Melo is/was right: we are in a dark place.
This is exhausting. I don’t know about you, but I’m just tired of writing the same dumb things about a dumb team that fails in painfully repetitive, dumb ways.
All of it so very Beckett-like (if the man had ever heard of or deigned to root for a team, this one would nestle in the cockles of his heart). Unnamable, yet totally familiar.
So yes, again there aren’t any individual grades tonight. The same small group of ‘Bockers (more or less) were good (but not good enough), and the same somewhat larger group of Dutch Short Pants were bad (just bad enough) in exactly the same fashion that they’ve been bad in the 14 prior games.
I’m not even angry (Okay, I’m a little angry), but whatever I (or any of the myriad smart people who watch basketball) might say about this game has been said before. I can say it till I’m chartreuse in the face, and yet I (and you can’t shake the gnawing feeling that it will never change; that our anguish and plaintive cries of dismay and desks/tables/ottomans pounded into kindling by our battered, blood-stained knuckles is the equivalent of trying to change the chemical composition of the Caspian sea by dumping bucket after bucketful of our collective bile.
We know, deep down in the dark places we don’t talk about at cocktail parties, that this cannot be fixed.
Woodson will not be sent packing, even if he makes somewhere between two and 5,367 strategic (for lack of a better term) decisions a game that make you seriously consider the idea that he’s shaving points or outright dumping games.
For example, if Prigioni is hurt (there’s been some idle chatter about plantar fasciitis and/or a wonky shoulder, via the un-whistled cross-block in Wednesday night’s meaningless exercise in masochism), how can you play him in the 2nd half? Sorta screws up the lie that he’s hurt (if it is a lie). Or if he’s being benched for shoddy play (really?), it’s largely due to the fact that (like many of his fellow ‘mates) he’s being used incorrectly and for ever-decreasing periods of time (And never in two-PG looks with Felton, because if something works, you should probably shatter it into a bajillion pieces, bury the shards in equidistant points around the globe and salt the earth so that nothing of hoops value ever grows there again.).
As with many (all?) things Knick, we are left to decide—Scylla and Charybdis-like—between incompetence and utter bullshit.
If Woodson hopes to maintain any credibility whatsoever as a coach that demands ‘Accountability,’ (Ha!) and does (for once) yank JR when he’s playing like he hoovered a bad dose of Dilaudid, why (Oh God. Yes, an indifferent [at best] God, and at worst a petty, juvenile, somewhat sadistic God) oh why do you put him back in the game with six minutes to go?
Yes, Hardaway got toasted by Ol’ Perfesser Andre Miller, but he was actually hitting spot up threes. He might have been fazed by “the moment” (as they say), but he wasn’t launching ill-considered isolation jumpers or treating the rock like it was an extra-large hunk of red kryptonite. Even Mike Breen, once a staid, truly objective play-by-play man, has been reduced to an apoplectic, spittle-flecked blogger in tone and temperament, unleashing such verbal bombs as, “How long do you let him keep playing if he’s not defending well and he’s not hitting shots?”
And yes, Woodson did go with Melo at the four for vast swathes of this game. This is a good thing. And he did keep Amar’e under his federally-mandated twenty minutes per game, because keeping him on the court in the 2nd half (after some passable [yes, the soft bigotry of low expectations rears its ugly, deformed, pock-marked head] play in the 1st) would have been declared cruel and unusual punishment, or at least employee harassment, even by as corporate-friendly a gang of Supremes as the Roberts Court.
But if you feel compelled to start hashtagging #FIREWOODSON like a fiend (and I’ll RT you like a mofo if you do), I have to ask, what then? They’ll only hire even more of a cow-towed lackey to take his place.
Phil Jackson and/or any members of the Van Gundy clan are not ever walking through that door.
And yes, our beloved ephebe, Iman Shumpert, was aggressive and damned effective. And he’s still a Knickerbocker (for now).
And yes, Bargs was deadly as a pick and pop shooter.
Of players with more than 70 mid-range attempts, Paul George (51.8%) and Andrea Bargnani (51.4%) are the top 2 in FG%.
— Robby Kalland (@RKalland) November 29, 2013
And yes, this was an awful game to watch (Be forced to watch, by forces unknown and unnamable?), and the Rocky Mountain Folk seemed to be doing their damnedest to hand it to the New Yorkers in a silver chalice. Why the Gold Miners didn’t run Ty Lawson (Never a Knick, Always a Knick-killer) on the pick and roll every single goddamned time, when said play yielded nothing but uncontested shots at the rim or wide open treys after a half-decent kick-out pass remains an impenetrable, monstrous mystery.
