Detroit Pistons 104 – New York Knicks 114 – Half-season grades

Guys, rejoice. This might be the last time we’ll be over .500 until 2021-22 opening night, so let’s the warm feeling sink in for, like, twenty seconds before indulging in some precious self- and Thibs-loathing.

I mean, who would have guessed that at the 37 games mark we would have won nineteen games? I penciled the 2020-21 Knicks at 24 wins and even felt a bit optimistic, so even considering the “easy” stretch in February/early March I would have guessed 14 wins tops. Exceeding that total by 4 wins is sincerely impressive, and if falls squarely on the shoulders of a plethora of people, which go by these names: Randle, Julius; Thibodeau, Tom; Barrett, Rowan Jr.; the whole coaching staff; and so on until we get to Elfrid Payton who probably deserves some credit but will only get the brunt of my totally biased criticism.

Instead of recapping last night valiant but ultimately stolid effort (starters played big minutes, Thibs exhibited very little patience with the second unit, Julius had a monster game, Noel played great but has no hands on offense, Frank hit three threes in less time than it takes to warm up a hot pocket and then did nothing at all, Quickley sucked big time, Obi looked like a giddy japanese tourist doing that annoying thing where photograpical perspective gets used to give the illusion you’re the only thing impeding the Pisa tower’s ultimate crumble-down), I’d opt to assess people at the All-Star Game milestone, putting a few numbers here and there just to give a perfect Italian public employee impression: looking busy and saying mostly coherent things but secretly hoping that someone else does the real hard work so I can get my 11AM cappuccino.

Without further Bob McAdoo, here’s what I think of the 2020/21 season so far:

– Julius Randle: last year a diamond in the dough, this year a frigging basketball lean and mean machine, who gives you consistent star effort night in and night out and is shooting lights out from deep (seriously, 40.8% from three on 169 attempts is huge and doesn’t cry out for regression anymore – even if, yeah, let’s bank on the fact that at the end of season that percentage will be around 37%, which is still amazing). Last night I took personal offense at the Garden chanting “MVP” to Julius. MVP chants are acceptable only in three cases: 1) you are really an MVP candidate, which Julius is not, let’s be honest; 2) you’re a blossoming star in year 2-3 of your NBA experience and the crowd is giving you a nice confidence boost (I’m perfectly ok with Quickley getting MVP chants); 3) you’re sort of a folk hero because you can’t really play star-level basketball but give 110% effort on the court and deserve some happiness (I’d be perfectly ok with Taj Gibson getting MVP chants) or you’re a disgraced former highly touted project and you’re playing for once at the top of your and everybody else game (the Michael Beasley against Boston experience). Since Julius is none of those things, and has instead been a great pro and probably a top-30 player this year, those MVP chants are disrespectful. Appreciate him for his contributions and don’t expose him to post-ironic trivial affections displays, come on. Grade: A.

– RJ Barrett: it looked like all hope was lost with his first 10-ish games, where he couldn’t buy a bucket from deep apart from the first Indiana game, but how things have changed with him. We probably have to accept that his ceiling is somehow lower than it looked when he went to Duke, but a 44/35/73 shooting split isn’t so bad for a player still learning to zero-in on his spots on the court on offense. If I had to bet on his peak, right now I’d say left-handed prime Tyreke Evans who actually defends. It’s a nice thing to have in house at a kind of controlled cost. His .067 WS/48 is at least adequate for a buddying second year player. He has also displayed the very encouraging skill of not getting conditioned by a cold streak. Grade: B-.

– Immanuel Quickley: <drooling> *what the hell is this thing where I swear that I won’t fall irrationally in love with the next promising Knicks rookie and then I inevitably do so as soon as there’s a glimpse of talent in sight* <stops drooling> If the 2020 draft was held today, there’s no doubt that IQ wouldn’t last past the 8th pick, so we’re just keeping alive the tradition of the lower draft pick being our actual lottery pick and viceversa. Seriously, after LaMelo, Wiseman, Hali, Edwards, (maybe) Patrick Williams and (very maybe) Isaac Okoro who would ever not draft Quickley? Dude has a 0.6 VORP on a .500+ team as a rookie while shooting 39% from the field. That is some serious shit, because if he ever figures how to up his FG% to 42 with the same shot chart and doesn’t forget how to shoot freebies you really have a premium offensive weapon here. I would be very curious to see him in a starting role here and there, but some warts aren’t excisable from Thibs at all, so you take the cool record with the stupid decisions about young players. Grade: A- (for a rookie. Otherwise it would be a B-, I expected more from him on defense. Also, likely an A+ for Kenny Payne who, if I had to put money on the line, would bet was the insider who told Rose IQ was the guy once Maxey was off the table).

