I’m really at a loss.
I’m out of words. Or at least funny/clever ones, or something that might bring a churlish grin to the lips of a fan base that seems destined to spend now until April (the next few years? Longer?) grinding its collective molars down to nubbins/the nerve.
Early on, (Or at least halfway through the 2nd quarter), after a 14-0 run put the Celts up 17, and we all assumed they were going to get destroyed, when it looked like the Knicks (and the Celtics, really) were just going through the motions, like they were sub-par extras in a movie about basketball, and the director seemed to be asking for the same take of a listless ISO-jumper I had an inkling—a plan.
I was going to entirely half-ass the recap. Something along the lines of:
Andrea Bargnani is a basketball player from Italy. Sometimes he’s good at hitting pick and pop jumpers. He’s not very good on defense or on the boards. Sullinger scored a lot against him. He didn’t pass the ball to open people in the fourth quarter and didn’t take shots. Maybe he was scared. I don’t know. He has a funny face and the blue mouthpiece makes it look funnier. Grade, C+
Get it? The Knicks didn’t try so I won’t either. Ha-ha. But that felt cheap or hack-ish. And it’s neither that high-larry-ous nor particularly accurate. They did wake from their somnambulistic, torpid state and play some solid ball. (If that idea just plain tickles your funny bone, don’t fret—I’m sure they’ll sleepwalk through another game soon.)
From the 5:58 mark of the 2nd till 10:32 was left on the clock in the 4th, they outscored the Bostonians 48-20, to take an 11-point lead. They ran the offense, got a slew of clever buckets from Melo, Prigs was running the team like the seasoned pro he is, finding open shooters galore of high screens, and once again, they received a sepia-toned performance from STAT; 18 pretty points derived from elbow jumpers, deft low post moves, and pick and roll finishes
And I was sitting there watching, feeling somewhat pleased at the notion of securing a road win, perhaps climbing closer to the top of the excrement-based mountain (molehill?) that is the Atlantis Division (See, it’s not the ‘Atlantic,’ but rather, the Atlantis, because every team is lost and sunk. No, not funny, I know.),
On defense, they didn’t do anything special, but they kept the Celtics from netting easy buckets at the rim (Yes, that was a huge problem in digging a 17-point hole.), avoided getting brutalized on the offensive glass, while profiting from a slew of turnovers, both forced and unforced alike.
And then, it all died. Udrih turned the offense into a cesspool. Missed shots begat terrible isolation plays. JR Smith only took one shot, which caused much fretting by the MSG broadcast team. (Honestly, that’s the least of their worries. JR wasn’t taking bad shots or slamming into 3-4 defenders leading to an ugly turnover.) The Celtics once again found open three point shooters or did whatever they wanted in the paint, and just like that, the lead was gone.
Down the stretch, there were some silly ISO sets and botched sets that might have been successful, you know if this was an actual team instead of a disturbingly twisted, badly-rendered cubist portrait of the Yankees—big names past their prime, has-been’s and never-will-be’s; the vast majority of which are injured or overpaid or both.
NYK was scoring 56.3% of time & 1.25 pts/play on non-iso sets in final 3 mins of tight gms. Just 28.5% score rate & .56 pts/play in 1-on-1s.
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 14, 2013
And they lost, because that’s what they do.
This is a bad team, playing badly. Losing in ways that are either grueling and dull or heartbreaking and frustrating. Sometimes, both occur in the same game. Joy.
I’d like to be able to find a clever metaphor or at least an amusing writer-ly flourish, filled with acrobatic, verbal flights of fancy to explain this team, but even if I could, it just would feel so empty and meaningless.
Jokes feel cruel. I don’t want to laugh. I don’t want to cry or scream or explain it away. Watching basketball is a pretty miserable experience right now. Maybe it’s not that way for a lot of you. Maybe you can enjoy this team (or at least laugh off yet another in a series of gut-punch losses) in a manner such that it doesn’t poison the rest of your day. Maybe it is what it’s intended to be: a diversion, in the best sense of the word. Two-odd hours to hoot and holler, or to slap your forehead at Woodson’s foibles and terrible rotations and damnably small-c conservative instincts, and then, when it’s over, it’s over and you go back to the rest of your life—you know, the things that really matter.
It isn’t that way for me, and I’m starting to think that that’s actually kind of sick.
