2020 All Star Game Thread

Let’s see if the Elam Ending adds any interest to the end of the game. Here is more on an idea that has always been catnip for basketball stats types.


Washington Wizards 114 – New York Knicks 96 – Game Recap (sort of)

Nine years ago I was a contestant at the Italian version of “Who wants to be a millionaire?”. I’ll tell you how it all went down.

I applied for consideration as kind of a joke between me and my girlfriend from that time. I got a call three days after applying: fifteen rapid fire questions about a vast array of subjects, ranging from extra easy to quite hard. I think I nailed 13 of them. “We’ll keep in touch, don’t worry”. And they did. After a week, they booked me a train to Milan to go and take their written test. It was something resembling a mid-term exam: 70 minutes to get 20 multiple answer questions and 12 open-ended ones about everything between “Who wrote *semi-obscure Italian song* and why?” to “Who won Serie A in 1985?”. I passed the test and the very same day there was a meeting with the show authors. Another batch of questions, a bit of small talk, and after 30 more minutes another step was taken towards tv stardom and unimaginable riches. But it wasn’t over! The last challenge before becoming a contestant was to endure a two hour and a half (not kidding) telephone conversation where they asked everything about anything until I was almost physically exerted to the point of dehydration – mind you, it wasn’t stressful; it was physically straining. You weren’t even allowed a bathroom break during the phone call.

Anyway, all went well and I got selected. For a month, nothing happened. Then there came a day when they called me and said “hey, are you free next Wednesday?”. Of course I wasn’t – I already had a vexing job, but whatever, chances like that aren’t a dime a dozen, so I made myself free. I went to Milan again to take part in the actual show, but nothing. The first day I didn’t get called to the main stage. This went on for another three days during the subsequent two weeks (once they even paid for accomodation since they needed for me to sleep in Milan as to already be there in the early morning – but again, nothing). Then, finally, on a fateful June 13th in 2011 I got my chance. I knew I would have: the most they can keep you waiting is five days, and I reached the limit right there. So I just had to “play” that day. And I did.

I won’t bore you with the actual questions, just let it be known that along the way there was this one: “Mordillo the dog eats only on odd days. How many times does he eat in March? (14, 15, 16, 17)”. Authors recommend you left and right to take your time in answering because seeing a contestant thinking out loud makes half the show. I’m good at talking sweet nothings, but I honestly didn’t see the point in treading water on such a stupid question, so I literally answered “Ok it’s 16, it’s good, let’s move on to the next question” before the host even had a chance to say anything. It has to be one of the top-10 most smug moments on national tv to this day.

Anyway, I got to the 10k question with the “phone a friend” lifeline still in hand. At the time, it was the 9th out of 15 questions to get to the top.

The question was this one: “During his adventures, which one of the following characters gets to step onto the island of the Busy Bees? (Pippi Longstocking; Alice; Pinocchio; Winnie the Pooh)”. Now, I didn’t know the answer for sure. Keep in mind that (at least in Italy) 30% of what you win in TV shows immediately gets paid in taxes, so I would have won “just” 7k if I answered correctly using the last lifeline (when you’re out of lifelines you’re already cooked – so that would have been my last step for sure). So I thought: will 7k change my life? No. Did I came here after all that (the selection process, the wait, the weariness) just to win 7k? Also, don’t bees make honey? And aren’t bears totally in love with honey? And isn’t Winnie the Pooh a bear?

I basically went for broke because at that time it looked like the only right thing to do: there was too much “work” done before that, I had no business going back home with a small sum. I had to keep my last lifeline at least for the 20k question. So I went in.

Needless to say, I lost. The correct answer (and using the last lifeline would have been extremely useful: it’s literally the first result when you Google “Busy bees”) was Pinocchio. So I went home with nothing apart from the aforementioned smug moment which will probably outlive me. Oh, I also snuck in a kinda dirty joke that pretty much nobody got. Yeah, I’m a riot.

But you know what? I never regretted it. Part of that is geography and family luck: my socioeconomic milieu is such that 7k really don’t change your life, so I could afford to lose them without blinking. But part of that is the nature of the game. You’re on national TV. If you’re lucky (and good) you probably get to participate three times in your life to such games. You can’t squander the chance just to take home small prizes. I feel like I had to shoot for the moon. I still do. I never regretted the choice.