– Mitchell Robinson: it’s a bit weird to see that smoking hot babe who made your  sixteen year old head turn everytime she walked down the street becoming a still beautiful but less dazzling adult woman and to find out you like her even more for that. Getting older means learning that the trade-off between dependability and spectacularity always favors the former. I’m way less excited about Mitch than I was two years ago, but at the same time I have way more faith in him being an integral piece of our next playoff contender. He showed the ability to impact the game even when the numbers aren’t there, and opposing offenses look like they fear him more now than when he was a basketball Doc Ock lookalike. I still think it’s disturbing that he never employs anything but dunks and tip-ins on offense, but as long as Payton and Rose are our PGs it’s hard to blame him for sure. Anyway WS/48 and VORP still vouch for him, and the fact that he was able to withstand 28.8 MPG limping from injury to injury until his hand finally caved in confirms he’s a legit building block, even if he’s just Tyson Chandler redux. Grade: B.

– Elfrid Payton: look, it’s not his fault that his game is so ugly to watch. He’s a basketball player whose gifts are basically wasted in this era (and maybe previous eras as well? where would Payton be able to go in the handcheck era?) but who has found Thibs’ trust because… I honesly don’t know. Among regulars, he’s the one with the lowest WS/48 (.041, not that awful when you’re the worst of your team) and lowest VORP (-0.2. Guess who’s the other “regular” with a negative VORP) and so it looks like the dreaded eye test goes hand in hand with cold, cold numbers. His AST% is virtually the same as IQ’s and more than a little lower that Julius’ and Rose’s. He’s basically the basketball version of the owner’s son, so… he’s our James Dolan? I don’t understand. Thibs’ insistence in playing him above IQ or even – gulp – Rose is dumbfounding, but let’s chalk it up to Thibs being Thibs, let’s curse under our breath and move on. Grade: D-

– Obi Toppin: how is it possible that year after year after year our scouting department/GM staff commits the same mistake over and over again? If you ran a KB consensus before the draft, everyone would have posited that, well, Toppin wouldn’t have been the right choice for this team like, at all (and that was true for Knox, and so on). How dumb does a bball lifer to know way less than our roundtable of brilliant but unexperienced minds? Obi’s advanced numbers aren’t even that bad, and you wonder what would he deliver if given the chance to play at least 20mpg on a longer leash, but as soon as you catch him move on the court… something’s off. He’s got IQ’s totally opposite demeanor: he doesn’t look like he belongs and moves so awkwardly that it resembles that kid in seventh grade who had randomly located growth spurts so he always ended up banging his knees on the desk because he still isn’t used being 5″ taller. Even Obi’s shot is awkward (and all-around bad, 29% from three is Josh Smith territory). If I had to bet, he’ll follow Knox’s steps and be on the fringe by 2024. I would advise trading him, but I’m rooting for him because the effort is there and he looks like a great kid. Grade: C–

– Derrick Rose: ouch. It hurts to give DRose a grade, because I frankly hoped I would have never seen him again in a Knicks uniform, but alas, if Thibs could he probably would try to sign Kirk Hinrich to play point for us. I don’t dislike DRose as much as I thought I would, maybe because he’s shooting an unsustainable .455 from three and that buoys his mediocre offensive performances or maybe just because he’s better than Elf and, well, heavy rain is better than a tornado. Still looking for a starting PG one could root for, and hoping that he’s not resigned next year. Grade: C.

– Nerlens Noel: diuhvsvbasviuva abvfd vcaclbujavdfc adcdcvadfcd còl. Sorry, I’ve tried to write a sentence with the same technique Nerlens uses to grab the ball in the offensive sets. I really liked the Mitch-Nerlens tandem because while they are very similar in concept, but they also provide a nice change of pace from one another. Nerlens is less menacing in space on defense but has a majestic knack to stop fools at the rim (and swipe everything in sight like a drunk uncle participating a bit too enthusiastically at his nephew’s pinata party), so it’s not like opposing offenses can really game plan for both in the same exact way. Having him at that price has been a boon and I wish we would resign him for multiple years, assuming he doesn’t go space buffet on us one day or another. Grade: B.

