||Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 24 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -6
Big freaking deal. A couple of dunks in the first stanza. I guess he’s “back.” Wife, go draw me a bath of the finest Manischewitz. I wish to re-vivify these aged bones. ‘Tis a miracle cure!
||Carmelo Anthony, SF 29 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | -9
124 Million for THAT? Rattling in a few wide-open midrange jumpers, then pouting and routinely getting lost going through screens. Great. Money well spent. Ready to imagine what Melo’s gonna look like when he’s 35 and referred to more often than not as, “Carmelo Anthony’s Massive Expiring Contract?” Well lucky us, we don’t have to wait!!
||Samuel Dalembert, C 20 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -3
Watching him go up for a mid-range jumper is like a time capsule composed of the planes that the Wright Brothers crashed into a pile of tinder and cheap winches. Didja watch Tyson Chandler against those blasted, always-perfect, now-and-forevermore Spurs? Looked pretty good. Pretty, pretty good, amirite? Great trade, Big Chief Triangle. A busted-ass point that makes a lycanthrope look well-groomed, lame draft picks and partially-animated pair of stilts!!!!
||Iman Shumpert, SG 20 MIN | 2-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +8
Oh yeah. Definitely pick up his option. Better lock down the dude that got a meaningless steal off Tony Snell in garbage time. A shooting guard that can’t create off the dribble is absolutely vital to…
I can’t do it. I’ve been trying to work up my usual level of rage-feels after a brutal loss and it’s just not there. Not sure if Big Pharma has invented anger Viagra, but I’ve spent the last hour searching for it. Because, yes, it’s easier to write a recap when there’s a powerful emotion coursing through your veins—happy, sad, or whatever—just as long as you can channel it and pound the keyboard till you’ve worked all the evil humours and bad juju out of your system. There are a lot of Northern Irish poets and playwrights for a reason, is what I’m saying.
But as you can probably tell by the first couple of capsules here, you can’t fake it. Yeah, each and every frustrated ‘Bocker does deserve a big fat, unctuous F, but my honest reaction and general state of mind/soul during tonight’s utter smackdown at the hands of one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference (The other one’s tomorrow!) wasn’t bile-soaked venom. I don’t know about y’all, but I was oddly and disturbingly calm. Okay with it, even.
Don’t get me wrong, for the first eight or so minutes of the first quarter, when the offense was rolling, STAT was flying through the air or draining sweet, sweet jumpers like it was the halcyon days of 2010 all over again, the defense was doing a fine job of ICE’ing pick and rolls, and creating turnovers, I started giddily fist-pumping and screaming at the screen. Hell, I think I might’ve suffered a minor stroke when they ran off a couple of competent fast breaks for the first time since they were going full D’Antoni.
And yes, prior to tipoff, I started reflexively cursing Woodson’s name like an old, Fellini-esque Italian crone spitting at Mussolini’s corpse even if it hasn’t been dangling naked in the town square for decades.
In case you were watching a glorious game seven of the Series tonight, here was the starting lineup, because the Fisher King hath pondered this-day, and changed his noble mind.
Then of course, this:
THE EAST IS STILL BIG, MANNNNNNNN.
Jason Smith, at 7-0, 240 isn’t a ‘big’ man? Oooookaaaayyyy. But again, after a brief flush of my good ol’ pal, hate, I realized that there were certain merits to this starting unit, namely that it keeps STAT away from Timmy and JR.
For a while there, it was all working like a glittery, shiny charm. Amar’e started off scorching hot, scoring 8 of the first 16 Knickerbocker points, going a perfect four or four from the floor, and pushing Gotham to a 16-11 advantage Windy City with 2:59 left in the first, and looking utterly competent in a defense that was holding an oh-so conservative Windy City offense to 30% from the field.
The problems—and there were many—started with the arrival of Taj Gibson, who just shredded each and every forward he faced.
FARTFISH, yes indeed-y. The subs looked slow and hesitant, and from what we’ve learned about the triangle thus far, it’s that for an offense that thrives with smart, cerebral players, thinking absolutely positively = death. Also, It’s a small sample size to be sure, but the Prigs-Timmy-JR-Other Smith-Acy quintet is just terrible, in particular in the post and on the glass where Acy/Smith just got walloped. They were outscored by 10-2 in the final 2:13 of the first, and then 6-2 to start the second, to make for a…checks math…16-4 run. When you’re slower, shorter, not nearly as strong, and don’t gobble up rebunds, welp, that’s gonna happen.
Granted, Fish-head is still working out his rotations (clearly), but we’ve seen more than enough examples of this not working at all, even in ragged preseason minutes, to know that a deep team (like Chicago) is going to grab it by the neck, bat it around a few times and shake it till it’s dead, like a bemused housecat toying with a vermin.
Make no mistake, this is a better team than the Bullish squad that won 60 in 2011. You think so too, Grantland’s Zach Lowe?
