Monday, January 31, 2011

Holding Steady

As if reciting her lines from a Noah Baumbach script, the twenty-something brunette gal behind the bar at Spike Hill, the Irish pub on Bedford in Williamsburg, informed me that she hadn't owned a television in, like, four years when I asked her if we could tune the television in the corner of the bar to the in-progress Knicks game. I told her that me and my brother would like to watch the game all the same and, after restating her lack of television understanding, loudly, for the sake of the waifish, western-shirt wearing couple at the end of the bar, she handed me the remote. Thankfully, the bar has DirecTV. Which meant that we had to look no further than channel 634.

While I have been known to pilot a ramshackle, co-ed fast break on blacktop in Greenpoint during the summer, I don't make a habit of traveling to Kings County to watch hoops. And I wasn't really there last night for basketball. I had traversed two rivers to catch The Hold Steady in concert. The Brooklyn-based (but not raised) band was playing two sold-out shows at the cozy Music Hall of Williamsburg (which was called Northsix back when the band first played there several years ago) as a warm-up before crossing the Atlantic for a run of UK shows before then heading down to Australia to feature prominently in some large festivals.

When the boys return from abroad they'll be playing at the much larger Terminal 5 in Manhattan. From there, one only imagines that they continue on to larger and larger venues until calling it quits. For all people not actively meh-ing everything in the comments section over at Brooklynvegan.com, these MHOW shows were a big deal. They smelled of rich mahogany and sold out within a matter of minutes. Me and one of my brothers were lucky enough to have a pair of tickets. Which is what brought us to Hipster HQ in the first place.

According to our tickets, the doors to the venue opened at 8 pm, which was approximately the time that we embedded parked the car in a snow bank on N. 5th Street between Bedford and Driggs. It was nearly halftime when we ordered our first round of PBR tallboys (when in Rome...) at the bar. Having no interest in seeing the opening band, we ordered dinner and another round of drinks as Charlie Villanueva staked the Pistons to a two-point lead heading into halftime at the Garden.

"Let's just see the score at the end of the third quarter," I said as the second half of the Knicks-Pistons game got underway and the second round of PBRs gave way to the third. "As long as we get to the show by 9:30 then everything should be fine."

Based on several memories and on zero research, it feels like the Knicks have hosted the Pistons on a Sunday thrice per season each season ad infinitum; and that most of those games were matinees in which the Knicks beat (or at least covered the spread against) superior but lackadaisical Detroit clubs who looked like they'd spent the night enjoying New York's many clubs. For years, Rasheed Wallace was prominently involved in this tradition. In fact, I even took my mom to see just one such game on her birthday a few years ago. Yeah, I'm a selfish wretch with a railroad mind. Let's just move on.

Unlike those half-remembered games from seasons past, the Pistons didn't come into the Garden to observe the Sabbath meekly. These lower-level Pistons knew they could win this trap game (Knicks were coming off Miami and Atlanta and perhaps looking ahead to Dallas). Familiar nemesis Ben Gordon was shooting from distance, Tayshaun Prince was still marauding from midrange and even Tracy McGrady was displaying functional court vision. Just a few weeks ago, the Knicks lost this exact game to the Sacramento Kings. But last night Amar'e Stoudemire and Danilo Gallinari fought to hold the line. The teams entered the fourth quarter even thanks to a STAT put-back flush just before the buzzer.

"Alright, let's just see how the first few minutes of the fourth quarter go, I said after 9:30 had come and gone. If either team gets out ahead then we'll hustle over there. It's possible that the opener is still on stage."

Gallinari outscored the Pistons 10-5 in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, and it looked like the Knicks had taken control of the game. And when you add in the additional six points that Gallo's teammates scored during that same stretch, it really, really looked like this one was in the books. But then Prince and Gordon drained a few quick threes to keep the game within reach heading into the last five minutes.

"It's still a ballgame if Gordon is shooting like this. Remember that buzzer beater he hit against us on MLK Day when he was with Chicago?" I asked my brother was we ordered our last round of beers and asked for the check. "They don't call him "Madison Square Gordon" for nothing. We might as well stay 'til the end. Right?"

At this point, there was no arguing. The concert was running a distant second to the Knicks. Sort of like the Pistons. Had we been out at a bar in Brighton Beach when Mozgov sank a baseline jumper for the final bucket of the game, I'd imagine the Ruskie ex-pat patrons would be hooting and браво-ing over their ice-cold vodka and steaming hot pelmeni. But we weren't and nobody at Spike Hill noticed but the two of us as we were slipping arms into coats and wrapping scarves around our necks. We didn't leave our table until the final buzzer, and waltzed up to MHOW at nearly a quarter after 10. The flyer on the ticket window indicated that The Hold Steady was scheduled to have already started their set. Oh well.