After watching the last few games, and all in all the last few Knicks seasons, I’m pretty confident that Perry (and to a minor extent Miller) would have gone the last lifeline route. There’s value in self-restraint, and I appreciate it. But this doesn’t look like it. It looks like barely respectable mediocrity. Is this what we should get after 17 losing seasons in the last 20?

Case in point, another game in this terrible season.

Our Knicks fought decently in the first half, going into halftime up by four (while both teams were bricking everything in sight). The effort was uneven, and the minutes were even more than that. To compound the below-average minutes allocation, puzzlingly Miller chose to go with DSJ as the backup PG without getting Frank in as a secondary PG as well. DSJ went on to turn over the ball 4 times in 4 minutes. It was one the most pathetic outings at PG I can remember. Anyway, DSJ wasn’t able to do much damage because he played just six minutes total. I mean, he sucked so much that he actually forced Miller’s hand not to play him anymore during the second half. Even more discomforting, in the second half the wheels totally came off and the Knicks went at first down six, then down 15, and then down 20. They didn’t even try to retaliate: they were content sucking, as if it was their natural state of being. And maybe it just is.

When you lose by 20 at home to a bad team, you’d hope that your guys at least showed something in terms of promise and development, right?


RJ Barrett: 29 minutes, 16 points, 5 rebounds, 0 (!) assists, 5/16 from the field. At least he hit all six of his free throws, but it was a total stinker by the shooting impaired rookie. Here at least I have no gripes, he played a lot.

DSJ: retching

Frank Ntilikina: 12 minutes, 0 (!) points, 1 (!) rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal. When Frank posts line like this one, I can’t help but feel like he’s basically a styrofoam placeholder out there who just happens to move laterally well and in sync with his man. Badly discouraging.

Kevin Knox: 10 minutes, 2 points, literally nothing else. If Frank’s a styrofoam placeholder, Kevin’s a cardboard one.

Mitchell Robinson: 18 minutes (foul trouble but honestly who the hell cares, leave him in and go from there, I’m sick of this foul management bullshit in a lost season), 11 points, 8 boards, 1 block. Also, -9 +/-. Mitch is very good in a vacuum, but a truly good coach has to find a way to make his impact felt on the game, night in and night out. Right now it looks like Miller is trying to get to the grocery store with a Lamborghini. Sometimes you’ll have three free miles on main street and everything will look awesome, but as soon as you have to swerve right you’re tempted to ditch the Lambo for a steady Prius. No, Mike! You have to play Mitch! Don’t be such a (respectable) wuss! Show us you have balls!

Sorry. I know. I always say the same things. But that’s the only thing that should matter now. I like winning. I like competing. But there’s no point in that. So there’s no point in watching these games with an open mind or some sort of hope.

As JK47 said, this season is salvageable to a fan only if you watch the team as farcical. Everything else will end up pulling a Cthulhu on your mind.

So stay strong, enjoy the All-Star rest, and be ready to sport a sad smile everytime this team steps on the court from now to April. And hope for the draft.

Orlando Magic 103 – New York Knicks 105 – Quick Recap

How fitting that we got a brand new KB look for this new Knicks course, devoid of Mills and Mooks and full of picks and Roses!

What’s that? It’s not really a new course? Are you saying that because in the end the team is the same minus a certain SF/PF? Or maybe because we got to win the third game in a row? Or maybe because the young players still don’t play that much? Well, you’re right.

Now, winning every now and then is physiological and winning at home always feels good, but watch this:

– Elfrid Payton, starter: 34 minutes – 1+1 years
– Frank Ntilikina, starter: 14 minutes – 2 years + RFA (plausibly)
– Reggie Bullock, starter: 3o minutes – 1+1 years
– Julius Randle, starter: 30 minutes – 2+1 years
– Taj Gibson, starter: 30 minutes – 1+1 years

– RJ Barrett, bench: 18 minutes – rookie!
– Mitch Robinson, bench: 19 minutes – 3 years + RFA (plausibly)
– Dennis Smith Jr, bench: 15 minutes – 2 years + RFA (plausibly)
– Kevin Knox, bench: 17 minutes – 3 years + RFA (plausibly)
– Bobby Portis, bench: 19 minutes – 1+1, buyout candidate
– Wayne Ellington, bench: 19 minutes – 1+1, buyout candidate

Is this what you want to see in a cellar-dwelling team? Because I don’t. I know, it seems trite at this point, but you can’t really stress enough the fact that if you’re losing and have pretty much no hope for this season, you shouldn’t waste time hunting for wins on the heels of guys who very, very likely won’t be here next year. Randle, I have no qualms with – especially if he plays like last night and “wobbly handle” doesn’t rhyme with his surname. Spot minutes for other guys who don’t actively hurt the team, I have no qualms with (15 minutes for Taj and Bullock can’t be bad, maybe even 10 for Ellington if Dotson and Trier can’t dress and RJ has to be eased back into the rotation). Payton on 28 mpg is okay, he’s the best PG we have and it would hurt not to have someone orchestrating things. From there, go with young and unproven guys and never look back.

