Friday, December 24, 2010

WWOD?'s Twas the Night Before Knicksmas 2010

Twas the night before Knickmas, when all through the Garden
Not a big man was stirring, not even a Moz.
The high tops were laced by the lockers with care,
In hopes that STAT Stoudemire soon would be there.

The reserves were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Jill Martin danced in their heads.
And Walsh in his blue suit, and D'Antoni his 'stache,
Had just settled the game plan: pass, press, slash.

When out on the street there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from Row G to see what was the matter.
Down to the lobby I flew in a hurry,
Threw open glass doors, wide enough for Eddy Curry.

The moon on the hoods of bright-yellow cabs
Gave the lustre of Time Square to Seventh and Eighth Aves.
When, what to my goggled eyes should appear,
But the Knicks Groove Truck, with eight hoopsters fleet-footed as deer.

Led by a power forward, an explosive live-wire,
I knew in a moment he must be STAT Stoudemire.
More rapid than Suns his teammates they rose,
And he whistled, and shouted the names sewn to their clothes!

"Now Felton! now, Chandler! now, Douglas and Fields!
On, Gallo! On, Williams! on Randolph and Ronny!
To the top of the Atlantic! to the top of the East!
Now dash up! Dash up! No longer last, nor least!"

Unlike lottery teams that before the Celtics flee,
and when facing a top foe, genuflect on bended padded knee.
Up the standings these 'bockers they flew,
With the record full of road wins, back on TNT, too.

And then, in seven seconds, I heard trumpeted by Mike Walczewski
The picking and rolling of each orange-hued Reebok and Nike.
As I went to the parquet floor, and was turning around,
Down the chimney STAT Stoudemire came with a bound.

He was dressed in home whites, positioned in the high post,
And his uniform was all dusted with asbestos.
A bundle of blocks and shots he had turned back,
And he looked like Patrick, only the flat top did he lack.

His shades-how they twinkled! jumpers he did bury!
His tattoos were like runes, his grin like a victory!
His wide droll mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as precise as his free throw.

The frames of his glasses he pushed up his brow,
When he steps to the charity stripe, never better than now.
He had an angular face and a circumcised member,
A Jew, he was in Israel before Training Camp began in September!

He was long and muscled, as sturdy and tall as a tree,
And I cheered when I saw him, yelling M - V - P!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave others to know the Mecca was somewhere to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And dropped 30 points, then turned with a jerk.
He posterized a defender and held, for a moment, a pose,
Giving a nod as up to the rim he rose!

He slammed the ball down, to his team gave chest pounds,
And away they fast broke, quick as speeding sounds.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove the lane,
"Happy Knicksmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Mudita

A Tale of Two Punters

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
When recalling the Jets' season-righting, white knuckle victory at a snow-dusted and frostbitten Heinz Field yesterday, there are few plays that will be talked about many times over by fans and talk radio hosts.

1) The defense on the final play, when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (who had been flushed to his left but not touched by the visitor's mostly absent rush) attempted a pass to tight end Matt Spaeth with zeroes on the game clock. Spaeth did get his hands to the ball, but so did Jets cornerback Marquis Cole, as his momentum carried him toward the sideline. The ball hit the turf out of bounds as did all other players involved in the play. Game over.

2) Mark Sanchez's scamper on a naked bootleg for the Jets' first offensive touchdown since Al Toon was running fly routes. Coincidentally, that scoring play left the Jets' offense celebrating in precisely the same spot where the defense broke up the Steelers' last gasp attempt to win.

3) Jason Taylor's meastly tackle of Steelers running back Melwelde Moore in the endzone for a safety. A play which accomplished three things, at least. First, it reminded me that Taylor was still on the team. Second, it staked the Jets to a lead only surmountable with touchdown. Lastly, it led me to send the following text message to a fellow Jets fan: We just got our balls back. And the ball.

Each of these three plays were pivotal, together they tell the story of the game. Almost. Because one other key play is missing. A play that occurred shortly before Taylor was clapping his hands together over his head in the endzone. After consecutive incomplete passes from the Pittsburgh 32-yard line by Mark Sanchez (to Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, respectively), Jets punter Steve Weatherford lofted a punt skyward. It dropped just shy of the goal line and was downed by special teams gunner Marquice Cole at the 3-yard line. On the next play, Taylor dropped Moore in the endzone for the safety.