Are the Knicks so sad that they’re inspiring pity? Or is their basic, essential sadness a virus, infecting their opponent with a sickness, the symptoms of which are lethargy, indifference and perhaps the death of a few million of the brain cells that control b-ball IQ.
What happened to all the nifty plays from last season? Where are all the double and even triple screens? Where’s that set at the elbow that harkened back to the weaves of Auerbach’s hated Celtics?
Why are they gone? Has Woodson forgotten them? Or do the players on the floor refuse to run them, which again leads us back to a terrible, warped-mirror version of Sophie’s Choice. Then again, this quote is enough to call into question whether or not the man is operating with all his fac-ul-ties intact.
Wow, Mike Woodson said this yesterday: "I don't put it on the offensive end. I'm not that kind of coach. We did everything we needed to do..
— John Schmeelk (@Schmeelk) November 27, 2013
"… last year based on our defense first and rebounding the ball and then we went and played offense. That's how the game is played."
— John Schmeelk (@Schmeelk) November 27, 2013
And after the game, he said, “I thought Iman and JR played better tonight.”
I cannot stop asking why, even though asking why is pointless. The answers will never come from the powers that be, and even if they did, if we were to be told why certain players start and others sit, and why some can seemingly do no wrong, while others are sent to the gulag/phantom zone for the slightest transgression, the answers (truth?) might prove just as or even perhaps possibly more hateful than the stony silence upon which we fling our endless queries.
But there they were, after JR Smith (finally) hit a three (because of course), as did Ray Felton (who seemingly pent as much time on his belly as his spirit animal), and Wilson Chandler (Hello, old friend. You are here. Of course you are. So is Nate, torching the Knicks like an imp of the perverse, and Timofey, Golem-like, not particularly effective but still there, reminding us of something forgotten, or something we forced ourselves to forget, that wasn’t really all that pleasant or loving or beautiful or even good when we had it [Did we have it?], but now that it’s gone—swept away by the zephyr-ic, ever-shifting gusts of our memory, we cherish it all the more. All memories are lies. Lies that grow in strength and intensity, for in the end, our lies about ourselves are all we have. WE DEFINE OURSELVES BY THAT THING WE NEVER WERE AND NEVER WILL BE.) stepped out of bounds, the deficit was 96-93.
And then they couldn’t inbound the ball, and Earl was falling out of bounds (twice) and somehow managed to get the ball to Shump, after it glanced tantalizingly off the hands of seemingly every player on the court, who drove and converted a layup (That shouldn’t be shocking. It is. Before tonight, he was only hitting 36% at the rim.). And then Lawson made one of two. And I was screaming. Not out of misplaced, impotent rage, but rather yawps of pure hope.
And though I swore I’d given up, that I didn’t care, my heart proved my head and mouth a liar. It was there, what we’d pined for (begged for, dreamed for) an actual (if ugly) win within their grasp.
Melo grabs the rebound and has the ball (because of course he does. Melo dribbles the clock down (why?). Melo’s facing four guards and Chandler, but he does not drive to the rim, even if he had been receiving the “superstar calls” that he’d been screaming from the highest mountain were his very birthright.
Instead, facing Randy Foye, he shoots a contested fadeaway. Was he fouled? Maybe. Could have gone either way. See here:
UPDATE: As Brian Cronin ‘splained in the comments: “You’re allowed to block the shot and if, in blocking the shot, you hit the player’s hand (while the ball is in his hand) as well, then it is considered as if you’re just hitting the ball. Essentially, it is another way of saying that it is is incidental contact. As otherwise, every time you block a shot you’re likely to hit the opposing player’s hand, ya know?
Here’s the specific rule in the NBA rule books (Rule 12 (B)(I)(e):
Contact which occurs on the hand of the offensive player, while that hand is in contact with the ball, is legal”
Poop. And of course:
Melo now 1 for his last 15 on potential game-tying/winning shots in last 30 seconds of a game. Was 5-of-14 in 2011-12.
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) November 30, 2013
Melo was at 44% in those situations prior to last season (the league average is 28%). But Heroball doesn’t allow for questions. Heroball merely is.
Is hope less preferable than despair? I don’t know the answer. We’ve lived with the latter for so long (How long? All season? The past decade? All our lives? Before that, even?) such that the former feels like a cruel, sadistic joke.
