy and poise departments. At one point about midway through the first, Garnett received a pass at the top of the key. He was wide open. Embarrassingly wide open. But, rather than take the jump shot, he drove four steps into the paint. Predictably, the defense collapses on him and he shoots a pass to a now wide-open Perkins under the hoop for an easy two points. Similarly, Paul Pierce had assists on Kendrick's first three buckets. He had three assists before attempting a shot.

This is why the Boston Celtics are better than the New York Knicks. Their best players are secure enough to be unselfish. They put each other in a position to succeed rather than just trying to keep themselves out of a position to fail. They play against their opponent rather than just against themselves and the box score. And this is why the Celtics had a solid lead at halftime. This lead, though, was the result of a good run/collapse by the Celtics/Knicks over the last few minutes of the second. What was a three-point game with 3 minutes to go became a 14-point game heading into the tunnel.

The Knicks actually outscored the C's during the third quarter to put themselves within striking distance heading into the final quarter. Of course the third quarter was defined by the almost-fracas between Richardson and Pierce.

Q entered the game with about six and a half minutes to play in the third, replacing a painfully inept (at least offensively) Jeffries. From section 345 everything seemed ho-hum until a sequence of plays a few minutes later. Q forced Pierce into a miss on possession and then stole a poor pass attempt by Pierce next time down the floor. Not one to go quietly into the good night, Q was letting Pierce hear all about this and you could notice that two of them jawing back and forth now. After a Randolph bucket at the other end, Pierce draws three personal fouls on Q (the last being a shooting foul) and both players are awarded a technical foul. This all happens during one pro-longed possession. The last foul, the one that sent Pierce to the line for two occurred after a NY timeout. Whatever, if anything, was said to calm down Q during the TO didn't exactly work. The two were ejected and had to leave the court one at a time to avoid a fist-fight in the corridor. Still, security guards could been seen rushing down in that direction less than a minute after both were under the stands.

Foolish or not, the net gain was clearly in the Knicks favor. Q had been a non-factor and Pierce was most definitely a factor. Curry in particular seemed to be energized by the events and could even be seen rebounding the ball on the defensive end for the next few minutes. It was really amazing. To top that Curry played up to his size on the other end drawing five fouls over a stretch straddling the third and fourth quarters. Buoyed by Curry's free-throw shooting an electrifying Nate dunk the Knicks went into the fourth only down by 8.

The lead was actually down to 7 with less than ten minutes to play but a Ray Allen three-pointer triggered a 14-4 run by the Celtics that put the game out of reach. The Knicks turned the ball over twice, committed two fouls and missed multiple shots during this run. A deep, two-point jumper by House effectively ended with contest with just under five to play. The assist had come from KG.

When the final buzzer sounded the Knicks had been handily beaten by a far superior collection of players, including three of the best at their respective positions. Moreover, the Knicks were beaten by a team that is confident enough to make the extra pass to an open teammate. You could just tell that Garnett, Allen, and Pierce were all getting a kick out of Perkins demolishing the Knicks in the first half.

To sum up, Heat < Knicks < Celtics

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Break Up The Knicks! No, seriously...

NYK beat Miami for fourth win in five games

Playing for the fourth time in five games the Knickerbockers played the role of stalking horse against a lesser team (rather than the other way around). They overtook the dreadful Miami Heat late in the fourth quarter thanks largely to Nate Robinson's shot-making, Jamal Crawford's free-throw shooting and David Lee's ability to front Shaq.

I was going to add JJ's defense of Wade to that short list but really Wade is a shell of himself. He is so clearly injured that it is impressive and short-sighted that he hasn't shut it down. Each step is seemingly an ordeal.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday's Starting Five

1. Shawn Marion. The Matrix has 20 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and 0 turnovers as the Suns beat the Lakers to take over first place in the Western Conference.

2. Marcus Camby. He's just awesome. A superior athlete who completely understands the game and his role in his team's game-plan, the Nuggets center had 24 rebounds, 11 blocked shots, 8 points, 2 assists and 1 steal in last night's win over the Jazz.

