Friday, October 31, 2008

Marbury Inactive Against the 76ers

Well, that happened. Marbury will be in street clothes when the Knicks tip off shortly in Philadelphia - home of no-longer long suffering but still insufferable sports fans. During the pre-game broadcast Gus Johnson relayed the news in somber tones and Walt Frazier admitted that he was "disappointed."

D'Antoni told reporters that Steph has done everything right and that this move has to do with his respect for him. Um. Ok. Marbury told reporters that he isn't frustrated and can only worry about the things he can control. They both said the right things and they'll both be wearing suits tonight.

At first blush, I think the past few days have been D'Antoni's "welcome to the Big Apple" moment. The Marbury-benching took on a life of its own and I think he realized that he needed to deactivate Marbury so that every one wouldn't spend the entire game wondering if he was going to play. I also don't think this would have been his first choice since he didn't choose it before the first game.

Now, is when the rubbers will hit the road. It's one thing not to put Marbury into a game when points are being scored freely. But what happens when the Knicks play a better team (sort of like Philadelphia) with a non-rookie point guard (sort of like Philadelphia) and the sailing isn't so smooth? What then?

Keeping Marbury inactive after a few games when Duhon and Collins are overmatched at the point is going to be difficult as the season goes along. D'Antoni's best bet is hoping Nate Robinson is able to play larger minutes at the point or in tandem with Crawford, with them sharing PG duties.

This will be interesting.


Stephon Marbury Rides Pine In Knicks Opener

He wasn't released during the offseason. Quite the opposite, he told everyone he was in the best shape of his life. He wasn't bought out of his contract during training camp. He played more than 20 minutes in four of the seven preseason games and in the mid-to-high teens in the other three. He wasn't publicly banished from the rotation like Eddy Curry as the season opener crept closer. And, then he didn't see one second of action during the season-opening win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.

Two days later and all we are doing is talking about Marbury and the DNP-CD in the box score next to his name. Marbury did not play against the Heat. And it was most definitely the coach's decision. Marbury was healthy. And even saying mostly the right things about coming off the bench leading up to the game. He was willing and able. Just not asked to play.

Fans and reporters have already taken sides on the issue. Some love that Marbury was benched. Others consider it ridiculous to give minutes to Mardy Collins while a player as talented as Marbury is at your disposal. MSG play-by-play star Gus Johnson reiterated his belief that Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni sat the two-time All-Star as a way to send a message to his locker room and to the city that supports the guys in it. Message received.

We Want Steph?
Even if whatever message Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was sending on Wednesday was received I don't think he was ready for the message he heard in response. Once the Knickerbockers took control of the game in the third quarter (but before they lost control of the game in fourth), chants of "We Want Steph" reverberated through the World's Most Famous Arena. It was audible enough, even on television, that MSG announcers Gus Johnson and Walt Frazier were forced to address it. The papers claim that boos could also be heard from non-Steph partisans but you couldn't hear that on TV. Either way, the pro-Steph chant was chanted. Marbury sat stonefaced at the end of the bench, on the far side of street-clothed Anthony Roberson. Until he started smiling.

Real Genius, Redux
Last week I credited D'Antoni and Walsh with Lazlo-level genius for their clandestine rehabilitation of Zach Randolph's reputation around the league, knowing that they need to raise his profile and his value before moving him. The plan that I have, perhaps mistakenly, credited to these two continued to work in game one as Randolph looked dangerous. He hit from the outside and after getting warmed up (or scolded at the sideline) he attacked the rim en route to 20 points and nine rebounds. By benching Marbury to start the season, though, D'Antoni may have done something even more incredible.

The last time that Marbury played in a regular season game was on January 11, 2008 at the Garden. The Knicks lost to the Raptors. As had become standard practice, Marbury was booed (with a smattering of applause) during introductions. Fast-forward the better part of a calendar year and Marbury has yet to play another minute. He was, however, serenaded by fans at the Garden with the aforementioned chants of "We Want Steph." Without actually coaching him through one meaningful play D'Antoni has turned Marbury, at least in the minds and mouths of some, from overpaid pariah to underdog home-town charity case. Fans were actually chanting for him to play. Think about that. And think about the fan-Marbury relationship last season. And, for a guy who is notoriously fragile emotionally you just have to think that getting the Garden crowd back on his side would provide a huge lift for Marbury if/when he gets back on the floor. And, that will happen. The crowd being on his side, I mean. I'm not sure if Steph will get back on that floor for the home team, but If Steph head's to the scorer's table at MSG some time next week or next month the place is going to erupt. By leaving him on the bench D'Antoni has re-connected Marbury to the rest of us who watch the game from a seat in the Garden.

Is this what D'Antoni intended when he left Marbury out on Wednesday night? Probably not. But I do think that he did intend something. I do think that the move was more about sending messages, like Gus Johnson said, than about Xs and Os. After all, if the game were about Xs and Os then Danilo Gallinari doesn't step on the floor before Marbury. Gallo hasn't played since the Vegas Summer League. Whereas Marbury started against the Celtics last week. D'Antoni's message could have been meant for Steph. It could have been meant for his teammates. Or it could have been meant for me.

I'd like to think that message was about giving in. I'd like to think that D'Antoni wants to break down Marbury (or build up his teammates) so that he can extract whatever greatness he still has in him. Because, in spite of all that has transpired, I still think Marbury has some good games left in those legs. And, if the Knicks are paying him then I'd like to be able to watch a few of those good games. Even if just to get his value up enough so that maybe we could trade him to a contender at the February trading deadline for a spare draft pick or usable young player.

A twenty-minute-a-night Marbury playing for his next contract would be a great guy to have on this team. He's the only one on the roster with the potential to put this team into the playoff hunt all by himself. And, I know that this season isn't about this season, but it's still going to be a stepping stone towards next season and the one after that.

So, what next? I'd think that Marbury continues to be a peripheral figure around the club for another week or two on game days. I'd hope that he busts his tail in practice. I'd hope that D'Antoni breaks him in whatever way he is hoping to do so. And, then, I hope that Marbury does come off the bench in a game the Knicks are losing and scores some points going hard at the rim in that way that only him and a few others are really capable of doing.

Friday's Starting Five

PG: Chris Paul. Apparently not discouraged after being totally shafted in the 2007-2008 MVP balloting, CP3 is picking up right where he left off. He scored 20, dished 10 and corralled 8 (which, for those of you less gifted at arithmetic than me, is two rebounds shy of a tripe double) as the Hornets outlasted Steve Nash and the Suns in Phoenix, just one night after outlasting the Warriors, who were surprisingly feisty sans the Bearded One and Monta "Knievel" Ellis.

SG: Mo Peterson. The Hornets two-guard led the team in scoring last night with 21 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the field, including 3 of 4 from behind the arc. That's efficiency. That's playing next to Chris Paul who gets his teammates the ball in great shooting situations.

