Wizards 111, Knicks 108: Same As It Ever Was

Hello, Friends.

if you’ve seen any of the last eleven games, you know what happened. The new coach smell was still lingering in the rafters, but they got out (yet another) atrocious start, struggling mightily and grinding the shot clock down to the nubbin just to be able to get up a difficult, contested two point mid-range jumper, Meanwhile, the Wizards pushed off of each and every miss and/or turnover, racing out to wide open layups and wide open threes. By all that is holy and good, even freaking Marcin Gortat rumbled down the court to greedily gobble all the cherries.

They were down 15-6, against a DC squad that came into the evening 19th in offensive rating, finishing with a 35-21 lead at the end of the first on 13-20 shooting, including 4-5 from downtown.

And then, things got ugly. Yes, the Knicks came out all full of piss and vinegar to start the second stanza, going on a 12-3 run. But Melo. Would. Not. Leave. The Game. He played the first 16 freaking minutes. On a gimpy knee. When he’s been complaining of intermittent pain. Forget that they’ve gone 0-7 when he sits out, all the stern-jawed talk about the playoffs being a necessary and achievable goal leads to unfathomably dumb ish like this.

You know, we were warned that Rambis was not just a terrible coach, but a pound-nails-into-the-floor-with-your-forehead, so nightmarishly awful you really need to experience it first hand to truly comprehend the Lovecraft-ian madness-level bad. A “Makes Byron Scott look okay by comparison” bad. Our T-Wolves Friends, if nothing else ,have been there before. You can practically feel them shaking their heads as a fresh new fan base recoils in abject horror.

For all the complaints we’ve had when it comes to Fisher’s rotations, I don’t think he, or any sentient, carbon-based life form would purposely try to pound Melo’s knees till they resembled mofongo, or give Sasha Vujacic way more minutes than Lance Thomas. I contemplated hauling ass down to MSG, kidnapping Kristaps and shoving him in an hermetically-sealed hyperbaric chamber, just to protect him from this deranged, Cool Dad-ish madman that was now ostensibly in charge of the final twenty-odd games of his rookie year.

Then, of course, Kristaps reached his giant, Giacometti-like arms, and took us in his warm embrace and all was right in the world. Really, at this point, you give me one or two reality-smashing sequences from the Porzingawd and the rest of the game fades into a druggy, barely-remembered haze.

In the third, our Man from Latvia straight went off. 14 points on eight shots. Two delicious, twine-tickling threes to start, followed hard upon by a Duncan-esque banker over Dudley, (SIDE NOTE: if Dudley is roasting the Knicks in a small ball lineup, going five for freaking five in the first half, why the eff would you wait until the third to take advantage of the fact that he’s trying to guard a dude that’s at least eight inches taller? Because Knicks, that’s why. Let’s get back to the orgasmic KP montage.) and a pretty running hook off the dribble from he elbow. When the Knicks let Kristaps be Kristaps, I unleash incomprehensible, sub-mammalian sounds.

Let’s watch. WARNING: Time itself may stand still.

And they clawed all the way back, tying it at 83-all heading into the final stanza, when things got both deeply weird and yet frighteningly familiar. A back and worth game ballooned to 10 with 1:36 to go after John Wall went to work. I mean, given this team’s FARTDOG-y tendencies, it was more or less a given that Wall was going to have himself quite a night but this was something else. Step back jumpers, a trey over both Porzingis and Carmelo, a kick out in semi-transition to a wide open Beal on the wing (we’ll get back to this in a bit). And they still came back, dangling the thought of a nice, pre-All Star break win over our heads like a cruel brute taunting a starving puppy by holding a t-bone steak just beyond its reach.

After a slew of botched free throws and a head-scratching overturning of an and-one for Afflalo, Gallo found himself with a chance to tie, and…

Le sigh. We’re all with you, Gallo. How you separate this loss from the Memphis game or the Detroit game or the Denver game or any one of the gut-wrenching, deeply agonizing and yet wholly predictable ten losses over the last eleven games is beyond me. This team looks battered, both physically and emotionally. Everyone take a break. Play some vidyuh games. Catch up on that stack of Harper’s that are taking up space in the living room that you’ve really been meaning to plow through. Psychically reload.

Anyhoo, a few notes and we’ll get outta Dodge.

* They need to find a different way to guard the 1-4 and -5. high pick and roll. I lost track of the number of times that Calderon (or whomever) would help from the weak side, leaving a wide open Beal/Dudley/Porter. Wally and Hahn were scratching their heads at this, throughout the postgame post-mortem, but there’s a serious strategic error here, especially when they don’t have nearly enough athletic wings to be able to recover and contest the shot.

* Speaking of Rambis things that are going to make me claw out chunks of my eyeballs, it seems that Jerian Grant is (for now) out of the rotation. If one of the strikes against Fish was his inability to develop the non-KP kids, for fuck’s sake; just let him roll. Sasha Vujacic does have the benefit of cutting with a purpose, but it’s pointless because it’s Sasha Vujacic. You’ll happily let him crank out bricktastic shots whenever he pleases.

* More Rambis fun from Friends-of-the-Blog, William Bohl.

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* On Galloway’s last heave, check out Afflalo’s full-on pout. Maybe he felt he should have been the one to catch iron, but he’s sulking even before the ball is in the air. That’s not a good vibe, even if, yes, he’s without a doubt far more frustrated by this ugly streak than any of us could possibly imagine.

* Reports suggested that one reason Phil canned Fisher was that he strayed from the triangle-qua-triangle. We saw this again tonight, where in the second half they seemed to ditch it in favor of a spread attack, many of which featured Melo as the ballhandler. Speaking of which, he had another nifty game, and those one-handed whip passes off the dribble are purty as heck. This is neither the time and place to really get into it, but Chris Herring has some dandy thoughts here.