3. Mike Lowell. The MVP of this year's Fall Classic is flexing his new found clout by calling attention to the double-standard that baseball players are held to when it comes to performance enhancing drugs. Lowell, as yet never connected with any PEDs, remarked that NFL players like Rodney Harrison and Shawne Merriman have been busted and the fans and media haven't been nearly as hard on them as they have been on baseball players. In other MLB news, Commissioner Bud Selig has received a three-year contract extension.

4. Cleveland State. The Vikings of the Horizon league scored their first ever win over a Top 25 program, during the regular season, when they STUNNED No. 12 Butler last night. The Madness is coming...

5. Cleveland Cavaliers. Led by none other than Lebron James, the Cavs beat the Spurs last night for the fourth straight time in the regular season. Of course, the Spurs did beat the Cavs four straight in the FInals last year.

Benched: Kwame Brown. Michael Jordan's favorite reclamation project was booed lustily last night in Los Angeles thanks to seven turnovers and a missed dunk in 25 minutes of action. And, yeah, the Lakers aren't in first place anymore.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Egomania Loves Company

In the Post today there is a laudatory statement by deranged and inspired boxing promoter Don King about my friend and yours James Dolan:

"From the philanthropic and the humanitarian aspects as well as sports and entertainment, he's a guy who speaks his mind, says what he means and means what he says, and is willing to accept the consequences. That's what you have in this man I pay tribute and salute, Jim Dolan."

Yup, that's creepy and makes me uncomfortable. The reason for King speaking so passionately about someone who isn't himself is that Dolan is taking a footing a large portion of the bill for this weekend's fight between Roy Jones, Jr. and Felix Trinidad at the Garden. He put up an estimated $8 million in "site fees" for the bout this weekend that would have been awesome if it was ten years ago. After all, these two have almost 80 years between them at this point.

All in all, it seems like Dolan has made another poorly judged investment with this fight and will end up losing money when all is said and done. But, he will have another larger-than-life figure whom he can pal around with for a bit. And, clearly that's all that matters with this guy.

"Clever Girl"-Robert Muldoon

They couldn't do it against Houston last week. And, they'd rarely been asked to do it before that. But the past two nights, the Knicks have defended and held a lead against teams trying to come back against them late in the game. They're learning how to win basketball games right before our eyes.

There were two crucial moments during last night's win against the NJ Nets and both came with less than two and half minutes left. The first was when Nate Robinson checked back in with 2:27 showing on the clock and the scored knotted at 99 apiece. Using a 12-2 run the Nets had come all the way back from a double-digit fourth quarter deficit and most of that run occurred with Nate on the bench. The second decisive moment came with 59 ticks remaining and the score tied at 102. Jamal Crawford hit a three-pointer from the right side of the arc to give the Knicks the lead that they would not relinquish. The pass came from Robinson. This was the start of the 7-0 run that wrestled control back from the Nets and iced the contest.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pre-Gaming: Knicks at Nets

Tip-Off: 7:30 PM @ Izod Center, East Rutherford

The Knickerbockers are looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season tonight against the Nets. And, all the numbers are against them. First of all, the team hasn't strung together three wins all year long. Secondly, the Nets have dominated the Knicks since Kidd surfaced in the swamp. And, last but not least, this is technically a road game and such games have not been the team's forte.

All of that being said, this is a winnable game. If the team puts forth the sort of cogent effort that they did last night and scores with nearly as much efficiency then they can put together a legitimate STREAK. The Nets are struggling this season and have been saved from the tri-state area's scorn only be the debacle across the Hudson.

Of course, the Knicks could be satisfied with their two wins and come out flat against a team that they've already beaten. If December was any indicator that is how it will play out.

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Jamal Crawford. The slender and streaky shooting guard scored a game-high 29 points on an 11 for 19 shooting night and led the Knickerbockers to back-to-back wins over teams with winning records.

