Wednesday, March 5, 2008

That Just Happened

LBJ drops 50 on the Knicks
Aside from hitting the half century mark, LBJ also had ten assists. The last NBA player to rack up 50 and 10? That was Stephon Marbury, who accomplished the feat in 2001 and just happened to be in the crowd tonight.

Oh, and tickets were still available at tip-off.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Cavs

7:30 PM @ the Garden

Lebron is worth paying to go see.

Let Exhibit A establish that as a legitimate reason why you should go to tonight's game if you've got the cash and the time. Lebron is worth paying to go see. Since I have the time but not the cash I won't be watching this one in person.

Things other than Lebron to watch for:
1. Randolph Morris and the Junkyard Gang. Will Isiah again play the end of the bench? After the way he handed away a game on Monday night he best give these young guys some run again. That loss on Monday only makes sense if it is the start of a youth movement. However, I would hope that he manages to be a bit smarter about how to utilize the roster. He can get Wilson Chandler minutes without having to bench someone like Nate with the game on the line. He can also mix youth and experience. I doesn't really do much good to put all Chandler, Morris, Collins and Rose out their together. The only way to get a good look at any of them is to mix them into a lineup that actually has some experienced players.

2. Stephon Marbury. Remember that guy? According to Berman at the Post, he'll be at the Garden tonight. It's came out in the media last week that he had been banned from the building by Isiah. The NBA Players' Association is looking into that allegation, but no one has to dig deep to see that Isiah has thrown Steph under the entire Greyhound fleet. This could get interesting if he actually shows up. I only hope that interesting doesn't segue to embarrassing.

3. Eddy Curry. Just Kidding. Although with Ilgauskas scratched due to injury it is possible that he could get some PT. Or, we could just slot the returning Randolph into the 5-spot and play small. I know which one I'd rather see...

4. Lebron James is a phenomenal talent. He is playing on a different planet from everyone but Kobe right now. He is really a cross between Magic and Michael. There, I said it. He has the desire to push the ball and distribute it that Magic did. He has Magic's size advantage over everyone else and the ability to guard virtually every position. And, he's got the end-game tenacity that Michael had. I've watched him get layups in the closing seconds of at least a half-dozen games this season. The combination of his size and his will are singular. And worth watching no matters who he is playing.

5. Nate Robinson. Before being benched in the game's waning moments on Monday, Nate was having a heck of a game. He's been a good deckhand on a sinking ship this season even if he can get a little hot-headed during the game. And, he can do this:

6. The Knicks might win. For whatever reason, the Knicks play well against Lebron. He brings out the best from Q on the defensive end of the floor and seemingly a good effort from just about everyone else. The Cavs only have one win to show for their last 6 trips to the Garden. The teams have split the two previous games this season, with the Knicks loss occurring in their very first game (in Cleveland) and only coming by a 4 point margin. Gibson killed us with late 3's and the Cavs really stole that one.

You Practice How You Play

One thing that has always gotten on my nerves while attending Knicks game this season, aside from the the high-cost of seats, the low-grade of play and the awful video montage played during team introductions, is the haphazard way in which the team warms up before the game starts and before the second half gets under way. This lack of organization seems emblematic of the hapless and rudderless Isiah Thomas regime. And, in my opinion, is entirely connected to way that they look when the whistle blows. Like every time that the team comes out of a timeout without a play called, these purpose-less warmups show that there is no cogent leadership, no structure and no blueprint for success. This is a team with no plan.

When coming out of the tunnel after half, the team rarely takes the floor at the same time. One night David Lee will be out two or three minutes before anyone joins him. The next night it's Wilson Chandler and Renaldo Balkman out by themselves. And, I have no problem if a few guys want (or where asked) to get a little extra work in, but once everyone is on the floor there should be some semblance of order. Some idea that they are on the same page. Even if just to keep them from getting in each others way. Or sending balls caroming off one another before finding the net. Yet, it is clear every night that there is no rhyme or reason to what they're doing while warming up. It's clear that these players are just sent onto the floor without any tangible instructions from their coaches as to how they should be using the time allotted. They are out there killing time.

This picture, taken during half-time of Monday night's game against the Hornets, shows there is no overarching plan for what is happening on the court. David Lee is working on free throws. Eddy Curry is at halfcourt talking with Jennaro Pargo. Jared Jeffries and Nate Robinson are joking around just past the three point line. Randolph Morris is trying to shag balls under the hoop and doing his best not to get caught having to shoot any of them. Mardy Collins, Quentin Richardson and Jamal Crawford are shooting jump shots from various points on the court.

