Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who Ya Gonna Call?

With the Knicks trailing the StolenSonics in short order on Monday night, like shades of March 2008 short order, coach Mike D'Antoni called down the bench to Nate Robinson. Shortly thereafter he was calling for Jonathan Bender. The pair would score the Knicks last six points of the first quarter to keep the team close enough, 24-34, that a comeback was conceivable. Robinson with 19 points and Bender with a surprise 16 were the club's leading scorers in a rout at Oklahoma City.

If I tell you that little-used and until-recently-retired jump shooting power forward Bender outscored David Lee, Al Harrington, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari (and a combination of Gallo with any other player) while the opposition broke 100 points then the mathematics of the game become clear. The Knicks lost. And it wasn't close. While the loss to the Rockets on Saturday night was the result of poor execution in the second half, this was a game where the team seemed ill prepared physically and mentally for the pace of the game. Fans at the Ford Center don't take their seats until their ill-gotten club (and, yes, I'm still upset that this franchise isn't in Seattle), which to their credit they have taken to with great vigor, scores its first points of the night. I like this tradition and hope they can keep it going. By the time they sat down last night, less than 30 seconds into the game, the contest had been decided.

Second-year point guard Russell Westbrook bounded past stone-still Chris Duhon to slam home an offensive rebound to open the scoring. The Thunder played at a youthful frenetic pace that got them tip ins and dunks. They moved the ball urgently and unselfishly like a team playing to stay on the court rather than a team trying to run an offense. Easy buckets. Quick north-south passes to secondary breakers running down the lane. Put backs after crashing the glass. Which, of course, gave them the far more consistent offense than the more methodical Knicks. And Durant's explosive seemed to catch everyone in a blue uniform by surprise. By starting a small center in Lee and using Jared Jeffries to defend point guards, D'Antoni's Knicks have generally been the team presenting matchup problems for opponents this season but that was not the case in America's 48th-largest media market (Seattle is the 13th largest). Durant, Westbrook, Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha were longer and more active than the Knicks from jump street. They led by 10 after one quarter and 16 at the half.

Facing such a deficit and having gotten almost nothing from Lee and exactly nothing from Gallo, the Knicks needed the Thunder to lose their composure just as the Knicks had two nights earlier in Texas. But, that didn't happen. Durant, who finished the game with 30 points (on 8-14 shooting), kept coming and his teammates were just flat-out livelier throughout. According to Frank Isola in the News, however, some of the Knicks had been up all night concerned about apparitions that weren't alive at all. In a notebook story in today's paper, Isola reports that several Knicks were exhausted at gametime because they had been unable to sleep the previous two nights at the team's posh hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. Because it is haunted. Obvi.

Eddy Curry reportedly spent most of his time holed up in Nate's room because his room on the 10th floor was in ghost central. "I definitely believe it," Jared Jeffries told Isola. "The place is haunted. It's scary."
Originally opened in 1911, the opulent two-towered hotel was the pride of oilman W.B. Skirvin, which is why it's still called the Skirvin Hotel even though it appears to be operated by Hilton. The hotel was one of the finest in the Southwest for decades before closing in 1988, presumably due to lack of business. And, ghosts. For years, stories have swirled about that guests and employees could hear a baby crying. Others have spun yarns about phantom maid cart patrolling the hallways, presumably leaving haunted mints behind. Some have peeped a female apparition showering. And, one fellow even claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a saucy female ghoul. The source of these hauntings has been credited to a woman posthumously nicknamed "Effie."
The Oklahoma showplace became a popular speak-easy during prohibition. It was during this time that W.B. Skirvin was said to have had an affair with one of the hotel maids. According to legend, the maid soon conceived and in order to prevent a scandal, she was locked in a room on the top floor of the hotel. The desolate girl soon grew depressed and even after the birth of her child; she was still not let out of the room. Half out of her mind, she finally grabbed the infant child and threw herself, along with the baby, out of the window.
As far as ghost stories, that is a pretty good one. Instead of calling Nate and Bender off the bench on Monday it looked like D'Antoni would have been better served calling, Pete, Ray and Egon on Sunday.

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