Although Mozgov's 23-point, 14-rebound explosion was the take-away from the game for most, it was more a "man bites dog" headline for me. I thought the real story was about Stoudemire entering the game with a sore knee, going down in a heap while the game was still in doubt and gutting his way to a stellar 33 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block with just 2 turnovers. Likewise, Gallinari came through with 29 points on just 12 field goal attempts. He hit big shots all night long and was aggressive, getting to the line for 11 free throw attempts (and sinking all of them).

With Dallas coming to town at midweek and then what should be a tense home-and-home series with the 76ers looming at the weekend, this is the sort of "meaningless" game - in terms of hype and ratings and national appeal - that means everything when you look back at the end of a season. Had the Knicks dropped this and and then gone on to lose a hard-fought game to Dallas then they're quickly mired in another losing streak. Had they dropped this and then lost to Dallas and split with Philly then they'd have dropped 10 of their last 15.

With 25 wins before the All-Star break, these Knickerbockers just need to keep coming. Keeping moving forward a quarter at a time and lock up the wins when they are available. Just get to 40 wins, somehow, and we should get to attend a home playoff game for the first time since Tim Thomas seemed a useful rotation player. Last night the Knicks did those things with gritty, relentless efforts from STAT and Gallo. And some unexpected help from the Moz, who, to his credit, was everything that any of us could have hoped he would be when he was signed by Donnie Walsh. For one night. Despite the frigid temperatures gripping the region, his hands seems to have miraculously thawed out after appearing to be rock-solid frozen since his arrival in the New World.

When we emerged onto the balcony at MHOW, the stage was clear and the houselights were still up. Maybe the band had also been watching the Knicks game. They did sing the national anthem at a Twins game once, so it's very possible that at least one of them fiends for hoops the way that so many of the characters in their songs fiend for various pharmaceuticals. When they took the stage a few minutes after our arrival, there was no keyboard or keyboardist to be seen. For some, the big story about these two intimate shows was that the band was officially and irrevocably without pianist, keyboardist and mustache wax connoisseur Franz Nicolay, who had moved on to pursue his many other musical and artistic ventures. Having cited the Muppets and the Band among his key influences, he's not someone whose departure should be taken lightly. His boozy but earnest barroom piano is largely responsible for the group's E Street majesty and Bandesque rusticity. In a moderately bold move, The Hold Steady opened the show with Stuck Between Stations, an anthemic rabble rouser with one Nicolay's signature piano lines. The guitars came roaring in like whatever hemi-powered hotrod Springsteen was driving in "Born to Run;" lead singer Craig Finn started singing about Sal Paradise and began his manic, surprisingly dandy-ish, stage antics; and the crowd became one roving blissful blackout, noisy, drunk and flailing. Yeah,it seemed like these guys would be just fine.

Monday Mudita

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Art Imitating Hoops

After a relentless, ambitious effort against the Heat on Thursday night, the Knickerbockers came out flat against the Atlanta Hawks the following night. Concerning their fourth-quarter comeback bid, late isn't always better than never.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The First Annual Corey Hart Invitation

Recently felled by LeBron's Instant Karma severe migraine headaches, Miami Heat shooting guard and band-aid spokesmodel Dwyane Wade donned a pair of tinted glasses for last night's Knicks-Heat donnybrook at the Garden.

The pair of shades that he was initially planning to wear - in hopes of limiting the impact of the brights lights on his eyes - were deemed too dark by the NBA. It was stated that they would give him an unfair advantage. Mostly, in awesomeness.



Thankfully, the Knickerbockers took the floor for the opening tip with a bespectacled player of their own. Recently minted All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire has been wearing protective lenses ever since he suffered a detached retina during the 2008–2009 season while he was still in Phoenix. With a captain from each side wearing shades for this indoor night game, WWOD? dubbed it the first-ever Corey Hart Invitational shortly before the opening tip.

The Knicks brightly opened the C.H.I. with an ally-oop slam by Wilson Chandler and soon got out to an early lead thanks, in small part, to Danilo Gallinari taking a charge at one end and then driving baseline for a slam at the other. Gallo's crowd-pleasing swashbuckling aside, the driving force behind the initial Knicks' rush was Amar'e. Pure from 17, driving layup, and then a three from the corner.

He was abusing 35-year-old Lithuanian center Zydrunas Ilgauskas with a severity that made me think about sending a distress signal to Vilnius on his behalf. Maybe Marko Ramius could commandeer a submarine to save his countryman. But before I had could begin the hunt for Ramius's cell phone number, Heat coach Mark Spolestra, gave Z the hook like a stuttering standup at the Apollo, sending in Jo-el Anthony, the last son of Krypton.