But we go on. Another game (loss? Yes…) looms on Sunday.
Where now? Who now? When now? Unquestioning.
I, say I. Unbelieving.
Questions, hypotheses (call them that).
Keep going, going on (call that going, call that on).
Can it be that one day (off it goes), that one day I simply stayed in (in where? To watch yet another Knick loss) instead of going out, in the old way, out to spend day and night as far away as possible? (It wasn’t far.) Perhaps that is how it began. You think you are simply resting (the better to act when the time comes, or for no reason) and you soon find yourself powerless ever to do anything again but watch yet another bad game.
No matter how it happened. (It, say it, not knowing what.) Perhaps I simply assented at last to an old thing. (But I did nothing.) I seem to speak (it is not I) about me (it is not me).
These few general remarks to begin with.
What am I to do (what shall I do, what should I do?) in my situation? How proceed? By aporia pure and simple? Or by affirmations and negations invalidated as uttered (or sooner or later)? (Generally speaking.) There must be other shifts. Otherwise it would be quite hopeless. But it is quite hopeless. (I should mention before going any further – any further on – that I say “aporia” without knowing what it means.)
Can one be ephectic otherwise than unawares? I don’t know. With the yesses and noes it is different: they will come back to me as I go along. And now, like a bird, to shit on them all without exception.
The fact would seem to be (if in my situation one may speak of facts) not only that I shall have to speak of things of which I cannot speak, but also (which is even more interesting) that I shall have to… I forget, no matter. And at the same time I am obliged to speak. I shall never be silent. Never.
I shall not be alone, in the beginning. (I am of course alone.) Alone. That is soon said. (Things have to be soon said.) And how can one be sure, in such darkness? I shall have company. In the beginning. A few puppets. Then I’ll scatter them, to the winds, if I can.
And things? What is the correct attitude to adopt towards things? And (to begin with) are they necessary? What a question! But I have few illusions: things are to be expected. The best is not to decide anything (in this connection) in advance. If a thing turns up, for some reason or other, take it into consideration.
Where there are people (it is said) there are things. Does this mean that when you admit the former you must also admit the latter? Time will tell. The thing to avoid (I don’t know why) is the spirit of system. People with things, people without things, things without people – what does it matter? I flatter myself it will not take me long to scatter them, whenever I choose, to the winds. (I don’t see how.)
The best would be not to begin. But I have to begin. That is to say I have to go on. Perhaps in the end I shall smother in a throng: incessant comings and goings, the crush and bustle of a bargain sale. No, no danger. (Of that.)
Carmelo is there. Of his mortal liveliness little trace remains. He passes before me at doubtless regular intervals. (Unless it is I who pass before him? No, once and for all: I do not move.) He passes, motionless. But there will not be much on the subject of Melo, from whom there is nothing further to be hoped. Personally I do not intend to be bored. (It was while watching him pass that I wondered if we cast a shadow. Impossible to say.)
He passes close by me, a few feet away – slowly, always in the same direction. I am almost sure it is he. The cocksure headband and orange shooting sleeves seems conclusive. With his two hands he props up his jaw. He passes without a word. Perhaps he does not see me. One of these days I’ll challenge him. I’ll say… I don’t know, I’ll say something… I’ll think of something when the time comes. (There are no days here, but I use the expression.) I see him from the waist up: he stops at the waist, as far as I am concerned. The trunk is erect. But I do not know whether he is on his feet or on his knees. (He might also be seated.) I see him in profile. Sometimes I wonder if it is not Woodson. Perhaps it is Woodson, wearing Melo’s headband. But it is more reasonable to suppose it is Melo, wearing his own headband. (Oh, look, there is the first thing! Melo’s headband!)
I see no other clothes. Perhaps Woodson is not here at all. Could he be, without my knowledge? (The place is no doubt vast. Dim intermittent lights suggest a kind of distance.) To tell the truth I believe they are all here (at least Toure’ Murry and some other useless 7-footer on the bench, taking up space). I believe we are all here. But so far I have only seen Melo. Another hypothesis: they were here, but are here no longer. I shall examine it after my fashion. Are there other pits, deeper down? To which one accedes by mine? (Stupid obsession with depth!) Are there other places set aside for us – and this one where I am, with Melo, merely their narthex? (I thought I had done with preliminaries.) No, no, we have all been here forever, we shall all be here forever. I know it.
No more questions.