SF: Ron Artest. This Rockets team may be his team by the end of the month. Which is 12 hours from now. The Queensbridge-born street fighting man dominated down the stretch of Houston's intra-state win over Dallas last night. He was driving to the lane. He was hitting threes. And he showed that he is capable of defending any position on the floor. Artest was the beating (pun intended) heart of a 16-2 streak by the Rockets late in the 4th to take the game. He scored 7 points during the run and defended Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry at different points as well. He also received a technical foul while ostensibly trying to break up a potential scuffle between Yao and Howard. Seriously, re-read that last sentence. Artest was the peacekeeper. Of course, his reputation still got him smacked with the technical but that's beside the point. Two nights into his first season in Houston and he's jumping into a fray to protect Yao. And, where was Tracy McGrady during all of this? On the bench. It's a Yao-sized IF, but IF this team stays healthy then they are going to make lots of noise in the playoffs. Maybe even, like, championship parade noise.

PF:Dirk Nowitzki. It's true that the Hasselhoff-loving German is listed as a power forward. This much is true. Last night, however, Ron Artest made him look like a small forward when it mattered most. If you know what I mean. In the fourth quarter all Dirk had to show for himself was one made technical free throw. That being said, Dirk had a huge first three quarters in the Texas two-step with Houston, leading all scorers with 36 points on 10-22 shooting.

C: Yao. Alright, before I start ordering my commemorative Ron Artest 2008-2009 NBA MVP apparel, it is important to note that the 7-foot, 6-inch gentleman who starts at center for Houston is a decent player as well. I still think that healthy Yao can be the most dominant force in the game these days. I think he's more dominant than Dwight Howard. I argued/debated this just the other night. Yao's offensive game is much more refined than Howard's and his defensive presence is at least as large on the court even if it is not as frenetic on television. Because that dude is SEVEN AND HALF FEET TALL. He didn't do anything last night to dissuade me from this belief. He put up 30 and pulled down 13 against the Mavericks.

Benched: Jason Kidd. The Rockets and Mavs were tied, 92-92, with eight minutes left to play last night. At this point the Rockets tethered McGrady to the bench and loosed Ron Artest upon the city of Dallas. The Rockets went on a 6-1 run that was halted by a Dallas timeout. This where Jason Kidd should have steadied the ship for his ballclub. He did not. He tallied one missed shot and one assist on Jason Terry jumper the rest of the way. Bearing in mind his late-game impotence, I feel like the biggest indictment of Kidd from the game was the fact that Dampier/Diop/Bass combined for 12 points. Of course, Dirk, Howard and Terry all scored plenty of points. But those three score without any help from Kidd. They can each create their own shot and don't need anything from a point guard other than the ball. Those Bigs, though, should benefit from playing with a "top-flight" point guard like Kidd is alleged to still be. Those three should be getting easy looks after Kidd unlocks the D. But Kidd is not even half the man he used to be. He is old and has a hard enough time unlocking his bowels let alone an NBA-caliber defense.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Garden Variety

A Roundup of Today's Knicks-related coverage

-Over at the NYT, Howard Beck Howard Beck recaps, with a focus on Marbury's lack of playing time. He warns that “benching Marbury — who played well in the preseason — was an unexpected, bold and potentially disruptive move" and then goes on to take his own jab at Steph, noting that rapper Q-Tip (formerly of A Tribe Called Quest) got my court time than the Coney Island native. And, it's true Tip regaled the crowd with an updated version of "Go NY Go" before the opening tip off.

-Also at The Old Gray Lady, Harvey Araton weighs in on the Marbury bench warming.

-Meanwhile, at the News, Frank Isola leads his game story with Marbury in the headline and the opening paragraph. Coincidentally, he also makes the same "Q-Tip getting more time" joke that Beck made. I guess we know what the reporters were talking about after the game. Apparently, though, the Q-Tip jab wasn't enough, since Isola ends the story noting (after listing the point totals by the rest of the club) that Marbury was held scoreless. Seems a tad unnecessary. Isola's colleague Mitch Lawrence manages to offer up a more staid account of the game, sans Q-Tip joke or heavy focus on Marbury.

-In light of Marbury's DNP-CD, Marc Berman at the Post writes that "the decision to bring him to training camp now seems cruel." He goes on to say that playing Mardy Collins ahead of him at the point was an insult to Steph. And, while I'd like to stick to Gus Johnson's phrasing of "sending a message," I do agree with Berman. In a separately filed story for the Post, Berman tracks Gallinari's debut, sharing this pre-game quote from the Italian Stallion to his head coach.
Gallinari: If you want to win, I'll play"


Knicks Win Season-Opener at Garden

The Knicks are undefeated. The Knicks are tied for first place. The Knicks are the highest scoring team in the NBA. Jamal Crawford is the fourth highest scoring player in the NBA.

All of those things are true.
Right now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Alive: Knicks vs. Heat

Thoughts on the 4th Quarter

Score: 91-75

-Collins on Wade to start the fourth. He brushes by the Temple product but loses the ball in the paint.

-Crawford-to-Chandler-Lee and David gets the free throw line for two. Without an established PG (like Marbury) these guys seem to have all taken it upon themselves to be conscientious about moving the ball.

-Wade goes right back at Collins and gets the ball all the way this time, scoring two. Crawford and Lee come to Wade to stop the ball next time down the floor before turning him back over to Collins.

-"We Want Steph" continues.


-Wade is trying to take this game over but it's just not working.

-Every non-point-guard on the floor for the Knicks is a threat to score at any point right now. And, with Nate taking over at the point with a shade under 9 to go, every player is a threat to score. And, not in the way that last year every player wanted to score but didn't.

-Lee's 5th assist sets up a slicing Wilson Chandler for a dunk. He's 8 of 14 with 17 points.


-Gus just dropped the stat that dropped my jaw. The Knicks have 26 assists with over 7 minutes to play. And, Lee has six of them.

-Lee just got consecutive offensive boards before laying the ball in, causing Gus to blurt out "Moses Malone" without providing any further explanation.

-Even on a bad night Wade just scored his 22nd and 23rd points on a jumper.

-There we go. We just got a good ol' fashioned Knicks possession where Crawford dribbled most of the clock down. Two passes later Randolph was taking a contested three as the shot clock was about to expire. Been there. Done that. Then we departed from the 2007-2008 script as a livid D'Antoni called a timeout. You see, he's a coach. This is what coaches are supposed to do.

-Well-founded anger on the coach's part, though, doesn't alter the fact that the Heat are coming back. It's happening.


-Interestingly, D'Antoni's stop the bleeding substitution is Wilson Chandler for David Lee. When in doubt, add more scorers.

-Wade wants to go coast to coast every time he touches the ball. He misses (again) but Marion gets the putback. The Heat are coming back. It's still happening.


-As Walt notes that Big Men are "vanishing from the NBA," Gus reveals that Curry isn't even on the bench at this point. Apparently, he's back in the locker room icing his knee.