Although Amar'e quickly scored on Anthony, extending the Knicks' lead to 13-7, the Heat finished the first quarter with a flurry. First Wade and then Mike Miller threw long ally-oops to LeBron James on the break. He seemed to reach up to Row G in section 414 to grab the overthrown pass by Miller and stuff it home. These furious flushes were straight from Sega-era NBA Jam and illustrated the physical majesty of this Heat club once they get running downhill.

Amar'e, Landry Fields and Shawne Williams combined for 19 of the team's 23 points in the second quarter. Yet no number of swooping layups by STAT could undo the pyshic damage of those on-the-break-oop LBJ dunks in the first quarter. Those four points lent an air of menace to everything the Heat did and left the Knicks seemingly trailing from ahead.

It seemed a fait acommpli when the visitors took a slim two-point margin into the intermission. Heck, I even felt glad the Knicks were so close. The supposed Miami missing link, Miller, was the first player out to warm up before the third quarter. When the ball was rolled out again, though, Wade and Amar'e picked up where they left off, battling. For their part, the rest of the Knicks managed the trick of missing loads of just the sort of open shots that they would seemingly need to stay in a game with this team.

Slowly, at first, the game began to turn as Heat extra James Jones dropped in a few threes with his lightning quick release. And when Amar'e picked up his fourth foul in a futile attempt to stop another Wade foray into the paint things began to turn more quickly. Check that, the game didn't so much "turn" as it was grabbed by both shoulders by Wade and shaken briskly. Damn near to death. Turiaf replaced STAT and Wade, at some point, switched his scopes to infra-red.

As he drove and dished and drove and then looked to dish but then drove again, rumors spread through Section 323 of the Garden that Wade's sunglasses offered him a T-100 optical enhancement of the playing surface. His shots were laser-guided and driving lanes were mapped according to Skynet algorhythms. Great Sweetwater's Ghost, he might have derailed every Long Island Rail Road train several floors below at Penn Station had he been allowed to wear his first-choice of shades. The NBA office was correct. Wade is a menace.

Even with his second-choice eyewear, he came at the Knicks as relentless and natural as the tide. He scored 14 points in the quarter and the Heat's edge ballooned to nine entering the fourth. The Knicks hopes teetered on the edge of the abyss between quarters three and four. If the Heat's lead got any larger there would be no coming back, not with the way the team had been shooting.

Trailing but not tiring, the Knicks opened the fourth quarter pushing. Toney Douglas and Fields both broke off long rebounds. As they picked up the RPMs the crowd raised the decibel level. More importantly, Wade was no longer getting all the way to the rim. He was being challenged and/or fouled in the paint. The shots stopped dropping, and then so did the free throws. As he faltered, Gallo grabbed the reins of the game. His three-point shot with 5:20 remaining gave the Knicks the lead, 77-76, seemingly for the first time since Allan Houston's '99 game winner.

With the Knicks out in front, LeBron finally showed what he can do at his cynical marauding best. He gathered himself at the equater and flew to the rim on the next possession. He was playing for the foul all the way. Williams obliged and LJB sank both free throws. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. James scored four of the Heat's next six points in the same fashion. After featuring fierce defense throughout, this game was going to be decided by shotmaking. And, with one of the game's best closers making amends for a mediocre night, bettors in the stands were offering Heat -3 to anyone who would take it.

Trailing the NBA's most hyped squad, 84-83, with less than a minute and a half to play, the Knicks came up with two of their biggest makes of the season. Gallinari again put the Knicks back in front with another treble; and then, after a mercifully missed James Jones jumper (LBJ drove and then kicked it to JJ), Fields hit the message bucket of the game. His easy stroke for another three pushed the lead to five points and told everyone on the floor and in attendance that the Knicks weren't giving this one up.

Coming out of the ensuing timeout, the GardenVision screen above the court played its "Get Loud" montage, with footage of a grinning Gallo imploring the crowd to raise the volume. For the most, part no one paid much notice. We were already loud, and we were preparing to unleash the full strenght of our voices in a D-FENCE chant. This wasn't no Nets game when the loudest noises were dictated by the JumboTron. We were doing just fine on our own. And after sputtering on offense all night, so were the Knicks.

LeBron scored four more points in the final minute but the Heat would never regain the lead thanks to four Felton free throws. As Felton stepped to the line for the last charity toss of the game, the delirious crowd chanted, "BEAT THE HEAT BEAT THE HEAT."

In Defense of LeBron James
For a guy who has the highest active career average in the Garden and whose teams haven't lost to the Knicks seemingly since hightops were made simply of rubber soles, canvas and metal eyeholes for laces, LeBron looked completely out of sorts last night. While Wade rampaged downhill like an avalanche, LBJ pounded it on the perimeter like he was Zach Randolph.