* Hi Coach.
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* One final note, and this is going to stray a bit from hoops, so feel free to jump to the end, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about a passel of unfettered thoughts that Phil Jackson banged out on his iPad and unleashed upon ye olde social media this afternoon.

Ostensibly, this brief bit of prose is meant to offer clues as to which clipboard-clutching savant might end up taking Fish’s place. Of course, in a totally Phil Jackson-y way, it doesn’t really do that at all, save the suggestion that it might be a dude from his coaching shrub or it might not, as long as it in some way adheres to a system that leads to self-actualization. The problem is, the trendy 60’s pop psychology–namely Maslow and Rogers–that Phil references don’t really hold up because they can’t be empirically tested or even defined. Maslow and Rogers aren’t really “major” figures either, save that they were super popular right around the time Phil was starting to nosedive deep into his own spiritual quest. Plus, you can see how a nifty chart like this…

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg

…might slot in quite nicely with Phil’s predilection for both geometrically-shaped offenses. and of course John Wooden’s very own pyramid-based self-actualization chart.

PyramidThinkingSuccess

That’s not to put the kibosh on what boils down to, Phil- and Psych-101-wise, as basically good common sense/sound advice. Granted, it’s more mushy, quasi-spiritual/philosophical than actual psychological theory, if a broadly appealing and uplifting one, particularly if, you know, said mystical quest has a very specific, non-theoretical, secular goal: winning as many basketball gamesas possible. It’s not bullshit, is what I’m saying.

But reading Jackson’s screed, I couldn’t help but recall a moment from my own life. I was struggling like a mofo during my first few weeks at a graduate acting program, and I couldn’t understand nor did I have much faith at all in the pedagogy. The things my teachers were asking to do were totally at odds with the techniques and skills that I had mastered (or, to my somewhat deluded 20-something self, thought I’d mastered), watching my classmates not only succeed and receive praise, but somehow take pleasure in even when they too ostensibly “failed.”

An older actor and teacher of mine was in town, and I offered to take him to lunch. Yes, I wanted to see him and whatnot, but I really wanted a friendly ear to rant and rave to, someone that knew what the hell I was talking about and would tell me that I was right, goddamn it.

So we got together at a cafe and before the menus dropped I started kvetching and moaning, shaking my tiny impotent fist at the unfairness of it all and the basic wrongness of everyone around me. He sat there, listening patiently and saying nothing for about twenty minutes, until I’d plumb tuckered myself out and totally emptied my spleen.

There was a brief pause, and then he said, “Huh. Bob, have you ever read about the 10,000 Year Clock? I was reading about this on the in flight magazine. There are some scientists that want to build a clock that will last 10,000 years, because the Atomic Clock, you see, loses a second every fifty years. Scientists want to build the a better clock, one that will keep perfect time for the next 10,000 years. Not just to see if they can pull it off, mind you, but because the environmental movement didn’t kick into gear until after the first pictures of the planet earth came back from space, and people thought, ‘Wow. That’s awesome. Maybe we should try to conserve this thing.'”

“Right,” I said, having no idea where he was going with this.

“You see, Bob. The idea is that if we have a clock that’s keeping absolutely perfect time for 10,000 years, maybe humanity will do everything in its power to still exist 10,000 years from now, just so a living person might be around to see what time it is.”

“And I think it’s the same way for acting. You have this art form that started, really, 5,000 before you, Bob, showed up, and, knock on wood, should be around for 5,000 years after you’re nothing but dust.”

“Okay.”

“So, Bob. Every time an actor steps on stage, any stage—a rehearsal, a performance, or even a classroom exercise—he’s carrying ten thousand years of history. All the incalculable number of performances that came before and the untold billions that hopefully are stlll to come wrapped around him. That’s real power. That’s a performance that exists beyond time.”

“But the only way to do that is if you realize, Bob, that it’s not about you. Because if it’s about you, you kill 10,000 years of history. You know what I mean?”

He was and is right. And it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.

The queston that I have is, does Phil know that? Because riffing on obscure psychologists as a follow-up to the fluffily obtuse statements he gave in the first presser about who he’ll hire feels like so much ego, or at least Phil pointing to his own degree of self-actualization and/or enlightenment out of vanity and narcissistic, intellectual self-flattery.

There’s no need to spew the Cliff Notes version of his overarching hoops philosophy on social media not when he’s already done so in what, eight books? Not that he shouldn’t be attempting to impart these lessons to his team. Like I said (see above) it’s absolutely valuable, it does work. and like any struggle against the tyranny of self, it’s a lifelong struggle. But publish it? On freaking Twitter? Why? Phil’s under no obligation to give any more hints about whom he’ll hire, and in all likelihood, he doesn’t actually know who that person will be. This scans like something else. Long story short (too late), when Phil pulls stunts like these I’m not sure that he always knows that it’s not about him.

And that’ll do it. Always nice to be recapping again, fellow Knickerbloggeristas. In closing, let’s watch Bernie Sanders drain a few from midrange.

At About.com: Phil Jackson Logs On To Twitter, Yells At Clouds.

At About Knicks, a few brief words on Phil Jackson’s Sideshow Bob-stepping-on-a-rake Twittering.

Back on May 10th, the Knicks’ Grand Poobah caused a bit of a media kerfluffle when he decided to troll the three point-heavy teams in the playoffs, asking “NBA analysts give me some diagnostics on how 3pt oriented teams are faring this playoffs…seriously, how’s it goink?” [sic]

At the time of Phil’s tweets, it wasn’t goink very well, with Atlanta, Cleveland, Golden State down 2-1 to the likes of Washington, Chicago and Memphis.