– Reggiec Bullorks: after a hot start got derailed by an injury, Burks has been pretty meh. An offensively capable meh, but still meh. Bullock is meh since the dawn of time, save for the spare 5/7 from three game. They’re perfectly fungible and perfectly forsakeable. Grade: C- (but if we have to keep one, let it be Burks)

– Nick Fragilina: you really can’t bet on this horse. As much as Frank looks improved (while still being mostly made from intangibles and dreamy eyes), he was listed as questionable for yesterday. Obscillating between unusable and useless, you wish you could pencil him in for 12MPG but reality always breaks in exactly at the ecstatic peak of a reverie, exactly like a challenge called on a single point (like, Duane Casey, what the fuck? Who calls a challenge to negate an and-one in the second quarter? You ruined a beautiful fantasy and I hate you for that). Let’s trade the lad and set him and us free. I can’t bear to break my heart even once more. Grade: INC.

– Austin Rivers: the proverbial flash in the pan. Remember Quivers? Yeah, life goes on very fast. It’s amazing how his advanced statistical profile resembles Elf’s but one is totally dogged and the other one is thrust back in the starting five as soon as he becomes available. Grade: D-

– The coaching staff: solid B+. We’d like to see more flexibility, but you can’t argue with results.

Now that we’ve wrapped a winning half-season, let’s brace for what’s next and let’s hope we don’t execute one or more bad trades. See ya!

NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Reserves Predictions

We’re only a couple of hours away from learning whether Randle makes the All-Star Team. I think his chances are good, but let’s do some predictions for the rather difficult Eastern reserves (lots of good options out there).

And, of course, it is all polls!

Will Julius Randle be chosen as an All-Star reserve?

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Will Domantas Sabonis be chosen as an All Star reserve?

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Will Zach LaVine be chosen as an All-Star reserve?

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Will James Harden be chosen as an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve?

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Will Jayson Tatum be chosen as an All-Star reserve?

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Will Ben Simmons be chosen as an All-Star reserve?

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Will Jaylen Brown be chosen as an All-Star reserve?

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Will Trae Young be chosen as an All-Star reserve?

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Will Tobias Harris be chosen as an All-Star reserve?

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Atlanta Hawks 112 – New York Knicks 123 – Not really a recap

Oh hey. I see you spent spare parts of some threads in the last ten days discussing about what is a rom-com and to decide if a movie falls squarely into the category or not. Well, I’d like you to bear with me.

You know that classic movie (but ultimately real life) situation where there’s a guy/girl who’s really close to you, who you know well because for a time you grew up with him/her, who is head over heels for you and wouldn’t want anything more from life that spend time with you and give you all of his attention and heart and caring, who some of your friends keep talking about because in the end everyone knows you’re destined to be together, but who you keep rejecting because s/he’s probably too much of a plain Jane for you and you just feel like s/he couldn’t ever surprise you, and what’s a love story if not a fucking disaster but chock-full of unexpected little joys? And you know how in the end people find themselves in weird predicaments and, like, give a shot to this poor guy/girl because, I don’t know, maybe they just need someone to take them across the shitty pond that’s been their life for the last few years, and they find that being with a stand up lad/lass who wears his/her heart on a sleeve and genuinely has your well-being as first priority isn’t that bad of a living?

Well.

Dear Knicks fans, let me introduce you the guy you met in seventh grade but, come on, he was just so basic and kinda boy-scouty: Tom Thibodeau.

***

“Oh dear god, why does he have to always let the toilet seat up?”

“Can she really eat every day the same BLT and nothing else? Is this obliviousness or is she that stubborn?”

“Fuck I hate going every sunday to my parents-in-law”

“But in the end this person makes me happy for now, so why should I second guess everything?”

***

You see, there’s something unsettling in seeing someone you give the keys to your heart not completely fuck up your life in some convolutedly stupid manner. I mean, the quirks will always be there. The befuddling choices. The letdowns. But we’re human, and that’s what we do. We disappoint people. The thing is, you fight and claw and gnaw until you find someone that among the disappointment genuinely cares for you.