2. Lebron James. The King is unimpressed by Crawford's 29 points while dropping 51 in the Cavs overtime win over Memphis.

3. Jason Garrett. Currently the offensive coordinator of the ousted Dallas Cowboys, Garrett is the most popular girl in school these days. He has officially been offered an HC gig in Baltimore and is reportedly being courted by Atlanta as well. Not to mention that the ' Boys have been planning on him taking over for Wade Phillips. And, you know T.O. doesn't want to lose him. After all, he's his offensive coordinator.

4. Jason Varnado. The 6 foot 9 inch forward/center for the Mississippi State Bulldogs rejected ten shots last night to help his team beat Kentucky in SEC play.

5. The New York Giants. Jacobs, McQuarters and some other guy on the team that no one really seemed to recognize were all warmly welcomed at the Garden last night. This team is the toast of the town and has all the momentum in the world heading into Lambeau this weekend.

Benched: Miguel Tejada. Talk about your all-time bad days. Yesterday during the PED hearings in DC his name gets brought up and inquiries into whether or not he perjured himself are on the horizon AND his brother passed away.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"We won one yesterday. If we win today, that's called two in a row. Win tomorrow, that's called a winning streak. It has been done before."-Lou Brown

Knicks beat Wizards for second straight win

Yeah, it's a winning streak, just our third pair of consecutive victories this season.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks versus Wizards

Tip-Off: 7:30 PM @ MSG

I must admit that I bought these tickets just for the chance to see Gilbert Arenas, one of my favorite players in the Association to watch, play in person. Unfortunately, Agent Zero had his second knee surgery of 2007 in November and is still in street clothes. Up until last night I felt like I had made a serious mistake including this game in my ultra-expensive mini-plan for this season. And, then I found out that the Wizards had pulled off their improbable home-and-home sweep of the vaunted Boston Celtics thanks to Caron Butler's game-winning bucket. All of a sudden the Wiz seemed like a pretty good team to go see on a Tuesday night.

And, all of a sudden, this is a big game for the Knicks that take the floor tonight. The Wizards are not a great team but they are a solid team that plays hard and plays to win on a nightly basis. They are an honest basketball team, which is exactly what I want the Knicks to be and what, dare I say, the Knicks (or at least some of them) have shown hints of becoming over the past week or so against the Spurs, Bulls, Rockets and Pistons.

Things to Know:

Like the Wizards who will be without Arenas, the Knicks will be without their "best" player as Marbury continues to be sidelined with an ankle injury and a bruised psyche. Caron Butler has assumed a leadership role for the Wizards and has been a monster on the court. Can Nate continue to play well for the Knicks and can the team find some cohesion?

Both teams are coming off surprising wins over superior opponents. The Wiz are coming off that shocking sweep of Boston and the Knicks are fresh off their mind-bending rout of the Pistons.

The Zach-Hole: He played well (meaning he shot the ball well) against the Pistons. What does he do tonight?

Brendan Haywood versus the Knicks frontcourt: The man in the pivot for the Wiz is averaging ten and a half per game so far this season and less than that for his career. Still, he is a traditional center listed at 7-feet which is a recipe for disaster for the Knicks regardless of any scoring prowess.

Caron Butler versus ?: Renaldo Balkman was back in the rotation on Sunday night. Butler seems like the sort of player that we should assign to Balkman.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The End of an Error?

Reports are coming out that (meaning I read them on other websites) Stephon Marbury is going to need season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle. If true, it is possible that we have seen the last of Starbury at the Garden.

Stay tuned.

[Update: Stephon isn't under the knife just yet. Apparently he is having an MRI on Thursday to determine IF he actually does have bone spurs in his ankle. All that happened yesterday was that Steph admitted that IF he does have bone spurs that he WILL opt for surgery immediately rather than trying to continue playing through the pain as he has been and as he did during the 2002-2003 season.]

Q: What is far more improbable than what happened in Dallas last night?