Of course, the ATL-CLE-GSW troika promptly proceeded to go undefeated, meaning that all four teams that made the conference finals ranked in the top seven in three pointers attempted during the regular season.

Yes, the dude in charge of a team that finished a robust 17-65 probably shouldn’t be dropping snark-bombs. Spelling errors/hilarious typos aside, we’ve known for a while that Phil’s squarely in the Charles Barkley School For Salty, Out Of Their Time Basketball Curmudgeons. He’s still humping the old school and possibly outdated cliche about playoff basketball being a different animal, or that “jump shooting teams don’t win titles.”

(And just as a side note: Phil. If you need stats, advanced or otherwise, why the hell are you crowdsourcing this? Don’t you, like, have guys on the payroll that are capable of doing precisely this kind of data analysis? That’s not… what’s the word… good.)

In any case, Phil decided that he needed to respond to the howling masses that had so mocked his most recent foray into the oh-so-tricky realm of social media.

Okay. That’s partly true, and it’s nice to hear he “likes” guys that can fling it from distance. It would be nice to here him admit that he was wrong, or say that his tweet was pointless smug, but that was never going to happen.

The problem is that there isn’t really a hierarchy of importance here. You want to get the ball to the areas of the court that will generate the highest return–the free throw line, the rim and three pointers. Yes, a guy that can drive and kick will lead to open threes, but unless you have shooters that can, you know, make those threes and spread the floor, teams will pack the lane and make penetration a heckuva lot harder.

You can read the full article here.

No Dominion

On Sunday evening, Jim and Deana Cavan’s beautiful, innocent, perfect baby son Everett succumbed to a cancer that spread aggressively over the past four months from a rhabdoid tumor in his liver to his lungs and, finally, his abdomen.  Rett spent nearly half of his brief but inspiring life in and out of hospital beds, fighting his illness with courage and resilience, his bright blue eyes and irrepressible smile suggesting some inner tranquility that seems impossible for one to whom life dealt such an impossibly unfair hand.  His was a grace that even the cruelest fate could not subdue, a grace inherited through the nature and nurture of parents who swaddled him in love and hope and determination to death and beyond. His father, with typical eloquence and unfathomable strength, posted this on Facebook:

With one last, perfect and peaceful breath, our baby boy finally set his spirit free at sunset last night. He departed as he arrived: on a Sunday, as stubborn as they come, but with an ultimate calm that spoke to the abiding grace and wisdom within him.

Buoyed by kisses of loved ones and blessings from countless people the world over, Everett’s soul is now one with the boundless beyond. And while the pain of heart and mind will never fully subside, Deana and I can breathe a little easier knowing his memory—afflicted by that evil disease though so many moments were—will be one forever defined by our little owl’s eyes and smiles. For every lesson he taught us during his too-short life on earth, there will be millions more for us all to glean as the days and years roll on, and his lasting legacy reveals itself in full.

To that end, we’re asking that, in lieu of flowers and gifts, donations be made instead to Rett’s medical relief fund, which Deana and I will soon parlay into a fund for Rhabdoid tumor research and helping families dealing with pediatric cancer. The lives our little man touched in life—manifold though they were—speak to a legacy whose reach will only deepen. Just as it will help heal the wounds wrought by this loss, so too will time define the everlasting impact of a life deferred. Deferred in flesh and blood, perhaps, but never, ever defeated.

In the meantime, we will look forward to seeing many of you at Rett’s memorial service, to be held within the coming few weeks. Mournful though it may be, let us see to it this occasion marks in equal part the full faith and credit of community, and the unconditional love Rett’s fight and spirit have sowed.

We love you to the most distant moon and back, son.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

— Dylan Thomas

We tell you this because Jim’s words, and Thomas’s, are true; because death is not an end but rather the passing of a torch, because lives remain to be saved and good, brilliant people need to be empowered to save them. We tell you this, too, because we’ve all found each other here on this little corner of the Internet, and because the only thing to do in the face of a world that bares the teeth of its worst evil even to people like Jim and Deana, which is to say, the kindest, gentlest, and best of us, is to band together, to refuse to concede to even the darkest injustice, to love as hard as we fight and to fight as hard as we love.

Jim’s depth of character is staggering. The good-natured goofiness that comes through in his writing is real, but it is no bigger a part of him than his biting intellect or his poetic idealism. Any ostensible incongruity between these traits can be summarily dismissed after sitting or speaking with the man for just a moment, which is all the time it takes for his fundamental and genuine goodness to shine through. We have so often sought entertainment and insight through a lens of apparent cynicism on this site, but Jim Cavan has never been a cynic. He’s a bighearted idealist who has waited patiently for the world to realize the potential he knows it has for beauty, giving it a push in the right direction whenever and wherever he’s had the opportunity.

We’ve all spent the bulk of the day—and during the many days and months since we learned of Rett’s illness—going over the thousands of conversations we’ve had and time we’ve spent with Jim. You build a friendship over moments, and then, without noticing or even truly understanding why, at some point you feel like you’ve known someone since forever, even if there’s no one instance in any of those thousand-odd scraps of dialogue that might indicate some kind of definitive turning point. It’s something ineffable and indefinable, save for the fact that you’ve arrived at a place where know you can say anything, even something stupid or angry, a dumb rant about meaningless Knicks-ian drivel, or to unpack some bit of ugliness that you’d only reveal to those nearest and dearest to your soul. You know in your heart of hearts that the person on the other end of the line/internet connection/sitting across from you in some crappy Boston bar will always respond with empathy or a joke or will cut through the bullshit to tell you what you need to hear, even if it isn’t pretty.