-Daquan Cook hits a big bucket. The Heat are coming back. Oh, wait. They're here.


-Crawford cans a HUGE three. As silly as it sounds that is arguably the biggest shot he's hit as a Knick.


-As the Knicks play with the franticness of team unaccustomed to defending a lead, Wade fouls Crawford behind the arc and is done for the night with six fouls. Crawford hits just 1 of 3 as the game is just on the long side of one minute to play.


-Nate hits drops a floater through from the lane. Hopefully to ice this.


-Or not.


-As D'Antoni paces the sideline, hand on hip and shaking his head in frustration the camera catches a great shot of Herb Williams nodding knowingly with a wry smile on his face.

-Another Daquan Cook three-pointer. Ugh. My beer tastes like Lunesta.


-Crawford hits two free throws with about 12 ticks to go.

FINAL SCORE: 120-115

It's Alive: Knicks vs. Heat

Thoughts on the 3rd Quarter

Score: 60-45

-Free-flowing slop to start off the second half. Gus credits the Heat with "energy." I credit both teams with knowing that there are many minutes left and the game that it is unlikely to be decided in this particular group of minutes. It's easier to watch this sort of aimless, one-for-one ball when my team is up.


-Nice steal by Lee in passing lane leads to break and strong dunk by Q. He got up. The guy looks like one we thought we traded for way back when.

-Randolph just kicked the ball back out. He actually gave it back to a guard after he started to back someone down. Duhon, having not played with Zach enough to be surprised, hits the open shot.


-Wade throws it out of bounds and looks frustrated.

-Lee's telegraphed post moves work for two more and then he gets his hands on the ball again on the defensive again. He still can't stop Haslem in the post but he is compensating for this by being as active as he can before the ball gets to the spots on the floor where he is in trouble.

-Crawford is rolling. Inside. Outside. Inside on the break. And outside after the break catches up and flies past him.


-The Heat are struggling. Marion and Beasley are off from 12-and-in while Wade is just off everywhere. Still TBD how much credit for this the Knicks deserve. After all, Miami was awful last year. Like, even worse than the Knicks.

-Gus and Clyde sum up how the results thus far conflict with what we all suffered through last year:
Walt: "I think the crowd is stunned, Gus, by what has happened here tonight."
Gus: "I'm stunned there playing so well. It's almost too easy"
Walt: "It's that word surreal."

-Off the bench, Nate and Wilson Chandler connect for a layup on the pick and roll.


-Coming out of a timeout, we catch another climpse of the huddle (setting up Gus to again comment on the openess of the new regime). Marbury and Curry are not even in the frame.

-Walt notes this group's lack of a killer instinct just before Wade hits a shot to shave the lead down to 15. You just know that the Heat are coming back. It's just a matter of how far.

-Wade throws himself into a crowd of four Knickerbockers in the lane and misses the shot and loses the ball. Although he had a fine Olympic showing you just figure it's one thing to go hard into the paint against some dudes from Angola for a few weeks then it is to do it in the Association for 82 games.

-"We Want Steph" chant is resounding through the Garden so loudly that Walt and Gus start talking about it. A smile crosses Marbury's face against an obvious attempt to stifle it on the bench. No matter what D'Antoni's plans for him, you just got to love, or at least I do, that the crowd is behind Marbury again. He needs it.


It's Alive: Knicks vs. Heat

Thoughts On the 2nd Quarter

Score: 28-27

-Mardy Collins checks back in. Before Stephon even takes off his warmups. Yipes. Gus keeps talking about how D'Antoni is "sending a message."

-Gallinari shows a little something with a nice behind-the-back dribble when his defender overpursues his ball hand.

-According to Gus: "Mardy Collins has a habit of dribbling very high and losing the ball." Yet, this guy is in his second stint on the floor while Marbury, a guy who had a stretch of putting up PG stats that we've only ever seen from Oscar Robertson is further from the floor than Anthony Roberson. Look, I'm all for messages. And for trying something a little extreme to get Steph's attention - after all, you gotta fight crazy with crazy - but I'm less than enthused about Collins and Duhon handling the ball so much for a squad that I root for.

-Q comes back in and replaces Gallinari. You've got to think that the rook's PT shows that Gus is on-point by saying that D'Antoni is sending messages to his team, to fans and to the media tonight. I mean, Gallinari hasn't played in 3 months due to a back injury and here is running up and down on opening night. And, 3 months ago he played just one game. Marbury, on the other hand, started last week against the Celtics.

-The Knicks just got three possessions on one trip down the floor and all of them looked like something that was cut from a bad sports movie.

-A phenomenal put-pack dunk by Wilson Chandler gets Gus hollering. The camera cuts to the Knicks bench were Z-Bo, Lee and Crawford are up on their feets, cheering Chandler. It's clear that these three guys are invested in this team's success right now. They're psyched. They know that they're going to get the chance to make or break this season. Their sitting-down colleagues on the bench cannot say the same. Not yet.


-Following Chandler's rim-rocker, Beasley gets the ball on the right-top of the three-point line from Wade. He drives all the way across the lane and gets up a shot. Good. You can tell that Beasley just knew he had to silence the crowd after the Chandler dunk. He got the ball. Forgot about his teammates. And got two to quiet 20,000.


-Chandler's got 8 points and 5 rebounds early and he's got Jared Jeffries' attention. Mine too.

-Randolph rattles down his second field goal. It's another 17-footer. He's not getting into the paint at all on offense.

-Well, apparently Chris Duhon isn't the only Knickerbocker getting WWOD? updates from the bench. Randolph finally starts attacking the painted area, leading Gus to chime in "that's where you want him." Well, either there or back in Portland...

-Randolph is back inside. He's attacking. Or as Walt says, "Nice posting and toasting by Z-Bo. Now, he doesn't jump off the ground folks. But he has such an uncanny move when he's like 5 or 6 feet from the hoop."


-Miami Heat timeout.

-Coming back from the commercial break MSG shows us 30 seconds or so from the huddle that just occurred. Gus remarks that "we've been granted unbelievable access by this team." This is reason No. 3,454 why the Walsh/D'Antoni Era will be better than the Isiah Thomas Era.

-Crawford's back. He hits another for his 16th and 17th points.

-Q draws a charge on the Matrix on the defensive end and is also on the trigger-end of Wade's 3-12 start from the floor.

-Randolph is still going at the hoop. He's too quick for Haslem. Which felt weird to type. OK, Zach's back outside soon enough. But he dropped in another meteor from 17.

-Q three-pointer set up by some nice ball movement.


-At no point last year, at least that I can recall, did I hear such glowing play-by-play on back-to-back plays:
Gus: "Great help defense by the Knicks."
Walt: "[The Knicks are the] consumate team on both ends of the floor."
That just happened.


