Let the Kids Play!

Sunshine Delay
is when the traffic slows down
because the sun is in your eyes.

Barcelona

Today I had the good fortune of having one of my closest friends come into the city. We met up at a pub to have a few beers & watch the Knicks game. My friend, let’s call him Doctor F., isn’t a basketball fan by any stretch of the imagination. His favorite sport is football. We go to at least one baseball game a year together, and he also likes hockey. He can enjoy a basketball game if one is on and if I’m around to let my emotions spill over. Friends are like that. We want to share interests with each other, even if those things don’t normally interest us.

The good Doctor and I discussed the merits of the hockey and basketball. Hockey is an easy sport for me to critique. It’s maybe the only major American sport where it’s hard to see an actual score in real time. In baseball you can always watch a guy cross a plate, or a home run sailing over the fence. Balls are large in soccer, basketball, and football, so everyone can see the actual process of scoring in these sports. (Yes I know it’s unclear when a guy dives for the pylon if he scores or not, but you would have seen the action.)

However in hockey when a guy takes a slap shot you have to look for some other clue to see whether that little black puck flying at 100+ MPH made it past the goalie. I’ll also add to my list of hockey weaknesses the brutality. Sure there is a niche that like to see two people ruthlessly beat each other up, but it’ll never reach the mainstream in it’s current form. I would consider watching hockey more often if they made it more of a finesse game with a larger rink (Olympic style) and do away with fighting.

Dr. F made a good point about basketball’s main weakness. The last two minutes take too long. I agree (and I’m sure my wife does as well). I can’t stand what a basketball game turns into for the last few minutes. To use a simile, a basketball game is like you being the only person driving on the highway until you get within a few blocks of your destination. At that point you hit the worst bumper-to-bumper traffic you’ve ever seen. A basketball game goes smoothly for about 45 minutes, and then grinds to a halt with fouls and time outs.

Sure in baseball, managers can take forever visiting the mound and bringing in relievers. But baseball is a slow game throughout, so it’s not as noticeable. Teams huddle up for every play in football, so time outs aren’t that evident since you expect the action to stop repeatedly. Even when football teams have 2 or 3 time outs the game doesn’t slow to a crawl. The two minute drill is one of the most exciting times in any major sport. The defense doesn’t want to call a timeout. Offensive players have to judge in a split second whether the time saved by going out of bounds is worth the extra yardage he can make by trying to run up the field. Quarterbacks have to decide when they can afford to throw it over the middle of the field. Players on both sides have to scramble up the field when the clock is running, so they will be onside for the next hike.

So why can’t we have this in basketball? Imagine this, your team is down by 4, and your team’s center gets a long rebound from their opponents missed shot. With the current rules:

The center immediately calls a time out. After a minute or two of beer, car and sneaker commercials the TV comes back to your team’s offense at the other end of the court. They are aligned in an inbound formation. The ref dribbles the ball once, puts the whistle in his mouth, and hands the ball to the inbounding player. After about 3 to 300 picks someone gets open and has the ball passed to him for a quick shot.

Without being able to call a timeout:

The center immediately turns around to find his point guard, and passes he ball. The PG races up the court, along with both teams frantically trying to get to the other side of the court. The PG decides to use this confusion to try to gain an advantage, so he slashes to the hoop, and draws in 3 of the unprepared defenders. He alertly passes out to a trailing teammate behind the three point line, and puts up a trey.

One of the greatest (for non-Knick fans) endings to a game came when Reggie Miller hit two three pointers in a few seconds without the game stopping. The NBA has been looking to change their rules over the last decade to increase scoring. This may not increase scoring, but it would add excitement. I would imagine coaches being opposed to this, since they get paid so much to draw up plays on their chalkboards.

The NFL enhances the two minutes of their game with their rules. Defensive players are not allowed to slowly get off the ball carrier to waste more time. Players are no longer allowed to fake injuries to create an artificial time out. Offenses are penalized, at times, with the loss of time off the clock. The NBA could try this out in exhibition games, a year before implementing the new rule. It can’t be any worse than moving the three point line in.

DON’T LET’S START

Don’t let’s start
This is the worst part
Could believe for all the world
That you’re my precious little girl
But don’t let’s start
I’ve got a weak heart

They Might Be Giants

What a day to start a Knicks blog. In case you decided to do something else last night other than watch the game yesterday (lucky choice), you might not understand why. I can attest to you first handed that the Knicks played a half-hearted effort for 3 quarters last night. I wish I could say anything about the fourth quarter, but I switched to another game half way through. They scored 11 after the first quarter, 28 at the half. It was that kind of night. Thank goodness I don’t believe in omens or anything of that sort, or this might turn out to be the worst blog ever.

This is the Knicks team that we’ll see for the rest of the year, since the trade deadline has passed. Only 5 of the 12 players that played last night were on the team at the start of the year. It’ll be 6 when Houston comes back from injury. For the most part, I really like what Isaiah Thomas has done with this team since his arrival. This is a team that won 37 games last year, and 30 the year before. Scott Layden had assembled a bunch of overpriced bench players, that seemingly had zero value and couldn’t be dealt. Over the summer Knick fans had hope again, when Layden drafted 3 young players with promise. It should have been a good sign when for once the Knick fans at the draft were cheering for the players that were drafted instead of their usual “Fi-re Lay-den!”

However things went sour quickly, as two of the rookies were burried on the I.R., and the third was so low on the depth chart that he played a whole 44 minutes (garbage minutes) before heading to the I.R. in December to join his draftmates. The team was in the worst sort of disarray, they were losing games and not developing their rookies. You can’t blame Dolan for firing Layden at that point.

Since then Isaiah, has taken over the reigns. If the NBA was a western movie, Isaiah would have been the cowboy who stops the gallooping horses from taking the carriage off the cliff. He cut rookie Slavko Vranes. The Knicks had about 7 guys that could play PF, but only 2 SG and 2 PGs. Weatherspoon went to the Rockets for Moochie Norris. Zeke made the huge trade for Stephon Marbury & Penny Hardaway. And a few days ago, he traded Keith Van Horn, Michael Doleac, and a second round pick for Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed.

In my opinion, he’s done a great job on each move, except for the last one. I still don’t understand that last deal. Keith Van Horn is Tim Thomas’ superior in most of the important statistical categories. He’s a better scorer. A better rebounder. A better offensive rebounder. A better thief. A better free throw shooter. Better at drawing fouls. Thomas has him beat in assists, turnovers, and age.

So I was shocked to see the media for the most part praising this move. I don’t know the statistics on this, but I’m sure nobody could give a reason without including the words “more athletic.” I can’t verify this either, but I’m sure the word “alley-oop” increased on Knick message boards by about 500%.

One question that just leaps into my mind: If Thomas is more athletic, then what words would you use to describe why he has put up less statistically? Unskilled comes to mind to me. Unmotivated seems to be a favorite choice of optomists. There have been plenty of players that have been great athletically, but aren’t good basketball players. There is more to basketball than being athletic, just like in baseball (right Michael?).

I guess in the scope of things, the loss to the Knicks in this deal isn’t that bad. Nazr Mohammed is by most scouting reports, an excellent rebounder and a decent shooter. He hasn’t played much in the last few years, so maybe he can develop into a decent big man, like another Knick did. If he can develop into a C that can play 24-30 minutes a game, maybe that can alleviate the loss of Van Horn. The Knicks are a better team today because of Isaiah Thomas than they were just two months ago. I just hope Houston comes back ASAP & is healthy, because right now the Knicks don’t have a good second scorer.