Mike Miller is without a doubt someone who understands the basic areas of basketball, and that’s a vast improvement over a few guys we had in the last years and probably over some other guys employed around the league (Luke Walton comes to mind). The problem is that he’s been given 3000 random Lego pieces and he’s (likely) been told “show us you can do something with this!”. While Fizdale would probably have just stacked 25 4×2 studs without matching colors and called it a day saying “I built a futuristic lightsaber, don’t you see? Bzzzz bzzzz, *hand over mouth* Luke, eat what you kill”, Miller seems content building small red houses with flat roofs instead of trying to understand if there are a few pieces that might help build the UCS Millennium Falcon. Mike, we get it: you can do something with what you’re given. But what you’re doing is pointless. Nobody wants to post a pic on himself with 50 identical 3″ x 3″ Lego houses on the ‘gram.

Anyway, the game was pretty entertaining, what with all the stealing (Payton notched 8, a personal career high and just one short of the Knicks record) and three point bombing (Ellington came alive for a brief stint, hitting three triples in a row to cut the Magic lead). And a bit of dunking too, courtesy of Mitch and Randle.

On the positive side, Barrett looked goodish, even if he keeps shooting very very inconsistently: the form isn’t bad, but he never gets off the same shot type twice in a row. Payton looked good again, hitting 7 of 13, thieving 8 balls, dishing 9 assists and generally looking spirited while leading the charge. Randle looked relieved without Mook, but that might just be because the Magic aren’t really suited to defend burly, crafty types – and he blocked two shots in the same quarter! That’s rare. Taj did a very good job – even if that shouldn’t hamper Mitch’s playing time.

On the negative one, Knox was simply awful, missing all of his 5 shots and being totally terrible on defense (Terrence Ross looked like he had bought a Disneyland fastpass to the rim everytime Kevin was on him); Frank didn’t play enough even if he didn’t suck that much; Mitch didn’t play enough even if he looked lost at times, fouled a couple times in a stupid way, and got burned on defense by Vucevic (but the very negative point is that Mitch can’t crack 20 minutes and we don’t actually know why; it might be that Miller’s trying to teach him something, but it’s clearly not working); we played Portis.

Only one last thing (this is gonna be brief, as the Muse said time’s running out): Miller has won 12 games in 30 tries. Fiz won 21 in 104. I can’t still wrap my head around Fiz’s sheer incompetence.

Let’s see where this new CAA-branded course will take us (nowhere good is my guess)!

Knicks Trade Marcus Morris to Los Angeles Clippers

Ian Begley has the trade return.

The Knicks get Moe Harkless, the Clippers’ 2020 first rounder, the Pistons’ 2021 second rounder, the draft rights to Issuf Sanon and the right to swap first rounders next year with the Clippers (that does not include the Mavericks pick that the Knicks own, so I’m sure the Clippers were, like, “Uhmmm…okay, sure, if you really want to. You get you suck, right?”).

That’s a fine return. Good job, Perry!

I mean, Morris’ strong play made him an easy guy to trade, but it’s still a fine return.

During the offseaon, it was clear that the Knicks signed one dude who clearly had trade value and it was Morris. Thank goodness they actually traded him.

Did they only have him to trade because one of the multiple midlevel guys they rushed to sign on the first day of the offseaon turned out to be hurt? Sure, but hey, better to be lucky than not!

Woj Bomb: Knicks, Tired of Being Made Fun of For Letting CAA Run Team, Decide to Let CAA Run Team

Woj reports that the Knicks will be naming CAA super-agent Leon Rose as their next president.

