Robert Silverman and I have been exchanging e-mails in the hours and days since the Knicks last took the floor against Charlotte. It’s gone basically how you would expect. Here, see for yourself:
FROM: Robert Silverman
Nov 5 (3 days ago)
So when you IM’d me by saying, “Fuckity fuck fuck fucker fuck ANGRY ANGRY ANGRY,” I thought we should talk. Not because I disagree with your assessment of the state of Knickerbloggeristan right now, but because (and I could be wrong) I think there might be a little bit more to it than that. I mean, I was raging for a good solid hour on Twitter between 6-7pm and then screamed at/with the folks from the NYKnicksPodcast (be on the lookout for the link to that later. It’s like a peak GG Allin performance, only with more blood and flung fecal matter) because it all just seems so patently wrong and unfair.
It’s not just that we seem to be careening, recidivist-style towards a very Isiah/Larry Brown/mid-2000’s season, I think the reason I was (and I still am) so pissed) is that it seems so unfathomably stupid to invest in a team that has and will make the exact same terrible, no-good, relatively avoidable mistakes again and again. I feel like I know this terrain, and in this instance, familiarity definitely breeds contempt. I said it that twit-rant that I was more angry at myself for the folly of investing so much of my emotional capital in any team, let alone one as preternaturally doomed as the ‘Bockers. Now, after an utterly predictable drubbing by a lousy Charlotte team that wasn’t even having a halfway decent game, I just feel numbly beaten, you know.
But anyhoo,,, fuckity fuck fuck? Go on…
FROM: Kevin McElroy
Nov 6 (2 days ago)
Honestly, I promised myself I was going to reserve judgment until we got to about Game 10. As poorly as they started tonight, and as predictable as the issues these past few games have been, I was holding up OK. Then Chandler knocked knees with Kemba and Cole Aldrich had to basically carry him to the locker room and the whole foundation crumbled underneath me. Because what this team doesn’t understand, it seems, is how delicate success is in the NBA. They built this team with a whole salary cap’s worth of money (and then some) committed to relatively one-dimensional scorers (your Melos, your STATs, your Bargses and Earls) but didn’t think to save room for a passable backup with the legs to give 20-25 minutes every night behind their most important player.
And that’s the biggest issue with the Bargnani move and I tried to get at this in my write-up about it but if Chandler’s down for a long time it just makes it so much more real and easier to explain. It’s just arrogant. It’s so, so arrogant to toss away draft picks and trade flexibility for a guy who sort of but not really improves an area that doesn’t even need improving when you’re thin in places you can’t afford to be thin and not particularly on the cusp of a title anyway. It’s arrogant to say things like “Screw the future first rounder! It’s not like it’ll be in the lottery!” when the NBA reminds us time and again that it doesn’t take much to dump a team from the middle of the playoff hunt to the bottom of its division. And it’s arrogant to hand away roster spots and throw away stretches of games behind a backwards lineup as if the wins will just be there eventually when you need them.
Success in the NBA is precious and after the last 15 years the Knicks of all teams should know it. And yet, they take it for granted and plan like it’s silly to insure against bad luck. But guess what, some misfortune is a fact of life and if this Chandler injury is serious this year is going to be over before it ever got a chance to get off the ground. And it sucks.
I guess that’s its own conversation though because, hey, maybe he only misses a couple games. And if that’s the case, this is just a crappy loss to a bad team where we have to wake up in the morning feeling like history is repeating itself but not like the ship is sinking already. Right? Please say right?
FROM: Robert Silverman
Nov 6 (2 days ago)
I don’t know. We’re still very much in the belly of the SMALL SAMPLE SIZE KRAKEN
…and my response is actually pretty anti-analytic, but it just feels like there are more woes coming down the road, that the God or Gods are shoving this team’s hubristic careless ways back in its face. Even if Tyson say, misses a game or two, look at the upcoming schedule. I say they’re 5-11.
I mean, look at the amounts of choleric venting and bile-spewing that’s emanating from the commiserati. We’re just a great big colicky orange and blue baby right now. Imagine how difficult it is to be on the receiving end of these brutish, ugly defeats.
I’m speculating like a moron, I don’t know if these guys particularly like each other. There was a moment during I think the 3rd quarter — you and I both saw — when the cameras cut to Melo giving Bargs a good tongue-lashing, and man, Anthony had a look that suggested he really doesn’t cotton to the big feller’s jib. I mean, when Melo doesn’t like a player, you know it. You can tell that he still hates Landry Fields (for reasons that we’ll probably never know). I don’t think Melo likes Bargs.
So what if all this hand-wringing and anguished cries about lineup choices that we fans are having isn’t entirely dissimilar to what’s occurring in the locker room. What if a certain portion of the team thinks they should be playing small ball and another faction doesn’t, because honestly, you watch them play and I don’t see a group of dudes that look like they’re having much fun (or trust each other, really)
The whole ‘leadership’ ‘mentoring’ thing has always struck me as a particularly hackneyed sportsrwiting cliche/#HotSportsTake. It’s an easy drum to beat and requires zero actual analysis. “The Knicks are turning the ball over because they lack leadership. Men who have been through the battles of playoff combat and have the scars and the war stories and mischievous, knowing glint in their eye to prove it. These men, these leaders of men, nay these men who in another life would be leading the charge up San Juan Hill…” etc. wash rinse repeat. Sports is war. Kill me now.
