Pacers 125, Knicks 91
Yep, it’s another one of those recaps. If you want grades, everyone failed. That’s not hyperbole or the gnawing rage that’s roiling in my gut talking; they all get a well-deserved F, even Jim Todd fails for not punching Frank Vogel in his sweaty, carbuncular little substitute teacher face. If you want to hear what happened, because you were fortunate enough to skip this so-called display of professional-grade basketball, just think about all the things that have bedeviled the ‘Bockers this season—Melo jacking contested mid-range shots, stagnant offense, an inability to fight through the slightest screen and/or switching at each and every opportunity, allowing a physical team and a series of questionable calls get into their heads causing the loss of all composure, giving a poor shooting team enough time to both prepare and enjoy a light snack before launching a shot such that said poor shooting team gets insanely hot/confident, an over-reliance on three-point shooting, missed free throws, getting pulverized on the boards. Got that? Good. Now imagine all those things happened in the same game simultaneously but far worse than the absolute nadir that we’ve seen so far this season.
It was like that, with the added bonus of Lance Stephenson and Paul George toying with the Knicks in a manner similar to that of your older brother beating you handily in a pickup game and questioning your manhood/sexual orientation, possibly whilst administering a slew of purple nurples, Indian burns, noogies, wedgies, and even the dreaded atomic wedgie. (For those who never were administered one, it’s a painful prank where one or more individuals pull the tighty-whities of the victim up and over that person’s head while they are wearing them, sometimes covering their eyes and cramming their undergarment so far up their crack it tends to rend the flesh therein.)
Here are some numbers if you’re not convinced. At halftime, the Knicks’ Offensive Efficiency was 86.3 and their Defensive Efficiency (facing an opponent whose offense no one would confuse with the ’86 Celtics) was 145.1.
And here’s a picture of the Knicks’ shooting. The blood, so much blood…
Embarrassing. Humiliating. Pathetic. The Knicks were the archetypal ectomorphic bow tie wearing, bug collecting, Ventolin inhaler-sucking, clarinet playing, pock marked geek/nerd/dweeb/dork/spaz and the Pacers were the schoolyard bully/jock/cool kid.
So yeah, they all fail Hoops 101 tonight. They earned said mark not because the threes and countless layups weren’t falling. That’ll happen from time to time (and has with ever-increasing frequency of late), but because they played with absolutely zero energy and/or effort. If you’ve read my recaps in the past, you’ll know that the “The other team wanted it more” cliché is a particular bugaboo of mine. It’s a sloppy, throwaway line that writers/broadcasters sling in lieu of actual analysis.
Well, here’s the thing about clichés. They’re clichés because they do contain a great deal of truth. It’s something I picked up in AA. You can look at the line, “Take it one day at a time,” like useless pabulum that’s better served on a crocheted on the pillowcase and hung on the wall of a suburban family’s den somewhere in a flyover state.
But the nasty teeth buried within that saccharine-sounding bit of fortune cookie-level advice is that the reality of truly being present and living each day for itself is requires the kind of focus/concentration that monks and mystics spend a lifetime trying to perfect/master.
So yes, “They lacked desire,” is both meaningless and incredibly meaningful. The fact that they put forth this execrable effort after the all-star break, when batteries were supposedly recharging aged bones were rejuvenating in hermetically-sealed, oxygen-infusing hyperbaric chambers and whatnot, when a drive towards the postseason would be the only thing on their collective hive-mind and they’d be focused on putting their best Nike-clad foot forward is a bad, bad sign, to say the least.
For fuck’s sake, even our normally vitriolic coach seemed dumbly benumbed by this gelatinous, oozing, snot green, thing-you’d-scrape-off-the-bottom-of-your-shoe-but-you’re-scared-it-might-contain-a-flesh-eating-virus-level abomination of a game. He had that same bemused, semi-lobotomized grim grin that Isiah sported throughout the entirety of the 2007-08 season. The look that said, “I’m not leaving. They’re gonna have to fire me but I’m not walking away from those Cablevision ducats. I might go postal and decapitate every single sentient life form in the locker room but I’m not. Going. To. Leave.” In the 4th, he even took to wearing spectacles on the sideline for the first time…ever, I think. I can’t imagine he wanted to get a better view of what was occurring on the court. I’m a going to assume that he was pulling a Bobby Valentine, donning a shoddy costume to avoid detection. If the reaction on the Twitter is any indication, there’s a storming-Frankenstein’s-castle-type horde of peasants toting pitchforks and flaming torches, ready to vivisect the Goateed one should he venture past the moat that is MSG’s militant give-no-quarter PR team.
Why they decided to exhibit all the energy and desire of a anhedonic Emo band front man, mumbling, “Fight through a pick? Gah. Screw that. There’ll be another one in a few seconds. Besides, closing out on this shooter isn’t going to bring my girl back. I hate myself,” is beyond my knowledge, but it certainly doesn’t speak well of either the so-called “Veteran Leadership” on this team or their “Accountability”-preaching coach
So, where do we go from here?