A: The Knicks beating the Pistons last night.

In fact, the Knicks didn't just win, they blew the Pistons out, leading by as many as thirty points in the second half. The dozens and dozens of people who saw the game can corroborate this story, as can these newspaper articles:

The News
The Post
The Times

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pre-Gaming: Knicks at Pistons

Tip-Off: 7pm @ MSG

If Eddy Curry falls in the paint during a Giants playoff game does it make a sound?

I guess it does because Curry is a big boy but I don't think that too many folks will be listening. In fact, I've been racking my brain all day and I can't think of one person that I know who will be watching the Knicks tonight when the Pistons come to town. Not one single person. Everyone will be watching the Giants/Cowboys game. MSG is selling off tickets at $10 a pop so maybe the in-house crowd won't be as bad as the at-home crowd.

The Game
The Pistons have won 13 of their past 15 games (losing only to Boston and Dallas), while the Knicks have lost
nine of ten and fifteen of their last eighteen. So, there's that to bear in mind when placing your bets.

Oh, and the Pistons have won ten of their last twelve games against the Knicks.

[Ed note: I will be watching. I think]

It's like a carousel: you pay the quarter, you get on the horse, you go up and down and around. Circular. Circle. The Flow, feel it."

Great article in today's News, by Filip Bondy chronicling the Knicks cycles of bad basketball going back decades.

Bondy contends that every generation of Knicks fans has seen an extended period of ineptitude and refers us to swoons in the 1960s and 1980s to support this point.

No News is Bad News. Or not.

Since I wasn't the only one who perked up a bit with Saturday's stories about Isiah's imminent sacking, the Garden felt compelled to issue a statement.

As reported in the Post (and probably elsewhere), Garden spokesman Barry Watkins proclaimed that "there's nothing new" concerning Isiah's job status.

OK, there's nothing new today. That's not great news. But, it's not quite as bad as it seems. In fact, it's better news than we've had in a while. Previously, MSG employees, just like Mr. Watkins, have been sent forth bearing ridiculous and undeserved plaudits and votes of confidence that were as miscast as the worst that Diebold ever was responsible for.

So, on the bright side, Dolan and his peons passed on supporting Isiah by merely stating that he has not, in fact, been fired.

For a team and organization that consistently moves backwards, standing still is a good thing.

***

Of course, Isiah himself is handling all of these reports with characteristic poise and sensibility. According to the News, he has flatly denied that he confided to anyone anywhere that he will ever choose to step down as coach. Or as he put it:

"I will never ever, ever quit, ever."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Of Inscrutability and Regime Change

While the possibility of understanding the why? or the why not? is closed to us given the inscrutability of the Dolan mind and the Thomas ID, it is still healthy and logical to hope for and anticipate the when?. After all, at some point Isiah Thomas will either give up his job or it will be taken from him.

And, this morning's papers are wonderfully full of speculation that the when? could become a now!

In the Post, Marc Berman reports that Isiah has confided in someone (who apparently isn't very trustworthy if he is talking to Berman) that he is considering leaving the bench and that the only players on the roster that he likes are Crawford, Butch (Lee) and Sundance (Nate).

In the News, Frank Isola reports that Jimmy Dolan may actually have seen enough of the Thomas to bring about his own Regime Change in the Garden. According to another of these untrustworthy confidantes that proliferate in the Garden, Dolan has admitted that a change must be made and that he is gearing up for it. Isola also relays, from his source, that folks have been coming to Dolan and the Garden brass in droves to throw their hat in the ring to be Thomas's replacement.

Of course such stories appear weekly, if not daily, in the tabloids and on the internets as rational sportswriters and hopeful fans assume that each misstep must justly be the final one permitted, that each new crack stepped on will surely be the one that breaks our mothers backs. And, each night the PA announcer speedily announces Isiah Thomas as the HC of the NYK.