Now, I'm not saying that the Knicks (or any professional team) need to execute some sort of complex weave-passing drill straight out of Hoosiers, that David Lee shouldn't, in fact, be practicing his free-throws or that the team needs to come charging out of the locker room with linked arms while Guns 'n' Roses is blaring from the PA like a high school team. But they should come out with a more structured plan than they've got. They should come out like most every other team that visits the Garden does. With a plan. Whether simply layup lines or jump-shooting lines there is almost always ORDER to what the other team is doing.

In this picture of the Hornets warming up before the second half begins on Monday you can see that Byron Scott sends them out on the court to get loose and not to socialize or mess around. There is one line of players out on the wing and another under the basket. The players on the wing dribble towards the base line and shoot a jump shot while the players under the hoop rebound the ball and make an outlet pass to a player at the front of the other line. All players will shuttle to next line after they take their turn shooting or rebounding. It's simple. It gets everyone on the same page. It gets them passing to each other. It gets them making eye contact. It gets them taking shots that they are likely to shoot in a game. And, it's aesthetically pleasing to boot. They look every bit like a professional hoops team.

They Hornets practiced as a team and then they played as a team. They won as a team. The Knicks practiced as individuals and then they played as individuals. They lost as individuals.

Because, say it with me now, you practice how you play!

Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans: Oh My!

What the Pros Are Writing About the Knicks Today

Things have gotten so bizarre and strange at the Garden that even Mike Lupica can see that Isiah needs to go. Say what you want about Lupica, but his column in today's Daily News is well-considered and thought-through. Relatively speaking. He can see that Stephon Marbury is not the seed from which this disastrous season flowered. That bad-seed is Isiah Thomas. And, Steph? He is who we thought he was. I actually agree with everything he says.

While the News chronicles Steph's exile from the Garden, Marc Berman reports in the Post that Steph will be at MSG tonight.

Ken Berger at Newsday, continues to win me over by leading today's Knicks-story with the news Isiah Thomas has been replaced as a head coach.

The Sun continues their look toward the draft series with an article by John Hollinger.

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Aaron Rodgers. This tackle was undoubtedly easier to escape than his spot on the Packers depth chart. Drafted in 2005 out of Cal, Rodgers went from stellar college QB (posting a 154.35 rating in '04), to the clipboard holder voted least likely to play by his peers. He has thrown a total of 59 pass attempts at the pro level. Brett Favre threw 535 last season.

2. Tim Duncan. The Big Bank Shot had 29 and 12 against the NJ Nets as the Spurs rolled to their 10th straight victory. It should come as no surprise that they are in first place in the West. The Lakers will have to go through San Antonio if they want the title.

3. Baron Davis. Led by Davis's 35 points, 9 assists and 3 rebounds, the league's highest scoring team hung 135 points on the Hawks last night. Atlanta is both a must-win for the Warriors (since it is a lower echelon Eastern team) but still a tough-out because of the lengthy trip and the fact that the recent acquisition of Bibby has them playing well above their record.

4. Cesc Fabregas. 11 times teams from England have tread the pitch at the San Siro to challenge the giants of AC Milan in the European Champions League. 11 times teams from England left Italy without a victory to their credit. Until last night. Arsenal's nubile central midfielder Cesc Fabregas broke a scoreless tie in the game's 84th minute with an incisive moment of individual ambition and knocked last year's champions from the tournament. And, more than that, this victory should propel the Gunners back into the Premiership title race which they seemed to be falling out of (although they're actually still in first place by a point) after the gruesome injury to striker Eduardo almost a fortnight* ago.

5. Hillary Clinton. She's Alive! After taking the two must-win (for her) primaries in Texas and Ohio she is back in the race and free of any nagging pressure to concede the nomination to Obama. Now is the time that the Democrats either let the process sort through these two able and well-intentioned candidates Or now is the time that Hillary and Barack do the GOPs dirty work by tearing each other to shreds between now and the convention.

Benched. Brett Favre's Retirement. I'll believe this when Rodges actually takes that first snap in that first game. Until then, we'll just enjoy the 4,5209 different photos of the gunslinger that have graced's home page in the past 24 hours.

*When writing about soccer it is encouraged to use the word "fortnight" whenever possible.