Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Letting the Spurs win

I was just happy to be there – happy to be back, really. Hell, we all were. Five years after the worst, most psychologically damaging moment of my basketball life, watching the Knicks defy all logic and odds and doggy-paddle their way through the Eastern Conference swamp and back into the Finals amounted to a welcome, pleasing peripheral, just out of focus from the hormones and the dope and the doubt at the center of life’s teenage lenses.

I knew we had no chance. I knew we had no chance because we’d already spent ten of our nine lives on rim-dancing floaters and four-point plays. I knew because the team we were up against boasted the most formidable one-two frontcourt punch in at least a generation, and maybe ever, while our own wounded warrior sat helpless on the sidelines. It was the first year of the second post-Jordan era, and – just like last time – we were there to try and win an asterisk.

The series itself was as ugly as the outcome was forgone. In terms of sheer aesthetics, you’d have been better served watching flaming pucks on Fox or juiced McGwire jacks. It hurts to admit now, but San Antonio was built, and functioned, the way the Knicks should have. Lockout crust and pair of number one draft picks aside, the Spurs – marshaled by a budding genius of a second year coach – knew who they were, and bent all wills to its own accordingly. And as much as I knew we had no chance, I hated the Spurs for it; hated that they’d taken “our blueprint” and built something towering above us and left no view but that of their cloud-cloaked crown.

But we didn’t suffer. At least not like we had in ’94, when that blueprint came within a cold hand of gold-capping. We moved on – or I did, anyway – believing better days lay ahead, even if it meant switching out a few of the cornerstone. Just not that cornerstone. When Ewing was traded to the Sonics a year later, it felt wrong, and we paid for it, and continue to pay for it, if curses do indeed die hard.

As the 90s gave way to a new decade and an NBA finding its way without a Jordan Polaris, the Spurs served as the constant constellation. Depending on the year, they were either just above the horizon or – in their title-winning seasons – directly overhead, visible, it seemed, in only those places where large market lights don’t cloud the skies. They brought on a pair of foreign guns to flank a flash-less forward now squarely in his prime, and Popovich’s growing masterpiece started featuring brushstrokes of flops and Euro-bred flair, and I just hated them more. I loathed Manu’s herky-jerky drives and Parker’s weakling grace. I despised Duncan’s stoicism and Robert Horry’s daggers and Bruce Bowen’s clandestine cheapies. I hated that they were winning while my team failed and floundered. But mostly I hated because I didn’t – or refused to – understand.

That hatred hit its apex in 2005, when the Spurs squared off against the defending Champion Pistons – having been whelped mere miles from their grounds, my second favorite team. Unlike the Knicks in ’99, the Pistons managed to give Duncan, Manu, Parker and company all they could handle. I’d just graduated from college, and my propensity for tapping into drunken rages at a moment’s notice had found its purest vessel. By the time Game 7 came around, I was ready to break shit. Never had I built up such an irrational antipathy towards what amounts to – let’s face it – a group of entertainers, than I did when the Spurs clawed and cut their way to a seven point win to take home their third trophy in just double the seasons.

For the rest of the decade, I equated silver and black in the NBA with bad calls and thespianic seizures; with flat-footed pivot monsters and pock-cheeked sideline maestros and –- most alien and threatening of all – winning. I knew they were doing it the right way, in the strictest organizational sense. Which is part of the reason why, as the years wore on and two title-less years turned to five, my hatred succumbed to numb ambivalence; where they once gnawed at me and beat my teams at their own game, now they were simply there, aging in a manner straddling stubbornness and grace but in no real way threatening. Like some postwar Soviet satellite, the real enemy now lay within.

I blame League Pass for the rest. Beginning last season, I started paying extra attention to the Spurs. After bowing out to the Grizzlies, in a Playoff throttling that laid all the flaws bare, San-An spent the offseason tinkering and re-tooling, adding depth and size and preparing themselves for another lockout-shortened slog. The end result has been a team 180-degrees gone – in praxis as much as theory – from those of a decade ago; from entrenched muscle to graceful guile, three-bar metal to Mozart, inching insect to Monarch Butterfly. And all with the public eye fixed mostly elsewhere.

A few days ago, Greg Popovich was asked to describe his team’s enthralling, perpetual motion offense. The answer was everything you’d expect from the Spurs’ skipper: quick, stock, and honest, but with a notable nod:

“As we got a little older and personnel changed, we were going to go from one of the best defensive teams to a more middle-of-the-road defensive team,” he said. “Something else had to change if we wanted to continue to win at a high level, so we went to the offense about two years ago and shifted it to pick up the pace to shift a little bit, went a little bit from Timmy to Manu and Tony and more attack early in the clock — kind of Mike D’Antoni-ish.”

Of course! Just as he had a baker’s dozen years ago, Popovich managed to perfect what so many seemed only capable of preaching. In a hilariously ironic turn, the Spurs have suddenly morphed – after a decade-long script flipping that happened too slowly for anyone to truly notice, let alone appreciate – into the team we should have been. The way the ball zips around like a charged ion; their patience and even-keeled air; the wholly genuine trust they all have in one another. They’re not simply the team Mike D’Antoni wanted us to become; they’re this generation’s incarnation of every New Yorker’s gold standard: the 1970 Knicks.

And you know what? I’m all in. Not that they’d ever replace the Knicks, or even match that team. I’ve invested far too much time, heart, karma, and closet space to turn back now. But – and you can blame time or age or marriage or basketball Stockholm Syndrome or whatever you want – that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them. The basketball is just too beautiful, the team too near the game’s Platonic ideal, to do anything but enjoy them.