But here’s the thing about cliches. Even the ones that sound so saccharine and treacly and hoary that you’d expect them to be sewn on decorative Ethan Allan throw pillows, they are often…gulp…true.
Which is a very long-winded way of saying that I don’t think this locker room is as unified as it was last year, and I worry that a craptastic first month might really cause the fit to hit the shan. That’s totally random, unsubstantiated speculation, and when the team was winning (like it was last year) it’s really easy to be all love-thy-brother/fare-the-well-good-fellow.
So I don’t know. It could get worse, even with an un-maimed Tyson.
That’s probably not the answer you were looking for. I mean, to you and I (and every Knicks fan with a vaguely functional cerebral cortex) the answers seem simple. I don’t know why Mike “Hellen Keller” Woodson can’t/won’t see it. Expect for the kind of tinfoil-hatted paranoid speculation that in ‘Bockertown ends up being Occam’s Razor. That shadowy interests in smoky back rooms have their own, profit-based agenda that may or may not have anything to do with winning/ plays bitchin’ blues riff on an air guitar.
FROM: Kevin McElroy
Nov 6 (2 days ago)
It’s funny, I so rarely feel any tension between my Knicks fandom and my role as a blogger or tweeter or generally pseudo-visible member of the discourse here and at other places. But this is one of the times that I kind of do. As a fan, I have tons of theories and instincts and speculations and the like but for fear of passing off these speculations as meritorious (since it’s not like I have any more access or insider knowledge than anybody else who watches the games) I feel obligated to keep them inside. Which is my way of saying that I spent a lot of your last e-mail nodding but won’t say at which parts :)
Anyway, they could really stumble their way through the first month even if he just misses a little bit of time. The good news is that while the conference has gotten stronger at the top it’s still pretty forgiving in the middle; at least one sub-.500 team should make the playoffs in the East, for example, so even 5-11 wouldn’t be an impossible hole to climb out of. Shit, we’re currently one game out of 4th in the East because only 3 teams have winning records and one of those is Philly.
And I do think the Knicks go on a run eventually because say what you will about the owner but he doesn’t like losing. Woodson or somebody else might become a fall guy along the way but eventually somebody is going to look at the same numbers I’ve been railing on about the past few days and realize that this team has various combinations of players that are capable of stopping the bleeding. I tweeted this last night but with a couple minutes left in the game the Knicks were +14 with Prigs on the court and -19 with him off the court on the season. Bargnani’s splits are opposite and more extreme. Maybe it’s an aberration, of course, but if it isn’t I just can’t see them letting it go on forever and ever, especially in a year when we don’t have a draft pick and the Nets are likely to be really good. He’s not going to just let them lose 50 games when they possess the means to stop it.
This all goes out the window if it’s a long-term Chandler injury, of course, because we simply don’t have the personnel to piece together 48 minutes a night of anything in the same universe as what he gives us. It’s just been so supremely not fun so far. Hopefully in a few weeks this looks like idle whining over a few bad games from our still good team but the scary part is that the problems are exactly the things you would have expected before the year, which takes the legs out a little bit from under the small sample size thing (eg. I predicted regression on threes and while it’s been extreme thus far it’s not going back to where it was last year with Novak and Cope. But other than that, should we REALLY be much worse than we were last year?
FROM: Robert Silverman
11:17 AM (3 Hours Ago)
And of course, after we started writing this mash notes to our collective misery, we found out that Tyson Chandler would be out 4-6 weeks. And so we unleash our historically accurate, ancient Knicker-backer rallying rcry, IT COULD BE WORSE!
We’ve already covered who we think Woodson should start here.
I particularly enjoyed your Nostradamic tweet here: https://twitter.com/knickerbacker/status/397910969893928960
And for those who think Bargs is cursed worse than Cousin Oliver on the ill-fated, shark-jumped, let’s-add-another-cute-kid-for-reasons-that-make-zero-narrative-sense-but-the-original-ones-have-gotten-too-durned-big-to-cuddle final season of the Brady Bunch, it is worth noting that the only reason Kemba Walker went barreling in to Chandler is that Andrea absolutely whiffed on a rotation (quelle surprise).
In fact, there’s probably a larger, longer piece to be written comparing the careers of Aaron Spelling and James Dolan. The former thought Gilligan’s Island was insightful commentary/a sociological paradigm for humanity’s struggle to survive/thrive/”get along” and that the Brady Bunch was in an-depth examination of the nature of tumultuous post-nuclear, divorce-laden American families. Like the Loud’s n’ shit.
Of course, while Spelling was a mega-rich deluded fool who produced great shining turds, at least the shit he lobbed into the great American consciousness was dreck that US citizens actually liked.