If I had a dollar for every time I wrote “it’s still early” on Knickerblogger, I’d probably be 100+ dollars richer, but bear with me again. It’s still early, but there’s nothing not to like about the Derrick Rose acquisition for now (on purely basketball terms. I still have a super hard time solving the ethics conundrum of trying to root for someone who probably never understood the meaning of “consensual”). And I really, really don’t think many of us reacted to the Rose trade thinking that Thibs would not have screwed everything out of sheer commitment to his old pals. Well, guess what: Thibs didn’t screw us up. Rose and Quickley work fine together. I actually have more faith in Quickley after the Rose acquisition than before. And that’s a surprising development. Not as surprising as the day when Payton will finally move to the bench or to an entirely different team, or we stop playing the same guys together every single time, but…

***

“Dear, I found this old gramophone in that cabinet. Do you mind if I try to fix this and use it to play my old vynils?”

“(muttering under your breath) Yeah sure, as if I never tried to fix it before”

“What the hell, what’s this amazing music coming out of the basement?”

“I told you I would try to fix it. It was worth the try”. 

***

Ah, good Julius. It’s not the points. It’s not the threes. I mean, yes. It’s also that. But the really important part is the fact that 4 out of 5 nights, you know that good Julius will show up and you will have a star on the court. Not a superstar, mind you. 2020-21 Randle is, at best, a top-30 guy in the league. But top-30 is freaking good. Especially for a guy who, after last season, many of us would have traded for a bag of chips and a 1975 xeroxed, black and white Clyde Frazier trading card. Watching Julius last night you could have only come away from the game thinking that a) Julius was the only surefire all-star in both rosters and b) Randle would have found a way to win the game no matter what, a-la real stars in the League. This is a stunner. I hated Randle’s guts last season. Now I’d be heartbroken the day they’ll trade him. And his teammates just, like, genuinely like him. That’s the best endorsement that a team’s top dog can ever get. And how could you not credit Thibs and the coaching staff for that?

***

“Sometimes I look at her and wonder if I’m just settling down with a rando because I’m scared of being lonely”

“Dude, you’re crazy. You’re with her because your life has gotten unbelievably better since she’s around”

“That’s reassuring. But I still hear my inner voices. I’m unsettled”.

“So be it. But at least, at the very least, live in the moment. Enjoy what you two have. If it ever fades away, that way you won’t have regrets, at least”

***

Here’s a dirty secret. Not even once have I looked at Tankathon since the season began. I don’t care about losing. I don’t care about winning. I get angry watching Payton and Bullock play, but I’m kinda getting over it. I’m enjoying the season, and we’re 40% in. I still can’t shake the feeling that the other shoe’s gonna drop, but I can’t stop drowning into this entertainingly gritty fairy tale. This is what happens when you have your second fiddle being a no-nonsense, kinda inefficent guy who bullies his way as a living. When RJ scores 21, it gives you all the thrill you get from winning a bet on snail race. You’re happy and exhausted.

***

Is he the one?”

“I don’t think so. This feels too grounded, too logical, no butterflies in the stomach.”

“Well you know what? Maybe he’s the one. Because being the one is being the boring one. The bad breath in violet pijamas one. The squeeze my pimple one. Nobody shows this in the movies, and we’re brought to think that love is that intoxicating feeling you get when you know someone new. That’s not love. That’s falling in love. Love is boring. And you know what happens when you find it? You find that boring, well, is good because it’s enduring”

***

As much as I never looked at Tankathon, I also never felt ecstatic after a win this season. Maybe it’s the pandemic thing. Maybe it’s because I’m tired. Maybe it’s because sometimes I find myself bored to death even up by 15. But you know what? In a few years we’ll look back to the first months of the 2020-21 season, and we’ll be grateful. I couldn’t have asked for more from this. Especially because once in a while, and not that rarely even, you’ll have a Quickley eruption. A Toppin outrageous dunk. Two minutes of Noel defensive dominance. An Atlanta Hawks thorough beating.

Even boring, sometimes, is beautiful.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers 81 – New York Knicks 102 – Game Recap

Has there ever been anything more Thibodeautical (boom! there you go, out of thin air) than a team scoring a meager 3 points in the first 6:49 minutes of a game (more than 1/8 of a full match) but then keeping its opponent to 33 points for the first half and 81 at the final buzzer en route to a 21-point win?