The punt was one of two that Weatherford laid gently inside the Pittsburgh 5-yard line. After the Jets' post-safety possession, he dropped the ball on the Pittsburgh 8, which is the spot where the Steelers embarked on their adventurous last drive of the day. If not for the punt downed by Cole then there is no safety. If there is no safety then there is no need for the Steelers to push for a touchdown as time expires. Therefore, there may have been no bigger play in the game than Weatherford to Cole. And, if this drive-me-to-drink, last-second victory proves pivotal in a deep Jets' run into the postseason then perhaps we'll look back on that punt in Pennsylvania as one of the keystone plays of the season.

A former housemate and lifelong Giants fan used to regale me with the feats and feets of Jeff Feagles. These songs of praise were as regular and relentless as church bells each Sunday. Even when the Giants were flush with talent Super Bowl bound, he would insist that the punter was the best player on the team. Well, except for that one crazy night (I believe it was after a late comeback against the Broncos) when he was screaming "Eli is better than Peyton" for all the world to here. Other than that day, it was Feagles this and Feagles that.

There is no doubt that he missed the retired punter yesterday when the Giants' freshman special teamer Matt Dodge lined a punt directly to Eagles burner DeSean Jackson in the waning moments of regulation play at the Meadowlands. Although the G-Men had broken down on offense and defense during Philly's comeback bid, one good mediocre play on special teams could have sent the game to overtime. Alas, Dodge, who appeared quite nervous as he paced the field before his final punt of the day, seemed to panic after a high snap, outkicking his coverage. Perhaps more concerned with just getting the ball away than with its direction, he put it in the one place that Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't want it: in the hands of Jackson.

If the Giants aren't able to right their season next week in Green Bay then perhaps this punt will be considered the pivotal moment in the latest season-ending collapse for this group. With so many big name players on both sides of the ball for both local teams, who would have thought that two punts just a few hours apart could really make all the difference?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Morning Schadenfreude Jets News

As my grandfather bellowed in the rarely dusted off Give Me Back My Son tone, why didn't he just use is goddamn hands?"

To heap further shame on the Jets and further ridicule on Jets fans already getting ridiculed by colleagues, loved ones and the Patriots fan selling newspapers just outside the Lexington exit of Grand Central, Jets coach Sal Alosi tripped a Dolphins special teamer during a kick return yesterday. Alosi, a strength and conditioning coach, is presumably on the sideline just in case any one gets the mid-game urge to talk about really popping their triceps in that next workout.

These low-flying Jets are in an old-fashioned tailspin right here. The offense has stalled, airspeed is dropping and they're started to corkscrew they're way to the draft lottery.

Monday Mudita

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mike Breen Was Taking Your Calls the Night That John Lennon Died.

Sorry for what seems, even to me, to be an overabundance of posts related in one way or another to John Lennon (but seriously go back and read "Lebron James and the Plastic Riley Band"), but I couldn't help but share this moment from last night's Knicks broadcast on MSG.

Mike Breen (that's him on the right) was handling play-by-play duties with Walt "Clyde" Frazier (yup, the left) during the tilt at the Garden when he shared his own story from thirty years ago last night when Lennon was gunned down outside of his home on the Upper West Side.
"I remember that night vividly because I was a student at Fordham University, and working as a DJ that night on their overnight rock show. And was called in by, there was another student who was supposed to do the show ahead of me, and she was so upset by hearing the news of his death that she called my home and said, "You have to come in early and do both shows. I can't go on." She was so distraught. And I went in to do the shows, and started answering the phones for requests for the Beatles' music. We were playing Beatles music all night long, and people were calling in all night, so emotional. Many of them in tears, many of them telling how John Lennon changed their life. It was some incredible stories that the people were telling. And of the impact that his music and the meaning - and as Gallinari is fouled - had on them and it is a night I'll never ever forget, and you really realize how much he touched so many people. I remember one in particular, there was one gentleman called up and said that he was ready to take his own life but John Lennon's music kind of made him see things a little more clearer and he felt it saved his life. Just incredible stuff."
Somewhere in the earnest yet understated way in which Breen was able to deliver this anecdote lies the key to him being the best play-by-play guy in the business. Not only does his background, both proudly being born and raised in the Big Apple and his gig as a late-night rock DJ (could this guy get any more awesome?), give him the capability of delivering the story in the first place, but his tremendous empathy enable him to deliver it without sensationalizing it or playing up the part he played. There's no way that this recollection comes off nearly as poignant if subjected to the ham-fisted delivery used by most local television guys. In case you couldn't tell, I couldn't be a bigger fan of Breen unless he were Clyde.