After years of losing and loathing, and like they do and probably always will anyway, I’m finally ready to let the Spurs win.

65 comments on “Letting the Spurs win

  1. Nick C.

    They were always the foil to the much despised Lakers for me, so I wound up being a fan of them, Sac and Portland at various times. Then you had to feel bad for them having Rodman take off his sneakers, literally, in the playoffs and quit on them only to cherry pick his way over to the Bulls to get a rings and adulation (of sorts).

  2. Frank

    Makes you wonder whether Melo could have ever played the Manu Ginobili role – he’s a better PNR ballhandler than Manu but a much worse shooter. Still, I think it could’ve worked if Melo really gave it a chance. So many other issues though – if we had had a good PG and shooters and Melo was both getting easier looks (because of a good PG) and was averaging 5-6 assists/game (because 3 pointers and other open shots were being made), then maybe MDA would still be coaching.

    Whatever. Water under the bridge.

    Anyway – interesting things from the papers today — sounds like Woodson might be announced as early as today, and his agent is all huffy that he got dumped. Gotta be honest — if I were Woodson and I was *this close* to being head coach for one of top 3 or 4 NBA franchises (historically at least), and I thought my AGENT might prevent that? sorry dude, I’d dump him too. IMHO, an agent is there to advance your interests as a client, and the minute an agent is a DETRIMENT (regardless of whether it’s Dolan’s fault or whoever since Dolan isn’t going anywhere) — dumping him is the smart move. Personal loyalty yada yada yada.

    Second thing – interesting post from Alan Hahn on that stupid Sulia thing: “Had some interesting conversations last night during the Heat-Pacers game regarding the upcoming arbitration hearing about Bird Rights for waived players. There is a strong sense from legal minds that the players have enough of a case to win (which, of course, means the Knicks win with Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak). Others feel letter-of-the-law will win-out. We could know the result before the NBA Finals are over and almost certainly by NBA Draft night.”

    very interesting.

  3. Brian Cronin

    What I don’t get is why this Woody thing is taking so long. Didn’t the news break on Monday that it was imminent? How much haggling can there possibly be?

  4. Brian Cronin

    Awww…I was actually sort of hoping (but not really, as that’d be fucked up) it was assault or something, something that could really drive his value down.

  5. Owen

    “The way the ball zips around like a charged ion; their patience and even-keeled air; the wholly genuine trust they all have in one another. They’re not simply the team Mike D’Antoni wanted us to become; they’re this generation’s incarnation of every New Yorker’s gold standard: the 1970 Knicks”

    True.

    They certainly put the lie to the idea that one guy needs to have the ball in his hands all the time for an NBA offense to work in the playoffs.

    I really enjoy watching them play….

  6. Zach Horst

    This is really a kick-ass article. I too found myself despising the Spurs over the past decade. This year, I actually want them to win, but I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know.

  7. SSS

    Maybe this has already been discussed here, but…apparently Jerry Sloan is interviewing with the Bobcats. Is it possible that we’re not even considering him? Seems like a large mistake, unless we’re just giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming he wouldn’t come anywhere near DolanWorld.

  8. d-mar

    “The way the ball zips around like a charged ion; their patience and even-keeled air; the wholly genuine trust they all have in one another. They’re not simply the team Mike D’Antoni wanted us to become; they’re this generation’s incarnation of every New Yorker’s gold standard: the 1970 Knicks”

    Watching clips of the 1970 Knicks, I’m always struck by the number of wide open 10 foot jumpers and uncontested layups. The defense played back then was nowhere close to what we see today, so I’m not sure I would call them “the gold standard”. It was a totally different brand of basketball than what we see today, and whether it was “prettier” or not, I guess is in the eye of the beholder.

    I know this is heresy on this site, so have at it!

  9. SSS

    Fair enough. I don’t mean to be drawing Ruru’s fire here, but being a fan of a Melo-led team kind of sucks. Doesn’t suck in the manner that we Knicks fans have become used to over the past decade, but still kind of sucks.

    I’ll stop complaining now. And at least we have Tyson.

    Brian Cronin: Sloan and Melo would be a horrible pairing, and since Melo is not going anywhere, Sloan was likely never an option.

  10. TelegraphedPass

    SSS: Fair enough. I don’t mean to be drawing Ruru’s fire here, but being a fan of a Melo-led team kind of sucks. Doesn’t suck in the manner that we Knicks fans have become used to over the past decade, but still kind of sucks.I’ll stop complaining now. And at least we have Tyson.

    I think it depends on how you look at it. I’ve been a bit of a fan of his because he’s so human, and I enjoy that. He’s always been a bit overrated, but he had some great moments for us this year that get overlooked because we tend to be so judgemental.

    For all his flaws, Melo wants to be better. He made significant effort to create for others more this year, he played solid defense, and by the end of the season he looked more like the scorer idolized in Denver. But I don’t really need to talk about his performance. If think he’s too fat/inconsistent/inefficient/overrated then nothing anyone says will change that.

    I just enjoy the little moments Melo gives. Knocking down a big three and telling Luol Deng “This is MY f*****g house!” His words to Trayvon Martin’s family in the locker room. His irrational confidence in his own abilities. The moments when he takes the team aside to set up the offense at dead-balls to direct the defense. Him calling out screens to Iman in the half-court. The way he screams, “SHIT” when he gets hit on a layup and doesn’t get the call.

    It’s all kind of endearing once you strip away a desire to dislike him. I feel like a lot of his criticism is justified, but some of the louder ones are way exaggerated. With all the legitimate reasons players give to not like them (Lance Stephenson pushed his girlfriend down a flight of stairs during a fight…) I haven’t had a reason to dislike Melo on a personal level.

