(Editor’s Note: Jim Cavan and I wrote this together. Jim wrote about Melo, Tyson, Landry, Toney, Novak and the first two bullet-points. Once more into the breach, dear friends…enjoy.)
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 42 MIN | 15-31 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 35 PTS | -6
God damnit, Melo. It didn’t take long for the game’s Twitter wake to spit up this wonderful factoid: Anthony is the first player since 2007 to take 30 shots and have no more than one assist in a Playoff game. Which – considering everyone else seemed to be shooting kettlebells – says a lot less than you’d think. Even when Melo got aggressive and attempted paint forays, he wasn’t getting the whistles. Really, it was a fairly apropos bookend to a season where even his heroics seemed to come with asterisks.
Unlike most, I truly believe that Melo can be a franchise cornerstone – and even a championship one. Problem is, building a team around a player with his kind of quirks and faults is a much more delicate process than building a team around, well, LeBron. Chandler is actually a good start. Given some adjustments – which may ultimately include coming off the bench – ditto Amar’e. It’s the rest of the crew – and yes, that includes Lin, and how he does or does not function in what is looking more and more like a Woodsonian offense – that I’m concerned about.
|Amare Stoudemire, PF 32 MIN | 4-7 FG | 6-6 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | -12
So much of this evening played out like a sick, twisted paradigm for the entire season but STAT’s night was particularly microcosmic. From our one-handed warrior (Hey kids! Can we start a craze where people refer to chronic masturbators as “One-Handed Warriors?” You’re on it, youth culture? Thanks!) we saw a smattering of feisty drives to the tin, but the inability or unwillingness to grab a rebound (dodgy metacarpus notwithstanding) and his standard-form, “I’ve just been hit squarely on the forehead with a ball peen hammer so I’m really not sure where I am,” defense when faced with a cutter, an opponent to guard on the pick and roll or a box out royally overshadowed whatever goodness he offered up on the offensive end. For the love of Pete, even Bibby snagged more ‘bounds than he did.
In addition, for those not watching the TNT broadcast (and suffering that despicable Frenghi/ferret Reggie Miller), David Aldridge mentioned that Stoudemire’s doctor (who apparently refers not him as “STAT) told him that had the glass on the fire extinguisher cut one millimeter deeper, he’d have severed a nerve, ending his career. I’m sure the heartless and particularly ghoulish amongst you might have thought something to the effect of, “Wow. If that’d happened, could we have ditched STAT’s contract from the cap?” In total honesty, I thought it too. I’m a terrible person. But on the bright side, I grok natural look he sported v. the cornrows we’ve seen since he came back from a bulging disk. Even better, there’s this…
Hehe. Good! I loathe you, Shane Battier. I call shenanigans on your not-showing-up-in-the-box-score/”Lookit me! I validate advanced metrics!” defensive mishegas that is so clearly layered in a patina of self-congratulatory folderol. But anyhoo, all of STAT’s strengths and weaknesses were writ large tonight. And when he fouled out, the Heat PA guy said he’d been “extinguished” from the game. Of course he did. Because the US would be a better place if we literally took a giant saw and severed the entire state of Florida from the rest of the nation, letting it drift aimlessly off into the Atlantic Ocean until it ran smack dab into Cuba.
|Tyson Chandler, C 41 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -10
God damnit, Tyson. Don’t be fooled by the near double double. Chandler just looked lost tonight, particularly on D, where even the most seemingly thwart-able drives were met with a matador nonchalance unbecoming Tyson’s 90s-inspired paint-protecting ethos. Truth told, Tyson was probably exhausted – exhausted from having to cover everyone’s ass all year long, to where even the effort’s highest honor wasn’t enough to spark a second wind. It’s impossible to overlook the magnificent change of attitude Tyson brought to the table this year. We’re just sad that the table’s underlying unstableness was too much for even him to continually hammer back to patchwork order.
|Mike Bibby, PG 36 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 10 PTS | -6
After a year’s worth of zombie, crypt-keeper, Weekend at Bibby’s, Mumm-Ra, Undead Bibby jokes, Bibby clawed his way out of the grave, spitting earth and coffin-splinters and had without a doubt his finest game of the season. It was utterly improbable but then again, after a season like this, we probably should start to expect the unexpected. Bibby did everything one would have hoped — hitting threes, playing reasonable defense on physically superior foes and threading the needle/finding cutters with his passes on more than occasion. If one or two of his fellow ‘Bockers had shown an equal proclivity to fight and claw for every breath, we might be spinning a different yarn tonight. Great job, Mike.
|Landry Fields, G 27 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -7
God damnit, Landry. Forgive me for seeming petty, but I’ll be honest: For all Woodson has accomplished – and for as much as I respect the man and much of the method – his benching Landry (-7) for Smith (-20) to start the second half might’ve been the final straw. Yes, each of his three turnovers was more stroke-inducing than the last. Yes, he got lost on a few screens on D. But at least Landry attempts to be a facilitator on offense, instead of wasting one-fifth of the possession crab dribbling in place like a 16-bit Double Dribble graphic. Really, it comes down to the difference between a guy that really, really hurts you, and a guy who murders you and immediately marries your wife. Who knows whether we’ll have either of these guys next year? Still, by now we should have some semblance of a grasp of who’ll command more money, and who has a better chance of at approaching true value.