Following the Leaders

Knicks Co-Captains Lead Team to Victory

Bile. That's what I tasted, bitter with a dash of salt, the last time that I heard "M-V-P ... M-V-P ..." resounding through the Garden in person. It was the night that Kobe dropped 60 for the Lakers without grabbing a rebound. Carpet-bagging Lakers fans and front-running tourists seemed to outnumber old-time 'bockers backers on that night (probably because the Knicks had marketed tickets for several high-profile games around that time with a "Dream Week" slogan that clearly trumpeted the visiting teams). The last time I remember chanting that chant for a player in home whites? Maybe for Patrick Ewing toward the end of the 1994-95 season?

But last night as Amar'e Stoudemire dropped in fourth-quarter bucket after fourth-quarter bucket, Knicks fans were serenading one of their own with those three letters.

"M ... V ... P ... M ... V ... P ..."

Embroiled in a tight game against the visiting Raptors, who the Knicks were looking to beat for the second time in four days and the third time already this season, the team followed its two captains to the winner's circle (and, no, I don't mean that restaurant on top of the possibly shuttered OTB on Seventh Ave. somewhere in the high 30s).

When Amar'e stuttered early, though, it was his co-captain, Raymond Felton, scoring in a flurry to close out the second quarter. The Knicks trailed, 49-36, when our soon-to-be All-Star point guard exploded, muscling and hustling his way to three layups, a made three-point shot and an armful of free throws. He singlemindedly and nearly singlehandedly willed the Knicks on top heading into intermission.

And later when Raptors center Andrea Bargnani actually played like a No. 1 overall draft pick down the stretch, Amar'e stepped up and matched him hoop for hoop. Thanks to a mid-range jump shot that proved as reliable as his slam dunk (he literally alternated one for the other for 10 buckets in the last few minutes), STAT scored an astounding 18 points in the fourth quarter to keep on keeping up that streak of 30+ point games.

The performance was arguably his most emphatic of the season. Or maybe not. He's prolific enough that it's actually hard to tell. At the very least, last night's stellar outing was the one where I began to believe (although I reserve the right stop believing at any point). Despite the nice start to the season, last night may have been the time I got my faith back. Even early in the fourth quarter, I was still saying "No ... Yes!" each time he put up a 15-footer instead of attacking the rim. I thought he was settling for that shot. False. He was taking it because he already believed. Because he works doggedly at the shot and has for years.

And while I was waiting for the sound of the other shoe dropping, when I was wondering which jittery Knickerbocker would miss from what spot on the floor, it was Toronto getting called for a five second violation (precisely the sort of mental lapse that was a Knicks' hallmark in recent years). When I was waiting for that second shoe, the only thing dropping was Felton's game-winning three-pointer with under three seconds remaining.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mike Wilbon's Big WaPo Finish

Raised in northern New Jersey, I didn't grow up reading Mike Wilbon in The Washington Post. I was reading Bob Klapisch on baseball in The Bergen Record, Peter Vescey on the machinations of the NBA in the New York Post and Bill Rhoden on grown-up angles that I hardly would have though up on my own in the Times.

Even at an early age, I must have intuited that Mike Lupica was a blowhard jerk because he wasn't really on my radar. And that's before my uncle crossed paths with him while each was coaching youth basketball in the suburbs of Connecticut. I may be remembering this wrong, but I believe that each of the handful of times that they met in a grade school gym or had to speak on the phone (only once, I believe, to re-schedule a game canceled due to inclement weather), Lupica insisted on introducing himself as "Mike Lupica of the Daily News" as if they had never met previously or as if his profession was somehow relevant to their interaction as the coaches of 8-year-olds. Eight-year-olds, dude. My dad's younger brother is a sweetheart who will make several stops each morning to make sure he can read a print edition of each New York sports section. He loves following the Knicks and loves coaching his children, yet Lupica insisted on big timing him over grade school hoops. But I digress.

