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.