This was a terrible process. This was handled about as poorly as you could handle things. This was way too rushed. The whole thing is very embarrassing for the Knicks…

Buuuuut…I could see it working out. We saw CAA destroy the Knicks back in the day, but their goal then wasn’t to help the Knicks win, but to help their clients get what they wanted. To do so, Rose routinely took Dolan to the woodshed, much like Masai Ujiri.

So Rose is at least actively good at his previous job. Will those skills translate to being an NBA president? No idea, but the odds are much better than Phil Jackson or Steve Mills.

So make no mistake, this is still embarrassing. It just might be a case where they walked ass backwards into something that works.

Sportsnet.Ca: Knicks report a sign Ujiri’s time with Raptors could be winding down

Raptors reporter Michael Grange has some interesting thoughts:

Mills, the longtime lackey of Dolan, got the boot Tuesday morning after having traded Kristaps Porzingis for pennies on the dollar and cap room a year ago, and failing to use that cap room to sign – or even meet with – any significant free agents this past summer, then firing his head coach David Fizdale earlier this season when it became clear the dog’s breakfast of a roster couldn’t compete. Again.

It was noon on Tuesday when well-connected ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Dolan was targeting Ujiri to “ultimately oversee New York’s operations.”

This is – of itself – not news. Similar reports were circulating before the Raptors’ NBA title defence began in October, and more earnestly back in December after Fizdale was fired.

On Tuesday night, longtime NBA insider Marc Stein reported that Ujiri might even bring along Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, whose contract matches the term of Ujiri’s and whose wife – while we’re connecting dots – is from a prominent family in the New York area.

A couple of key nuggets bubbled to the surface back in December, too.

I reported that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment — the conglomerate that owns the Raptors along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, TFC and other holdings — had never offered Ujiri an extension (later confirmed by MLSE minority owner Larry Tanenbaum to Sun Media) and that he was all but certain not to accept one if it were offered before 2021 when his contract is up. The expectation was that Ujiri — who had started off as an unpaid international scout barely 20 years ago — was going test free agency.

Another key detail?

That Ujiri may have an out on the five-year deal he signed in the summer of 2016 — which back then was in part a preemptive strike against the Knicks nosing around — that could allow him to hit the market this coming summer. Whether it’s a formal out or more of a gentleman’s agreement isn’t exactly clear.

But it’s not good business for an NBA team to have an executive of Ujiri’s stature going into the final year of his deal without some assurance about the future beyond that. Forcing him to stay the length of the deal if he’s determined to leave seems pointless.

One way or another, the expectation is Ujiri’s status will be cleared up well before the 2020-21 season.

As one league source put it to me recently: “If something is going to happen with Masai and the Knicks it will happen quick, probably a few days after (this) season is over.”

Taken together, a picture seems clear.

The Raptors haven’t offered Ujiri an extension, he’s determined to become a free agent and he may have an out on his deal this coming summer.

Short answer? Ujiri is gone.

Amusingly, though, Grange notes that there are many in the NBA who think that Dolan is too impatient to wait for this deal to happen and that he’ll just barrel through and hire someone else.

It’s funny that the rest of the league is also aware of Dolan’s Razor.

DRed for POBO!

Knicks Fire Steve Mills

According to multiple sources:

The New York Knicks parted ways with president Steve Mills, the team announced Tuesday.

General manager Scott Perry will oversee the basketball operations in the interim, the team said.

“Steve and I have come to the decision that it would be best for him to leave his role as president of the New York Knicks,” Dolan said in a prepared statement. “We thank Steve for his many years of service to our organization and look forward to continuing our relationship with him as part of our board.”

Well that’s nice, isn’t that special?


Someone in their mid-40s asked me the other day if he will see a Knicks championship in his lifetime. I said Dolan is 64, and he’s got at least 10-20 more years running this team. At that point, it’ll be a coin flip if the next owner is competent or not.

I have zero-faith Dolan will ever turn the team around. Absolutely none. The name Masai Ujiri will be floated by columnists looking for clicks. But the Knicks’ will hire someone else, as they always do. The great ones never come. Not Kyrie. Not Durant. Not LeBron. Not even LaMarcus Aldridge nor Greg Monroe. We get stuck with the J.R. Smiths and the Clarence Weatherspoons.

In the last 22 years, Dolan has made a toxic environment that will repel the best GMs and free agents. Who would want to work for him? Would you? Think about all the stuff that has gone public, and imagine what hasn’t. If a job in your field opened up and Dolan is your direct boss, would you take it?

Yup me neither.