Despite not hailing from the WaPo delivery area, we're all very familiar with Wilbon at this point thanks to Pardon the Interuption. That and his co-authorship of Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man with Charles Barkley. Which is why I felt compelled to read the final column that he filed with The Washington Post. As he severs his last remaining ties with the newspaper, a break in the works since PTI first aired on ESPN on Oct. 22, 2001, Wilbon takes a look back at his mentors and subjects. Not surprisingly given his starting date in 1980, he reveals that Michael Jordan is the most dominant athlete that he covered and that Len BIas' death was the one of the most tragic events of his tenure. On the whole, he comes off as much more gracious and inquisitive in his writing than he does on television.

Considering that Wilbon's transition to television, along with his past and future cohort Tony Kornheiser, is but one small piece in the deterioration of the newspaper business it felt somewhat odd reading this final column on computer screen instead of in print. But I guess that's part of the story, too.

WWOD? Re-Runs: A Date Which Will (Also) Live in (Lesser But Still Significant) Infamy

(This story initially ran on 12/8/09)

Aside from being my mom's and Larry Bird's birthday, Dec. 7 is also the anniversary of the surprise attack by the Japanese Navy on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The following day US President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt delivered speech to a joint session of Congress. During his address he referred to the previous day as "a day which will live in infamy." Less than an hour after completing his remarks a formal declaration of war was made and it was on. The US had entered WWII.

The day, Dec. 8, of the "infamy" address is also itself a date that has a tragic legacy. On Dec. 8 1980, John Lennon was gunned down outside of his apartment building in New York City. He was returning home when he was shot in the back. The assailant was captured and imprisoned. While there was no formal declaration of war or famous piece of American oratory that resulted, there was a collective moment of national shock when the news was relayed by sportscaster Howard Cosell during a Monday Night Football telecast.

Making Cosell's announcement (slightly) more poignant was the fact that Lennon had previously been a guest in the Monday Night Football booth.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7: A Legend Was Born

For some, Dec. 7 is remembered as "a date that will live in infamy" because it was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. For many others, most too young to have their lives halted by the war, Dec. 7 is celebrated as the day that a beloved legend was born.

I'm in the latter category. Because today is my mom's birthday.

Oh, it's also Larry Bird's birthday. Some folks think he's pretty legendary, too.

Time Off Ain't On Our Side

The New York Jets have played three of their 12 games during the 2010 season after having more than seven off days. They have been outscored 64-12 in those three games, failing to score a touchdown in any contest and being held scoreless once.

2010 Jets Results and Days Between Games
WeekOpponentDays OffResult
1BaltimoreEntire OffseasonLoss, 9-10
2New England5Win, 28-14
3@ Miami6Win, 31-23
4@ Buffalo6Win, 38-14
5Minnesota7Win, 29-20
6@ Denver5Win, 24-20
8Green Bay13 (Bye Week)Loss, 0-9
9@ Detroit6Win, 23-20 OT
10@ Cleveland6Win, 26-20 OT
11Houston6Win, 30-27
12Cincinnati3Win, 26-10
13@ New England10Loss, 3-45
Both the season-opening loss to the Ravens and the defeat by Green Bay after the bye week left me convinced that Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had out-thought himself. With too much time to script plays, he got carried away with what was possible on paper instead of focusing on what was going to be effective on the field. In both cases, it appeared that the Jets were tentatively trying things rather efficiently executing things that they already had confidence in.

Against the Ravens, the supposedly "Ground and Pound" Jets attempted passes on 6 of the 8 non-kicking (punt and field goal attempt) plays that comprised the offense's first two drives. They then came out after the half and went three and out on their first possession of the third quarter with three pass plays. In both losses, there were reverses run at inopportune times that suggested that they had been scripted in advance. Like maybe on the ninth day of game-planning.

Against Green Bay, the Jets coaching staff called 41 pass plays to just 28 running plays and saw punter Steve Weatherford freelance on a fake punt attempt in a fourth-and-18 situation from his own 20-yard line. That loss to Green Bay was also marred by a missed field goal and a foolish referee challenge by Rex that came back to haunt his team. Which brings us to last night's thorough debaclization of the Jets up at Foxboro where a mis-used challenge and a missed field goal led to this game unraveling early.


