It's halftime of the Knicks/Mavs game. And, there have been zero minutes of competitive basketball played in this game so far. Not a single, solitary minute. From the moment that it was decided, presumably by head coach Isiah Thomas, that rookie swing-man Wilson Chandler was going to jump for the game's opening tip-off this game has been a farce. From the moment that our 6-8 small forward went out to the center circle to contest that tip the ballgame was conceded. Even if the players didn't know it yet.
This sort of irresponsible game planning, or lack thereof, by a coach can't help but trickle down to the players on the court. If their coach isn't going to take the game seriously then how can the players? If he seems to be going out of his way so that they lose then why should they go out of their way to try to avoid losing? It's ridiculous.
Meanwhile, as a counterpoint to Isiah's willful violation of the responsibilities of a coach is Mavs HC Avery Johnson. In a crowded arena that has fallen eerily quite do to the boring game on display, the only sound that can be heard other than the voices of the announcers is the voice of Johnson. He is frantically chirping out instructions while his team is on the defensive end of the floor from his perch near the midcourt end of the coach's box. Only a few dozen feet away Isiah sits sullenly in his folding chair with nary a word or order for his feckless and leaderless charges out on the floor.
Walt Frazier uttered these words with about 25 seconds left in the first quarter of tonight's game. A Brandon Bass dunk had just made the score 32 to 13 in Dallas' favor. And, chants of "DEE-FENCE" could be heard from the crowd.
Every game-day around 4 PM, I (along with many, many others) get an email from the New York Knicks with the probable starting lineup and the day's press-release-style game notes. Oh, and there is usually an easy trivia question included too. These notes essentially ignore everything actually happening with the team and the things that may be at stake in the game that night while recapping the previous loss as if it had been the previous win.
I used to read these Insider emails as I don't think that they always read like Communist Party propaganda, but now I generally skim the email to see if it contains any offers for discounted tickets and then delete it. I was about to do the same today when something in the email made me pause. It was the picture. As you can see, it's Malik Rose trying to defend Dirk Nowitzki. This is the picture that is going to make me want to watch tonight's game? A past-his-prime, undersized, post-player clearly in over his head (literally and metaphorically) against the prototypical, next-wave NBA big who runs like a swing man and shoots threes like a 2? This is the picture that the crack PR staff at the Garden has chosen to fill me with confidence in the hours before tip-off?
Then again, the use of this picture to promote this game may actually be the most honest thing that this organization has done all season. After all, Malik Rose playing against Dirk Nowitzki actually does convey how this game will likely unfold: It will be a matchup between a superior (read: West), MVP-caliber player (read: title contender) versus the Knicks. And, we know how the Knicks rate at this point. They rate sort of like Malik Rose. Well, except without the hard-working, respected veteran thing going for them.
Perhaps, I'm wrong about this picture. Perhaps this wasn't a slip up at all. Perhaps this image represents that the slick spin machine is still at work in Midtown. Perhaps the Knicks have deteriorated so much that Malik Rose is now the player who will be dangled in front of your face as an enticement to watch the game. I mean, you know he'll at least give you an honest, professional effort while he's on the floor. He will hustle and make the smart play more often than not, which is more than can be said for some of his teammates. So, maybe this picture was chosen with some purpose.
But, probably not. If the authors of the Insider email were actually trying to make me feel like the Knicks had a chance or that the game was worth watching in spite of their chancelessness than they would have thrown up a picture of Nate, who scored 45 the other night. Or, they would have put up a pic of David Lee, who has been playing larger minutes with Randolph (and, now Curry) out of the lineup. Or, they could have used a picture of rookie Wilson Chandler, who has been getting a lot of run the past week.
Yeah, if this email were put together with any sort of purpose or by anyone with any sort of care as to who received it then one of those three probably would have been pictured. Even in the smallest endeavors this organization brings almost no effort to the table. At least they're consistent.
Pain in the knee is what kept Curry out of Saturday night’s game against Portland. At this point it seems his options are surgery or rehab. And, I’m not sure what I advocate. Of course, part of the reason why I'm not sure what I advocate is that I am not a doctor of medicine.
If this is truly a tear of something substantial then he should go ahead and schedule the procedure for tomorrow. This season is lost and if he is cut open now then he should be healthy by the start of next season. No matter what team he is on. However, if this is the same small cartilage tears that my knees are full of and that every doctor just sends me to physical therapy for (until I stop going after two weeks because I can’t afford a twice-per-week $20 co-pay for the rest of my days) then he should not needlessly have an operation.
Either way, this doesn’t really mean anything. I guess. There are only a few weeks of the season left to play out and seemingly nothing left to play for. Meanwhile, Miami has shut down Dwyane Wade, essentially declaring their designs on the number one pick in next year’s lottery. Since Rose, the point guard from Memphis that I believe this team needs, figures to be taken second then anything that helps us land that spot might be for the best.
Although given his horrendous run of form this year, an argument could be made the Knicks are worse with Curry on the floor than on the operating table. Then again, with Randolph out for last six games, Curry was starting to see minutes and produce (points not rebounds) again. And, given the fact that Randolph will likely be easier to move in the offseason than Curry it might be important to build up his confidence with what few games we do have left. And, then we can deactivate Randolph with whatever this "foot" injury he currently has.