The natural reaction, given the blood-curdling rage that I and all of you are still feeling plus the natural tendency of the New York sports market to see our local teams as existing between one of two poles—earth-smashing, Galactus-like domination or circles of hell, ineptitude and misery that even Dante never ventured to, as of midnight tonight—is to rend one’s clothes and drunkenly race off into the night, howling like a madman that the Blue and Orangers are careening towards the latter.
Even though you wouldn’t exactly be wrong in your assessment of the team’s current status, the added bonus is that the trade deadline is a mere 15 plus hours away and it’s natural to want to burn this mutha fluffer to the ground. Our friend in the North, James Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo Cavan suggested these possible deals:
Smart move. I’m pretty sure flaming garbage fits under the salary cap, though I probably should consult Larry Coon to be 100% sure.
I beseech you, good sirs and fellow fans; do not go down the route of WFAN-caller level hysteria and consonant-free bile. You’re a very smart bunch and I’m sure you realize that for one, this team has one (1) tradable asset—Shump. If a deal for Redick or another floor-spacer of equal value presents itself, I would hope that the team would strongly consider it, but expecting a thorough house-cleaning at this juncture is setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Plus, trades made out of panic never, ever end well and any scouts/GM’s who watched tonight’s self-induced apocalypse are going to try to rob Grunwald blinder than Morey did the Maloofs.
So don’t be that guy.
That said, this is a crossroads for this team. For all of us who thought the Toronto game or the Philly game or the Chicago shellackings were hitting rock bottom, you were wrong. This is it (I hope).
I can’t help but be reminded of an exercise from Grad School. For those who don’t know I went to a place called L'Ecole Internatione de Theatre Jacques Lecoq. It’s in Paris and though they bill themselves as a training program for theater-creators (Sacha Baron Cohen's an alum and so are Geoffrey Rush and Gates McFadden [Dr. Beverly Crusher from Star Trek: TNG]!), around the downtown circuit, it’s pretty universally known as, “The Clown School.” So yes, I have a graduate degree in clowning.
Anyhoo, it’s the first exercise when we began clown in the 3rd semester of the final year. Here’s how it goes. You exit the room and re-enter wearing your clown nose (No floppy shoes or balloon animals, stop snickering, ya Wisenheimers.). The entire class and the professor are seated at one side and your job/goal is to make all of them burst out into uproarious, simultaneous, gut-busting laughter.
Here’s the catch. You are not allowed to do anything to make them laugh. You can’t speak or tell a joke or do a pratfall. Nothing. You have to do literally nothing besides enter the room, stand in front of them and still make them laugh.
If you do attempt something like pull a funny face (and it’s patently obvious when one is doing something), the professor says, “Stop. Leave. Try again.” And you have to exit the room and start over.
That may sound pointless or impossible but let me tell you, it’s one of the most frightening things one could possibly imagine. You’re standing there, doing nothing, confronted by thirty faces of stony, Woodsonian silence and disapproval, with nary a semi-smirk to be found. It’s existentially terrifying is what it is
And then the miracle happens.
When you’re truly feeling like death itself, because you are completely and wholeheartedly failing, then, and only then, do they start to laugh.
You fail. Really, fail, mind you, not fake-fail-because-you-saw-the-student-before-you-fail-so-you-try-to-imitate-or-replicate-his/her-failure and are actually stewing in a pit of self-doubt, self-loathing and utterly desolate I’d-rather-be-gored-by-a-charging-boar-than-stand-here-for-a-milisecond-longer-esque despair, then, they all start giggling. Because, watching someone else suffer and fail is funny if it’s real and genuine. That’s not Sadism or Schadenfreude, it’s the ability to see someone else’s failure as inimically human. It’s a laughter that speaks to the joy of recognition that we’re all Nietzsche’s bungled and botched and those flaws—those moments of extreme loneliness/solitude—are actually something beautiful that binds us all.
It’s called “The Flop” (Le Bide, en Français) and I regale you with this tale of snooty French clowning because I want to make the point that there is a value in utterly failing, in flopping like no one’s business, which our gang of cagers certainly did tonight.
So here we are.
The question of what happens next and whether this colossal bide leads to a moment of joy and a return, slowly but surely to the successes of November/early December or if this is merely a bunch of overpaid, spoiled, shiftless a-holes who are going to half-ass their way through the 2nd half of the season remains to be seen.
I’m hoping it’s the latter. Maybe I’m a pie-eyed fool for thinking so (and yes, I have a Graduate degree that marks me as a highly-trained fool) but I have hope. I hope that this is their rock bottom, their flop/point of no return and that the cheers and laughter and joy from a group of spectators watching this fiasco are not far behind.
After all that (and a moment of optimism your perpetually pessimistic recapper/correspondent), if you're still miserable, here's a photo of me from my Paris schoolboy days (lest you thought that shaggy dog story was pure fiction). Hopefully this, if nothing else, will bring a smile to your face.
Be kind to each other. We’ll do this again on Friday.
Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.