-As we're under 30 seconds to play in the first half D'Antoni is pointing and coaching his team's last possesion. Q hits a shot from the elbow.

-Of course, the Knicks then let Mario Chalmers fly down the length of the floor before fouling him as he shoots with less than 2 seconds left. Just when you thought...

-Just when I thought you couldn't do anything more go and do something like this....and totally redeem yourself. With 1.4 ticks to go, Rose throws a baseball pass to Q, who snuck out early after Chalmers' second free thow. He gets fouled as the buzzer sounds and hits both free throws.


It's Alive: Knicks vs. Heat

Thoughts on the 1st Quarter

We're off. Ticketless tonight, I'm watching the first game of the 2008-2009 Knickerbockers campaign from the comfort of WWOD? HQ. The beer is certainly cheaper here. And, I have the pleasure of hearing Gus Johnson and Walt Clyde Frazier calling the game on MSG.

The Knicks Starting Lineup
PG: Chris Duhon
SG: Jamal Crawford
SF: Quentin Richardson
PF: David Lee
C: Zach Randolph

Score: 0-0

As advertised, Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury are not out on the floor when the opening tip is lofted into the air. Lee is jumping for the Knicks. He whiffs.

-No. 1 draft pick Michael Beasley opens the scoring with a nifty slice and hoop through the paint. On the other end, Crawford comes off a curl and hits a nice-looking jump shoot. I don't know who needed that more, him or us.

-Mere minutes into this the new Curry-less universe you can already see how the Knicks are going to have trouble matching up against longer/taller teams. Exhibit A: Crawford is guarding Shawn Marion.

-Dwayne Wade is being d'ed up Q, which I like. I know he was hurt last season but I think that the Knicks have to get more on-court leadership out of him. And even though he can be a heck of shooter, that leadership starts with this willingness to defend the other team's best player. Whether it's Wade or Lebron, who Q has battled (not stopped, but battled) in the past.


-The Knicks are shooting after one pass. Gus gives us the first of many "seven seconds or less" references. And Crawford is warming up, hitting shots. He's officially hot when he drops in a high-arching fadeaway three with Marion, arm-extended all over him. Leading Gus to comment, "So much for the preseason."

-On defense the Knicks have fouled a few guys in the paint, Wade and Marion, rather than give up layups. Obviously I'd like it if we could actually stop folks but I'll take a foul-before-layup policy. It's certainly better than the previous fouls-and-layups policy from last year.

-Duhon isn't showing me anything early on. He's getting lost on defense, forcing his teammates to switch off on the perimeter and setting up David Lee/Mario Chalmers mismatches.

-Duhon apparently also didn't get the memo about the abandonment of the "fouls-and-layups" strategy. He doe the classic arms-down, lean-in, body-foul on Wade as he cruises by for an easy two.

-Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson are the first two players off the Knicks bench. They replace Randolph and Q.

-Nate gets a shot on his first offensive possession (miss), and we are treated to first "rise and fire" of the regular season from Gus Johnson. The NBA is fantastic.


-The Knicks score when they hit jump shots. They don't score when they don't. Thus far this is all I can tell from the offense. Duhon isn't working them toward reliable, easy-to-make buckets. And, yes, I am not extending him the benefit of the doubt in the first eight minutes of the season.

-Since he must have heard that I'm down on him, Duhon cans an open 3 from the corner. These shots will make or break the Knicks if Duhon is the starter all year. The Heat left him entirely alone on defense. Since they have no respect for his game. If he hits enough of these open looks then maybe the other four on the floor will get a fair shake.


-Danilo Gallinari and Malik Rose check in. The Italian Stallion looks approximately 9 years old. He also looks serious as hell, talking to Rose and Chandler and trying to figure out what his responsibilities are.

-Just like a ninth-inning defensive replacement, the ball finds Gallinari on offense immediately. He catches. Thinks. Takes a step in. Bounces a shot off the back rim. He aimed that ball with his mind and didn't shoot it with his body. But, then again he is just 9. So, he does get the benefit of the doubt.

-Chandler is a shot-taker. Pure. Simple. Good? That remains to be seen. But, unlike Gallinari, he's not thinking when he gets the ball. He is all action and tunnelvision. He scored six points in the last six minutes of the first quarter on 3 of 5 shooting.

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

WWOD? Wins Top Knicks Blog Honors in La Ball Talk Contest

We won. Me. You. Oakley. We. Frankly, I'm shocked. I was psyched just to be invited to participate along with the other well-written and far more established blogs that were nominated.

Now, the season is about to get underway and I'm planning on doing my best to justify the half dozens of votes cast.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

WWOD? Review of the Knicks Previews

Everyone Else's Look Ahead at the 2008-2009 Knicks

John Hollinger, ESPN
Hollinger is the Worldwide Leader's numbers guy when it comes to hoops. His Player Efficiency Ratings are, for my dollar, the zenith of statistical analysis. And, yes, part of the reason I dig his numbers so much is because they provide a cornerstone for my idolatry of Chris Paul.

The Bright Side: "At least the worst is over. After the season, the Knicks finally cut the cord with Thomas and put a grown-up back in charge, hiring former Indiana Pacers GM Donnie Walsh as the new team president... While Curry and Randolph have their shortcomings, each is a beast on the low post who can finish and draw fouls... David Lee, who is a perfect complement to either Randolph or Curry because he's so good at roaming the weak side for offensive boards."

The Half-Empty Glass: "This is still Thomas' team... The same problem of pairing Randolph and Curry remains, as do the hordes of shoot-first, ask-later types at the guard spots and the assorted overpaid underachievers filling out the bench... it's still hard to imagine them cracking the league's top 20 in defensive efficiency. Offense may be a struggle too, even with D'Antoni's genius at that end.."

The Unexpected: Hollinger warns the Association "don't sleep on Quentin Richardson. Yes, he was an absolute dog last season, but he can pummel smaller guards on the blocks, and the Knicks have been strangely reluctant to make use of this skill. He also had his best season under D'Antoni in Phoenix four years ago."

The Prediction: 28-54, 4th in Atlantic Division, 14th in Eastern Conference

J.E. Skeets, Ball Don't Lie (Yahoo)
BDL is a must-stop spot on any hoops fans daily Interweb meanderings. It's matches sarcasm, knowledge and enthusiasm in good measure. They've also been kind enough to link a handful of my posts over the past few months.

The Bright Side: Um, not so much.

The Half-Empty Glass:"The ascension of Chris Duhon to the top of the point guard heap in New York seems as much of a bum move as trading for Zach Randolph to play alongside Eddy Curry... not the most able guy in transition, you don't have to guard him anywhere on the court, he's not a creative passer, he's not even that good a passer."

The Unexpected: According to Skeets, the album that best embodies the 2008-2009 Knicks is Born to Be Blue, by Grant Green.