This 45-3 defeat at the well-manicured hands of Tom Brady was so surgical and unequivocal that it hardly hurt, like being cut with a Hattori Hanzo blade so sharp that you don't feel the pain until you feel the wet warmth of the blood pooling at your feet.

Hard to block when the Jets had the ball and harder to tackle when they had it, the Patriots seemed prepared and aggressive on both sides of the ball. They executed ruthlessly and singlemindedly while the Jets seemed tentative and disjointed (and, yes, I'm talking about LT taking another dump off pass to the helmet). While the Jets players spent all those off days telling reporters and themselves that could win it certainly seemed that the Patriots spent the time making sure that they would win.

Yes, the shanked punt, missed field goal and squandered challenge all figured prominently in the game getting away from the Jets so early, but those things almost seem irrelevant when considered alongside the striking difference in comfort and urgency between the two teams.

For me, last night's humiliating loss hammered home the notion that time off isn't on the side of the New York Jets. Rest makes rust and unfamiliar game plans. I don't know if the blame falls entirely on the meaty shoulders of Rex Ryan whose top-flight motivation skills and innovative defensive philosophies may outstrip his in-game efficiency by more than we were all willing to concede. Or, does more of the blame fall on Shotty? His offense, which despite his high profile have never actually amounted to much over the duration of a season, seems stuck in neutral every time he has more than a few days to tinker under the hood. Of course, even if the blame does lay with the offensive coordinator one could transfer that right back to Rexy for not having a heavier hand in the offensive game planning. At this point, he likes to talk about the running game more than he likes to make sure that his coaches are relying on it.

Although Patriots coach Bill Belichick has thrived on tailoring a game plan to counter his opponent's strengths, these Jets seem to be at their best when they impose their own strengths - the running game and an aggressive defense.

Under Ryan, the Jets have been more successful when drawing on an overarching me-first theme rather than a week-by-week scheme based on the other team. This is why we heard "Ground and Pound" so often last season as the Jets rolled to the AFC Championship Game. With the Patriots in the driver's seat for the AFC East crown after last night, the Jets likely wouldn't have any extra off days before a game unless they reached the Super Bowl. So, in that way last night might have been a lose-win. After all, I can't see this team benefitting from a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Mudita

It's not often that the British sporting press compares a player to Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend George Best. Maybe some of Gareth Bale's mazy goal-scoring glory at the San Siro evoked a few such comments. Maybe. As best I can remember*, though, they don't roll out that sort of praise for a Frenchman, yet that exactly what I found myself reading in The Guardian after Samir Nasri lifted Arsenal past Fulham with two ingenious scores that moved Arsenal atop the table in the Prem.

And, while we're on the subject of the sublime, check out this well-produced, in-depth look at el Thrashico.

*It's possible that the things I "remember"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Foto

Awkward-Return-to-the-Scene-of-the-Crime Edition

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Unhappy Returns: Pat Riley to the Garden (1995)

Unless you spent the past few days tirelessly (and futilely) crisscrossing the globe for the past week with Sunil Gulati, president of US Soccer, then you are fully aware of the coming of the Lebronagdeon to Cleveland tonight.

Five months from leaving his home-state Cavaliers for the sultry shores of South Beach, LeBron James will tread the boards at the Q in downtown Cleveland. Lots of folks, like SI's Joe Posnanski, have already covered the myriad angles of the return. As a Knicks fan, I can't help but think back to the last time we had a tried and true traitor return to the scene of the crime. It was December 19, 1995, and former Knicks coach Pat Riley returned to Madison Square Garden with his own Miami Heat.

Riles had shocked Knicks fans and players alike when departed for the sultry shores of South Beach during the preceding offseason. Best of all, his resignation came via fax. Which given the tech-standards of the mid-1990s must have been liking breaking up with someone via text message. Is there a lol-type texttype for dumping someone?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Knicks Beat Nets! Edging Ineptitude?