That being said, these reports feels all the more real given the width and the breadth of the insanity and inanity that lately flowers in the Garden. This has gone past the point of just being a bad basketball team (which is a forgivable sin) and has become something much more.

The Mourning After: Knicks vs. Raptors

Before, we move on to the latest debacle, let's take a look back at three of the keys to the game pointed out in yesterday's Pre-Gaming column and see how our boys fared.

1. Chris Bosh vs. The Knicks frontcourt: Bosh put hung forty points on Eddy, Zach and co. last night. That's percentage points shy of doubling his season average. I had claimed that holding him under 27 would have counted as a moral victory. In light of last night's heinous effort I guess that holding Yao to just 36 was actually the moral victory. Oops.

2. The Zach-Hole. In his defense, he didn't ruin too many trips to the offensive end of the court with his inability to pass the ball. In fact, Zach actually finished the game with more assists than points. Let me repeat that, ZACH RANDOLPH finished the game with more assists than points. Of course, that only happened because he was benched for arguing with his coach in full view of the Garden crowd, James Dolan and countless television cameras. The Zach-Hole only played ten minutes in the first half and not at all in the second, finishing with 0 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 personal foul and 1 turnover.

3. Calderon vs. Marbury. While the Raptors undeniably controlled the game Steph kept Calderon relatively in check from a number standpoint. Both players finished with 8 assists, Calderon had 9 points while Steph had 13, Calderon had 2 rebounds while Steph had 4 and Calderon had 1 turnover while Steph had 2. In other words, this matchup was mostly a wash and wasn't the deciding factor in the game. For that, see #1.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pre-Gaming: Knicks versus Raptors

Tip-Off: 7:30 PM at MSG

Isiah has unfortunately not been suspended for tonight's game following the League's review of the incident the other night. So, he will be on the bench hopefully sabotaging the team in less dramatic ways than against the Rockets.

Things to watch for:
-Chris Bosh vs. Knicks frontcourt: After getting torched by Yao twice in a week can the Knick frontcourt deal with another All-Star big man? And, by deal with, I mean defend not simply strike some sort of deal that allows that player to dunk at his leisure. After seeing how successful Lee was while fronting Yao will he be deployed to defend Bosh? Bosh is currently averaging a shade over 20 per. If he scores under 27 I would count that as some sort of moral victory for this offensive defensive unit.

-Butch and Sundance (aka David Lee and Nate Robinson): This high energy duo has become the key ingredient to our good runs of play. They started the second half against Houston, which was potentially a HUGE moment. Hopefully that was the beginning of their increased involvement in the gameplan. They have been seeing quality minutes with Steph, Jamal and either Zach/Eddy. Will this keep up? I hope so since they bring an entirely different energy to the floor and speed up the tempo. Moreover, they have developed a good interplay that has keyed some of the team's best runs.

-The Zach-Hole: How many possessions will be absorbed by this intergalactic menace?

-Jose Calderon vs. Stephon Marbury: Calderon has been playing at an All-Star level since Ford went down with that nasty neck injury. He can score and distribute. If Calderon is able to penetrate at will then we're in for a long night with Bosh and Bargnani ready for the balll and likely open because they'll be the responsibility of our Bigs.

The Captain apparently likes the arrangement of the deck chairs aboard this Titantic

Marc Berman reports in today's Post that Willis Reed thinks it's too early to get down on the Curry/Randolph tandem.

"If I had Curry and Zach on my team, I wouldn't give up on them yet. I love Zach. I was happy the Knicks were able to acquire him. I'd walk in the room and say, guys, don't give up on yourselves. Eventually it will come. I would tell them to stop the reading the papers. Eddy is a very talented player and I hope he doesn't get discouraged."

Maybe he is remembering the way that folks never thought Clyde and the Pearl could play together. Until they did. Unfortunately, this is not the same thing. These two aren't nearly as good or nearly as aware. Clyde had already won a title and Monroe desperately wanted to win won before his game fell off to far. They were smart, aware supremely talented vets whereas these two are shockingly unaware and physically gifted pets.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Zach-Hole

The Portland Trailblazers have won 17 of their last 18 the season after they traded their best player to the Knicks and the "It's Not You, It's Zach" school of thought is spreading around NYC faster than flu germs on the F train.