Sports Illustrated
It's everyone's favorite printed source for full-color photographs of week-old events. And, the grandaddy of the sports journalism that has better access to the pros than anyone this side of ESPN. In the SI team previews we hear from anonymous NBA scouts and someone attributed as C.M., who I think is NBA writer Chris Mannix.

The Bright Side: Again, we've got slim pickings when looking for positive things to say...

The 3/4-Empty Glass:"I don't think the improvement in coaching by hiring Mike D'Antoni is going to make that big of a difference this year... the new coaching staff is going to want to win games and establish a new style, but management is going to need the next two years to clear away the bad contracts and attitudes. The way it looks right now, this is a throwaway year unless they can get something out of the draft from it."

The Unexpected: "The best player on their training camp roster is probably Marbury. Look at his skills: When healthy he can score, and if he wants to -- if -- he can defend his position; I've seen him body up. He's quick, he can push it up the floor, he can handle."

Prediction: 13th In East, 4th in Atlantic

The Big Lead
This is the gateway blog that could lead you to abuse more dangerous and more cynical blogs. TBL brings most everything under the sporting sun to your attention and has been kind enough to link to a few WWOD? posts. The A.M. Roundup is great way to ease into the work day.

The Bright Side: "the talent is clearly there for Mike D’Antoni to blend into playoff team. Jamal Crawford’s shot selection is questionable, but he is undeniably a scoring machine. Zach Randolph, who amazingly stayed out of trouble in his first year in Gotham, can still provide 20-10. David Lee is the quintessential role player. Nate Robinson can provide a spark off the bench."

The 1/3-Empty Glass: " The disastrous, tyrannical reign of Isiah Thomas is over. The stench, of course, still lingers... comparing Starbury, Q Rich and Randolph to Nash, Marion and Amare is pure lunacy. "

The Unexpected: Frankly, the genuinely enthusiastic take on the positive possibilities for the Knicks throughout this preview was unexpected. And welcomed.

The Prediction: "40/45 wins and very, very close to a playoff berth."

Basketbawful, via Deadspin
A fine and funny blog in its own right, Basketbawful is the official NBA blog of the artist formerly known as Deadspin.

The Bright Side: " Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone. Isiah Thomas is gone."

The Half-Empty Glass: "I don't think Mikey Boy can repair the Knicks' defensive inadequacies; D'Antoni's teams couldn't guard somebody with a gun. And if all that wasn't ominous enough, Stephon Marbury is still around, hoggin' the ball and cap space. What I'm trying to say is that, so far, bringing in Walsh and D'Antoni is like putting curtains on a port-o-potty. The minor aesthetic modifications on the outside won't change the fact that what's on the inside still stinks."

Marc Berman, NY Post
Berman is the Post's man on the Knicks beat. He's got fruit-bearing personal relationships with the players and the coaches. He was the guy texting with Marbury when he left the team last year in Phoenix and he was the guy who talked to Isiah when his world was crumbling at the end of last week. Berman's blog is the go-to spot for late-breaking Knicks news.

The Bright Side: "On nights Quentin Richardson has confidence in his 3-pointer, the Knicks' offense will hum like that of the Suns. D'Antoni has gotten this club to move the ball and it resulted in lots of preseason open looks."

The Half-Empty Glass: "The red flag is defense. The Knicks allowed 106.2 points per game in preseason. Lee and a rejuvenated Randolph make for a versatile offensive paring but can be overmatched on the defensive end by bigger teams. Neither blocks shots."

The Prediction: "37-45, No playoffs."

Frank Isola and Mitch Lawrence, Daily News
Isola and Lawrence are the guys my Uncle Elliot reads every morning at the News. And, I don't mean that disrepfectfully. They've got the contacts and the time and the in-house view that the rest of us don't. The flip side is that they've also got the burnout and the taking-things-for-granted-itis that those unpaid love-of-the-game guys don't have to worry about.

The Bright Side: "D'Antoni and Knicks president Donnie Walsh are thinking big picture. Their goal is to get under the salary cap for the summer of 2010 when LeBron James can become a free agent. In the meantime, Walsh will look to remove some of the dead wood and fat contracts and, along with D'Antoni, try to establish a winning culture for a franchise that hasn't had a winning season in seven years." (Isola)

The Half-Empty Glass: "D'Antoni is the New York Knicks' fourth head coach in the past five years. Two of those coaches - Lenny Wilkens and Brown - had more impressive resumes... If history has taught us anything, D'Antoni's run may be brief. But this is supposedly a new era for the Knicks - new president, new system, new media policy (we think) and of course, a new coach... Everything is new except the players. The core group that over the last four seasons produced a grand total of 112 wins and 216 losses remains intact. This group will hurt D'Antoni's career winning percentage in year one. That is a fact." (Isola)

The Prediction: "32 wins begin the long climb back to respectability." (Lawrence)

And, coming up tomorrow morning afternoon is the official WWOD? 2008-2009 Knicks Preview Extravaganza

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Spoonful of....Medicine, Helps the Medicine...Kill You

Isiah Thomas Overdosed.
Or not. Or, yeah, he did.

For those of you wondering why I wasn't chomping at the bit to glory in the latest Isiah Thomas-related spectacle, here's your answer: Sean Taylor.

You see, the morning that the Washington Redskins Pro Bowler was shot in his home in Florida I went to post about it in that morning's The Starting Five. I had a kicked-in-balls sort of joke ready to go about the gunshot wound to his groin. Because, you see, the first reports didn't make it seem like Taylor was in mortal danger from the injury. Not at all. So, I clicked "Publish Now" and that was that. Until it wasn't.

A few minutes later the word coming north from Florida was that Taylor was in critical condition. He was maybe even dying. I pulled the post down and re-wrote it to reflect the direness of the situation. But I still felt like shit all day long. It sucked. I mean the joke was probably a good one (because aren't all my jokes...) but it was written for its own sake and without any concern regarding what actually happened. So, from then on I decided that when someone's life is in the balance I hold off until all of the facts are in.

Well, the facts are in. Or at least the disputed facts are in. And Isiah Thomas is alive and seemingly still a self-serving egomaniac. He may also be severely depressed and in need of some serious counseling. But, let's start with the breathing and being a jerk side of the equation before touching on the sad, sadder and saddest aspects of the story.

Although, it's been covered in depth in all the papers and The Big Lead had a good summary of the whole thing on Saturday morning, here's another account of what happened.

Late Thursday Night a 911 call originates from Thomas's home on Azalea Court in Purchase, NY. The call was fielded by the state police and then turned over to local officials, who dispatched police and an ambulance to the address. Someone in distress was taken five miles to the White Plains Hospital Center.

And, here is where everyone starts to disagree.

Isiah Thomas claims that the medical emergency involved his 18-year-old daughter, who suffers from hypoglycemia. The police claim that the emergency involved a 47-year-old black man, who would obviously be Isiah. Police say that Isiah was found unconscious in his kitchen after having ingested approximately 10 Lunesta sleeping pills. All of the on-the-record evidence backs up the cops' version of events.