In recent meetings between the 'bockers and LBJ, New York has thrown out strong oversized two-guards like Wilson Chandler and Quentin Richardson at him. They've bodied him and hounded him around the perimeter. They've pressured him on the ball and tried to deny him when he didn't have it. And he's driven to the lane when they crowded only to confidently catch and shoot from distance when they inevitably backed off.

Last night, he didn't know if he was coming or going, driving or shooting. One minute, he was trying to face up on the much smaller Ray Felton and then later trying to back down the taller Shawne Williams.

With Heat power forward Chris Bosh sidelined by an ankle injury, James started at the No. 4 spot and this allowed the Knicks to throw all their rangy forwards at him. When Turiaf first checked into the game, Amar'e even shifted down to power forward spot and d'ed up James for a few trips.

While I won't pretend to know what LeBron was thinking, I will say that it looked like he was spooked. Or, at least, rattled by the size in front him. He wasn't assertive until the waning moments of the game. Until then, he always paused when he got the ball, and this wasn't the Chesire grinning toe-tap pause he sometimes takes before swishing in a three from deep. These pauses were not strategic. It looked like he didn't know what to do. It looked like he heard the crowd and then forced a bad shot in an attempt to show us what was up. But instead of taking control of the game away from the Knicks (and from Wade) he was bricking shots at the end of the shot clock. He was facing up and swinging eblows int the faces of smaller players, and being whistled for it, instead of backing them down. It looked real bad, and I've never seen that from James against this team.

Notes, Observations and Things Best Left Unsaid
-Of the many shots missed during the game by home players, Wilson Chandler missed more than his share. After opening the game by flushing home an ally-oop he tallied just a few more hoops. I couldn't help but feel like his offense was thrown off by the spanking he was taking at the other end from Wade.

Quote(s) of the Night:

"We're just as real scrappy team. That's how we play. That defines us on the defensive end, trying to outscrap every team that we play."
-Knicks forward Shawne Williams, who played poised, physical defense on LeBron James throughout the second half of the game.

"If you know Shawne's background, I don't think he's going to be intimidated. That's not going to be a problem," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said with a laugh. "He's coming at you. And I like that about him.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Knicks: A Business, Man

With the South Beach SuperFriends arriving in town yesterday (by way of what I would imagine is a candy-apple red Lear jet fueled by shoveling various No. 23 Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys and old faxes from Pat Riley's files into an on-board furnace), many casual hoops fans will turn their attention to Madison Square Garden this evening. The Knicks-Heat tilt will be broadcast nationally on TNT and I presume that the team of howler monkeys behind the Worldwide Leader's "Heat Index" may even fling feces from their seats at press row during TV timeouts. Tickets have long since sold out and important advertisers are geeked up for their spots to run during each of the aforementioned commercial breaks. Money will pour hand over foam fist into various coffers and cash registers. Many of which will be blue and/or orange.

At first blush, it would seem that the visiting Heat are the fount of this briskly flowing revenue stream while the Knicks are merely some lucky pigmentless deepwater fish with muscles too atrophied to fight the current. And, to a certain extent this will be true tonight, because perhaps TNT isn't bringing this game to homes in fly-over country if the Sacramento Kings are in town. But a recent report from Wall Street prayer book Forbes reveals that the New York Knickerbockers have more fiscal might of their own than many may have guessed.

According to Forbes, the 'bockers are the most valuable franchise in the National Basketball Association, worth a cool $655 million. The No. 2 franchise on the list was the Los Angeles Lakers. The defending champs carry a price for $643 million. Good for them.

While I have nothing but disdain for the younger Dolan (and I guess for his father for leaving him in charge of the family store), I do feel some perverse, pointless pride in this ranking. Like some sort of "I told ya' so" glee after listening to people say the Knicks were irrelevant for the past several years and for insisting that so-called majesty of the franchise, and its home, mattered only to old fans. The Knicks apparently also matter to some very important people at JPMorgan Chase.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Everybody Beats the Wiz

For the first time in a long time, I passed on a chance to attend a Knicks game. Even worse, I didn't use a pair of tickets that I'd already purchased. There was even someone eager to attend, or, at least, actively pretending to be eager. Nevertheless, the bar codes on my Knicks-Wizards tickets will never be scanned.

After arriving home from Pittsburgh yesterday morning at 6 a.m., bleary-eyed and woebegone, I decided that I was not going to martial the physical or emotional strength to go root, root, root for the home team at the Garden that evening. As melodramatic as it may sound, I simply wasn't ready to go to another game after the enervating experience of cannonball-running back and forth to the bleak Monongahela Valley for the Jets-Steelers game.