|Jared Jeffries, PF 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -4
I’d like to take a moment to remind us what, in the midst of a truly bizarre season, will probably be forgotten by all save the most obsessive Knick fans (like your humble correspondents) — the resurrection of Jared Jeffries. Our Jared, who I have in the past routinely referred to as resembling a “Giraffe on Roller Skates” with the ball, became a fan favorite. Loved for all the little things he did/does on the court that we fans all missed in the past, like trying to find a painterly brushstroke in the midst of the Jackson Pollock action painting/chaos that was the Isiah years. When healthy, Jared’s a valuable bench piece on a good team. For any of you who’ve been mocked, who’ve felt incompetent or outclassed or unappreciated, I hope you felt a sense of redemption in Jared’s play after years of derision. I certainly did. And tonight that one jumper he converted in the second…well…in the midst of what felt to me like an inevitable defeat, I thought of all he’s accomplished and the lost causes and doomed attempts at redemption that never were and I smiled. I hope Jared did too. An honorary A+
|Steve Novak, SF 12 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +8
God damnit, Steve. Talk about bottling a guy up. Novakaine attempted nine shots in this series. Nine, as in the number of chicken wings I ate for dinner. Granted, it’s not a given that any team can just lock-down a guy at will the way the Heat can. But it’s also true that Novak’s severe limitations ought to give the Knicks serious pause when it comes down to the brass tacks of free agency. I’d personally, love to see him back in the orange and blue next year, but only at the right price…. This seems to be something of a theme.
|J.R. Smith, SG 36 MIN | 3-15 FG | 6-6 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -20
Well, at least we won’t have to spend months fussing and biting our nails down to the cuticle worrying about whether or not Earl III will pick up his 2.5 million dollar option. Son of Wood’s faith in him is piquantly charming and all, but on a night like tonight, when one could build a decently-sized brownstone in Park Slope with the number of bricks Mr. and Mrs. Smith waywardly hurled net-ward, why he started the 2nd half will remain one of life’s great unsolvable mysteries, like the riddle of the Sphinx or people who put ketchup on hot dogs. But if this is the end, (“My darling friend, the end…”) many a ‘Bocker backer will be more than happy to say, “See ya. Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya!” I mean, our so-called shooting guard went 11-for-48 in Games 3-5, including twin 3-for-15 poop-fests. In evaluating his performance, Smithy added, “I think I did a poor job with my shot selection.”
Biggest. Understatement. Ever. And now, on cue, in response to reading some negative feedback from the fans, J.R. hath twat this bit of prose poetry. I guess if one’s going to go out in a dickish fashion, I would expect no less from J.R. than some epic dickanery, as opposed to mealy-mouth agent-scripted platitudes/twaddle about “Loving NY…It’s time to move on. I thank the team and my teammates….blargle sputter gah.” Well played. Sir. Well played.
|Toney Douglas, PG 8 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -2
Gosh darnit, Toney. Perhaps more than anything else, seeing Toney finally suit up and hit the hardwood lent this fucked up season the bizarre circle-closing it deserved. The D was still there, but the confidence – once brimming to the point of many banking on a third-year leap (by many, I mean Jim Cavan) – has evaporated like beach sweat. All signs point to Toney coming back for another go-at-it, which, given his contract, isn’t all rusty nails. At least he can spend the summer worrying about fitting himself in the rotation, rather than being the team’s lone hope at the point.
|Josh Harrellson, F 1 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -1
One last time…Hi Jorts. Sad face. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought in general, Young Master Harrellson deserved more playing time this series, if only because he seemed to be the one Knick who’d be willing to channel Anthony Mason and lay a hurtin'(or whatever watered-down version of a 90’s Knicks smackdown is permissible these days) on the never-ending stream of Miamians who gleefully paraded to the rim.
Five Things We Saw
- It’s not hyperbolic to say the Knicks needed to play as close to a perfect game as could be reasonably expected for them to stand a chance. Inherent in that possibility was the notion that the Knicks would defend the boards, as they had fairly well up to that point. But with Tyson sucking a season’s worth of ass-covering fumes and the rest of the Knicks either too disinterested or too slow to react, the Heat crashed the glass like maniacs, particularly in the first half. The result? A halftime second chance points deficit of 14-3 – for all you math whizzes, precisely the overall point margin for the first 24.
- If you’d ask me at the end of the game how many turnovers I thought the Knicks had, my answer probably would’ve been “I can’t count that high.” As it turns out, the ‘Bockers coughed it up only 13 times. Problem is, the Heat converted that into 18 points, while the Knicks only managed three points off of Miami’s 10 turnovers. Entering the game – and during at least one TV timeout mic-up – Coach Spo’ reiterated that the quickest path to annihilation lied in turning the tempo up to eleven. The end product might not have been napalm devastating; but it was effective enough to strangle any Knick run before it could garner breath.