I mean, Aaron Brooks was scooting around the vast swathes of available court space like he was… the last sub six-foot, shoot-first floor general that Thibs resuscitated. I can only assume that he screams like a Wall St. floor trader because his hacked up, Waits-ian phlegm is actually some kind of magic elixir.
As has oft been the case—and I’m really not in a place to say which side of the floor is the chicken and which is the egg—when things go totally to pot on one end, you can feel the creeping frustration. J.R., in particular, still looks like he has no idea what any of this triple-post ish is. He’s just a colossal liability at this point, even if he did nail a few step back jumpers when the shot clock was dwindling down.
The starters, however, did begin to hack away at the deficit and it was a mere ten at intermission. Plus/minus is far from a perfect metric, but peep this.
The second half was just pure blech. Shump started getting overly aggressive (again) and lost Rose either on dribble-handoffs or sneaking backdoor. Speaking of our fave flattop-ed Knick, he found the ball in his hands quite a few times at the end of possessions and just had no idea what to do. He tried that curl into a pull-up shot thingy that had served him well before the real games started and it just wasn’t there at all, so he started careening into the lane before launching a terrible fadeaway that didn’t even catch iron.
He wasn’t alone. With each turn of the vise by the Bulls, or denial of an entry pass to Anthony (yeah, they remain real good at that) we saw the team abandon any notion of a triangle set, degenerating into weird, clunky pick and rolls at the top of the key or straight ISO’s and many, many awful long twos, just hoping that someone, anyone could score. They went a solid five plus minutes without a hoop, ending it on a fastbreak that Acy couldn’t even muster the gumption to cookie-smash. Given the way things were going, he was probably wise to lay it in. A bricked dunk would have been too perfect a summation of the entire shitty third quarter.
On D, various bodies got clumped in the paint, and just didn’t have the speed to recover to guard Kirk #$%ing Hinrich. I’m sure Dunleavy decided to brick an open shot or two out of some twisty sense of pity, figuring he’d done enough Knick-killing to last until young Michael the Third arrives to cast a pale shadow on this team
Some nice things.
At the half, here was this:
And then new New Yorker Taylor Swift palled around with Stoudemire and sang a jaunty tune. Of course, she’s in the midst of that wide-eyed, “I LOVE NEW YORK. I WILL PURCHASE HOKEY T-SHIRTS THAT SAY SO IN CHINATOWN AND JUST WANDER AROUND THE CITY, PEOPLE-WATCHING. LOOK AT THIS GLORIOUS MELTING POT, SO FULL OF, LIKE, BUSTLE AND ENERGY AND LIFE. I’M ALLLLIVVVVVVVVVVE” phase. It’ll pass .This is the true test.
We got to see Pablo Prigioni drive the lane more than he has in two seasons combined, and, even if you or I didn’t, he got real mad.
Dalembert looooves him those backdoor passes. He’s pretty good at it too, but once the rest of La Liga catches on, I think they’ll sag off and let him launch one of those aforementioned rickety jumpers.
I also liked that Fisher switched up the subs, bringing Cole in as a backup. I know, I know, I’m like the Shining Path talking about Mao when it comes to Aldrich, but he did Cole things, snaggling rebounds and doing a better job than any other big of slowing down Gasol, even as the defecit swelled to about 4.56I.
And that’s it. Again, this is a process. I’m sure I’ll be barking hot fire in a day or two, don’t fret. But learning to like the little things, realize that it is about the journey and not the destination, is going to take time. Embedding all the moves and counter-moves, so you can execute a thinking offense without thinking takes time. Learning habits of the bro next to you, till they’re second nature, actually trusting that his understanding is equal to your own… the whole kit and caboodle is going to take time, and patience. We all knew this, and perhaps being okay with failure or expecting it, and accepting it and struggle as a necessary part of growth is what has made all the difference.
I was talking with my Dad after the game. He, oddly enough, was pissed, and I was all about that Zen life. You know how after you’ve had a million conversations with someone—a parent, a wife/husband, a child—and you know, even if it’s just a voice coming through the receiver, that they’re smiling?
Well, he was telling me (reminding me) that he’d watched the great Knicks teams of Clyde and DeBussch, but he’d given it up after all the old gang retired, crumbled right before his eyes or slowly faded into non-relevance. It’s only when I started getting seriously into hoops that he started caring again, because the losses bugged me so much when I was a young’n. (And yes, by “young’n” I clearly mean until right this very moment.)
I told him not to be weirded out by my lack of seething fury, that if nothing else, I’d start venting my spleen at the Knicks again for sure when I had a son of my own, and I’d crank up the whole silly carousel and watch it turn ‘round and ’round again.
There was a pause on the other end of the line. That’s when I knew he was smiling.
But if I’m still cool by this time tomorrow night, I’m drinking a bottle of vinegar and chasing it with human urine. That’ll bring back the fire!