I didn't even watch the Knicks game on MSG. Nope. I watched a movie from Netflix with my girl and she picked up Thai food. While I was eating eating some Mussamun Curry and marveling at the lack of acting chops belonging to Jon Hamm, the Knickerbockers were concluding their latest losing streak.

Among baseball players (at least of Mark Grace's generation), a "slumpbuster" is the worst looking young lady at the bar in whatever town you happen to be in. According to Big League lore, your luck turns when you bed this woman. In the world of the NBA, there ain't no gal more busted than the Washington Wizards when they're away from F Street. Like every other team that has taken the Wizards home this season, the Knicks put up a "W."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jets vs. Steelers: This Post Is Prologue

So far, so good in the 'burgh. Ate a pastrami and egg sandwich at the original Primanti Brothers in the Strip District on the way to the hotel. And, yeah, the shimmery green No. 19 jersey got a few long looks from the black and gold clad patrons. The rest of the evening, spent mostly at an Irish pub in the Southside Works included a lot more green, though. Jets fans are here in force. And with the exuberance and joy of that Braylon Edwards backflip in each pint that we shared.

Except for one surly, portly guy with the freshly printed "Sanchez swallows" shirts, just about everyone was gracious. Few more so than Donald of Steelers Today, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about the game.

WWOD?: I feel that no one knows a team's weaknesses better than the club's own fans, so, what do you think is the key to beating the Steelers on Sunday?

ST: The Steelers' have two potential weaknesses. One is on offense, and one is on defense.

On offense, the Steelers' offensive line is a beat up group. They have been shuffling players in and out all year. Their starting left tackle (Max Starks) and their starting right tackle (Willie Colon) are both on injured reserve and out for the season. The remaining offensive linemen have been injury-riddled all season long. Before each game, Steelers fans simply pray that we will make it through the game with enough healthy offensive linemen to snap the ball.

On defense, the Steelers' weakness is their cornerbacks. Bryant McFadden and William Gay both need to be upgraded. The Steelers' cornerbacks have repeatedly been shown to be susceptible to the short pass. Tom Brady has used this tactic successfully against the Steelers for years.

WWOD?: Does the name Doug Brien ring a bell?

ST: Sure. He was the Jets' kicker who missed a couple of potentially game-winning field goals the last time these two teams met in a playoff game. But I don't understand why Jets fans blame him. He folded under the pressure of facing the power and mystique of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Isn't that what 99% of humanity would do? Heck, 99% of NFL players do the same thing. It's nice to be the Steelers.

WWOD?: Do you think that fans (or maybe just the local media) in Pittsburgh felt even the slightest bit let down by the lack of vitriol between the teams this week?

ST: Not on our end. Unless we're playing the Baltimore Ravens, Steelers fans don't seem to be driven by vitriol. They are a pretty friendly bunch. They typically welcome the fans of visiting teams into their own stadium. Sure, they may kid opposing fans a bit, but those fans will never feel as though they are in any danger. I've been in plenty of opposing stadiums where I've felt unsafe wearing Steelers gear.

WWOD?: While pockets of Pittsburgh still seem to divided about Ben Roethlisberger, I get the impression that everyone is pretty down on Santonio Holmes? From a distance, it looked like he was the mostly-harmless fall guy during a scandalous offseason, but how do most Steelers fans feel about the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII these days?

ST: Harmless? Not at all. While Steeler Nation was disappointed with Ben, the reality is that Ben was NEVER convicted of anything. Santonio Holmes, on the other hand, has a history of drug convictions. He has been caught by the police. He has been caught by the NFL. He even had audacity to "tweet" about his drug usage. That's just stupid. Moreover, it's an insult to every one of his fans.

Santonio was a talented receiver, who had an ability to rise to the occasion during key moments. But he had an equal ability to dog it during stretches during the game. He could disappear for quarters at a time. I'm sure Jets fans are making the exact same observations about Santonio.

While I was disappointed that the Steelers didn't get more for Santonio, I agreed with their decision to get rid of him.

WWOD? From one sports fan to another, what do I need see/do/eat/drink/experience while in the 'burgh?

ST: Pittsburgh is one of the great hidden treasures of America. It's true greatness lies in it's people. Pittsburghers are basically friendly mid-westerners at heart. We're very different from our eastern neighbors in Philadelphia.

As far as things to see, Obviously the Steelers are high on the list. The Steelers and the city seem to be reflections of one another.

Other things to see/do include riding the incline up Mt. Washington. There are two inclines across the river from downtown Pittsburgh. Don't ride the one near Station Square. Ride the one that is across the river from Heinz Field and PNC Park. The view from the top of that one is much better. If you have an opportunity, try to take in a Penguins game while you're in town. Pittsburgh takes as much pride in their hockey team as they do in their football team (Okay, ALMOST as much pride). Also try to visit the "Aviary". It's a hidden jewel in Pittsburgh.