  11. thenamestsam

    Great article, very fun read. I’m really excited to watch this Spurs-Thunder series. It should be a really, really awesome series. This is the best part of the NBA calendar for my money, when the elite teams start to go head-to-head. Unfortunately Rose’s injury deprived us of that in the East and Miami will probably cruise. Hopefully in the next few years we’ll still have Knicks games to talk about at this time of year.

  12. ephus

    The discussion of Carmelo now reminds me of the discussion of Darryl Strawberry in 1989 on WFAN. It overshadows everything else about the team. Suppporters of the player point to stretches when the player carried the team on his shoulders (April 2012 for Melo), amazing offensive talent and strong defensive potential. Detractors of the player point to inconsistent effort, questionable conditioning and lackadaisical defense. Enigmatic facial expressions lead fans to question the player’s desire. Love/hate of the player becomes a primary identity for portions of the fan base, even beyond the love of the team.

  13. jon abbey

    Owen:
    “The way the ball zips around like a charged ion; their patience and even-keeled air; the wholly genuine trust they all have in one another. They’re not simply the team Mike D’Antoni wanted us to become; they’re this generation’s incarnation of every New Yorker’s gold standard: the 1970 Knicks”

    True.

    They certainly put the lie to the idea that one guy needs to have the ball in his hands all the time for an NBA offense to work in the playoffs.

    I really enjoy watching them play….

    no one will be surprised that I couldn’t agree less, give me the two man team of LeBron and Wade for entertainment value over the mostly dull as dishwater Spurs (except Parker) any day. if OKC or MIA are not in the Finals, I won’t pay much attention.

    meanwhile, Hollinger pointed out that the Spurs are a ridiculously insane 43-4 in their last 47 games with Parker playing.

  14. yellowboy90

    TelegraphedPass: Him calling out screens to Iman in the half-court. The way he screams, “SHIT” when he gets hit on a layup and doesn’t get the call.

    LOL. This gets me laughing every game. You hear it about 20-25 times a game. “oh S**T”.

  15. TelegraphedPass

    ephus: Love/hate of the player becomes a primary identity for portions of the fan base, even beyond the love of the team.

    It’s kind of made it tough to be a Knick fan, to be honest. I try to see where everyone is coming from and I like having different opinions, but it’s gotten pretty absurd. I’ve been called a moron for not buying that a player is selfish here and other places.

    Ultimately, I just don’t feel like I’m part of a team fanbase anymore. I just get lumped into a category of “Melo-lovers”, which is even more disturbing considering he isn’t one of my favorite players.

    I wasn’t grown enough to fully appreciate the Ewing years live, so I had to go back and find the highlights and recordings myself. I read about him and his teammates in Simmons’ book and wonder how much of that is accurate and how much is narrative. I wish I was able to watch the 70’s Knicks in action. My point is that I was never able to really experience being part of a raucous, proud fanbase of a good team. Now that NYK is a playoff team I had hoped that I could enjoy some of that, but mostly it’s just been annoying. Arguing with other Knicks fans why Shump’s ceiling isn’t Dwyane Wade, listening to the world and other fans call Lin overrated, and the whole Carmelo fiasco. It’s difficult. I keep coming back, cuz I’m a Knicks fan and enjoy the talks sometimes, but I’m more often depressed that I feel little connection with other NY fans than depressed over the future of this team.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a moron who’d feel better if he read The Layman’s Guide to Advanced Statistics.

  16. Owen

    Are they that dull? I don’t find them so, but I can understand the complaint I guess.

    Perhaps I just appreciate true excellence more than you….

    :-)

    jon abbey: no one will be surprised that I couldn’t agree less, give me the two man team of LeBron and Wade for entertainment value over the mostly dull as dishwater Spurs (except Parker) any day. if OKC or MIA are not in the Finals, I won’t pay much attention.

    meanwhile, Hollinger pointed out that the Spurs are a ridiculously insane 43-4 in their last 47 games with Parker playing.

  17. ephus

    I became a Knicks fan during the Ray Williams/Michael Ray Richardson era, attended many Bernard King games (including his comeback in the Spring of 1987, still the best ovation ever — even though MSG was only 2/3 filled), prayed that Patrick Ewing would become the savior and learned to appreciate the stoic ASG warrior that he became, thrilled at the Starks dunk, cringed at the Charles Smith putbacks, watched the 1999 team in amazement, suffered during the post-Ewing trade era and now have hope for the team once again.

    I am here to tell you that since the 1970-73 championship era – outside of 1984 – there never were “good old days” when the fan base was united without factions. In 1984, everyone got on board the Bernard King train. But Knicks fans were hugely divided between Ewing lovers and those who felt he never met his potential. Sprewell and Houston divided the fan base. Even Marbury had his devoted following.

    For example, the fans turned 1987 Patrick Ewing poster night into a fiasco. The team had failed to qualify for the playoffs in Ewing’s first two years and the mood was ugly when the Knicks handed out lifesize Ewing growth charts. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/03/18/sports/fans-hurl-posters-at-knicks-in-defeat.html

    In enduring one of his worst nights of the year – only 11 points and 3 rebounds in 26 minutes – the second-year center was showered with boos, jeers and cries for Eddie Wilkins, the Knicks’ 12th man. In the third period fans began peppering the court with the life-sized posters of Ewing that they received as a promotion on St. Patrick’s Day. One irate fan ran to courtside and ripped his poster to shreds.