That’s Jim Cavan; a true friend in the most profound sense of the word and an even better father.

It’s unimaginable, the horror of what Jim and his family are dealing with. And we’re all struggling to find the words that might provide a scintilla of comfort, just because he’d do the same for any of us. Such language doesn’t exist, of course. There are no words that can avoid the agony or reversing the awful unfairness of it all. But it is also true that Rett, in his brief time in this world, touched the hearts and lives of so many.

If knowledge and community can one day be the undoing—as they surely must—of brutality and despair, we must first cast our lot on the side of our better angels. That can mean a donation or it can mean support for a grieving parent; it can mean a kind word when a harsh one was available or the constructive spread of knowledge when the dismissal of ignorance would have been easier.

Rett and his parents have been and remain heroic. Let their heroism have ripples. Let their friends be deepened in their resolve. And let this tragedy have no dominion.

— Kevin McElroy, Robert Silverman and Mike Kurylo.

KNICKS WIN! KNICKS WIN!

New Orleans Pelicans 92 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 New York Knicks

When I was in grad school, as part of the coursework, in groups of about five to seven, each week we’d have to collaboratively create a short, 10-15 minute play that was in some way related to whatever it was we were studying.

There was no director and no script, which certainly made for some interesting and heated, artistic squabbles, especially when there were varying degrees of ability to speak French, but on Friday, come hell or high water, you’d present it in front of all the other students and our professors, and then receive feedback, notes, etc.

The really brutal aspect to this was that a singular principle of the pedagogy was that if a piece wasn’t working in the first minute, there was no way to get the audience back. So if the playlet stumbled out of the gate, they’d stop it, the head of the program raising his hand and issuing a curt, oh-so Gallic, sotto voce “bon.”

For eight grueling weeks in a row, the group I was in got stopped. The mini-plays deserved to be strangled in their crib, don’t get me wrong, but after an exhausting five days of rehearsal, fighting and frustration, all I wanted was to just show the whole damn thing, even if I knew it wasn’t very good.

As the theatrical losses mounted, the more I started to resent having to work with Actor X, and seethed at the way Actor Y, as good as he/she was, was cleverly sabotaging the proceedings to make him/herself look good in the midst of a shitstorm. I stomped my feet in rehearsal, or rolled my eyes, and spent many a night in the local café, pounding wine and unleashing buckets of bile.

The absolute nadir came in week eight. We’d made some dumb, twee scene that took place in a park, replete with shitty, stereotypical characters: a homeless person (or, as the French called them, “Un Sans Domicile Fixe” which translates to “Without Fixed Domicile.” Cute, right?), an old man feeding pigeons, a pair of love-struck youths, and so on.

They stopped us about thirty seconds in. I glared, and trudged to the lip of the stage to be told how and why we’d fucked up (again). The head of the program began recounting our litany of failures, when he turned to me and said, “And Robert, what were you doing back there? It was like a bad Charlie Chaplin imitation, but without the talent.”

I stood there, my jaw on the floor, frozen in stunned, abject humiliation. The professor stared right through me, with that particularly French combination of… not anger or disapproval; more boredom and weary resignation that he actually had to suffer through my so-called performance. After what seemed like an eternity, it dawned on me that the above line wasn’t just a particularly cutting rhetorical question; he actually wanted an answer.

So he turned to my colleagues and said, “You saw what Robert was doing. Why didn’t you stop him?”

At that moment, I would have given a limb if a massive chasm had opened up under my feet. I wanted nothing more than to have the world swallow me whole.

Which brings us to the Knicks, and the conclusion of a franchise-record sixteen game losing streak. I’ve never been on a pro team, to be sure, but I do know something about a soul crushing, enervating, godawful string of failure.

You may have noticed, but I haven’t written a recap in a while. It’s more that I’m occupied with other work than a conscious decision, but I’m sure, were the ‘Bockers even halfway decent or even interestingly terrible, like last season, I’d carve out the time to rage, rage against the dying of New York’s light.

This? No, not this. Why relive this? They’ve just been so, so sad. Anything I might write about the game would be redundant. There are no solutions to be had, even if we all know that losing is a good thing, what with bringing dreamy dreams of Okafors and Towns’s. Of course, things that are necessary and good for you are often not at all fun, and can feel like abject torture, especially for the cats that are wearing our fave laundry, many of who won’t be around to enjoy the (hopefully) bounteous end product of all this dumping of manure/purgative fire.

A few weeks ago, I was at the Tarrytown practice facility to write something about Giannis Antetokounmpo. I was listening to Fisher as he took questions from a smallish huddle of the press, and he’s saying all the right things, but it all rings so hollow. If you’ve watched him respond to the same bleak questions in the pre- and post-game show, you know that if nothing else, Fisher has already mastered the coaching art of saying absolutely nothing, and stringing together aphorisms and truisms that, yes, are correct, but bear little resemblance to the reality at hand.

“Our record is not where we’d like it to be for sure. But we’re in the process of restructuring and rebuilding the New York Knicks. We’re going to play a new brand of basketball and we’re going to represent this organization and this city in a different way,” he says with a charismatic but earnest and purposeful seriousness. “So we’ve had to remain diligent about their daily habits and more focusing on the process as opposed to the results. And if you focus on the process and the habits, the results will take care of themselves, and we believe we’re going to get there. We just have to keep working.”

You want to believe him, if only because he doesn’t have a choice. He’s already slung variations on the same theme hundreds of times already this season. There isn’t any time and space for doubt here, if he is ever going to succeed. You can see the pain and the frustration right behind his eyes, but Fisher is going to continue repeating these hoops mantras. To put it bluntly, he’s got to fake it before he and the Knickerbockers have a glimmer of hope of making it.