Is not this rather the place where one finishes vanishing? Will the day come when Melo will pass before me no more, exiled to Los Angeles via free agency? Will the day come when Melo will pass before the spot where I was? Will the day come when another will pass before me, before the spot where I was? I have no opinion, on these matters.
Were I not devoid of feeling, Woodson’s beard would fill me with pity. It hangs down, on both side of his chin, in one giant tuft of impenetrable hair. Was there a time when I too revolved thus? No, I have always been sitting here, at this selfsame spot, my hands on my knees, gazing before me like a great barn owl in an aviary. The tears stream down my cheeks from my unblinking eyes. What makes me weep so? (From time to time.) There is nothing saddening here. Perhaps it is liquefied brain. Past happiness in any case has clean gone from my memory, assuming it was ever there.(If I accomplish other natural functions it is unawares.) Nothing ever troubles me. And yet I am troubled.
Nothing has ever changed since I have been here. But I dare not infer from this that nothing ever will change. Let us try and see where these considerations lead.
I have been here, ever since I began to be a fan of the Knicks (my appearances elsewhere having been put in by other parties). All has proceeded, all this time, in the utmost calm, in the most perfect order (apart from one or two manifestations the meaning of which escapes me). (No, it is not just their meaning escapes me, my own escapes me just as much.) Here all things… No, I shall not say it, being unable to.
I owe my existence to a sad basketball team. These faint fires are not of those that illuminate or burn, like Steph Curry and his ilk. Going nowhere, coming from nowhere, Melo doesn’t pass.
These notions of forbears, of houses where lamps are lit at night, and other such: where do they come to me from? And all these questions I ask myself? It is not in a spirit of curiosity: I cannot be silent. About myself I need know nothing.
Here all is clear. No, all is not clear. But the discourse must go on. So one invents obscurities. Rhetoric. These terrible rotations, for instance (which I do not require to mean anything): what is there so strange about them, so wrong? Is it their irregularity, their instability, their shining strong one minute and weak the next, but never beyond the power of one or two candles? JR Smith appears and disappears with the punctuality of clockwork, always at the same remove, the same velocity, in the same direction, the same attitude. But the play of the lights is truly unpredictable. It is only fair to say that to eyes less knowing than mine they would probably pass unseen. But even to mine do they not sometimes do so? They are perhaps unwavering and fixed, and my fitful perceiving the cause of their inconstancy.
I hope I may have occasion to revert to this question. But I shall remark without further delay (in order to be sure of doing so) that I am relying on these lights (as indeed on all other similar sources of credible perplexity) to help me continue and perhaps even conclude.
I resume, having no alternative. Where was I? Ah yes: from the unexceptionable order which has prevailed here up to date may I infer that such will always be the case?
I may of course. But the mere fact of asking myself such a question gives me to reflect. It is in vain I tell myself that its only purpose is to stimulate the lagging discourse: this excellent explanation does not satisfy me. Can it be I am the prey of a genuine preoccupation, of a need to know as one might say? I don’t know. I’ll try it another way. If one day a change were to take place, resulting from a principle of disorder already present, what then? That would seem to depend on the nature of the change. (No: here all change would be fatal and land me back, there and then, in all the fun of the fair.)
I’ll try it another way. Has nothing really changed since I have been here? No, frankly, hand on heart… wait a second… no, nothing to my knowledge. But, as I have said, the NBA may well be vast, as it may well measure twelve feet in diameter. It comes to the same thing, as far as discerning its limits is concerned.
I like to think I occupy the center of the basketball-watching universe, but nothing is less certain. In a sense I would be better off at the circumference, since my eyes are always fixed in the same direction, at the game and yet another loss. But I am certainly not at the circumference. For if I were it would follow that JR Smith, wheeling about me as he does, would issue from the enceinte at every revolution (which is manifestly impossible). But does he in fact wheel? Does he not perhaps simply pass before me in a straight line?
No, he wheels, I feel it. And about me, like a planet about its sun. And if he made a noise, as he goes, I would hear him all the time (on my right hand, behind my back, on my left hand) before seeing him again. But he makes none. For I am not deaf, of that I am convinced (that is to say half-convinced).
From center to circumference in any case it is a far cry and I may well be situated somewhere between the two. It is equally possible (I do not deny it) that I too am in perpetual motion, accompanied by James Dolan (as the earth by its moon). In which case there would be no further grounds for my complaining about the disorder of the starting lineup and the pick and roll defense, this being due simply to my insistence on regarding them as always the same and viewed always from the same point. (All is possible – or almost.) But the best is to think of myself as fixed and at the center of this game-watching place (whatever its shape and extent may be). This is also probably the most pleasing to me. In a word: no change apparently since I have been here. Disorder of the lights perhaps an illusion. All change to be feared. Incomprehensible uneasiness.