The game was totally fugly in the first quarter, but somehow someway the Bockers came out up by 2 (19-17) at the end of the first 12 minutes. They did it by playing good defense and scrapping here and there even during that initial brutal stretch when nobody, and when I say nobody I say “Julius Randle didn’t even put up a shot until 3:50 remaining in the second quarter”, had the slightest idea about how an NBA offense should look like. Seriously, those first six minutes looked like I always figured the early Trump administration days went for the White House titular staffers: guys running around tumbling and fumbling pretty much everything while asking themselves exactly what sin were they atoning for to endure the growls of an elder lunatic (hey Thibs this is just a joke, you’re a lunatic and a psycho but you seem definitely well-intentioned and capable). From the second quarter on, the team looked like it was gelling under the tutelage of the mercurial Quivers backcourt, the sheer core strength of a certain RJ Barrett and a quiet overseeing effort from Julius Randle, ending the half up 47-33.

The second half was just the Knicks treading water, always keeping the Cavs at a comfortable distance like an older brother putting his hand on the little one’s forehead to playfully exert his gerontocratic dominion, fueled by spectacular play by Immanuel Quickley, steady leadership by Randle and a couple more Barrett blows. It was as easy as could be, and for a night I’m happy to report that there’s pretty much nothing to report.

The good:

– That is, if a supposedly unheralded rookie scoring 25 points efficiently and kinda sustainably in a good win is nothing to report. Immanuel Quickley (25 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast, +19 +/-) is not ready to be dependable every single night, but 20 games in it’s getting harder and harder not to bet a lot of dough on him being a 10+ year NBA veteran down the line, and maybe something more than that if things break the right way. Tonight he had it all: a cold stretch in the first half (where he still scored on a velvet soft bank floater and a three pointer), a nice 20 points second half with a torrid 14 points in the fourth quarter, a boatload of swag, a few nice dishes, and the general attitude of a guy who’s toying with opponents and maybe his future. It self-belief is half the way, IQ’s direction is the right one without a doubt. Also: an and-one dunk over Jarrett Allen and (gasp!) a mid-range jumper instead of floater. 16 games onto his NBA career, he’s posting a .124 WS/48 while scoring 11.6 ppg in under 19mpg, and being mediocre-to-adequate on defense, which is pretty good for a rookie, again. I will eat crow until I die about the Quickley pick, and I’m none the sadder about it.

– Is it Paul Pierce? Is it Andre Iguodala? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a carriage waiting to become a pumpkin again? Whatever he is, there’s no denying that RJ Barret (24 pts, 4 rebs, 2 ast, +27 +/-) has visibly perked up in the last 10 or so games. His shot selection has gotten better, he looks like he’s playing in the flow, and you don’t even notice anymore his lack of burst because he’s usually pummeling guys on his way to the rim. Mind you, he’s still missing a few shots at the cup because of weird angles or because he still lacks that capricious subtlety he needs to add to get to a higher level, but at the very least he’s being consistent. I really like the fact that he’s not hoisting shots just to see what happens anymore. While his early season horrid shooting slump still affects his season TS% and even tonight he didn’t shoot that well (8 for 19) his peripheral numbers are usually good enough to have him getting close to the .100 WS/48 promised land. Now, imagine if only he could play with a point guard who can shoot.

The bad:

– Apropos of that, it’s time to have a serious conversation about Elfrid Payton (2 pts, 1 reb, 3 ast, +2 +/-). I get it. He’s a useful NBA player here and there. But he has to be the mother succubus of all the eye-gouging with a screwdriver temptations, dear god. His overall game is so ugly it could easily get a part on a David Lynch side project. I won’t argue about the fact that his defense probably hindered a bit the starting Cavs backcourt, but if that was enough to start for an NBA team Frank would have secured a starting spot as soon as he was back from his injury. I don’t think you can straight up cut you starting PG (especially if there are no signs at all that he’s not liked by the team) but god, a demotion should really be in Elf’s future. And that’s even if you, like me (and Clyde!) think that IQ shouldn’t start yet. NBA history is full of starters with little to no contribution to their team’s offense and empty box scores, but usually winning teams who find themselves in such a predicament employ that strategy because the chemistry is palpable. Here, I don’t feel any chemistry. Elf’s just a placeholder who got jinxed by the malignant god of basketball shooting, leaving him the king of the jumpshot point guard bridesmaids. Always the shooter, never the hitter.