When the Knicks are terrible, I think about it constantly. I read what the smart people say about the team. I read the myriad articles mocking the team. I fiddle with the trade machine. I even read the scurrilous pointless gossip column-y trade stuff.
It just makes the world feel gray and pointless, and that’s probably the wrong way to go through life.
Every year, I tell myself that I’m going to change; that I won’t behave this way, and every year, regardless of the quality of the team, really, it happens again.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m going to talk for a little bit about something personal that is only tangentially related to basketball/this team. If that’s not your cup of tea, feel free to skip to the end.)
Here’s a painful admission. For a good chunk of my life (thankfully, not any more) I was a bulimic. It’s a tough thing to say out loud because, for all of my supposedly enlightened, progressive thinking, it feels humiliating to say that I had (and still have) body issues and issues with food because, you know, that’s something that girls have and it feels dumbly emasculating.
I was a bulimic because I thought (and still do think) that I’m fat. I can’t really eat anything without setting off the calculator in my head, totaling up the calories and immediately planning out what other foods I’ll have to eliminate for the rest of the day in order to make up for the thing I’m enjoying, which pretty much eliminates the possibility of actually enjoying it/taking pleasure in food.
The problem is, when I’m being ‘good’ and eating healthy, cutting back carbs and sticking to lean meats, I feel like I’m denying myself. And then the “Why” game kicks in. “Why can’t I eat what I want? Why can’t I be happy with what I look like? Why do I have to deny myself these things? It’s been the case since I was thirteen years old—when does it end?”
So I get angry, and of course, the way I want to deal with anger and with feeling denied is to eat. And if I do eat, I get angry with myself for breaking the diet and start panic-thinking that I’m fat/unattractive (and by extension, unlovable).
And if I do go bonkers, and devour an entire box of Entenmann’s Chocolate Eclairs, the instinct or the thought is still (and probably always will be) there to purge; to run to the john and make myself throw up. I’ve learned how to deal with that urge, but the thinking behind it hasn’t really changed. That’s the longer, harder process of recovery. I’m still stuck in a cycle where not eating makes me feel deprived and eating makes me feel like a failure, such that no matter what I do, I feel bad. It’s a no-win situation, a really nasty Catch-22.
I mention all this not because I particularly enjoy revealing all this stuff, but for a couple of reasons.
One, I was reminded of projectile vomiting by this flurry of tweets from Jared Dubin. In case you missed it, after Bargs hit a couple of mid-range shots in the 3rd, Marc Berman felt that it was the appropriate time to unleash these statements:
Take that Masai Ujiri. Bargnani's two straight jumpers give #Knicks a 69-62 lead. Why are fans thinking Ujiri won that trade? TBD.
— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) December 14, 2013
Regarding Bargs trade, Novak has fallen off map, 2nd-rounders meaningless & 2016 first-rounder is too far in future. Dolan wants to win now.
— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) December 14, 2013
I disagree with what Mr. Berman said. Two jumpers does not mean that one gets to declare victory/start taunting a GM. Jared, via a torrential outpouring of defiance worthy of Martin Luther nailing his protest to the door of Castle Church, started listing every 2nd rounder of note for the past twenty years, about 45 in total, along with the hashtag #TakeThatMasaiUjiri. Check out his twitter feed if you’d like to read them all. That felt like a purging that was actually healthy. Getting all the poison out of your system, as it were.
The second reason is, just like I’m not really going to be ‘cured’ of my bulimia until I deal with the cause, the only way I’m going to solve my problem with this team (as opposed to the team’s problems. Those are pretty unsolvable, given the current ownership) is if I change. It can’t mean as much as it does anymore. I have to be able to, like Ram Dass advises, “Collect nothing. Leave nothing. Just go through lightly. Lightly. Grab. Let go. Hold on tightly. Let go lightly.”
I don’t know if I can. I just know that this (whatever ‘this’ is) isn’t working anymore.
But that’s about it for tonight. Thanks for taking the time to read, and if me talking about something so personal feels like an imposition or self-indulgent, I apologize.
Tomorrow the Knicks probably won’t have Kenyon Martin or Amar’e Stoudemire, which, if nothing else, should allow for a different face or two to be the avatars of failure.
I’ll be there. I hope you will too. If nothing else, it’s a lot more pleasant to know that we aren’t suffering this team alone. Go Knicks.