What Lil' Dolan's Knicks Were Doing While You Were Watching Levon Helm at the Beacon Theater
Friday / Knicks 97 – 101 Pistons: The Knicks played harder, tougher and smarter (Rip Hamilton was needlessly ejected for arguing) but they just weren’t quite good enough to win this game. This was the third home game in five nights that they lost to a better team because they couldn’t execute in the waning moments. Monday was the Hornets. Wednesday was the Lebronaliers. The Knicks defended tonight with surprising tenacity and moved the ball as if they actually liked one another. Even more shockingly, without Randolph on the floor (injury) they got the ball inside to Curry, who led the team with 23 points. Actually, now that I think about it, Curry’s performance was only the second most shocking thing (after all, last year wasn’t really that long ago). The most unexpected aspect of the game on Friday night was that the Knicks seemed to want it more than the Pistons. They were within 5 or 6 throughout most of the fourth quarter but were able to close within two points with 34 seconds to go. At that point, the entire game hinged on just one play, one defensive stop. If they got the stop then they had the ball and plenty of time to force overtime. If they didn’t get the stop then they had to rush down the floor to score and then they had to begin fouling. The Knicks defended with vigor and did all the right things but Tayshaun Prince was able to get a supremely difficult shot to drop. Ballgame.
Saturday / Knicks 114 – 120 Blazers OT: No Curry, No Randolph, No Crawford, No problem. Nate Robinson scored a lifetime high of 45 points and dragged the Knicks into overtime against the visiting Blazers despite their poor execution and defense late in the game. As has been much reported, Robinson became only the second player listed at 5-9 ever to score 45 points in an NBA game. Four of those points game in the last 18 seconds of regulation and forced the overtime period. However, once the whistle blew on the extra session Brandon Roy outscored the Knicks by himself. Ballgame.
1. The Houston Rockets. The rocket-roller-coaster has seen the team go from middling darkhorse (before the Yao injury) to snake-bitten downer (the injury itself) to devastating demolition force traversing the western half of the continent laying waste to all who are foolish enough to take the court with them (right now). The Yao-less Rockets won again on Saturday, their 18th consecutive W. They beat a formidable New Orleans Hornets team and climbed within 1.5 games of first place in the West. They’ve now won ten in a row by ten or more. Again, Tracy McGrady led the way, this time with 41 points. He is seizing the moment and becoming everything for this team that Vince Carter has not become for the Nets since Kidd has left. Coincidentally, the Rockets face NJ tonight, followed by Atlanta and Charlotte this week. Those are three winnable games leading up to a Sunday showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night at 7pm.
2. Nate Robinson. The little guy scored 45 on Saturday night against the Blazers at the Garden. Yes, it was in a loss. Another crushing home loss in which the team did actually compete but couldn’t close the deal. Still, it’s a bright spot in a sullied season. Nate the Great had 45 in 52 minutes on 16 for 28 shooting to go along with 6 boards and 6 assists. Say what you want about the little guy (and people do), but he can play.
3. The Phoenix Suns & The Big Stoplight. Just as the doubting and the second-guessing was reaching its crescendo, just as Steve Kerr couldn’t go anywhere in the Phoenix area without hearing pensioners and retirees whispering about his basketball acumen, just as the wheels were set to come off Los Suns bandwagon they came through with a huge, marquee win over Los Spurs on national television. And, not only did they beat Los Spurs in a close game yesterday but Los Suns did it with Shaq featured prominently. His defense on Duncan was most decidedly a factor in the outcome as were his defensive rebounds. His hustle and desire were just as impressive as the limitations in his game where noticeable. Either way, the fact that you can say that los Suns may not have been able to win this game without Shaq makes everything copasetic in the valley of the sun. For now.
4. The NBA on ABC. Though the famed John Tesh theme music from the NBC glory days will never be duplicated it must be noted that the NBA is must-watch Sunday afternoon television again, except now it's on ABC. The games have been great and the announcing team of Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Mike Breen have been mostly superb (provided that you get a kick out of Van Gundy’s wacky sense of humor).
5. Matt Walsh. The former assistant to the traveling secretary, or something like that, for the New England Patriots is apparently putting the finishing touches on a deal with the NFL to protect him from his former employer, meaning he will share what he knows about the nefarious cheating of the Pats. You’d have to think that if he is actually dealing with Goodel and co. that he must have something legitimate to say. Otherwise, I would imagine the NFL would ignore him or perhaps just destroy him like they did those incriminating tapes. The big question is what happens if Walsh does have a tape of the Rams walk-through before the Pat’s first Super Bowl win?
Benched. UCLA. Two close conference games + Two bad calls that go in their favor = Two wins + The inside track on a #1 seed for the Dance. It’s simple mathematics. In case you missed it, the Bruins stole another game over the weekend, this time from Cal, when Josh Shipp dropped a rainbow ball in the hoop from behind the backboard with 1.5 seconds left to give the Bruins a win. According to the rules any ball that passes over any part of the backboard, from front to back or back to front, is deemed out of bounds. Well, unless a member of the 2008 UCLA Bruins or 2000 Miami Heat shoots it. In that case, the basket counts. Anthony Carter, then of the Miami Heat, made this same shot in Game 3 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Knicks at the Garden. The Knicks were up by a point (a Ewing free throw) with 2.2 left in overtime when Carter launched his shot from the baseline and from behind the hoop. The ball looped over the top of the backboard and bounced high off the rim before it fell through the net. At first there was a call of offensive goaltending on Mourning but that was reversed and the game was awarded to the Heat. I was so mad about that shot. So mad. I felt like we were getting jobbed like in 1997 all over again. The only way it could possibly have happened is if the referee’s didn’t know the rule. Anyone who knew the rule would have made the obvious call. I would think that the same thing happened to Cal.