Fun-sized bits:

– As you know, usually I watch the game in the early morning. This means I can see how much the game will last and that gives me intel enough to infere if it’s gonna be a blowout, a triple overtime game or that weird occasion where players incur in 32 flagrant fouls. NBA League Pass threw me a curveball this time: as soon as I went to watch the game, a 3:04 hours video duration popped up. I was ready for a double overtime game, and while that soothed the pain during the early scoreless minutes it gave me a bit of anxiety while up by 20 in the fourth. I was envisioning a catastrophic letdown. Well what do I know, the NBA League Pass people this time decided to include the Thibs interview and the full Pidto-Wally segment after the game. I think I blew my once in a lifetime chance to see something good happen when all signs don’t point to it on this stupid game.

– Can I say Julius Randle, leader? It’s easy to say how a bad apple can ruin the whole basket, especially if that bad apple is the fucking coach.

– What the heck is up with Mitch? “One day they’ll let me play 100”, he wrote in a tweet he deleted after a while. Who are they? Is this affecting his play? I didn’t like his game last night, and I wouldn’t be pleased at all if Mitch developed some drama. Still early but something to keep an eye on.

– Watching Austin Rivers play is like playing microwave lasagna roussian roulette: only after taking a bite you’ll know if it’s too hot, too cold, just right or plain horrible tasting. This time Rivers was instrumental in keeping us afloat in the first quarter, and after that he became almost forgettable (which is still, I guess, a part of the good Austin Rivers experience).

– Obi Toppin : Melvin Capital = IQ : Gamestop

– No but seriously, while I like Obi’s effort, how in the hell was he projected to be a top 5 pick? The guy has some Shelden Williams/Thomas Robinson vibes as of now.

And for today it’s all! Now watch me collapse under the weight of the Italian government attempt to give a shot in the veins to the economy via the building restoration market, which will give me triple the workload of a normal year (if Max is reading this, we’re talking about Superbonus 110%; for all of you non-italians, the government is actually paying back people who choose to put thermal coatings on their buildings, and I’m supposed to manage this process for 20+ buildings under my care).

 

NY Post: Elfrid Payton clinging to Knicks starting spot with stellar defense

From Marc Berman:

Like a cat’s nine lives, Elfrid Payton has survived all point-guard comers to hold onto the starting job for a second straight season — even turning back surging rookie Immanuel Quickley.

Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina have proved no competition — each suffering early-season injuries to eliminate them as contenders. Each will be trade bait at the March 25 deal deadline.

Austin Rivers overcame a groin injury that put him out of the preseason and the season’s first four games. After a hot start, Rivers has leveled off.

Quickley keeps on charging, but Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after Sunday’s victory in Boston that Payton will remain the starter over the rookie because of one thing: defense.

It’s a new thread!

Brooklyn Nets 116 – New York Knicks 109 – Game Recap

Oh, so you thought I wrote only when the Knicks won? Nah, if that was the case there’s a good chance I’d write again in mid-February. Sometimes I have a hour or so to allocate to Knicks writing, sometimes I don’t. This time I do, and it won’t be pretty.

I wish I knew who flipped the switch and what kind of switch it was, but since the last notch in the W column the Knicks have lost 4 straight (well whatever, we kinda expected the Knicks to be 5-7 or worse at this point) and have done so in a very dispiriting fashion. Don’t get fooled by the final score: the Knicks were down 18 with less than 3:30 to play in the fourth. It was a clear specimen of fake, belated and deflated comeback on the heels of the fact that the Nets had understandably checked out. Yeah, Durant got inserted back in the game with 17 seconds to go but I don’t think that counts as a moral victory: if you have a devastating offensive weapon who has to be accounted even 40 feet from the basket and who’s automatic from the stripe, you don’t even have him to break a sweat. You just deploy him in his sweet pajamas and just go along with it as you’re nonchalantly eating away your petit patisserie because it’s suddenly 300% easier to ensure the win. So yeah, no moral victories here.

And look, there’s not much to say about the game either: after a sloppy but well-fought first quarter, that saw the Knicks going down just by one at the buzzer (but only because Randle was hitting from the outside, and you know that’s kind of an outlier), the Nets pulled away because, well, the Knicks were characteristically shooting sideways and quite uncharacteristically – at least based on the first two weeks – defending like they were Abercrombie and Fitch models outside a store: they’re there to look qutie athletic and they’re more likely to step away as soon as you make a move to go inside. At the half, the combined shooting performance from the field of our starting guards and wings was 2 for 19.