FROM: Kevin McElroy
2:06 PM (59 Minutes Ago)
I have generally felt that the weirdly schizophrenic responses from Woodson regarding lineup strategy in the past week or two suggests that a lot of his personnel decisions have come via mandate from on high. At times I’ve even referred to this as a “conspiracy theory.” I’ve been thinking about it, though, and honestly it’s nothing that far-fetched or nefarious. If Dolan is the one calling the shots and leaving Woody to deal with the backlash, it’s just a guy being asked to do something by his boss, doing it, and not being able to say “hey, look, I know it works the other way but my hands are tied here, this is what the boys upstairs think we should do.” Which is only something that, oh, everyone who’s ever held a job should be able to relate to. Coaches, even relatively powerful ones, still have to function as one cog in a larger organization and in the case of Dolan and the Knicks, there are considerations that go into that organization’s decisions that transcend simple win-loss calculations, considerations that none of us can really ever hope to completely understand. That doesn’t make it a conspiracy, it just makes it a business; it doesn’t make us saps, it just makes us customers who don’t have seats at the investors’ meetings. Frankly, it would almost be weird if there wasn’t any input from Dolan on lineup decisions seeing as he apparently micromanages a squad of dancers that he probably pays about 1/100 of what he pays his players. And I doubt it’s even unique to Dolan; there are probably tons of owners with a similar level of input into personnel decisions and we just don’t care for two reasons. One, they aren’t our owner. Two, and here’s the thing that matters, they’re just better at it.
Enough on that though because now it’s Friday and they have a game to win on the road against the same team against whom they looked so crappy earlier this week and we can get our first look at what the plan is for these next 4 to 6 weeks. I’m guessing tonight it’s Prigs into the starting lineup and Bargs at the five and that JR replaces Pablo in the starting lineup once his suspension is over (Sunday vs. San Antonio). Your thoughts?
FROM: Robert Silverman
2:47 PM (18 Minutes Ago)
So many, none of them good.
With regards to Dolan and ‘conspiracy’ theories, I think you’re right. It’s not some ultra-complex, shadowy network. Secretly pulling the strings/issuing orders from their Spider Skull-shaped secret island headquarters. That ish would at least be INTERESTING.
And that’s the thing; your scenario –a dumb, utterly lacking in self-awareness fedora’s ego belch of a boss launching into (possibly justifiable) tirades, and a slew of harried, overworked, under appreciated employees/lackeys having to cover for/justify/rationalize his fits of pique — isn’t fun to ponder; hell, it’s wayyyyyyyy too familiar for most of us working stiffs.
That’s the thing. I think most of us would rather have a mysterious, all-powerful unseeing force controlling things, even if they’re basically evil, like the Tri-Lateral Commission or the Bilderberg Group or any big talent agency. The alternative is that assholes are in charge who are as steak-headed and blind as the rest of humanity and all of this is just chaos and happenstance. And that blows.
But more importantly, the starting lineup! I’m thrilled Pablo’s back, but Big pt for Bargs at any position is going to be an eternally-flaming garbage fire, especially at the rim and on the boards.
And yes, it seems as though JR’s been promised a starting spot, regardless of merit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the agreement was tattooed somewhere on his person, lest any future ‘Bocker exec/head coach tried to welsh on the deal.
But hey, Patrick Ewing’s manning the till for the RobertCats! I love Patrick. He rules.
What’s your prediction for tonight’s game? Feel free to channel your inner Mr. T and just grumble, “Pain,” through a vein-poppingingly clenched mandible.
FROM: Kevin McElroy
3:01 PM (5 Minutes Ago)
Well here’s the thing. The Bobcats are HORRIBLE. They were even horrible Tuesday when they beat us. They hit 44% of their 2-pointers despite the Knicks’ lack of an interior presence for more than half the game. They turned the ball over 22 times. They won because we didn’t defend the defensive glass. At All. At one point in the second half they had 15 offensive rebounds and we had 17 defensive rebounds (it ended 16-22 on that front; still horrible but not quite as comical). We also gave them a red carpet to the free throw line and, to their credit, they made it count with a 34 of 42 showing from the stripe. They beat us but it was really like Prez says in The Wire: nobody wins, one side just loses more slowly.
Anyway, I think we win tonight. Bargs at the 5 is a disaster on D but they barely punished us for it last game and I think moving him to the 5 on offense for a whole game actually improves our spacing. It sounds like Woody’s ready to run K-Mart into the ground at this point also, which is fine by me — he can rest after Chandler’s back. As bad as it’s been, they’ve managed to make all three losses competitive despite hitting only 29.9% of their threes and sporting horrible free throw rates at both ends of the floor (a very low .168 FT/FGA on offense and an almost comically high .300 FT/FGA on defense, 27th and 30th in the NBA, respectively). I think they really only have to be average from three and in the foul battle tonight to win fairly easily. After tonight, they have 6 straight against teams who either have a really strong frontline or at least one quality post scorer. That’s where Clubber Lang’s quote might be prescient. Tonight’s game is just a game that any halfway-decent team should be able to win, even missing its starting center. Let’s just hope the Knicks meet that criteria.