I’m sure the Knicks are tired of hearing all this right-minded talk as well. Even if they know that the dude holding the clipboard and stoically grinding his teeth down to the nubbin(s) is right, and believe what he’s saying, the interminable string of losses sit there, like an ugly, mocking, foul-smelling elephant in the middle of the court.

While listening to Fisher talk the talk, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own grim, seemingly never ending slog in clown school, and how badly I needed a break, and was praying to all kinds of Gods and supernatural powers to please, by all that is holy and good, please just let this be the end. Today’s win was not particularly good for the tank, and the thought that they’re going to give gobs of playing time to Lance Thomas and Lou Admundson because they bring “energy” instead of letting Early, Wear, Acy and even Aldrich grow, is disheartening at best.

But for fuck’s sake, these guys needed this. I don’t know about you, but I was howling at the screen again as a double-digit lead began to wither like an over-cooked Shrinky Dink, with Galloway throwing up ill-considered heaves as the shot clock ran down, Melo ISO’d to his ISO-tastic heart’s content. Breen, who might as well have been a French Clowning Professor, excoriated Jason Smith for sagging off Ryan Anderson as the latter drained a three to cut it to 84-78, proffering the not-at-all-rhetorical question, “WHY IS HE SO FAR OFF HIM?”

When Melo finally plucked a wide-open Calderon in the corner for what proved to be the game-clinching shot, I gave this bungled and botched group of ‘Bockers a silent, Michael Jordan-ian fist pump.

And I scoured the interwebs for all the joyous, improbable little things—the moments that inevitably would be missed or washed away amidst the despair at yet another dull, rote defeat, like Galloway’s Shannon Brown-y put back dunk.

I hope the Knicks take a moment to breathe and smile and laugh. I hope Langston Galloway has the boxscore of career-best game laminated and mounted on his wall. I hope Melo’s heart burns with pride at playing The Right Way in the final minute. I hope Amar’e runs a replay of the ferocious pick and roll dunk he ran with Larkin over and over again. I hope Tim Hardaway grins at his moments of more-than-solid defense and deft passing. I hope Derek Fisher pats everyone on the back.

Good job, guys. Now get back to tanking and lose like the Dickens to Philly.

Happy Knicks Year! (And Knicks-Clippers Game Thread)

It’s a very Bargnani end to 2014! As we send this sad, no-good, laughable year of ‘Bocker basketball into the dustbin of history, Fred Katz of Bleacher Report, ESPN and a bunch of nifty sites dropped by to give us the skinny on Donald Sterling’s Steve Ballmer’s shiny new team. You can read my and Kevin McElroy’s scorching-hot Knicks takes over at ClipperBlog.

So the Clips snaggled a slightly-used Mike Woodson. While It’s hard to gauge the impact of assistant coaches, your thoughts on his impact thus far?

Like you said, it’s hard to judge assistants from the outside, but if you’re looking for someone who looks like the illegitimate child of Steve Harvey and Mr. Potato Head, Woodson’s your guy.

If you hate eyebrows, Woodson’s your guy.

If you want an assistant who can do the Shimmy, Woodson’s your guy.

Early in the season, there were moments when the Clippers offense looked kind of “Knicksy.” Lots of isolation. Too much mid-range. And there are still moment when that happens, but the Clips are still scoring efficiently and mostly running the same plays. It’s hard t gauge actual value, and the presence of the great Alvin Gentry is surely missed in places, but Woody seems to be perfectly fine.

Blake Griffin’s been up and down this year. What’s going on? Why the increase in midrange heaves?

Doc Rivers has equated it to getting a new toy. You want to play with it as soon as you get it.

There’s no doubt Blake’s mid-range accuracy is improved this year, draining 40 percent of his attempts from that area, per NBA.com. But he’s also jump shooting so freakin’ much, getting away from his strength: finishing in the paint. He’s on pace for just 95 dunks, which seems like a lot, but is a little more than half of his previous career low. We’re not seeing rim-crushing Blake this year, and it’s hard to say exactly why.

There are times when he looks a sixteenth of a step slower or an inch lower to the ground on his vertical, nothing too damning, but subtle enough that it doesn’t allow for those Mozgovian moments. On top of that, he’s been more lax on the boards and on the defensive end.

Griffin is still one of the three of four best power forwards in the NBA. He’s scoring at an efficient and voluminous rate, even if it’s not quite as tidy as usual. He’s solidified himself as the NBA’s most versatile passing power forward at worst and it’s best-passing 4-man at best. He’ll be fine. It’s just been a little quirky.

What a nice, ebullient, probably-not-racist new owner you have. Which life event would you like to have had Steve sitting courtside to scream and sweat at: 1) Your Bar Mitzvah 2) The first time you ever kissed another human being 3) [insert your own option]?

He’d be a wonderful addition to my Bar Mitzvah if only because I’d love a glistening, salty, bald man screaming “Mazel tov!!” from across the congregation as Aunt Debbie and Uncle Mark finish their Aliyah. Conversely, I definitely wouldn’t want him there for my first kiss. I imagine that looked something like a frog stabbing at a fly, but if the fly was pretending that it wanted to be eaten. No one should have to witness the laws of nature dement to such a degree.

More than anything, though, I wish Ballmer were there the first time I successfully used the toilet. My father once told me (and by “once told me,” I mean he said it five minutes ago when I brought this up to him), “Potty training you was one of the worst experiences of my life.” He was elated when the diapers went away. Doesn’t he deserve a friend to celebrate with him after such a treacherous life-altering experience? Who better than Ballmer?