I'll admit that his prodigious numerical output had me fooled early on too. I can remember telling people after the first week of the season that "I don't know how it's all going to play out but this Randolph guy is for real." Likewise, writers and broadcasters loved that double-double streak he had to start the year and everyone began asking why Curry couldn't just rebound like Randolph does.

But then Randolph gets suspended for a game and Curry goes off in his absence. And then Randolph ends up in foul trouble in Chicago and Curry REALLY goes off in a game that the Knicks actually win. Suddenly we're all reminded that this time last year we were tipping Curry for the All-Star Game. Conversely Zach is increasingly like Ice-9 to the Knicks offensive flow, heaving up bad shots and seemingly never swinging the ball or kicking it back out.

Or, if Ice-9 is too obscure and dorky of a correlation then shall we say that Zach is like a black hole on the offensive end of the court. He sucks in basketballs just as his interstellar counterparts suck in light. He is the Zach-Hole.

So, I watched Randolph all night long to see what actually happens when he gets the ball. Does he ever give it back to a teammate? Does he pass more than it seems? Is shot selection not selfishness his problem? Is it both?

In last night's game against the Rockets, Randolph received the ball (by my count) on the offensive end of the court from a teammate 20 times. On 6 occasions he passed it back to a teammate but on at least 2 of these he passed it back only so that he could reset in the post and demanded the ball back immediately. Meaning he really only gave the ball up 4 times during the team's offensive sets.

There were then 14 times that received the ball and proceeded to shoot it or merely fumble it away without passing. He made four shots from these fourteen touches and all of these made shots were consecutive during a stretch spanning the second half of the 1st quarter and the bulk of the 2nd quarter. He did not make a field goal in the second half and his shooting line was officially 4 for 10 with 10 points.

After watching all of this there is not a doubt in my mind that he is the Zach-Hole. Even though moving the ball along only 4 out of 20 touches might not seem so awful for a power forward it is important to note that most of these touches are not in the paint or down low. Zach gets the ball mainly on the wings or at least a dozen feet from the hoop. In other words, he gets the ball in spots that are not destination points for your offense. It's a problem.

Add it to the list.

(I admit that I am no John Hollinger, these numbers could be slightly off, but you get the point. Right?)

Composure

It's a noun. And is defined as a "calmness or repose especially of mind, bearing, or appearance. It is also something that is lacked by the New York Knickerbockers and this deficiency cost them last night's game against the visiting Rockets.

Knicks 92-101 Rockets

It happened so quickly that the camera couldn't even pan up until it was over. It happened so quickly that neither Breen nor Frazier could get the words out until it was over. And in this fleeting moment the game was lost. Very, very early in the fourth quarter of a game that the Knicks had been playing very well in after a dismal start, Isiah Thomas got himself tossed as the Rockets took a 3-point lead.

This was the largest lead that Houston had since early in the second quarter and by all accounts this was a heated ballgame. That is until Isiah either initiated contact with the official (a toss-able offense) or just said something so vile and succinct that he was ejected without a second thought (or a first technical foul). Either way, the team lost the plot at that point. Ballgame.

The Rockets went on a 12-2 run in the ensuing few minutes led by Alston, Scola and Yao held the Knicks off down the stretch.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"New York is the town and the team is Knicks!"-Phife Dawg, A Tribe Called Quest

Since Phife retired his mic, we're left with only two cousins from Yonkers and Queens respectively to deliver rhymes about the New York Knicks these days. Genovese and Gustapo are two 29-year Itals who believe that their rhymes are the best way to reach today's Knicks fan who is a part of that new-fangled youth culture.