During the third the two teams exchanged blows, only the Knicks were already down 16 so it was like watching a goblin and a dragon trading dice rolls hitting each other for 4HP every round: it’s clear who’s gonna win and it still looks like the dragon isn’t even trying while the goblin is laboring like hell just to put a dent on a marginal dragon scale. One sequence told the tale: Randle huffing and puffing and contorting for fifteen seconds and then jumping and gathering his legs like a shrimp interpretative dance and finally shooting just to hit a jumper, and ten seconds later Durant, effortless as ever, hit a midrange two with the same difficulty with which I hit the +30s button on NBA League Pass as soon as a shooting foul is whistled.

The fourth was exactly like the third until 3:30 to the end; the Knicks started eating away at the gap but it was clear that they wouldn’t go nowhere, it was just like those restoration plans that transform old, ugly suburb barracks into fake new, still ugly suburb condos.

In a word: meh.

Oh and I didn’t even touch the subject of the day: the Nets were depleted thanks to their dubious, at least to me, Harden trade. They were forced to play some guy named Reggie Perry 22 (goodish) minutes and paisà Chris Chiozza 24 minutes. KD was playing his first back to back in two years. Bruce Brown was their starting point guard. I mean, KD is playing like his injury almost never happened, but apart from him and Joe Harris everything else should have been jetsam and flotsam, but alas, they thoroughly dominated us.

The good, in haikus:

The energy gone
Still put on thirty points here
Gawd-fugly to watch

Ignored by his mates
He learned not to foul at last
I feel bad for him

The bad, in haikus:

What noise does it make
When your hard to love point guard
Hit nothing but rims?

Thibs gave him the nod
and HERE COMES AUSTIN RIVERS
Results are so bad

Boredom-sized bits:

– During the third quarter RJ experienced a scoring surge (he started 0-for-5 but ended the game 7-for-15), but amusingly enough it didn’t translate to team success. It’s almost like RJ scoring points have a 0 R-squared effect on how the team plays. That isn’t necessarily bad news, but his skills package still doesn’t make any sense with this roster. Still, a kinda good showing all in all by the sophomore: 20 points, 3 boards, 5 assists. Quite bad on defense, though.

– For such a supposedly capable shooter, Immanuel Quickley’s shot had a bad form from the arc. When he shoots from three it looks like he makes the ball roll up half his right palm and only then he releases it. That shot has a skinny kid at YMCA vibe. Not a totally bad performance per se, but since we need someone, sooner or later, to replace Payton at the helm, if only to preserve our collective sanity in watching a coherent offensive unit, this still won’t do. But it’s good to know the guy can score 19 in 22 minutes in just his 8th NBA game.

– What’s the matter playing (?) Obi 57 seconds? Was Obi dying to tell his grandchildren one day “hey you know what in my second NBA game I played against Kevin Durant”?

– Is Kevin Knox suddenly our best shooter? I can live all day with Knox shooting 6 corner threes per game. Everything else, eh.

– A very undervalued effect of putting on the court so many non-shooters is that when you can’t buy a bucket the overall intensity diminishes by a lot. You could see it in full effect during this game: the effort was never there. No momentum whatsoever, and so many botched defensive possessions. We direly need to shake things up and put more shooting in the starting five. I would try to see what happens putting IQ-token 2 guard-RJ-Knox-Mitch for long stretches. Not saying they should start. But I’d love for that unit to play consistently together, even swapping RJ with Randle if need be.

– Do you really like the Nets trade? I don’t know. Offensively speaking, they look like they have the most firepower anyone has ever had in 75 years of NBA. But I don’t like the characters and I don’t like the chemistry. I also don’t like giving up Jarrett Allen. I think Houston came out very well (not a fan of Dipo there but whatever), I think Indiana did good and I don’t know why Cleveland was the one to get Jarrett Allen but good for them. But if you ask me, unless Sean Marks pull a few championship specials and Steve Nash finds a way to stagger that Big 3, the Nets are due for a few ECF losses. At best. Now, if they flip Irving for some defensive talent…

– Thibs’ well-timed TOs are less a thing than before. Everything’s slipping these days. Body language is bad. Did something happen in the locker room? We were supposed to suck, but this can’t be just a reality check. Something must have been the decisive spark. But what was it?

So many questions, so little time. So much suckitude.

Until next!