    In fact, the fan shredded the Ewing poster while standing behind the basket while Ewing was on the foul line staring at him.

    I try to enjoy the Knicks while understanding that there are always going to be factions. I hope that ‘Melo raises his game, Stat recovers and Lin and Shump develop…

  18. ephus

    TelegraphedPass:
    @21 So you’re saying there is no hope?

    *begins seppuku*

    Put down the knife and enjoy the ride. The Knicks may not be perfect, the players may not be perfect, but they are all ours. And know that when the Knicks finally make it to the promised land, you will be able to regale future generations with tales of how you endured years in the wilderness before seeing them raise the banner.

  19. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    ephus: Put down the knife and enjoy the ride.The Knicks may not be perfect, the players may not be perfect, but they are all ours.And know that when the Knicks finally make it to the promised land, you will be able to regale future generations with tales of how you endured years in the wilderness before seeing them raise the banner.

    They’re not “ours.” They’re the athletes employed by a corporation to sell tickets, ad revenue, and merchandise. They’re multi-millionaires who get paid nearly the same whether they win 60 or 20 games, and they’re largely chosen out of free agency. Few of them have allegiance to fans the way the fans have allegiance to them. They’re no longer representatives of a region who funnel into a professional team. They’re workers. I see no reason to affix some sort of mystique upon them because they play a game with a ball. We should appreciate players who perform well and play good, winning basketball, not players who luck out in getting a contract signed by James Dolan.

  20. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    jon abbey: no one will be surprised that I couldn’t agree less, give me the two man team of LeBron and Wade for entertainment value over the mostly dull as dishwater Spurs (except Parker) any day. if OKC or MIA are not in the Finals, I won’t pay much attention.

    meanwhile, Hollinger pointed out that the Spurs are a ridiculously insane 43-4 in their last 47 games with Parker playing.

    I disagree with your assessment of the Spurs as “boring.” They had the 7th fastest pace and the most efficient offense in the league, this year, a far cry from the grind of the championship teams.

  21. Z

    ephus:

    I am here to tell you that since the 1970-73 championship era – outside of 1984 – there never were “good old days” when the fan base was united without factions…

    What about Linsanity?!
    (before Melo had to come along and kill it:)

  22. ephus

    They are ours because we invest in the Knicks. Without the meaning we invest in the team, none of it has meaning. And, to be clear, what I meant by they are “all ours” is that the band wagon has not arrived yet.

    If a visitor from the future told me that the Knicks win the championship in 2018, I would be excited — even though I would have no idea which players will be wearing those uniforms and it is a virtual certainty that most of the current roster would be long gone. My love for the Knicks has endured the departure of Michael Ray Richardson, Bernard King, Patrick Ewing, Louis Orr (a strange favorite of mine), Marcus Camby, David Lee and will endure even after all of the current players leave. My love for the Knicks is despite (and certainly not because of) James Dolan.

    The difference between basketball and ballet is the “mystique” that fans put into the struggle and triumph of the team. When I watch the Knicks, I am not just admiring the technique with which Chandler plays post defense, the grace of Stat or the power of ‘Melo. I am emotionally invested in my team winning. I know that I care about the “Knicks” winning while the players by and large do not care about the history of the Knicks and (at best) bond to their current teammates. Does not matter to me.

    We gather here to discuss the Knicks and to speculate about how they can improve. I do not want this site to merely be a bloodless exercise in basketball appreciation. I think (and hope) that the current roster is closer to a championship then the Knicks have been in a decade (which is a low bar). Go Knicks!

  23. tastycakes

    The Honorable Cock Jowles: I disagree with your assessment of the Spurs as “boring.” They had the 7th fastest pace and the most efficient offense in the league, this year, a far cry from the grind of the championship teams.

    Pace has way less to do with it than demeanor.

    The Spurs are boring because Tim Duncan is boring. Possibly the least emotive / expressive true NBA superstar in my lifetime. It doesn’t help that they love picking up steady but flair-free role players like Danny Green and Kahwi Leonard and Gary Neal. Obviously if they’re your team, and they win like the Spurs win, they can’t be boring. But there is a reason they have that reputation, and it comes from the Big Fundamental.

    I’ve lived in Austin for 10 years now and wish the Spurs were a team that I could get behind, as the arena is 75 minutes from my house, but I have never been able to root for them, ever. I had the privilege of seeing them win the championship in person back in 02 (03? whenever they beat the Nets) and I must have been the lone person walking out of that building disappointed. Weird experience! The only people in Austin that care about them have roots in SA. They just don’t have that transcendant pull of most dynastic sports franchises.

    Anyway, the Thunder are my adopted team now and I’m pulling hard for them. But if it ends up being Spurs – Heat, there is no question I’ll be rooting for the Spurs, for the first time in the Duncan era. My hatred for the Heat is mega deep these days.

  24. tastycakes

    Admittedly, the style the Spurs play today is far more appealing, and it’d be nice for an up-tempo team to win it all to help put a dent in the unfortunate “only defense can win championships” meme.

    But teams are not made up of game plan-executing robots, they’re made up of humans, and I find it very hard to get behind Duncan and Parker, albeit for very different reasons why I can’t get behind LeBron and Wade.

    More than all the other pro sports, the NBA is about personality.

  25. Owen

    I don’t think there is a player I enjoy watching more than Manu, which is why I always watch the spurs when I can. I guess Harden now would have that title actually. But Manu is still a great reason to watch them, flops and all.

    I don’t really feel much attachment to the players, I have to admit, unless they are underdog figures like Lee or Lin. Players do come and go.