Here's a sample of the lyrics:

CHORUS -
WE SCREAMIN’ “FIRE ISIAH’’ HE TURNED THE FRANCHISE TO HELL
WE NEED DAVID STERN TO SOMEHOW MAKE THE DOLANS SELL
WE NEED ALL OUR DRAFT PICKS AND A PTP
WE GOTTA GET A CHIP BACK TO MSG....

VERSE -
I BEEN REPPIN’ THE KNICKS, LI’L KID AROUND THE MID EIGHTIES,
BERNARD KING, CARTWRIGHT, SHORTS TIGHT CRAZY,
PATRICK CAME, MARK JACKSON CAME, PAT RILEY, VAN GUNDY SHOWED US THE D GAME,
STARKS GRABBED HIS JERSEY ALWAYS REPPED NY,
OAKMAN AND MASE ALWAYS PLAYED WITH PRIDE,
TRUE KNICKS CAMBY AND KURT THOMAS SPLIT,
NOW HERE COMES ISIAH NOW WE TURNED TO SPIT,
GOT THE HIGHEST PAYROLL BUT THE WORST CHEMISTRY FIT,
I GOT FIRE ISIAH TATTOOED ON MY WRIST,
AND ON MY SANTA'S WISH LIST WAS YOU KNOW WHAT,
GIVE ME MULLIN OR WEST IN THAT GM SPOT,
BUT I'M STILL WATCHIN A TRUE FAN NEVER HOLDING OUT,
AND IF WE FIRE ISIAH STILL GOTTA GET DOLAN OUT,
BUT EITHER WAY I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE DAY,
WE BRING A BANNER TO THE GARDEN THE GREATEST PLACE TO PLAY...

LISTEN for yourself.

Programming Problems and Role Reversal

Knicks 105-100 Bulls

Knicks @ Bulls will be joined in progress immediately following Rangers hockey on MSG

This message scrolls across the bottom of my television screen as I masochistically look for the Knick game. I guess one way to keep fans from getting too upset about the dismal play of the team is to keep us from seeing the team in the first place. Well played, Jimmy Dolan.

A second scrolling message soon informs me that the game can be seen on a channel called MSG2. I don't have this channel. I have, literally, 1,000 channels (and nothing's on), but I don't have one called MSG2. A few weeks ago this would have sent me running for the radio or the phone to make a call to my cable operator. However, I've lost the sense of urgency. Maybe it is the piping hot mug of Theraflu that has sapped my passion or maybe it is the long losing streak and listless play of the team. Either way, I'm not going to fight for this team tonight. I'm going to watch the end of the Rangers game and eventually join the Knicks in progress.

While scrolling through the endless listings of DirectTV channels at my disposal I finally discover 662/NYa. This channel has been showing the game from the jump. By the time I get caught up it's just about half-time. And the Knicks are only down by a three points to the underachieving Bulls team (or, at this point, they've just become a bad Bulls team). Oh, wait, now they're down five thanks to Joe Smith.

41-46

The Knicks have Steph, Jamal and Nate all on the floor along with Lee and Curry as the second quarter winds down. I like this. Just seeing Marbury back on the floor makes me more comfortable watching this team. I'm also glad to see some attempt to integrate Nate's scoring prowess and recent run of good form into normal game play rather than using it only too keep losses from becoming routs.

Steph hits a three to bring the Knicks within two with four to go in the half and Jamal scores 9 straight to close out the second and get the Knicks a one-point advantage at the intermission. That was actually good basketball. Marbury and Crawford controlled the tempo. The team played defense. They battled on the boards as much as they ever do. Steph is looking for his shot again, which he hasn't done since the leaves were changing colors. He has a serious mustache/goatee combo covering his face and he looks equally serious about playing again. His time period of intense mourning his father's death seems to have passed and he seems to have made, at least to his satisfaction, whatever point he may have been trying to make to his bosses and teammates by staying away as long as he did.

Whatever the reason, the Knicks are leading a game at the half. And it's a road game. I'm sure happy that the good folks at MSG decided to let us see this.