WWOD?: Lastly, I got my tickets off eBay from someone in Maryland who I can only presume was a Ravens fan. Thoughts?

ST: Tickets to a Steelers game can be hard to come by. The Steelers' home games have been sold out for generations. You have a much better chance of seeing the Steelers on the road than you do seeing them in Pittsburgh.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Let's Go TBD!



When I get home from work (or really anywhere) it's very important -crucially integral to the mood in my household - that I take off my boots before I step past the threshold of the foyer. It can't be understated how bad of an idea it is too track slush in from outside. I know this. Even the cat knows this. And today I couldn't have cared less. I came stomping in at my top stomping speed, with droplets of snow flying and rivulets of slush streaming from the grooves on the bottoms of my shoes right onto the floor of the living room. I did this because I knew there was an envelope waiting for me, and that said parcel contained my tickets for the AFC Championship Game on Sunday in Pittsburgh on Sunday. They didn't even have the name of my team on them but they couldn't have looked any better.

Altogether now: "T! - B! - D!" TBD, TBD, TBD!

Friday Foto

Flashback Friday


This emotional explosion from Charles Oakley during the 1993 NBA playoffs feels right at home with Bart Scott's epic "Can't Wait" rant after the Jets toppled the Patriots last weekend. It's been a while since I've had a team to root for that breathed this sort of fire. Hopefully it won't be extinguished any time soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

LeBron's Instant Karma

In many Indian religions, Samsara means the "flow of life," or the continuous cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. One's movement around this wheel depends on one's karma, or actions. Whether enforced by a deity or not, this belief system states that immoral actions will have negative consequences while positive behavior will be rewarded as one progresses through the many states of existence.

After the Cleveland Cavaliers' 57-112 loss to the Lakers on Jan. 11, LBJ tweeted:

"Crazy. Karma is a b----.. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!"

While theologians puzzled over the significance of his evocation of both the Judeo-Christian deity and the Eastern idea of karma, veteran followers of the NBA quickly surmised that James' barb had been intended for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who very publicly lambasted the King after he abdicated his Cleveland throne over the summer. By LeBron's logic (or belief?), the Cavaliers were rocked by a franchise record 52 points because of Gilbert's comic sans misdeeds.

The SuperFriends weren't playing that night, so it's possible that LBJ was watching the Cleveland game on television. Miami was coming off an overtime win at Portland and had won 21 of it's previous 22 games, including the thorough triumph over the Lakers on Christmas. Based on his espoused theory of karma, it would seem that James must have been pretty well behaved.

Given the instant karma that's been visited upon him in the week and half since, I'd imagine that either his self image or his belief in moral causation has been shaken. The night after James' tweet, the scorching Heat were dropped by the Clippers. LBJ sprained his ankle during the game and was forced to miss the next game in Denver. The Nuggets blew the doors off Miami in that contest. Up next? A visit to Chicago, where the Heat went down again. They hadn't lost three games in the previous eight weeks total, but they had dropped three on the bounce when they got their talents back to South Beach for Tuesday night's game against the Hawks. LBJ was back in action, yet the Heat dropped the tilt in overtime.

To sum up, that's four consecutive losses after the karma tweet after just a lone loss in 22 tries immediately before. How's that for some instant karma?


For the second time this season, WWOD? has uncovered some strange connection between a John Lennon song and James. And if you read LeBron's initials backwards then you get JL. Which are Lennon's initials!

LeBron burried Paul. Cranberry Sauce.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Houston, We Still Have Problem

Unlike Monday's matinee loss to the Suns, there was no point in tonight's loss at the Houston Rockets when I felt like the Knicks were going to pull this one out. Perhaps this is some sort of belief bias from having attended the first loss in person whereas I watched this one on television. Or, perhaps, it's that old adage, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Just take a look at the first-quarter point totals from the Knicks' foes during the four-game losing streak:

Rockets 36
Suns 39
Kings 24
Jazz 31

Bad starts on the defensive end are giving way to early deficits that render most late runs useless. And, whether it's Beno Udrih or Kyle Lowry, their seems to be some opposing player exploiting matchups against the Knicks nightly. I could only assume that Mike Dunleavy would drop 50 on the 'bockers if they were in Indy tomorrow night.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Stopping the Noonday Suns

En route to the Knicks-Suns MLK Day matinee, I had my kelly green satin Jets starter jacket buttoned up to the top bottom.

Fresh.

I had on a pair of tortoise shell wayfare shades.

And.