    To me the essence of being a sports fan is the community it creates with other fans and the way teams carry the standard for their community. I am not in it to idolize players, personally anyway, but for the connection it creates wit other fans.

    That said, there is no wrong way to enjoy sports…

  26. d-mar

    Today is the anniversary of the famous Starks left handed dunk over Horace Grant and Jordan. I happened to be at that game, and it was almost a surreal experience, you had to turn to the person next to you and ask “Did I just see what I think I saw?” I know I’m biased, but still the greatest dunk ever IMO, especially because it happened in an important playoff game, it was against the Bulls and it was in the face of the best player in the NBA.

  27. 2FOR18

    d-mar:
    Today is the anniversary of the famous Starks left handed dunk over Horace Grant and Jordan. I happened to be at that game, and it was almost a surreal experience, you had to turn to the person next to you and ask “Did I just see what I think I saw?” I know I’m biased, but still the greatest dunk ever IMO, especially because it happened in an important playoff game, it was against the Bulls and it was in the face of the best player in the NBA.

    That dunk is the highlight of my existence as a Knicks fan.

    Regarding the melo thing, anyone else notice that the divide seems to be generation based? It seems the younger people on here like him more than the older people.

  28. 2FOR18

    I think the people who still think the Spurs are boring need to check them out more. Ten years ago I didn’t enjoy watching them, but now they are a joy to watch. This series with OKC is going to be a blast.

  29. jon abbey

    tastycakes: Pace has way less to do with it than demeanor.

    The Spurs are boring because Tim Duncan is boring.Possibly the least emotive / expressive true NBA superstar in my lifetime.It doesn’t help that they love picking up steady but flair-free role players like Danny Green and Kahwi Leonard and Gary Neal.Obviously if they’re your team, and they win like the Spurs win, they can’t be boring.But there is a reason they have that reputation, and it comes from the Big Fundamental.

    I’ve lived in Austin for 10 years now and wish the Spurs were a team that I could get behind, as the arena is 75 minutes from my house, but I have never been able to root for them, ever.I had the privilege of seeing them win the championship in person back in 02 (03? whenever they beat the Nets) and I must have been the lone person walking out of that building disappointed.Weird experience!The only people in Austin that care about them have roots in SA.They just don’t have that transcendant pull of most dynastic sports franchises.

    Anyway, the Thunder are my adopted team now and I’m pulling hard for them.But if it ends up being Spurs – Heat, there is no question I’ll be rooting for the Spurs, for the first time in the Duncan era.My hatred for the Heat is mega deep these days.

    yeah, this, except I rooted hard for Miami this round and will root even harder for them next round.

    to Owen’s semi-joking point, I appreciate individual excellence more than pretty much anything else in hoops, but only if it comes with a degree of flair and swag (or ‘sway’, to use my man Shumpie’s term). watching the Spurs is like watching an instructional video (again, with the exception of Parker), not my cup of tea.

    and your favorite player is Ginobili? he is the biggest flopper in the whole league, ugh ugh ugh.

  30. daaarn

    Zach Horst:
    This is really a kick-ass article. I too found myself despising the Spurs over the past decade. This year, I actually want them to win, but I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know.

    Ditto. I initially disliked the Spurs simply b/c they were the opponents in the ’99 Finals, then after that, I hated them b/c of their sustained success, which seemed to coincide with the Knicks sustained decline, both on the court and in the front office [the Nets rise to prominence didn't help things]. I was jealous of how everything just seemed to work for them and that eventually (d)evolved into irrational spite.

    It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve finally let go of my irrational hatred and I’m truly appreciating the way they play and how the organization is run. And now, I’m definitely rooting for them or the Thunder to win the championship, especially if it prevents either the Celtics or Heat from winning.

  31. jon abbey

    oh, and I see Owen at least mentioned Manu’s flops, so I didn’t need to, sorry.

    upon further reflection, San Antonio is like the ultimate WNBA team kicked up a dozen notches, all fundamentals and very little raw athleticism. I’d rather watch a team of 15 Anthony Randolphs, even if they never won games, but that’s just my taste.

  32. johnlocke

    Rooting hard for the favorite that’s been an enemy of the Knicks franchise…including back-stabbing Pat Riley?? I think I hate the Heat probably a bit more than the Celtics.

    jon abbey: yeah, this, except I rooted hard for Miami this round and will root even harder for them next round.

    to Owen’s semi-joking point, I appreciate individual excellence more than pretty much anything else in hoops, but only if it comes with a degree of flair and swag (or ‘sway’, to use my man Shumpie’s term). watching the Spurs is like watching an instructional video (again, with the exception of Parker), not my cup of tea.

    and your favorite player is Ginobili? he is the biggest flopper in the whole league, ugh ugh ugh.

  33. johnlocke

    How do you know who the younger and older people on here are, besides the self-identifying. LOL. Am I young or old?

    2FOR18:

    Regarding the melo thing, anyone else notice that the divide seems to be generation based?It seems the younger people on here like him more than the older people.

  34. johnlocke

    Yeh that’s true. Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard are their two best players. By the way, haven’t watched Kawhi a ton this season, but he is pretty fun to watch. Really athletic, huge hands, versatile offensive and defensive player. Should be fun to see him matched up with Durant….I think he could even have spot duty on Westbrooke.

    jon abbey:
    oh, and I see Owen at least mentioned Manu’s flops, so I didn’t need to, sorry.

    upon further reflection, San Antonio is like the ultimate WNBA team kicked up a dozen notches, all fundamentals and very little raw athleticism. I’d rather watch a team of 15 Anthony Randolphs, even if they never won games, but that’s just my taste.