So, what then?

Then it got ugly. Accustomed to piling on Isiah after his disastrous stint as Knicks President and coach, many came out first in mock-shock and then shockingly to mock the fallen Detroit Pistons star. Even though I don't doubt that Isiah did overdose on sleeping pills, I also don't think that fact takes Harrison Police Chief David Hall off the hook for providing his own needless editorial comments to any pen-carrying journalist. It's one thing to answer questions about the discrepancy in accounts of the night. That's fine. It's his job. I think. Although, I'm pretty sure that since no criminal charges were filed as a result of the incident and Isaiah wasn't viewed as a danger to himself that Police Chief Hall could have referred all questions to the family. Still, maybe he is required to answer any question posed to him. Fine. But, if so, I'm sure that he doesn't need to give the Associated Press quotes like, "It wasn't his daughter. And why they're throwing her under the bus is beyond my ability to understand."

Hall, then went on to compare Isiah's lie about what happened to Nixon's cover-up of Watergate. Ok. Thanks. The wanton glee that Hall took in inserting himself into the story and the reportage of it is what really makes this whole thing so weird and gross. I also think the adversarial pose of the police contributes to the general confusion over it.

That being said, I'm not confused over the facts. I don't doubt that Isiah was the one who needed the paramedics. I don't doubt that Isaiah knowingly lied about his daughter to try to defuse the situation. And to, in some misguided attempt, avoid embarrassment. After all, this guy threw Stephon Marbury under every bus at the Port Authority. Perhaps Isiah's biggest weakness is his confidence in his ability to stay ahead of story and to author his own version of events. In the Post, Marc Berman writes that he thinks that Isiah didn't fully grasp the traction of the story on the Internet and on television when he claimed that his daughter needed the medical attention rather than him. I agree with Berman.

So, what next?

The lasting part of this tale of woe is the window it give us to the sorry state of Isiah's life. Banished from pro hoops, he is a pariah and reportedly "steeped in sadness". His life sucks. And, even though no one regards this as a suicide attempt it is hard not to view the overdose as a cry for help. And, no matter what this guy did to my team and no matter how often I was critical of him (which ranged from often to always), you don't wish this sort of burdensome depression on anyone. It sucks. It's sad. And if this incident is any indication we're all going to bear witness to it in the coming months.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Like Father....

Patrick Ewing Jr. Rocks Garden

This dunk from tonight's go-getter loss to the Nets was so fierce that chicks at the Gold Club got nervous.

UPDATE: And, they cut Junior from the squad. Nice. You got to think that D'Antoni regrets even giving PE2 (which is the nickname we're going with) the chance on Saturday night for the above play. Anyways, I hope there is a way we can get him to the D-League squad or something. But more on this tonight.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Allan is All Out, Finally

Knicks Cut Allan Houston
While sitting in the second row of the bleachers in the gymnasium at Pace University last Sunday morning as the Knicks practiced practicing I found myself intently following Allan Houston around the floor. This was unexpected. I mean, I knew he was going to be there. I knew all about his latest comeback attempt. But it all seemed sort of besides the point as I got ready for the debut of the D'Antoni/Walsh Era. Houston was an afterthought. He was closer to an AARP subscription than to contributing on an NBA roster.

Like I said, he was afterthought. Until I couldn't stop watching him. He surely doesn't have the frenetic energy of Nate Robinson, the rubber-neck inducing, cataclysmic charisma of Stephon Marbury or the sheer size of Eddy Curry. And, he was, even then when he still was a member of the team, far less relevant to the Knicks 2008-2009 season than any of those three. But he was the guy who hit the shot against Miami in Game 5 in 1999 against the Heat. He was the guy who played with Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley and who pushed John Starks out of the starting lineup. He has scored the fourth most points in franchise history and the sixth most minutes played. He is ALLAN HOUSTON.

Or, at least, he was ALLAN HOUSTON. Now, he's just Allan Houston. He's 37 years old. He's got creaky knees. Therefore, I wasn't surprised when he was cut from the roster yesterday. It was the right move, the necessary move. Because Houston is done. The more I watched him this past Sunday the more that I knew it. Aside from the fact that he couldn't even participate in the five-on-five that they ran at the end of the hour, he just looked out of place the whole morning. He moved gingerly and without conviction as he went through the motion on the other drills. He was apart from the other players on the floor even when he was standing in line with them waiting for his turn to take a shot from elbow. And, when he stood on line waiting to take his shot he kept shaking out his limbs as if he could break loose the shackles of age with a shimmy or a shiver. He was flexing and bending and twitching like a fiend waiting for a fix. And, in his way he was. Waiting on line behind guys so much younger than him, waiting for a "teammate" to feed him the ball so he could take his jump shot from the elbow. Shooting that shot is his drug.

And from 1996 to 2005, when he was scoring those 9,243 points in a Knicks uniform, that sweet jump shot was our drug too. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was the essence of basketball. After all, the set shot was there before the ally-oop, before the slash to the lane (which everyone forgets that Allan used to be quiet adept at as well). I've never seen anything as simple and ideal as Houston's jumper. It was all muscle memory and thoughtless focus. It was what Matthew Graham was really talking about when he said, "Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body." He only thought he was talking about dancing because that was all Graham knew. The fluid, wordless expression of the soul was Allan Houston's jump shot more than it was ever a pirouette. If you've seen it then you know what I mean.

And, as Houston finally trades in the hundred-dollar high tops for the the shined-up penny loafers that he'll wear as a Knicks executive it is a shame that he isn't appreciated as much as he should be. Too many Knicks fans, one of my brothers included, never forgave him for pushing Starks to the bench. Too many Knicks fans never forgave him for signing the one hundred gazillion dollar contract that he was offered. Of course he signed it. Wouldn't you? What else could he do? It's not his fault that management offered him all that money without thinking about what it meant for the long-term health of the franchise? It's not Houston's fault. We can't hold him accountable for it. But we can give him credit for all of the beauty he gave us. For all the games that he won. Hopefully with the passing of time and with his continued involvement in the organization he can eventually receive the respect he deserves. Hopefully we'll remember him for what he was on the court and not who he pushed off of it or what he signed off of it.

Hopefully, we'll remember him for this:

Uncle Charles says, "Yes, We ARE!"

WWOD? Leading Top Knicks Blog Voting

After a few days of vote tabulation over at LA Ball Talk, a Lakers blog, this site holds the lead over five other contenders for the best Knicks blog.

The Top Knicks Blog Standings
1. What Would Oakley Do?
2. Posting And Toasting
(Knicks blog in the SportsBlog Nation network*)
3. Knicker Blogger
(Great, great stats-heavy blog)
4. Father Knickerblogger
(Knicks blog in the MVN blog network*)
5. Knicks Knacks
(Bergen Record's Knicks blog*)
6. Knicks Knation
(NY Daily News's Knicks blog*)


As we all know, this is not the time to take false confidence from early polls. We must continue to campaign. So go VOTE. And, if you already voted then go vote on another computer. Or tell your mom to go vote.