That I am not stone deaf is shown by the sounds that reach me. For though the silence here is almost unbroken, it is not completely so. I remember the first sound heard in this place (I have often heard it since) it is Marv Albert and Hubie Brooks, extolling the virtues of Bernard King. For I am obliged to assign a beginning to my residence here, if only for the sake of clarity. Hell itself, although eternal, dates from the revolt of Jeff Van Gundy. It is therefore permissible (in the light of this distant analogy) to think of myself as being here forever, but not as having been here forever. This will greatly help me in my relation. Memory notably (which I did not think myself entitled to draw upon) will have its word to say, if necessary. (This represents at least a thousand words I was not counting on. I may well be glad of them.)
So after a long period of immaculate silence a feeble cry was heard, by me. (I do not know if Hubie heard it too.) I was surprised (the word is not too strong): after so long a silence a little cry (stifled outright). What kind of creature uttered it – and (if it is the same) still does, from time to time? Impossible to say. Not a human one in any case, there are no human creatures here (or if there are they have done with crying). Is Dolan the culprit? Am I? (Is it not perhaps a simple little fart? They can be rending.)
Deplorable mania, when something happens, to inquire what. If only I were not obliged to manifest! And why speak of a cry? Perhaps it is something breaking? Some two things colliding? There are sounds here, from time to time, let that suffice. This cry to begin with (since it was the first). And others, rather different. I am getting to know them. (I do not know them all: a man may die at the age of seventy without ever having had the possibility of seeing Halley’s comet.)
It would help me, since to me too I must attribute a beginning, if I could relate it to that of my abode. Did I wait somewhere for this place to be ready to receive me? Or did it wait for me to come and people it? By far the better of these hypotheses (from the point of view of usefulness) is the former, and I shall often have occasion to fall back on it. But both are distasteful. I shall say therefore that our beginnings coincide: that this place was made for me, and I for it, at the same instant. And the sounds I do not yet know have not yet made themselves heard. But they will change nothing. (The cry changed nothing, even the first time. And my surprise? I must have been expecting it.)
It is no doubt time I gave a companion to Ba. But first I shall tell of an incident that has only occurred once, so far. (I await its recurrence without impatience.) Two shapes then, oblong like man, entered into collision before me. They fell and I saw them no more. (I naturally thought of the pseudo-PG couple Felton-Prigioni.) The next time they enter the field, moving slowly towards each other, I shall know they are going to collide, fall and disappear, and this will perhaps enable me to observe them better.
Wrong. I continue to see the Knicks as darkly as the first time. My eyes being fixed always in the same direction I can only see (I shall not say clearly, but as clearly as the visibility permits) that which takes place immediately in front of me – that is to say (in the case before us) the collision, followed by the fall and disappearance. Of their approach I shall never obtain other than a confused glimpse, out of the corner of the eye. (And what an eye!) For their path too must be a curve (two curves), and meeting (I need not say) close beside me. For the visibility (unless it be the state of my eyesight) only permits me to see what is close beside me.
I may add that my seat would appear to be somewhat elevated, in relation to the surrounding ground. (If ground is what it is. Perhaps it is water or some other liquid.) With the result that, in order to obtain the optimum view of what takes place in front of me, I should have to lower my eyes a little. But I lower my eyes no more. In a word: I only see what appears close beside me. What I best see I see ill.
Why did I have myself represented in the midst of men, the light of day? (It seems to me it was none of my doing. We won’t go into that now.) I can see them still, my delegates. The things they have told me! About men, the light of day! I refused to believe them. But some of it has stuck.
But when, through what channels, did I communicate with these basketball-playing gentlemen? Did they intrude on me here? No, no one has ever intruded on me here. Elsewhere then. But I have never been elsewhere. But it can only have been from them I learnt what I know about men and the ways they have of putting up with it. (It does not amount to much. I could have dispensed with it. I don’t say it was all to no purpose. I’ll make use of it, if I’m driven to it. It won’t be the first time.) What puzzles me is the thought of being indebted for this information to persons with whom I can never have been in contact. Can it be innate knowledge? Like that of good and evil? This seems improbable to me. Innate knowledge of my mother (for example): is that conceivable?
Not for me.