It’s cool being the worst team in the NBA for the season but knowing that your opponent is going to be the worst team in the NBA on the nights it’s facing you. Our active roster looks like this: two 9th overall picks, an 18th pick, a 23rd pick, two second round picks and three undrafted dudes. There’s no way someone is going to do worse, right?
Well, I present to you the April 2019 Chicago Bulls: a hodge-podge of fringe guys around a legitimate NBA player (Robin Lopez) and nothing else. They never presented a challenge to our own merry band of misfits, and how could they? They are essentially the basketball equivalent of the team Pro Evolution Soccer gave you at the start of a new Master League: computer-generated players lacking skills, namesake recognition and (sometimes) purpose.
Our guys started very strong, up twenty (35-15) with 2:30 to go in the first on the heels of strong performances by Kornet, Mitch, Knox and a bit of DSJ. The momentum hit a lull in the second when we fielded a terrible lineup composed by Garrett, Jenkins, Dotson, Ellenson and Hicks, where everybody was too slow and unathletic to do anything and our guys weren’t able to score for three straight minutes. Fortunately, the Bulls were also terrible but the stench of that lineup stayed in the air for the remainder of the game, and Chicago crept several times close to us. Like a bored old man in a hot summer night with a pesky mosquito, though, the Knicks kept mustering just the minimum amount of effort needed to keep the nuisance at more than an arm’s length, and the victory was never in doubt.
In the third quarter we were even treated to a jumpshot attempt by Mitch, who improves in every aspect of his game: his first jumpshot attempts of the season, in late October, was an airball. This one grazed the rim! Maybe by his fifth attempt he’ll actually hit the back rim. Anyway I was delighted to see him take the shot, not because it was good or even needed (it was neither of them), but because it means that he actually might have the freedom to attempt things outside of his comfort zone. I don’t want a jump shooting Mitch, but if he’s able to add a few wrinkles to his offensive game in the offseason, we’re going to have a real shot of having a superstar on our roster.
Notes about the game:
– This game meant absolutely nothing apart from the fact that winning it saved this ragtag bunch of scrappy-doers the ignominy to helm the absolute worst season in franchise history. Right now they’re tied with the Phil-laden 2014-15 abomination, and with a victory against the Pistons would condemn that atrocious iteration to stay alone in its own basketball hell. I’ll be rooting hard for these kids tonight.
– When Mike Breen said there would have been no Mario at point last night, I was visibly saddened by the notion. Judging by Breen’s frown, I think he shared my malady. The Mudiay experience has gone so far that a (mostly) sane person is forced to deeply appreciate the more nuanced approach to the position that Mario brings with him. It’s like going to rural China for a few months, and after that being delighted at the thought of a meal entirely made by Big Macs and McNuggets.
– Speaking of point guards, DSJ played in a very Mudiay-like manner last night. 25 points on 23 shots, 5 assists and 4 turnovers, and a general incapability to involve guys in the action. I seriously hope this version of Smith Jr is just hampered by his back problems, because there’s definitely not a lot to like about that. Also, his shot looks irreparably broken.
– A lot of us have been pining for Mitch and Kornet together. We know that this game shouldn’t count for much, but here they were: 20 points, 30 rebounds and 9 blocks (!) together. You know who would have played very well alongside Mitch, don’t you?
– Kornet’s numbers (12 points, 13 rebounds, 6 blocks and 2 threes) were great, and just the 11th such occurrence in NBA’s history. Only two players have done it more than once, one is Shawn Marion and you know who is the other, don’t you?
– Here’s the list of Knicks rookies grabbing 17+ boards on multiple occasions: Willis Reed, Patrick Ewing, some guy named Johnny Green in 1959 and Mitch. The legend of the lob goes on.
– Apropos of lobs, it is really that hard to throw a decent high pass? People seem to have forgotten how to send a dime in the general Mitch vertical zone. It’s a shame.
– Again about Mitch: he’s now the 20th rookie ever to have blocked at least 160 shots. I’ll wait one more game and then I’ll shower you with all of the accolades and records he’s amassed in his phenomenal rookie season.
– Kevin Knox had a decent game, apart from the fact that he’s a remorseless chucker. 17 and 10, but 5-for-16 from the field (1-for-8 inside the arc).
– Kornet is a terrible chucker too, though. He needed 14 shots to get to 12 point. It’s ok being a stretch 4/5, but sometimes it would be good to hit those shots inside of the arc, you know? This season’s TS% is 53.7 for Luke, and that’s with him shooting a bad 41.5% from two. I hope he develops a couple moves from the post, if he wants to stick for good.
– I usually root for nobodies plucked from the G-League depths, but I can’t find the inner strength to actually lobby for Billy Garrett’s future. Sad thing is, he’s not that far from Ntilikina in terms of real basketball contributions.
– Madness all around the League! Magic steps down from the Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations seat without telling anyone beforehand. Heat fans sing “Paul Pierce sucks!” after the Truth’s bonkers remarks about his career being on par with Dwyane Wade’s, only Wade was able to ride his teammates’ train a little more (it’s the same as hearing Britney Spears saying she’s equal to Whitney Houston, having had the same career and skills but being overlooked because one starred in “Crossroads” and the other in “The Bodyguard”). Dallas wins another game and loses ground on the tanking race. It feels good to be normal-awful, for once.
Guys, just one more. Let’s do this, and then keep our fingers crossed for 34 days.