There were some strange things happening as Knicks fans pushed through the curved sloping corridor toward the 7th Avenue exit of Madison Square Garden after the team's 111-100 win over the New Jersey Nets last night. Spontaneous chants of NEW ... YORK ... KNICKS (but not new New York Knicks) spread through the departing crowd faster than a bed bug infestation through a Lower East Side tenement. As these chanting fans pushed through the glass doors out into the entryway there were two female Garden staffers exuberantly dispensing free-of-charge high fives. And, perhaps most surprisingly, there was a crowd surrounding the souvenir stand near the box office. Knicks fans were reaching for their already lightened wallets and clamoring for foam fingers and STAT t-shirts after a Knicks game? In recent years, such purchases were mostly made before the game and certainly no later than halftime. After the game was a time for lamenting how much money one had spent on such a poor product, for vowing not to come back until things were different.

Well, they are. And, apparently, enthusiasm and largess are qualities shared by supporters of successful teams. I almost forgot.

After all, it has been since January 4, 2005, when Brooklyn-born Lenny Wilkens was stoically coaching a team featuring fellow Kings County native Stephon Marbury, that the Knicks went to sleep with a winning record this "late" into the season. That 2004-2005 team lost its game on 1/1/05 to Sacramento Kings, bringing its record to 16-15. A loss to Miami in the next contest, dropped those Knickerbockers to .500 and they've had yet to get back in the black any later than November until last night.

Fittingly, those Wilkens-Marbury Knicks began the franchise's backslide to the Summer of 2010 with a loss to the New Jersey Nets on New Year's Day 2005, just a few days before that dropping under the .500 mark. Heading into that 1/1/05 showdown with the Nets, the Knicks had finished the '04 portion of the schedule with a flourish, taking 8 of their last 12 to go three games over .500 at 16-13. Marbury had yet to acquire any facial tattoos and was still putting up those Oscaresque stats, posting back to back 30+ point games and ranking among the league leaders in assists. Asked about his recent run of success the day before taking on Jason Kidd's Nets, Marbury said:
"Don't get me wrong, I love Jason Kidd, he is a great point guard. [But] how am I comparing myself to him when I think I'm the best point guard to play basketball? That makes no sense. I can't compare myself to somebody when I already think I'm the best. I'm telling you what it is. I know I'm the best point guard in the NBA."
The self-proclaimed "best point guard in NBA" did score 31 points to go along with 8 assists, 4 boards and 3 steals in that game against the Nets, but Kidd orchestrated a win for his team. One of many that would come at the expense of the Knicks in the ensuing years. Aside from James Dolan's subsequent proclamation about "evident progress" under Isiah Thomas, perhaps no remark better exemplified the franchise's lack of self awareness during this post-Ewing slog through the wilderness of ineptitude.

During the team's stay in the hinterlands, few losses rankled Knicks fans more than those beat downs administered by Kidd and the Rutherford Runners Club. Knowing that we kept the Knicks flush with season ticket money and concession sales through all those lackluster efforts and that we grabbed tighter than Sophie to Jan to any glimmer of fire made those losses sting more than most. We Knicks fans cheered DEEE-FENSE at the tops of our lungs during midweek fourth quarters whenever it was vaguely appropriate while the Nets struggled to draw enough folks to justify opening up the second case of beer at a block party. It burned me up how that organization could field a team that just killed our team. We cared so hard and so fruitlessly and few things pointed that out more than losses to the Nets. Which is a (predictably) long way of writing, that last night's win important for everyone in the building. Fans left cheering, Knicks players left with a winning record and the Nets left knowing that visiting the Garden has changed.

Observations, Retro-Predictions and Things Best Left Unsaid
-Amar'e Stoudemire is for real (on offense). He's the truth. He's the answer. He's not the Big Fella, but he's something and we need to do better than STAT in the nickname department. Unless of course that knee eventually fails and then he can just be the McDyess.

-The Felton-STAT pick-and-roll combination is getting tighter as is there overall comfort level. Perhaps the game's most emphatic bucket in the third quarter was scored after Ray sliced to the rim and diced the Nets' interior defense with a pass to Amar'e, who slammed it home.

-Brook Lopez can score the ball. Although the Nets second-year center played mostly unmolested with Ronny Turiaf still nursing a knee injury, the good son

-Jets closer/wide reciever Santanio Holmes was in attendance and got a loud ovation from the crowd.