Blazers 103, Knicks 99

Portland Trail Blazers 103 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 New York Knicks
Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 36 MIN | 7-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +8

I mean, sure. Some decent rebounding and post defense, but is still mind-numbingly bad whenever he’s facing a pick and roll. Of course, the STAT-Acy-Melo-Shump-Jose quintet represents the Knicks’ 10th different starting lineup in the first 22 contests. At no point have they gone with the same five for more than two games in a row. Evidently the beat guys asked Fish about this during the pre-game scrume, and he said something to the effect of, “Well, these guys all suck huge, spherical, possibly reproductive organ-like objects so whatevs.” This is true, but…

…it’s a bit of a chicken/egg paradox here. And we all know that Smallball freaking works. To wit, in the second quarter, the wee ‘Bockers outscored Portlandia 18-6. Then the bigguns took over, and they were thwacked 22-12 to end the half. I’m tired of writing about this. I’ve beaten this drum so badly that it’s just a tattered hole/void that I’m screaming into. But yeah, it’s nice to see STAT as a reasonable facsimile of his former self.

Quincy Acy, SF 19 MIN | 2-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | 0

That janky midrange heave, the one that brings Marv Albert to such giddy, effervescent joy, has started going in with greater regularity, but he was positively char-broiled by LaMarcus Aldridge in the high post. When I was a kid, I had a Nerf hoop, and though I got whomped like the Knicks by kids my own age, I would routinely destroy my younger sister whenever we played ball. That’s kind of what it looked like. Evidently the Blazers’ broadcast team had a bit of a larf with this, asking questions like, “Why is Quincy Acy starting?” That’s a rhetorical chasm that no one should ever plunge into, really, if you want to hold on to the last, bare thready of sanity. And yes, I’m fully aware that there isn’t a Bro on the roster that could have done any better.

Carmelo Anthony, SF 35 MIN | 9-19 FG | 4-6 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | -10

There were a slew of deft, soup-cooking jumpers from his office, a few duck-under/spin moves that produced sweet, creamery uncontested layups, a beeyotiful outlet pass to start a fast break or two, and some fine glass-cleaning. The shots down the stretch didn’t fall, as they’ve failed to fall the last four heartbreaking (assuming anyone’s heart is still invested enough in this grim, sad team to be thoroughly fractured [again]) losses, but the shot selection was more or less the same. As a side note, note Melo’s timing on that ultraviolent windmill block move of his is downright impeccable. It always looks like he’s about to lop some unsuspecting dude’s noggin off, even he never does (knock on wood, trees, wood-paneling, plastic wood, and Mike Woodson). He caught a whistle tonight, because, well, it does look like he clocked Lillard upside the head.

Jose Calderon, PG 24 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -14

Wasn’t hitting, and therefore wasn’t playing. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

Iman Shumpert, SG 23 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -14

Sigh. His final numbers are perfectly respectable, but it’s almost hard to describe how badly he’s regressed on D. The rampant doubling/overly aggressive slapping at the ball (yeah, like Melo) strips probably garners more fouls than might be warranted, but now he’s just idling in space or getting utterly hung up on screens, trying to avoid a call. This team has many, many needs but a dude that can fight through a pick might be number two after a center with an operant cerebral cortex, decent post game, and above average hand-eye coordination. Meanwhile, we got to spend the night watching Wes Matthews, who’s pretty much the embodiment of what one might hope/pray Shumpert could eventually be. Even if we are all slowly coming to the realization that that might never occur. Or at least that it won’t occur till after he’s traded. (See Ariza, Trevor)

Samuel Dalembert, C 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -5

In what may have been the Knick-iest sequence of this entire Knicks-ian game, Prigs prigs’d a deft steal, then got tangled up at midcourt. He shot-putted the ball towards STAT, who belly-flopped to snaggled it and pass it to… Sammy? Yeah. So, Dalembert tried to “dribble” up court to beat the eight-second clock, actually succeeding in going behind his back. Thweet! Eight-second violation. It was incopetent and impressive all at once. Kind of like the Knicks!

Jason Smith, C 24 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | -11

Here’s why you shouldn’t play Jason Smith, let alone play Jason Smith with 29 second left in the game, needing a single stop and a rebound: Jason Smith will get outworked by Robin Lopez, such that even if you force a miss, Jason Smith will not corral the rebound. How do we know this is the case? Do we possess the mystical wisdom of the ages? Have we consulted a prophet? An Augur? A Seer? A soothsayer? An Oracle? Or some Telepathic Being? No, it’s because Jason Smith is on pace to record a rebounding rate that would be “the lowest an NBA seven-footer has posted over a full season in 12 years.” Even a “good” Jason Smith outing, where he’s draining midrange jumpers results in a -11. I’ve said this in every recap. I’ll say it again. I’ll try to find more interesting/better ways to say “Jason Smith = Bad,” but if you’d prefer I just draw a photo of a big, white, pimply pair of buttocks and repost it every night, I’m certainly open to the idea.

Pablo Prigioni, PG 24 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +10

The shot that might have tied it was a friggin good look. I’ll take that rest of the Knickerbockers slowly calcifying watching over a Melo dance/shuck while the shot clock dribbles away before launching a contested trey any day of the week and twice on Sunday. And look-y here, it is Sunday! A fun statistic: Over the last three games, Lord Pablo has 13 dimes, 7 steals and a single turnover. That seems good.