  35. johnlocke

    meant athletes….not players

    johnlocke:
    Yeh that’s true. Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard are their two best players. By the way, haven’t watched Kawhi a ton this season, but he is pretty fun to watch. Really athletic, huge hands, versatile offensive and defensive player. Should be fun to see him matched up with Durant….I think he could even have spot duty on Westbrooke.

  36. daaarn

    2FOR18: That dunk is the highlight of my existence as a Knicks fan.

    Regarding the melo thing, anyone else notice that the divide seems to be generation based?It seems the younger people on here like him more than the older people.

    Out of curiosity, where are you drawing the age/generation line? I’m in my mid-20s and began watching the Knicks in the early-mid ’90s, so those rough ‘n tumble Riley+Van Gundy teams are still sorta my “ideal” Knicks.

    As such, I’m not a fan of Amare [or any big man who cant play decent defense or board], and my opinion on Carmelo seems to vacillate with each game. Depending on when the “younger” people started watching, I can imagine their preference for Carmelo is tied in with the fact that in the last decade, one of the more notable names to wear a Knicks jersey would probably be Marbury, so Carmelo’s definitely a step up from that at least.

  37. ephus

    For me, the high water mark as a Knick fan was Game 5 in the 1994 Finals. At that moment, I was convinced that the Knicks were about to end a 21 year drought. Game 6 was impossible to enjoy because of OJ. And Game 7 felt like a losing cause from too early, even though it was close.

    Like Jim, I always felt like the 1999 series was a bridge too far. My most frustrating memory is the Knicks fouling late to try to get the ball back, but only putting two men on the lane so that the shooter (Duncan?) was able to rebound his own miss when everyone else was tied up.

  38. 2FOR18

    johnlocke:
    How do you know who the younger and older people on here are, besides the self-identifying. LOL. Am I young or old?

    You can tell several people’s age range just from what they’ve said on here.

    Just some examples: the biggest melo naysayers are Owen and Hulahoop, and they appear to be post 40, like myself. “ER”, ruru’s gramatically challenged alter ego, hasn’t given any indication.
    Ruru is in his late 20’s or thereabouts. Doug is a young whippersnapper and tends to rip on the melo rippers.

    You, I haven’t fully investigated yet, so I don’t know :)

    But my guess is that the older crowd doesn’t enjoy the iso ball thing. It’s not pretty to watch.

  39. jon abbey

    johnlocke:
    Rooting hard for the favorite that’s been an enemy of the Knicks franchise…including back-stabbing Pat Riley?? I think I hate the Heat probably a bit more than the Celtics.

    well, we all have our own ‘enemies’. I never took the Mourning/Hardaway Heat too seriously, as NY always seemed to beat them when they weren’t hampered by ridiculous suspensions. I have always rooted for LeBron, character flaws and all. dude does stuff I’ve never seen before, that’s what I watch the NBA for.

    but I don’t want them to win the title, I am hoping OKC blows out both SA and MIA by 40 points per game in 8 straight games, in the NBA equivalent of that great UNLV team. I’m not holding my breath, but that’s what I’d like to see…

  40. 2FOR18

    daaarn: Out of curiosity, where are you drawing the age/generation line? I’m in my mid-20s and began watching the Knicks in the early-mid ’90s, so those rough ‘n tumble Riley+Van Gundy teams are still sorta my “ideal” Knicks.

    As such, I’m not a fan of Amare [or any big man who cant play decent defense or board], and my opinion on Carmelo seems to vacillate with each game. Depending on when the “younger” people started watching, I can imagine their preference for Carmelo is tied in with the fact that in the last decade, one of the more notable names to wear a Knicks jersey would probably be Marbury, so Carmelo’s definitely a step up from that at least.

    Yeah, I would consider you one of the young ones, and that’s a good point. If your main memories of the Knicks consist of the last 12 years, then melo looks pretty damn good. And Amare drives me nuts because I loved the Ewing/Oakley/Mason frontline

  41. jon abbey

    2FOR18: You can tell several people’s age range just from what they’ve said on here.

    Just some examples:the biggest melo naysayers are Owen and Hulahoop, and they appear to be post 40, like myself.“ER”, ruru’s gramatically challenged alter ego, hasn’t given any indication.
    Ruru is in his late 20?s or thereabouts.Doug is a young whippersnapper and tends to rip on the melo rippers.

    You, I haven’t fully investigated yet, so I don’t know :)

    But my guess is that the older crowd doesn’t enjoy the iso ball thing.It’s not pretty to watch.

    I’m 45 and love the iso thing. it is pretty to watch, just a different shade of pretty.

  42. Z-man

    jon abbey: no one will be surprised that I couldn’t agree less, give me the two man team of LeBron and Wade for entertainment value over the mostly dull as dishwater Spurs (except Parker) any day. if OKC or MIA are not in the Finals, I won’t pay much attention.

    Owen: Are they that dull? I don’t find them so, but I can understand the complaint I guess. Perhaps I just appreciate true excellence more than you….:-)

    The Honorable Cock Jowles: I disagree with your assessment of the Spurs as “boring.” They had the 7th fastest pace and the most efficient offense in the league, this year, a far cry from the grind of the championship teams.

    There are so many ways to play winning basketball and all are fascinating to me. Slow, fast, bludgeon-ball, finesse-ball, pass-the-ball, hero-ball, I love it all. I was watching the Heat-Pacer game last night, and while it was far from aesthetic perfection, I saw one thing after another that reminded me why I have loved this sport for 45 years, from Wade’s spectacular high-arcing bankers to West’s he-man post-ups. I love both the mano-a-mano part and the teamwork part of the drama. I love how a superstar can dominate, or how a role player or an unknown can go off, or how it can be a total team effort. If all teams played the same way, THAT would be boring.