And, remember, if you fail to vote then Mr. Oakley will be doling out ass-kickings. Yes. He can. And, will.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Verknickular

Additions to the native language of our locality inspired by the New York Knicks

Charles Smith Layup Line
Function: Noun

1: a dire predicament caused by incompetence
2: the condition of public embarrassment
3: a total loss of control
4: a no-win situation in which higher powers are blocking the path to success (or not calling any of the many fouls in the play)

In use:
1. The Republican insistence upon deregulation at every turn made it inevitable that Wall Street would end up a Charles Smith Layup Line and ensured it was just a matter of time before I was living in a lean-to and hording canned goods.
2/3. So, me and my brother were out doing shots of jagermeister with these Australian dudes all night long. I totally blacked out. The next thing I know, I wake up in the hallway of the hostel. I'm squatting with my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. And, I'm only wearing my underwear. Yeah, that sh*t was a complete Charles Smith Layup Line.
4. Sigourney Weaver's character in Working Girl, Katherine Parker, is determined to steal the credit for the good ideas of her subordinate Tess McGill, ensuring that Tess is stuck on a Charles Smith Layup Line.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Real Geniuses

Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni Edition

Although the product on the court isn't exactly transcendent, or even mediocre, there have already been signs that both the Knicks new President and Head Coach are as clever as their press releases would have you believe. In fact, I'm willing to concede genius. Real genius.

As the papers filled with stories of Eddy Curry's large spot on the bench and Stephon Marbury's ever-imminent removal from the roster during the preseason there was something amazing happening. Because genius was at work. Lazlo-level genius.

I didn't understand what was happening at first. Because I am no genius. In fact, I was so far off the scent just a few weeks ago that I thought the opposite of genius was at work at MSG. I thought both Walsh and D'Antoni were experiencing a bit gun-shyness due to the enormity of the problem that they inherited from Isiah Thomas. I was puzzled when the Knicks didn't pull the trigger when they could have traded the Zach Randolph to the Los Angeles Clippers in July. The Clips were dealing from a position of weakness after Elton Brand's shock defection to the 76ers and the Knicks would have been able to shed Randolph without having to take back substantial contracts in return. I was bewildered, bordering on bepissed when Walsh rebuffed the offer. A few weeks later the Knicks again didn't trade Randolph when the chance arose. This time the potential suitor was the Memphis Grizzlies and the haul included a bunch of spare parts featuring Dark Milic.

At this point, I was not bewildered or befuddled. I was beside myself. What were they waiting for? Why weren't they taking what they could get for the man who I spent most last season referring to as the Zach-hole? Why weren't they packing the bags of the player this side of Steve Francis who most exemplified Isiah Thomas's facile understanding of team building? Everyone knew that dumping his contract (he's due $14.7 million this season, $16 million next and $17.3 million in 2010/11) was the keystone to constructing a bid for Lebron James when he enters free agency after next season. Everyone knew that it would be near impossible for the Knicks to clear the necessary salary cap space without moving Z-Bo. In the New York Post, Marc Berman equivocally said the only way [signing Lebron] would be possible is if they can deal Zach Randolph for shorter-term contracts.

What were they waiting for? I thought, as Berman did, that the team needed to get rid of him in order to turn this thing around. And that was the problem. If I knew it then so did every General Manager in the NBA. And, therefore it was impossible that Walsh would get fair value for a guy who, in spite of his many foibles, is one of the few players in the Association capable of putting up 20/10 each and every night. A good GM doesn't just get cap space (which is what the Clippers deal offered) or spare parts (the Grizzlies deal) for a player with that statistical potential. A good GM finds a contending team needing a scorer to put them over the top and cherry picks the most promising youngsters of the roster. A good GM doesn't trade a player when his perceived value is at his lowest. And, Zach Randolph's perceived value could hardly have been any lower than it was during the second half of last season and the first half of the offseason.

What did Walsh do? He got together with his head coach and in a matter of weeks the two of them turned Randolph from headache to honor roll, albeit in a severely remedial class. D'Antoni has benched Marbury, railed against Curry and stood by as the seemingly unquashable confidence of Jamal Craword was thoroughly quashed. And now, we're a week away from the season opener and Randolph is no longer the Knicks main problem. Quite the opposite. It could even be argued that he is the team's most dependable player. He will score and he will rebound for a team with very few stats you can project in pen. Moreover, with Curry seemingly out of the rotation to start the season Randolph will have free reign in the post when the Knicks settle into a halfcourt set on offense. He won't be pushed out to the perimeter by a teammate, where he was at his ball-stopping worst last year. Rather, Randolph will be the focal point of the offense and likely be able to work against centers who are not quick enough (and, yes, it does feel so very wrong to talk about someone not being quick enough to handle the flightless Z-Bo) to stay with him.

Now, has Randolph fundamentally changed at all? No. Is moving him any less important to the team's goal of landing Lebron James? Nope. But does it seem like those things are true? Maybe. Does it seem like Marbury and Curry are more pressing problems right now? It sure does. Especially if you read the papers. That is the beauty of this "plan" that I have given Walsh and D'Antoni credit for. And quite possibly conjured from thin air. I think they think that Randolph still needs to go. I think that they just don't want everyone else to think that they think that. You follow? So rather than driving a FOR SALE sign into the front lawn for the neighbors to see they have gotten to work repainting the house's siding and fixing the broken shutters. They stopped saying that they were going to sell their home. They turned down a few lowball offers and told the neighbors how great the house was and how many points it was going to score. And in a few months when a neighbor's roof starts to leak he may stop by and ask if you ever thought of selling that great, point-scoring house of yours.

Before we know it Randolph will be averaging more than 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. After a few weeks of getting the ball in whatever semblance of D'Antoni's "seven seconds or less" offense the Knicks manage to scrap together, Randolph will again be considered the go-to offensive force that he was considered when Isiah Thomas traded for him. Or, at least, the numbers will be about the same. And then everyone won't think that Walsh needs to trade Randolph. After all, he'll be the team's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder. He'll have those magical 20/10 numbers that make GMs salivate. Back when Randolph was acquired by the Knicks the move made no sense as far as team-building strategery was concerned, but his numbers were so impressive that Knicks fans uncomfortably got behind the deal. Those numbers make lesser men (read: Isiah Thomas) do things that don't always make sense. Donnie Walsh understands this.

Walsh was named Knicks President the day after April Fool's Day and in less than seven months he is well on his way, with a great deal of help from Mike D'Antoni, to fooling just such a lesser man around the league. Because he is smarter than they are. While we've been debating Duhon vs. Marbury and pondering the potential of Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari these two have been slowly and surely rehabilitating Zach Randolph's image.