J.R. Smith, SG 25 MIN | 8-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +10

Started out draining pcatch-and-shoot treys, then began driving with aplomb. He was the driving force behind the 18-6 spurt that put the ‘Bockers up, 38-31, and the 13-2 goodliness that made it 95-93. All of this beggars the question, “Why the hell did he sit so long in the third?” Yes, he was dawdling or “packing the paint” whilst the Palahniuks were raining hellfire from distance, but so was every other wing. Like my Jason Smith-as-Moby-Dick crusade, I should probably come up with an image to represent shitty rotations. Like a tire iron jammed into a wagon wheel or something. Add your suggestions in the comments.

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG 13 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +6

[INSERT TIRE IRON JAMMED INTO WAGON WHEEL]

Derek Fisher

So, yeah. I do have a problem with who’s playing and why. That said, for those who want to see him go full Bobby Knight and possibly suffer a debilitating aneurysm or have literally steam pouring out of his belly button every time a Knick starts Knicks-ing, I give you this

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I agree. Throwing a conniption fit, just because it’s what you or I might to or might want to do isn’t going to help. Stay the course, Fish Tank. Just fix the gosh-darned rotations, or you’re going to get a very sternly worded email from this humble correspondent.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Something nice to start. CLYDE THA GAWD.

  2. And now for something not at all different: with tonight’s oh-so-close defeat, the Knickerbockerss have lost 13 consecutive games that were separated by five points or fewer heading into the final five minutes of play. Shout out to the great Chris Herring for that fun (not at all fun) factoid. That’s… I don’t even know. This might be a partial reason

  3. Hi LeBron!

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    Yeah, he showed up to chow down on MSG popcorn and send thoughts of an unimaginable opt-out and betrayal of Cleveland (again) dancing through our heads.

    They asked Clyde if he’d ever gone to a game on his day off. His response: “I only went to Knicks games because they paid me!” Same here, bro. (Not at all same here. And Frazier and I are not bros.)

  4. It’s the same as it ever was. Some spurts of triangle-y goodness and scrappy defense, but lots and lots of wide open threes and a 24 point combined disadvantage on threes and free throws. They fell behind by double-digits only to stage a furious comeback that, were it not for a lucky bounce here or there, and a slightly better execution, would have led to glorious triumph. The repetition is what’s so upsetting. That they’re so close to getting over the hump, but some basic, hard-wired flaws make that nigh-impossible. I’m sure the players are miserable, and if Fisher can keep a good portion of the locker room from going totally postal, that’d in and of itself would be a huge accomplishment. If it’s not fun for the fans, just imagine how the players feel. Going to work at 1 Penn Plaza (yes, there are far worse jobs out there that pay far less, but hear me out) must require either a profound sense of faith, either in one’s self or in the divine. Speaking of which. This was scrawled on the team’s whiteboard (via Ian Begley):”The pain that you have been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.” – Romans 8:18
  5. I hope so. It may take till July 1st, 2015, but better days are ahead (Knock on wood, trees, wood-paneling, plastic wood, and Mike Woodson) and we’ll all get together again, chat about the bleak, bad days, and laugh and laugh. Hey, where are you going? Guys? Go Knicks?

Nets 98, Knicks 92

Brooklyn Nets 98 Final
Recap | Box Score
93 New York Knicks
Amar’e Stoudemire, PF 37 MIN | 6-10 FG | 5-7 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | +6

I mean, sure. Why not start STAT. At this point, I’m going to assume that Fisher generates a lineup and subsequent substitution patterns by writing out every Knick’s name on an index card and plops them down on the plush shag carpeting, cranks the heat in his office up to 100 degrees, puts on three heavy nylon tracksuits, does calisthenics till he’s sweating like a…like a…like an Ira, immediately shucks off all his clothes and drops to to the floor, rolling around like he’s having a petit mal seizure. Whichever five cards stick to his perspiration-drenched, gleaming, naked body, that’s who starts.

Anyhoo, Stoudemire did some decent work in the post, but he couldn’t for the life of him snag a defensive rebound or stop Brook Lopez from going full Galactus. In fairness, niether could anyone else in orange and blue.

Carmelo Anthony, SF 43 MIN | 7-22 FG | 5-5 FT | 9 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -3

Some fine, quick work in the pinch post, but he went 1-9 in the 4th, possibly because he never left the game in the second half. This nifty Chris Herring piece outlines a chunk of the ‘Bockers’ failures in close contests, including the fact that Melo had been beasting with the game on the line. But maybe, just maybe, playing him 41 freaking minutes on Sunday (even though he just recovered from a particularly nasty bout of back spasms) and then 43 minutes tonight is going to cause Melo to run a tad low on giddyup by the fourth quarter? But what do I know.

Or maybe if he wasn’t working longer and more brutal hours than a seamstress at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, he’d be able to summon forth the energy to get back on defense instead of engaging in Socratic debate with the goddamn arbiters. Nah, even if properly rested, and perhaps given a nice foot massage, magazine and beverage during timeouts, he’d still be screaming in futility at a ref like he was complaining to an internet provider’s customer service department while the Nyets happily raced up court.

Samuel Dalembert, C 15 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -11

Samuel Dalembert looks like The Leader. Defended Lopez about as well as The Leader too.

leader_detail in

Jose Calderon, PG 32 MIN | 7-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | -8

More boffo shooting and deft passing, but I lost track of the number of times he went under a screen giving Neckbeard Williams plenty o’ room to drain a trey. Then there’s the fact that when the Knicks are able to secure a rebound–it’s a rarity, I know–he scoots upcourt, only to find that he’s the only Knickerbocker that seems to think “running” is swell idea. There seem to be two solutions here:

1) Other people could run.
This doesn’t seem likely. This is a painfully slow team, and the ones that are (Hi Shump!) have no idea what to do when moving faster than 5mph. That includes Melo–possibly the worst finisher in transition of any “star” in recent memory. Timmy Jr. and Sharkin are the exception that proves the rule here, but those two are rarely in the same five as Jose, so…
2) He’ll stop pushing the pace eventually.
Sigh.