- There will be plenty of time to sling summations about this Knick season (and without a doubt, in the land of Knickerbloggerdonia, plenty o’ words slung). The wise wags will assess what went right and what went wrong, who is to blame and who is to be lauded and who shall remain and who must depart. For me, it’s yet another season that ends with an all-too-familiar thud. Of course the usual rationalizations that rattle around in your head come pouring forth: “They’re definitely improved. Building something here. We had some wondrously exalted moments and some equally repugnant ones. Wait ’till next year!” and on and on. You think about the moral victories as much as the literal ones: The miraculous beauty that is, was and will be Jeremy Lin; the stretch where Melo played like a Greek God; The everyday, workmanlike and yet effervescently graceful grunt work that Tyson Chandler put forth in day and and day out; The geekily giddy Discount Double Checks as Steve Novak banged home yet another clutch trey. And maybe you think to yourself, “Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad a year. Yeah. We had some good times, didn’t we?”…
- …Well you know what. FUCK THAT. I’m sick of the nobility of losing, of failure somehow lending one greater dignity or in some way imparting character. It’s a crock. I’d give my spleen for an unmitigated, no-holds barred IMMORAL victory/testes-stomping of the other guy — any other guy as long as it’s not us…AGAIN. I want an unadulterated, unrationalized, unmediated WIN. I want US to have it all: the trophy, the adulation, the really good-lookin’ wimmens, the whole kit and kaboodle. I want to laugh in the face of those who dared to test our might. I want to be the guy that everyone ELSE resents, and fucks all’s y’all of youse, the suckas and bozos who cant’s handle my swag. Thus endeth the rant.
- Robert: It’s night’s like these that I miss substances. You just want the pain to go away
Jim: The pain never goes away, Robert. We’ll wake up tomorrow to find out that you could own a archipelago of small Pacific islands for the price of a 300-level season ticket.
Robert: And with my allergies, I can’t really handle the tropics
Jim: Can you handle another five years of J.R. Smith?
Robert: Oh I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that.
Jim: There’s always summer league. And that first round draft pick we traded away.
Robert: And a late second! For the new Landry/Jorts/Andy Rautins. It’ll all begin again
Jim: Who the fuck is Andy Rautins?
Robert: He’s the bass player for Hoobastank, I think
Jim: What if I told you I was wearing fuzzy Knicks slippers?
Robert: If you had a Knicks snuggie, I might worry
Jim: What if I told you my Clyde jersey has a giant suntan lotion stain on the front that hasn’t been removed because I’m afraid to put it in the washer?
Robert: Makes total sense. I was actually forced to watch the 2nd half of tonight’s game at a tony Brooklyn Sushi bar (for reasons that I won’t go into), stealing glances in between a very seeerious convo and the people I was at dinner with noticed that I had one eye above their heads and they casually asked about the game — not being fans. I explained more or less the situation, who “The LeBron” was, and the season being over. (They asked when the Lin that they’d heard about was going to play, but I didn’t delve into that morass) And one of them said something really interesting: “Sports to me is like a religion with some very arcane rites that I just don’t understand”
All I could say was, “Well…yeah.”
We’ve got our sacred moments, and totems and deities and villians and a bond with a team that can’t in any way be actually explained to someone who isn’t a member of the one true faith. So you’ll wear fuzzy slippers and a Clyde Jersey, and I’ll risk making an ass of myself in front of important people because…
Jim: What if I told you I have a Patrick Ewing Starting Lineup figurine that I make practice finger-rolling Cheerios into a cereal bowl every morning?
Okay, that’s too much. GET HELP
Jim: He always makes them tho. In all seriousness, your point about sports being a religion is an interesting one. I often find myself defending my irrational fandom in front of what can only be described as the sports-agnostic, and here’s the best explanation I can come up with:
Robert: Lay it on me, Brother. Testify
Jim: Humans are inherently competitive. That being the case, to my mind sports offer a much healthier outlet for our inherent competitiveness, precisely because, at the end of the day, they don’t — in the direct sense — result in the kind of death and destruction and waste-laid devastation that other enterprises typically thought of as being “competitive” (business, geopolitics, etc.) impart.
Fandom is just an offshoot of this.
Even after a loss, we can step away and recognize that, for as painful as it can be sometimes, we partake in this absurd comedy of errors because it exercises a part of our animal past in a way that is decidedly human — advanced, even.
Robert: Interesting stuff. Jim. If I catch your drift correctly…
What you’re saying is…we need to get Lin/Shump healthy, pray that Novak loves him some NYC, and figure out a way for Melo and Stat to co-exist
Jim: Yes. That and pull Phil Jackson away from his Lao Tzu and mushrooms to help bring us all full circle.
Robert: And possibly take a tire iron to the back of Dolan’s head. Glad we’re in agreement on the proper interpretation of our words. ‘Cause a less enlightened reader might have seen all that George Will-style philosophical musing we wuz doin’ as so much…what’s the word…bullcrap
Jim: What if I told you sometimes I go jogging naked at night in nothing but Knicks tube socks?
Robert: What if I told you I’m going to need another four years of therapy to get that image out of my head?