Editor’s Note: This didn’t happen… But it could’ve.
Down a point and team depleted to within an amnesty clause of bench’s end, Mike D’Antoni swallowed his pride, and with one begrudging summon, made a move that would prove prophetic. Prophetic and basically necessary.
“Look, I put [Renaldo] Balkman in for his defense and his arms, and the fact that the next guy down from him was a pile of towels,” said D’Antoni of the seldom-used forward, who would soon after hit an impossible corner three to give the Knicks a 113-111 victory over Miami Wednesday night. “I sure as $#!% didn’t expect him to shoot that. If I’d known that, I might’ve rolled with four. Norman Dale style.”
Lucky for D’Antoni and his troops – not to mention the frantic capacity Garden crowd soon uncorked– the man they call “Humpty” made sure his Knicks “had five on it.”
“That was pretty sick, wasn’t it?” the dreadlocked Balkman – re-arrived last February in the Carmelo Anthony trade –chuckled to the throngs of reporters flocked locker-side. “That right there was the $#!%.”
Never mind that the Knicks had both Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor.
Never mind that Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire had accounted for a combined 73 points.
Never mind that the play was designed for Chauncey Billups (16 points, 7 assists) to get the ball at the top of the key, off a screen that Balkman never bothered to set.
Never mind that, having received the inbound pass from Landry Fields as the last option, Balkman was supposed to swing it immediately back to Billups to run the set.
Instead, Balkman caught the pass – a split second before Fields, devoid of timeouts, would’ve been whistled for a five-second call – took no less than four, completely uncontested dribbles and, with Udonis Haslem standing confused on the low block, hoisted a totally unnecessary corner triple that left the net’s bottom hanging over the rim.
“I was open, and the one thing Coach always tells us is, if you’re open, shoot,” said Balkman of the rogue dagger. “So I really owe this one to Coach.”
With no timeouts and only a tenth of a second remaining, the Heat could muster little more than a late 80-foot LeBron James heave. Which went in, oddly enough.
It’s the first time since the 1999-2000 season – 12 years – twelve years – TWELVE YEARS – that the Bockers have started their campaign with two straight wins.
After squandering a 17-point fourth quarter lead, the tired Bockers – clear victims of a lockout-shortened training camp – were forced to draw deep from an already arid bench.
“There was definitely a few guys dry heaving into Gatorade cups out there,” said rookie Josh Harrelson, himself the recipient of a shocking 20 minutes off the pine in place of a foul troubled Ronny Turiaf. “At lunch I was telling Jerome [Jordan] to ease off the milk, but he kept sayin’ there was no way we were gonna’ play, so what did it matter?”
Three Knicks — Derrick Brown, Shawne Williams, and Bill Walker — sustained what appeared, at first, to be pulled hamstrings. They were cramps. None returned. All are listed as day-to-day.
Despite all that, the Knicks added to the good vibes of Sunday’s season-opening thrashing of the Nets – an equally weird night highlighted by Net forward and recent Kardashian cast-off Kris Humphries openly weeping during player introductions.
Anthony, who paced the Knicks with 41 points on 14-35 shooting, to go along with seven boards, said his team would take the Ws regardless.
“Man, I thought I’d seen it all with Humphries cryin’ like that, joggin’ to center court and just huggin’ Lopez,” said Anthony. “But then Balkman hit that shot, I just couldn’t believe it. To be honest, I thought it was some fan for a second, wearin’ a Balkman jersey. I thought, ‘where’d he get a Balkman jersey?’ Then I remembered he came over in the trade.”
Asked why Balkman hadn’t swung the ball back to Billups, as D’Antoni had illustrated, Anthony was incredulous.
“He probably didn’t even hear him, man,” he said.
Anthony was nearly as valuable on the defensive end, where he managed to keep LeBron James largely in check, holding the two-time MVP to 21 points on 8-22 shooting.
“Defense is just a matter of heart and determination,” said Anthony of his impressive two-way effort. “Basically I just stood there in the lane and dared him to shoot.”
Flanking Anthony in equivalent dominance, Amar’e Stoudemire clowned Chris Bosh inside and out en route to a 32 point, 10 rebound performance.
“We came out with a lot of energy, a lot of intensity, and a lot of focus,” said Stoudemire, fully healed from last season’s protracted back issues. “I’ve always said, I’m like Moses leading the franchise to the promised land, and Melo’s my David — my slinger. We showed that tonight. Energy.”
Chris Bosh led the Heat with 35 points and 15 rebounds.
Landry fields chipped in 16 and nine rebounds for the Knicks, while Toney Douglas and Turiaf each tallied 14. All three of them continue to grow interesting beards.
Meanwhile, rookie Iman Shumpert impressed in his Garden debut, logging 15 minutes and scoring 12 points – all of them two-handed dunks on Mike Bibby.
But it was Renaldo Balkman, the former South Carolina Gamecock and member of the Puerto Rican National Team, who would convert the most decibel-rising shot of the night, and his career.
And so it was that a night which began with a christening of the newly-renovated Garden — headlined by James Dolan’s JD and the Straight Shot’s 15-minute rendition of Jefferson Starship classic “We Built This City” — ended with a shot that would test the sturdiness of roof and rafter.
“I’ll remember that one for a long time, man,” said Balkman as he searched frantically his car keys.”It just goes to show what you can accomplish when you’re in the right situation.”
Finally, Balkman found his keys, which he keeps in a technicolor, wallet-size pouch.
“Now it’s time to celebrate. Any of y’all have a plastic water bottle you don’t want?”
The Knicks will play the Bucks in Milwaukee on Saturday.