The ensemble was topped with my grandfather's knit cream-colored winter cap with the orange and black pom-pom on the top from back when he ran a MAACO in Freeport, Long Island. That shop made certain that I had the best looking 1987 Dodge 600 on the the road in 2002 while also providing bits and pieces of outerwear that worked their way into my rotation through the years.

Clean.

With my two younger brothers in tow as my retinue, I felt like the Prince of Jersey City strolling down Newark Avenue toward the PATH station shortly after midday. I tipped my shades at Adam of the New Jersey Tattoo Company as we passed his fine establishment. I doffed my cap at that loutish, semi-homeless (HT/PKing) Hispanic couple alternately necking and arguing outside of the Greek-owned pizza shop, Helen's.

In the afterglow of 28-21, I felt pleased. The sort of feeling that keeps your confidence high when looking slightly foolish. The sort of confident contentment that even allows you to revel in looking slightly foolish. I had been up huffing Jet fuel all night long and was ready to go see some hoops on a weekday with my office closed.

Once tucked into our aisle seats in Row G of section 414, yup the last row in the highest level directly behind one of the baskets, I shared my only hope for the game. Figuring that the visiting Phoenix Suns were going to want to make up for the dismantling by the Knicks not too long ago, I just didn't want to watch my team get beat by Vince Carter. Was that too much to ask?

Apparently, on the day after the Jets beat the Patriots, it was. Because Carter netted 29 points and did beat the Knicks. Sort of. Which, of course, more or less sums up Vince Carter's legacy across the board. He dominated. But he didn't. Not really. To make matters worse for those who have yet to catch a case of VC, Carter broke the the 20,000-point mark for his career during the game.

Although Carter's contribution to the Suns' win shouldn't be understated, please allow me to understate it. A spry and aggressive Grant Hill seemed the more impactful player from my, admittedly poor, vantage point. The NBA's ageless Ponce de Leon scored 18 and spent so much time at the line that I thought the training staff would have to bring his mushed peas and various linaments out to the charity stripe. Similarly, Steve Nash and Channing Frye seemed to hit shots at more important times than Carter. Frye in particular, had 18 points that felt like 40. Which still would've been one less than Knickerbocker centerpiece Amar'e Stoudemire scored. Unfortunately, his season-high 41 points seemed Carteresque in their irrelevance.

For their part, the Knicks, along with crowd, seemed confident that this game was going to be pulled out of the fire before it was overcooked. After letting up a sieve-like 39 points in the first quarter, they took the lead just before the half. They, of course, relinquished said lead in the third quarter before threatening to take it back for good in the fourth. But they never quite paired that spurt with those stops that were needed.

After a Gallinari three knotted the score at 106 with about five and half minutes to play, it felt like the game was finally being moved back into the black. Predictably, Carter missed a jumper on the next Suns' possession when his team needed an answer. It all felt good. For about 45 seconds. Until Nash, with that easy, looping shot of his that seems both a throwback from the West Virginia of Jerry West's youth and something stolen from the TRON-like future after man has learned to transcend the limitations of this weak flesh and play the game like a math problem of angles and arc, hit a three that restored the Suns lead and confirmed their resolve. With that important bucket counted by the scorekeepers, Carter then added a few more to his tally and helped the visitors build toward the final 129-121 margin.

Notes, Observations and Things Best Left Unsaid
-The Garden crowd was in good voice. "Dee-Fense" and "Let's Go Knicks" chants were arising spontaneously throughout the second half if the organ player was slow to hit the keys after a stoppage in play. And when he or she accidentally dropped the dulcet "D" tones when we had the ball, the crowd would not be misled.

-Just like the last time these two teams played, the Suns defenders had no answer for Amar'e. He scored 41 points on 15-25 shooting and made hay at the line just like Hill. For all those points, though, he wasn't incredibly impactful. My assumption (along with his -12 +/- figure) is that most of those buckets came during the stretches when Jamal Crawford could have been a defensive upgrade for either team. He was scoring in bunches when they were. And his bunches were smaller than the accumulated bunches of his foes. Or something like that.

-There was a ton of Jets gear in the Garden, but, sadly, no actual Jets players. I was hoping for a few to be seated in celebrity row. Among the throngs sporting green was a guy a few rows ahead of me in the upper tank wearing an autographed Ben Graham jersey over a white turtleneck. I could only imagine that he was so amped about the Jets' win and so bereft of gear that he broke the frame this was in ever since his wife brought it home from the silent auction for a local charity where she spent way to much on it as she was totally unaware that Graham was a punter. Or something like that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Morning Schadenfreude



Monday Mudita

28-21 Edition



Saturday, January 15, 2011

Knicks Flattened By Foes, Flattered By Verbiage

Paul Westphal's Sacramento Kings got a big win last night at the Garden, their biggest of the year thus far. It was just their second victory over a team with winning record. And their first such triumph on the road, where they have struggled mightily, regally even.