  43. max fisher-cohen

    For a long time, there was no accessible narrative for me to relate to the Spurs. They had the best players, and those players always played the same way. They never got arrested. They always got back on defense. They didn’t argue on the court. They seemed like a machine. The only slightly appealing player to me was Stephen Jackson, the guy with the dark history who early on was the guy who seemed in tune with the emotional swings of the game and took pleasure in stepping in and hitting dagger shots, momentum shots.

    Now though, the main thing (beyond the stylistic changes) that makes them appealing to me is the fact that they no longer are this super-talented team that wins because they should. Instead, Duncan is an old man. Ginobili should be in decline. Parker is even getting up there. So the fact that they had a 62 win pace this year while from day 1 distributing minutes like they’d already secured a playoff spot is almost flabbergasting. I read somewhere that if you count the games the Spurs’ stars sat, their starting lineup averaged 23 MPG.

    If anything, the Bulls are the new Spurs in their mechanical, risk averse ways. They have a single main option on offense — no need for imagination or creativity in their sets because otherwise its all about defense, while the Heat are the new Lakers, with their superstars and constant drama. The Spurs don’t really fit any narrative that is appealing to pundits. They don’t win with defense, and they don’t win with superstars. That makes their success interesting, and it’s why I can root for them now when before I despised them.

  44. JK47

    Indulge me here a moment. Let’s say the Knicks get several very good breaks and that they are awarded Bird Rights to Lin and Novak. Let’s also pretend JR Smith exercises his option and returns to the team.

    What exceptions would we have available to us? Would we still have the full MLE and a mini-MLE?

  45. ephus

    It depends upon how much the Knicks have to spend on Novak and Smith and how much they choose to spend on Fields. If the Knicks get Novak for $3 MM (same as the mini-MLE) and give Smith the maximum 20% raise (which is different from his opting in) and allow Fields to sign elsewhere, here are the numbers.

    Stat: $19.9 MM
    ‘Melo: $19.4 MM
    Chandler: $13.6 MM
    Smith: $2.8 MM
    Lin: $5.0 MM
    Novak: $3.0MM
    Shumpert: $1.7 MM
    Douglas (ouch): $2.1 MM
    Balkman (double ouch): $1.7 MM
    Harrelson: $762 K
    Jordan: $762 K
    Jeffries: $762 K
    3 Vet minimum cap holds @ $762 K

    That gets you to $72.8 MM, or just below the apron of $74 MM. So, the Knicks would only have the mini-MLE available to them.

    If the Knicks can find someone to take Douglas off of their hands and do not resign Fields (or resign him for the qualifying offer) then they would have the BAE or about $3.5 MM of the MLE.

  46. nicos

    Nice article Jim! I feel the same way- I can hardly believe that I’m rooting for the Spurs to win it all. I think one thing that’s made me like them more is that Pop has really become a much more likable guy than he was 10 years ago- at least in terms of his media persona- he can still be a little too Belichick-ian/I don’t suffer fools at times but he’s also shown he has a real sense of humor.

    Also, now that Miami appears to have it’s mojo back, I think Spurs/Miami could be really interesting. Spurs pnr offense vs. Miami’s defense would be really interesting to watch. And I don’t think the Spurs defend the rim well enough to give the Heat problems at that end. I think the Spurs win if they hit their threes but if not it’s anyone’s series. Of course, we still might get OKC/Philly so I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

  47. Z

    2FOR18: You can tell several people’s age range just from what they’ve said on here.

    Just some examples:the biggest melo naysayers are Owen and Hulahoop, and they appear to be post 40…Ruru is in his late 20?s or thereabouts.

    Owen and Ruru may be closer in age than you think…

  48. Owen

    Lol, yes, clearly I sound like a cranky aging curmudgeon….

    What can I say, it’s difficult being a Knicks fan….

  49. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    nicos:
    Nice article Jim!I feel the same way- I can hardly believe that I’m rooting for the Spurs to win it all.I think one thing that’s made me like them more is that Pop has really become a much more likable guy than he was 10 years ago- at least in terms of his media persona- he can still be a little too Belichick-ian/I don’t suffer fools at times but he’s also shown he has a real sense of humor.

    Also, now that Miami appears to have it’s mojo back, I think Spurs/Miami could be really interesting. Spurs pnr offense vs. Miami’s defense would be really interesting to watch.And I don’t think the Spurs defend the rim well enough to give the Heat problems at that end.I think the Spurs win if they hit their threes but if not it’s anyone’s series.Of course, we still might get OKC/Philly so I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

    If you had to deal with a mob of professional critics who will analyze you and your body of work ex post facto, and who won’t lose their job no matter how often and to what degree they are wrong, wouldn’t you be curt and dismissive too?

  50. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    also, re: Isiah trying to get back into high-level ball:

    http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/7972930/isiah-thomas-hoping-return-college-nba

    “Thomas also realized people were going to continue to knock him for his failures.

    “When you have had a lot of success, when you do have a failure, people like to point that one failure a lot,” Thomas said. “That just comes with the territory. It’s no different than being one of the top programs. It’s no different than at a Notre Dame, a Michigan, an Indiana.”

    UNREAL. Dude got hit with a $11.5M sexual harassment lawsuit, earned a six-figure fine for his organization for pre-draft workouts that could have crippled their competitive ability through draft sanctions, gave Jerome James a $30M contract for having one big playoff series, all in the process of running a marquee professional sports franchise into the ground, and then utterly failed at the college game. One failure.

