Hello again, Knickerblogger family! It’s so damn good to see you!
I’ve returned from my annual two weeks of NCAA Tournament fanaticism, and it feels good to be paying attention to NBA basketball again. If you watch about 40 games of college basketball over the course of 10 days, it becomes rather clear how superior NBA players are. In fact, by the end of the Elite 8 games on Sunday, I was honestly relieved that my (why is it so important to me every year when I basically ignore college basketball until the tournament starts?) bracket was eliminated from my pool. There is thousands of dollars on the line, and I won a few years ago which has caused me to be irrationally attached to the tournament every year since in hopes of recreating that feeling (and monetary award). I had Kansas, Oklahoma, Virginia and UNC in the Final Four, which looked damn good on Saturday afternoon, but the dream is finally dead. So I can wake up and watch REAL basketball players.
Tonight’s game features my two favorite teams in a match of “our season ended around Groundhog Day” versus “our season isn’t quite over but it’s aggressively circling the drain.” The Mavericks lost Chandler Parsons for the year, so even if they squeak into the playoffs, they will likely be swept by Golden State or San Antonio in the first round. I’m not sure I even want to watch that, but I’ll always take playoff basketball over no playoff basketball, even if I know we’re destined to be eviscerated by one the NBA’s two best teams. The Knicks are just going through the motions of closing out the season, although Rambis is certainly trying to maintain the illusion of being a coach.
His recent decision to bench Afflalo is certainly one that I have no argument with, and I find it hard to believe many readers take issue with it either, but starting Get Cic or Die Tryin’ in his place feels like a legitimate troll job on Knicks fans. Oh, you guys want us to bench the ineffective veterans and give the young guys time since the season is over? Well, we’re gonna trot out Sasha “is my hair okay?” Vujacic and Kevin “I look just like a basketball player” Seraphin so we can leave Jerian and Langston to sharpen their Cards Against Humanity skills on the bench. I honestly have to give Rambis a golf clap here for finding a way to give 20+ minutes a night to a person who literally couldn’t play a meaningful minute for any competitive team in the league.
But I do agree with benching Afflalo. He has been terrible and his contract is poison; he can’t come back next year, and the horrible truth is that he holds the power over whether or not he absorbs another $8 million in cap space next season because the contract has a player option, not a team option. The strategy here, if I’m correctly reading between the lines (although by looking at Rambis’ and Afflalo’s quotes, they’re not exactly being covert about this), is to convince Afflalo that he won’t get a chance to start for this team going forward, and if he wants another crack at one last decent contract before retirement, he needs to go elsewhere to show the league what he can do next year. I honestly think it’s a solid move—kind of like when a job starts doing everything they can to make someone quit because they don’t want to fire them.
Sure, it’s a bit on the cruel side, but the Knicks can’t fire the guy, so the only way to rid themselves of him is to make him quit. I know he came to New York with purpose and wanted to be here, but it seems like a split is all but guaranteed after this season. It would be a bummer if Afflalo exercises his player option and sticks around if he sees the market doesn’t have anything for an aging 2-guard who shoots contested fadeaways and contributes almost nothing to the team outside of the stray good scoring performance. Damn… I really hope he leaves. But will he? Where else is he gonna get $8 million? If he thinks he can take a smaller contract in hopes of getting a big one after next year, he will leave, but he’s going to be 32 at that point and I’m not sure any team is going to be giving a 3 or 4 year contract to whatever version of him exists at that point.
Tonight is all about watching the torch being passed. This is the second meeting between Dirk and Kristaps, and the first one lived up to the hype and then some. I expect Dirk to have another good performance against the kid who idolized him, and I expect Kristaps to reach deep to impress the best European basketball player of all time. It should be a lot of fun, and it’s something we should all cherish, because it won’t happen many more times. I’m convinced Dirk will play two more seasons to make it a round 20 years in the league, and I honestly wouldn’t blame him for spending his last year on a one-year contract playing on a team that can win a title if Dallas doesn’t significantly improve next season. So that’s four more games (six if Dirk plays in the East his last year, although I think it’s a longshot. My hunch is he stays with Dallas no matter what, even if he has to suffer Kobe-style through his final season). And that’s assuming neither of them has to sit out any of those games.
Kristaps vs. Dirk is a matchup that we may only have a few more of, if any, so this is a great opportunity to see them face off. Dirk was the epitome of a franchise player for the Mavericks, and he has 13 ALL-Star selections, an MVP, an NBA Championship and a Finals MVP to show for it. I hope Kristaps can have a similarly productive and storied career path, and I hope a little bit of that Dirk swag rubs off on him. Dirk is known for his remarkable work ethic, which is why at 37 he can still drop 40 points on Portland last week. Kristaps should mine him for any advice he has to give, and he would do well to schedule a meeting with Dirk’s famous shooting coach Holger Geschwendner this summer.
Honestly, I cannot wait for this game. I know it means relatively nothing so far as this season goes, since even if the Mavericks find a way into the playoffs they will be lucky to see a Game 5, but it’s a really interesting basketball moment regardless.
Only 7 games left including tonight, everybody. We may as well try and enjoy them.
See you at 8:30!