Entering the game with an 8-28 record, their lone previous win over a better-than .500 squad was a home win over Denver's Nuggets-perhaps the team embroiled more 'Melodrama than any other this season-back on Jan. 6. The headline on ESPN.com's recap from that game read: "Tyreke Evans' double-double helps Kings stun Nuggets." The Worldwide Leader's story from last night's game used the same verb: "Kings Stun Knicks"

And, why shouldn't it? Removing the vagaries of travel, fatigue and motivation, it is stunning that those Kings beat these Knicks. Factoring in the realities of the NBA life (mostly just the recently concluded and exhausting Western Conference road trip) and it's still unexpected. Which tells me two important things about the Knicks as we move downhill toward the All-Star break.

1. The Knicks can still be had by just about anyone on any given night if they aren't hitting their shots.
2. The Knicks have reached the point of being stunnable.

Taken together, these two notions sum up the bitter and the sweet of the early portion of the season. Boy, we've come a long way already! It took nearly as long to get from Testaverde to Sanchez as it did for the Knicks to regain the standing to have a "stunning" loss.

Since, I don't think it's a gilt-edged revelation to say the 2010-2011 Knickerbockers are not infallible, let's just focus on the second point just for a second. After years of managing the terrible troika of being undertalented, underprepared and overconfident under the chesire grin of Isiah Thomas, the Knicks have become a fiesty midtable force in the few months since Amar'e Stoudemire joined the club. They have clear-cut inalienable strengths in personnel and scheme and will be favored against at least half the teams in the Association. They can be stunned. No longer are they the ones, like the Kings, whose wins are regarded with surprise.

Of course, if there are too many more losses like last night (or Frazier forbid it, Amar'e gets injured) then they will lose their stunnability faster than Isiah would have traded it away for Allen Iverson's Turkish contract had he still been in charge.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Mudita



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Revis Tosses One Hitter


You may have already heard. It could have been me hooting. Or hollering late into the cold, dark night. Or, possibly you heard from No. 87 himself, who was none too pleased. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis held the Indianpolis Colts top wide reciever, Reggie Wayne, to just one catch for a single yard on Saturday night.

Wayne finished with a career-best 111 receptions during the regular season, good for second in the AFC. Last night, Colts head coach quarterback Peyton Manning only threw one ball in his direction. The sure-handed Wayne caught it a few feet beyond the lime of scrimmage and was immediately dropped.

One catch, one yard. When your stat line after a playoff game contains no numerals than it's unlikely that you were very effective.


With Revis' coverage orange-prison-jumpsuit tight, NBC play-by-play man Al Michaels went as far as to say, on national television and in prime time, that Wayne would rather be on Guantanamo than Revis Island. While I do think that Revis' blend of physicality at the line and ability to burn stride-for-stride on just about any deep route makes him the top cover man in the game, I don't know if I would think being rendered irrelevant during a football game would be worse than actually being disappeared by the US military. Regardless, it was the most brazen use of US human rights abuse in a sporting contest since Barkley noted that the Celtics were Abu Graibing the Knicks on TNT* back in 2007.

*This didn't happen, but, admit it, with Barkley you involved you weren't sure.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Foto

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Clyde's Cow-mooflage Coat

Heading to work tonight - where he handled play-by-play duties on the MSG Network during an enervating Knicks' win over the Spurs - Walt "Clyde" Frazier scanned the ample selection of blazers, in what I would can only imagine as Mariana-deep walk-in closet, and opted for what I've dubbed the cowmooflage item pictured above.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Mudita

American Football Conference

1. New England Patriots


2. Pittsburgh Steelers


3. Indianapolis Colts


4. Kansas City Chiefs


5. Baltimore Ravens


6. New York Jets


National Football Conference

1. Atlanta Falcons


2. Chicago Bears


3. Philadelphia Eagles
(Entering the playoffs after two losses, we had to look back a ways to find some joy from Mudville Philly, but this is pretty hard to top.)

4. Seattle Seahawks


5. New Orleans Saints


6. Green Bay Packers

Monday Morning Schadenfreude

As a Jets fan, I wonder if the Giants collapse down the stretch again next season will we ever, ever hear the refrain "same ol' Giants" being tossed around. Eli Manning (pictured, mid sulkplosion) has a career 16-18 record in December and has presided over enough consecutive late-season to be fitted for a New York Mets jersey. I'd imagine that his Super Bowl ring will keep him in the good graces of Big Blue fans in perpetuity, but great Testaverde's ghost, this guy turns the ball over a ton, and without the rakish joi de vivre of Brett Favre.