And, as soon the old adrenal glands start to get worked up the Bulls break out of the gates in the second half and go on a 13-0 tear that extends through the heart of the third quarter. Good, great, grand! Here we go again, the Knicks are 2-398 when trailing entering the fourth quarter this season so all does not bode well for the finale tonight. And, why should it? This team is a disaster and worse, than that they're inconsistently disastrous.

Most nights during the past few weeks Curry is the problem and tonight he is playing like he is the solution. He is aggressive on the offensive end and finishing with efficiency. On the defensive end he is at least working hard to end every third play either with a goaltending violation or a blocked shot. Of course, Aaron Gray (yes, the nondescript, unathletic Big from Pitt) is screaming for the ball in hopes of getting healthy against Curry's horrid defense. But still, he's scoring. At least for tonight.

And, it is this scoring that brings the Knicks back into the game in the fourth quarter. Calmly and without fanfare they are trimming the Bulls lead. It's under ten and then it's a two possession game and then it's 92-94. Timeout Chicago.

When the teams come out of the timeout Curry is trash-talking with Hinrich. The Big Kid towers over pale-faced, sloppy-haired guard. His team has the momentum and both players know it. The camera then cuts away to Randolph who is standing forlorn and tentative by himself. He has none of the swagger of his teammate and not nearly as impressive a statline either.

When play begins Nate is bringing the ball up the floor with Steph and Jamal flanking him on either side. The diminutive spark plug has been racking up assists tonight at an impressive pace and has been filling up the box score on a night when his shot isn't falling as effortlessly as it has been the past several games. Good stuff, to be sure. With Nate taking the ball over the timeline Tyrus Thomas is forced to guard Steph. For once, we're creating matchup problems and not just dealing with them.

Of course, there is no opportunity for the Knicks to take advantage of the mismatch because Randolph wastes the possession by forcing up a shot which is blocked by Thomas, who helped off of Steph.

No light escapes the gravity of Zach Randolph. And neither do basketballs or possessions. He is a black hole and he threatens to absorb the Knicks offensive rhythm every time he is on the floor. The team's game plan does not have the necessary escape velocity to break free from his gravitational pull. Not yet, at least.

Like clockwork, Ben Gordon sinks a tough, tough shot on the other end with Steph draped all over him. In every game that the fall behind (all) and make a late comeback bid (many) they almost always fail to get THAT bucket. The one on the possession that Randolph just imploded. The do all the hard work and then spit the bit when some poise is needed. And, like clockwork the other team seizes the moment (of truth) and eventually the victory.

This plan seems to unfolding again as Randolph forces up another ill-advised shot which misses, but Curry blocks Tyrus Thomas on the other end and Steph sinks a three with just under three to play.

98-100

Stephon Marbury is back. For real this time. The whole team looks different. Both teams trade misses (Gordon and Steph) before Crawford rolls in a fadeaway from the baseline to knot the game up a 100 apiece.

As the Bulls come down the floor their offense is stagnant, Gordon is pressing. He forces up an ill-advised shot and misses. The pressure has sucked the life out of the team. In other words, they're playing like the Knicks have played all season long. Meanwhile, the Knicks are playing like the teams that have exposed their flaws late in games with clinical execution. Marbury bisects the defense, enters the paint and dishes to Lee who emphatically slams the Knicks ahead.

102-100

Finally, someone else is giving up dunks to us with the game on the line! Finally someone else is playing at their worst when only their best will do!

Gordon throws up on airball under substantial defensive pressure and Curry draws an offensive foul on Thomas the trip after that. Meanwhile, the Knicks are keeping possessions alive and milking the clock. Curry is holding the ball in the post and the offense is purposefully working around his fixed position of strength. As the shotclock and gameclock tick down he somehow pushes a ball (that normally he would have turned over) out to a wide open Steph at the top of the key. He cooly drains the straightaway three point shot and the game is iced with 11.4 to play.

105-100

So this is what winning looks like.