  51. nicos

    The Honorable Cock Jowles: If you had to deal with a mob of professional critics who will analyze you and your body of work ex post facto, and who won’t lose their job no matter how often and to what degree they are wrong, wouldn’t you be curt and dismissive too?

    No doubt, but now that the theatrical sighs and eye-rolling are leavened with a genuine sense of humor (which he probably always had but was more reluctant to show), Pop’s become much easier for me to root for.

  52. JK47

    The Spurs are a really tough matchup for the Heat. The Spurs are the #1 three-point shooting team in the league while the Heat rank 26th in 3P% allowed. The Heat thrive on turnovers but the Spurs rank #3 in the league in offensive TOV%. The Spurs are not a great defensive team but they do rank #1 in the NBA in defensive rebounding, so the Heat won’t get lots of second chance buckets. The Spurs are also #2 in defensive FT/FGA, so don’t expect the Heat to have a wide FT disparity in their favor.

    Plus the Spurs would have home court advantage. San Antonio looks like a nightmare matchup for the Heat.

  53. jon abbey

    The Honorable Cock Jowles:
    also, re: Isiah trying to get back into high-level ball:

    http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/7972930/isiah-thomas-hoping-return-college-nba

    “Thomas also realized people were going to continue to knock him for his failures.

    “When you have had a lot of success, when you do have a failure, people like to point that one failure a lot,” Thomas said. “That just comes with the territory. It’s no different than being one of the top programs. It’s no different than at a Notre Dame, a Michigan, an Indiana.”

    UNREAL. Dude got hit with a $11.5M sexual harassment lawsuit, earned a six-figure fine for his organization for pre-draft workouts that could have crippled their competitive ability through draft sanctions, gave Jerome James a $30M contract for having one big playoff series, all in the process of running a marquee professional sports franchise into the ground, and then utterly failed at the college game. One failure.

    plus he singlehandedly destroyed the CBA before that.

    http://www.hoopsvibe.com/features/articles/168248-how-isaiah-thomas-killed-the-cba

  54. nicos

    JK47:
    The Spurs are a really tough matchup for the Heat. The Spurs are the #1 three-point shooting team in the league while the Heat rank 26th in 3P% allowed. The Heat thrive on turnovers but the Spurs rank #3 in the league in offensive TOV%. The Spurs are not a great defensive team but they do rank #1 in the NBA in defensive rebounding, so the Heat won’t get lots of second chance buckets. The Spurs are also #2 in defensive FT/FGA, so don’t expect the Heat to have a wide FT disparity in their favor.

    Plus the Spurs would have home court advantage. San Antonio looks like a nightmare matchup for the Heat.

    All true but SA primarily runs a pnr based offense and Miami is capable of defending the pnr better than anybody. Also, SA really struggles to defend the ball-handler in the high pnr (per Prutti today in Grantland) and that’s Miami’s only real weapon in the half-court. Shading bigs into the paint may have deterred Chris Paul but no one on SA’s back line is going keep Wade or LBJ from attacking the rim. As I said- SA hits it’s threes and they win but if they don’t they could be in trouble.

  55. KnickfaninNJ

    ephus:
    It depends upon how much the Knicks have to spend on Novak and Smith and how much they choose to spend on Fields.If the Knicks get Novak for $3 MM (same as the mini-MLE) and give Smith the maximum 20% raise (which is different from his opting in)and allow Fields to sign elsewhere, here are the numbers.

    Stat: $19.9 MM
    ‘Melo: $19.4 MM
    Chandler: $13.6 MM
    Smith: $2.8 MM
    Lin: $5.0 MM
    Novak: $3.0MM
    Shumpert: $1.7 MM
    Douglas (ouch):$2.1 MM
    Balkman (double ouch): $1.7 MM
    Harrelson: $762 K
    Jordan: $762 K
    Jeffries: $762 K
    3 Vet minimum cap holds @ $762 K

    That gets you to $72.8 MM, or just below the apron of $74 MM.So,the Knicks would only have the mini-MLE available to them.

    If the Knicks can find someone to take Douglas off of their hands and do not resign Fields (or resign him for the qualifying offer) then they would have the BAE or about $3.5 MM of the MLE.

    I am not sure this is correct NBA teams don’t have to carry fifteen players and some don’t. There are ‘t cap holds for roster spots you don’t have to fill. I think the minimum roster is twelve, and then your last three cap holds wouldn’t apply to the Knicks in this case.

  56. ephus

    Teams have to carry at least 13 players, but the Knicks also have to carry Balkman’s salary. So there are two extra vet minimum cap holds that can be eliminated. You are still at $71.4 MM, so you could not use the full MLE.

  57. max fisher-cohen

    ephus:
    Teams have to carry at least 13 players, but the Knicks also have to carry Balkman’s salary.So there are two extra vet minimum cap holds that can be eliminated.You are still at $71.4 MM, so you could not use the full MLE.

    True, but Balkman isn’t on the roster, just the payroll, so there is one empty roster spot. Jeffries would also get the vet’s minimum (1.2m) or maybe a 20% raise on that — $1.44m.

  58. ephus

    For salary cap purposes, Jeffries (or any veteran) gets carried at second year veteran’s minimum (762 K) not his full salary. The NBA pays the difference between the salary and the second year veteran’s minimum in order to dispel the disincentive to use more tenured veterans.

  59. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, pretty much they have to be at $69 million before signing Lin for the MLE to be available. It’ll be tough. Hopefully they can somehow dump Douglas.

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