In about a month and a half Walsh will have everyone right were he wants them. And, then Randolph will be shipped to the Cavs to provide the scoring that Ben Wallace can't or he'll head to Detroit to provide some off-the-bench offense for a team that has everything but that. And, in return Walsh and D'Antoni will get back far more than the Clippers or Grizzlies were willing to offer when they thought they had the Knicks over a barrel. Just watch.

Well played, sirs.

Uncle Charles says, "Yes, We Can!"

WWOD? Nominated In Best Team Blog Contest

The enterprising Los Angelenos over at LA Ball Talk are holding a Top Team Blog Contest as the NBA season sets to tip off and this here web log is one of the fortunate contestants.

And while it is an honor just to be nominated, it sure would be nice to go out and win this thing. So, please head on over to LA Ball Talk and vote your heart, vote your conscience and vote your interests.

And, vote for me or Charles Oakley might come and kick your ass. Yes. He can.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The More Things Change...

Knicks Lose to Celtics, 90-101

Bobbing and weaving my way south through midtown it started to seem real again. It being the shrill autumn wind slaloming between the office buildings, the Knicks, basketball and the Garden. All of it. There have been so many night at Shea and even a few in the Bronx for baseball and already so many hours logged in front of the television for football that hoops has been pushed past the last remembered bits of waking dreams into the recesses of my brain. Of course, it's also possible that recent Knicks history has played a part of in my pushing aside of basketball after the final game was played last season. It's possible that I sought refuge in the 2008 Mets to salve the burn left behind by the 2007-2008 Knicks. Thankfully, that whole Mets thing totally worked out for me. For us. Right?
Anyway, it all comes rushing back as I set the plastic tray down at my second-floor table at the Nathan's on 32nd Street and Seventh Avenue. I'm ready to go. And by "go," I mean eat the No. 2 meal and then cross the street to watch pre-season basketball by myself at Madison Square Garden.

After eating my two hot dogs and drinking my lemonade I make my way past the ticket scalpers and Donnie Walsh's welcome-back message and towards the bag-checkers and body-searchers. The crowd is a decent size for a Tuesday night in the middle of October. In East Rutherford, that is. It's unremarkable compared with the teeming masses several floors below in Penn Station.Fans were crowded about the merch booths snapping up the newest/bluest gear and a surprising amount of foam fingers. Seriously there were way to many people buying foam fingers. And, I'm not really sure why. The foam-fingered crowd never even flirted with capacity and was made up of a noteworthy minority of Celtics fans. Because the champs were here.

(Thoughts on the "game" itself are coming soon to a post near you. In the meantime, enjoy the pretty pictures)

Season's Greeting

This message from Knicks GM Donnie Walsh greets fans approaching the Seventh Avenue entrance to MSG. I dig it. It's humble and ambitious. It's honest. Which is something this organization hasn't been in a while. Of course, it could eventually prove hollow and pandering. But, lets not get ahead of ourselves. For the time being, it is another positive, albeit subtle, move undertaken by the Walsh regime that began with the distribution of a ridiculous amount of free food at the final home game of last season.

Speaking of last season, this space was filled last year with images of the players on the team. The entire rotation loomed dozens of feet tall as fans entered and egressed. Each player had a ball in their hand. All save one was attempting a shot. None were pictured attempting a pass or in a defensive posture (the non-shooting player, Balkman, was dribbling and was most likely slicing to the rim himself). In this way the wall-sized poster was an apt depiction of the way the team was playing on the court: overlapping, undercutting and incoherent. Beneath each player's image was listed positions such as "the floor general" and "the warrior." In this way also, the wall-sized poster was an apt depiction of the way the team was playing: all ego and machismo earned from past deeds which had been wrung dry long ago and were bereft of capital by the time the poster was hung.

Again, this new is message is an improvement. It is humble where the other was boastful. It actually says something were the other was simply more marketing. Walsh's message implies accountability whereas last year's "message" only implied that each of us fans was lucky to be able to see such a collection of famous and larger-than-life athletes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Boomer is "Disgusted" By 49ers

ESPN's Monday Night Footbal Crew Disapproves of Mike Nolan's Removal as San Fran SAN FRANCISCO Coach
Upon hearing Chris Mortensen reveal that Mike Nolan had been fired as 49ers head coach following yesterday's loss to the Giants, Chris "Grizzly" Be(a)rman pulled no punches in letting viewers know how he felt during the pre-game show before tonight's Monday Night Football broadcast.

"Well, I'm disgusted by it."

And, he was. Clearly. The bile was oozing off of him as thick and viscous as if someone had suggested that the sleeves on his sport coats were always too short. I'm going to guess that the late-breaking nature of the news (just a few hours earlier it had been leaked that Nolan had one more game to prove the case that he deserved his post helming the Niners) is the reason we were all treated with such an unhinged response. Always not wanting to bite the hands that feed it, the Worldwide Leader generally treads lightly when dealing with the officials of the various pro sports leagues and when dealing with the owners of those leagues. In other words, they usually lay off the rich guys while coaxing embarrassing sound bites out of the players and coaches who make their living under the employ of the other guys. But, not tonight. Berman was just getting warmed up:

"You know, I uh um, he's a real good defensive guy. They've never really had the right thing, the move with Martz was just 'let's put a couple of spare tires on the car and maybe like Detroit teams will start 6-2 and see where we go.' That didn't even work. They just don't, Alex Smith didn't work. There are just a lot of things that aren't right there."

The rest of the crew took the cue from el capitan and throttled the 49ers when the conch shell came their way:

Cris Carter: "It's easy to see why teams lose in this league. It's easy. When you run your organization, when you treat people like this this is what you get. How do expect to win a championship when you treat people like this."

Ditka then went on to tar the current Niners ownership junta led by John York as inherited money-having ingrates without the experience or the respect to run the club. And, everyone nodded knowingly.

To sum up, Berman signed off by saying:
"Well, good for Mike Singletary for getting the opportunity, there's no question about that but, uh, I'm disgusted."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

And on the Seventh Day, They Practiced

Images From the Knicks Open Practice
(More Words/Pictures To Come Later Today/Tonight)
It was bright and early. It was too early and far too bright. But here I was in the car cruising north on the Saw Mill Parkway headed for Pace University in Pleasantville, NY. The occasion was the annual open practice held by the Knickerbockers. The early wake-up call, though, was well worth the hour that I got to watch the team practice.

It wasn't anything extraordinary. They stretched. Ran a few drills. And then went through the motions in a bit of 5 on 5. But the 150-200 folks in that gym were right up close for all of it. We heard Jared Jeffries cracking wise about Patrick Ewing, Jr. We felt the awkwardness when Chris Duhon and not Stephon Marbury took the floor with what sure looked like the first team. We cringed with the same embarrassment that everyone on the team did each time Jerome James took a shot. And, we knew the simultaneous awe and pity inspired by Allan Houston as he did what he could when he could.