Iman Shumpert, SG 23 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -12

I have no idea what’s wrong with him, save for the fact that his early-season hot streak was just that, and this is just a particularly brutish regression to the mean. All the terrible, sloppy habits on D seem to have come along for the ride, along with their terrible remora, a generally pissed-off vibe.

Quincy Acy, SF 10 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -9

The Acy-est moment from tonight’s “Battle for the most annoyingly dull squad in the five boroughs” came in the second quarter, when Quincy barreled into the most Aryan member of the Plumlee clan, flung the ball directly into the seats, and proceed to yap at the offending official like the latter had taken his mother or sister out for a lovely surf n’ turf dinner and then never called her again. At one point, I started chatting with some e-chums on twitter dot com, trying to decide if one had more faith in the success of either A) a wide open Quincy Acy midrange jumper or B) a Jason Smith low post heave. This is the best answer, methinks.

This is pretty good too.

Cole Aldrich, C 18 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -2

Hi Cole! Since my name is printed right there in the Guinness Book as “The World’s Biggest Aldrich stan” it’s only fair that I point out that while he was able to snaggle the occasional bound, he’s more or less useless down low, and will shoot a hook shot no matter what laws of physics must be shredded in order to do so. Somehow, on his lone bucket, he managed to toss up a Tommy Heinsohn special, even though there wasn’t a Small Batch Artisanal Hipster anywhere near his person.

Shane Larkin, PG 18 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +4

I dunno about you, but there’s something about Shane’s threes that make me start praying to any deity I can find, as if the sheer psychic force of my hope-y hopes will give his shot the extra inch that it needs to make it past the front rim. He’s scrappy, in a treacly sitcom kind of way, where you half expect Lou Grant/Ed Asner to waddle down from celebrity row after he’s snatched the rock from a ballhandler in traffic, tousle his hair and say…

Pablo Prigioni, PG 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +8

Pablo Pablo’d. Hit some big threes midway through the fourth, just as New York was mounting the latest iteration of their beloved, long-running play, Oh Now You’re Going to Start Playing With Energy After You’ve Fallen Behind By Double Digits? This Comeback’s Going to Fall Short. You Know It. The Fans Know It. Everyone And Their Brother Knows It. Speaking of which, let me just leave this right here.

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG 14 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -2

He’s not getting his feet set before he shoots and is weirdly lilting to the left when he does go up for a shot. It’s a thing we saw in the preseason way back in 2013. That’s it. No snarky jokes or pop culture references. I diagnosed a basketball thing. I can do that.

Derek Fisher

This is real. He actually went full Woodson. (Never go full Woodson.)

Five Things We Saw

  1. A Nets superfan with a prosthetic leg was booted from the Garden. I’m serious. This isn’t a set up for an arch joke/extended metaphor; they dragged a dude with a missing limb from his seat. Take a look

    And here’s an official statement from the powers that be.

    .

    Which seems a tad overzealous, then again:

    Nice work by Kenny Ducey, a worthy Twitter follow and the Woodward and Bernstein of ProstheticSuperfanMSGLeg-Gate.

  2. At one point, Breen was regaling MSG viewers with an amusing anecdote about Joe Johnson and his fondness for Yoga. The gist of it was, he doesn’t have a personal, private Sramana to assist him in unleashing his kundalini and getting his citta-v?tti-nirodha? on, he just goes to classes willy-nilly, even if that means interacting with the peasantry, including, say, a housewife or two. Clyde’s witty one-liner? “Maybe that’s why he goes.” [rim shot] B35U-5bCQAAKObb
  3. This was a loss like pretty much every other loss in the now five-game losing streak, though I doubt bopping Philly should even count as a “win.” Weird lineups. Listless play, Terrible or even non-rotations on defense leading to wide open threes. And of course, they got absolutely walloped on the offensive glass. Which, yes, gathering in a wayward carom is the last step in completing a successful defensive possession. They’re not close to being good enough to give up multiple looks, so when Bogdan Bogdanovic is literally performing a rebounding drill till he finally puts back a layup, you know things have gone terribly, horribly wrong. And like so many of this team’s problems, I can’t really see a solution. When Prigs is grabbing five boards, and Jose Calderon’s led the team on multiple occasions, that’s not good. More to the point, this is a borun, un-fun team. We were promised fun. We were told that even if there were losses and struggles with the triangle, that it would be the kind of team you could root for. But they’re dull, and hatefully predictable right now. I’m not pining for the migraine-inducing madness of 2013-14, but I’m bored to tears right now. I’m even bored of saying how boring this all is. My boredom is painfully boring and repetitive and dull.

    BORED. BORED. BORED. BORED. BORED. BORED. BORED. BORED. BORED.

  4. So yes, the timeout that wasn’t. Down by three, 14 seconds left on the clock, Melo’s got the ball, and Fisher tries to call time. The ref did look his way, but since he wasn’t screeching and gesticulating like he’d been soaking in bath salts, it wasn’t called. Roll that beautiful bean footage…

    Yeah, it should have been called, but for the love of Pete, this is the second or possibly third time that Fish has tried to call time in the middle of a play. You can totally say that Melo should have known, or–nutty idea–been told to call a TO beforehand. But once it’s reached the point that Melo’s doing his feint-/jab/dance thing at the three point line, it’s too late already. Stop doing that, Fish.

  5. This is our new spirit animal.

    B3av2mSIcAAwQHE

    Embrace it. Not too tightly, mind you. Don’t want to hurt the nice critters. And the LeBrons are next. All hail Tankopia!