So I’m in Las Vegas, and if you happen to be in the area in the next 8 days, I highly recommend dropping by to check it out. Personally, I’m not a Vegas guy. In my opinion, it’s not so much a city as a giant, tasteless, crass monument to curious consumption and/or an absolutely shameless, over-the-top, rapacious, multi-limbed machine hell-bent on separating one from the last plugged nickel stuck to the bottom of one’s turned-out, depression-era pockets; a fake-boobed, Axe Body Wash-drenched behemoth with a plastered rictus of a grin that keeps growing and growing until you’re staring into an bottomless black maw filled with endless rows of blood-stained teeth…but that’s just me.
For other folks, it’s a lot of fun.
That said, even if the quality of play is well below the caliber of an NBA game, the Summer League is really an incredible event. Because the Cox Pavillion is size-wise the equivalent of a mid-to-large HS gym, you really can see everything. It’s downright intimate and as such kind of humanizingly beautiful (overall quality of play notwithstanding), especially in contrast to the plastic frame of Vegas that surrounds it, if that makes any sense. Most of the players here will disappear from our collective memory tout suite. But there’s John Shurna and oh look, Henry Sims! Wow, Demetris Nichols is dropping dimes for the Nuggets. It may be so much self-serving nostalgia, but I still like those guys. I hope they’re able to stick at the bottom of a roster, or at worst find a fat foreign paycheck tucked snugly under their pillow.
But beyond the pleasures of seeing old friends, watching eight or nine games in a single day and droplets of Aron Baynes’ sweat splattering your face Gallagher-style, you also have to opportunity to rub elbows with the hordes of coaches, execs and both current and former NBA players wandering the halls. During the game, Patrick Ewing was chatting with Larry Johnson and Chris Mullin (I was soooooo tempted to pull out the “Big L” gesture, but that sounded royally unprofessional, so I just thought about it and giggled.) and Woodson was chatting with Thibs and Rick Carlisle as Flip Saunders idled nearby. Allan Houston and Steve Smith simultaneously nearly knocked me on my tuckus as I was scrambling to go hear Tim Hardaway’s post-game thoughts. Tony Delk, Ralph Sampson, Mitch Richmond, Mitchell Butler, Calvin Booth, Nick Van Exel, Mark Madsen, and many others (more than I can recall right now) are out and about. If you’re a hoops addict, it’s just something you’ve got to do.
Anyhoo, in case you missed it, (say if your eyes were more firmly glued to the Five o’clock gong that signaled Ron/Metta’s impending post-amnesty free agency) the ‘Bockers came out on top by a score of 82-69.
Of course the final result is of far less importance than how the draft picks, rookie free agents and youngsters plucked from the various Euro and other leagues fared. So, in lieu of hashing out how and why the Proto-Knicks evened their record at 1-1 (Oh, because of this year’s playoff format, there’s an odd point system in place. Each team receives one point for each victorious quarter. By my back-of-the-napkin calculations, The S-Knicks also won 3-1. Even more funz, if a game goes into triple overtime, it’s decided in sudden death. I’ll be here through Monday, and even though the thought of a triple OT SL game sounds awfully dreary, I’m geeking to actually witness sudden death hoops. We’ll see…), here’s how the once and future New York darlings did, with a few added pearls of wisdom from Herb Williams, who was kind enough to give his thoughts on the game while I was waiting for Tim Jr. to emerge from the locker room.
After two games (well, 1.25 games) a couple of things have become painfully clear (pun intended) about Timmy Jr.’s game. When he’s decisive, either by taking the ball to the rim or shooting open kick-out jumpers he’s a solid 2-guard. When he tries to freelance/create off the dribble or shoot twenty-footers with gobs of time remaining on the shot clock, he induces J.R. Smith-ian groans. Alas, this is probably the end of his Vegas audition as he banged his left wrist diving for a loose ball at the end of the first quarter and spent the rest of the game with a big ol’ ice pack wrapped around his dodgy joint. Luckily (which is not a word one usually associates with the Knicks and injuries) the x-rays came back negative. According to Herb Williams, “He started off the game great for us. He was hitting shots, rebounding the ball, pushing up the court.” I asked about his proclivity for inefficient two’s. Herb continued, “That’s all right. He’ll find his way. He’s still finding his way. He’s still young, but a very, very high basketball IQ. Understands the game. Real competitor. He’s gonna be a plus for us.”
After the game, Hardaway said:
I tripped…It was on a fast break, and I fell backwards. I tripped and tried to brace my landing, and it didn’t go that well for me. But I’ll be fine. I’m good now, I’m just icing it, letting it rest, and I hope that I’m ready to go tomorrow.
Selfishly, I’d love to see him spin for a few more, but there’s very little upside to testing the wrist at this point. I assume we’ll be hearing that the team is putting him on the shelf for, “precautionary reasons” at some point soon.
Didn’t play. It was a bit odd, because the rumbles and grumbles were that he’d play the first three games and skip the playoffs. Evidently one subpar PG stint was more than enough because he’s definitely done. Oh well.
Another solid line – 13 points, 8 rebounds – after game one’s double-double apparently has garnered Young Master Tyler training camp invite. As with all of these here scribbled evaluations, there’s a big grain of salt placed squarely next to ‘em available for your consumption. Said mineral has the phrase, “This is against guys who will likely be plying their trade in Uzbekistan and not the NBA,” inscribed in 48-point font. That said, though he banged home a few high-arcing mid-range, he’s an energetic, athletic big that does most of his damage (often literally) on offensive rebounds and dunks. He often doesn’t really know what to do with said kinetic force, resulting in wayward elbows to the likes of Chris Singleton. One fun note: during halftime he was chatting with Herb Williams, who was giving him a fairly intensive lesson in how not to bring the ball down to his waist when stationed in the paint. Tyler was nodding and sort of grimacing. He seemed less bullishly out of control in the 2nd half so…good coaching, Herb! My favorite moment came when he was cherry picking in the 1st quarter and, after throwing down an oh-so-posed dunk, he shot a glare of pure cold death-rage at Jan Vesely.
Knick knation seems pretty amped about Toure and with good reason. Unless there’s an unknown foreign expat about to arrive on NY’s shores, he’s this year’s Pablo/Cope/Mozgov. Tell us about him, Herb:
He’s been under control for us, playing the point guard for us, coming off the bench behindbacking up Chris Smith. Did a good job as far as setting people up. Mostly, I knew him as a scorer, but now he’s showing that he can play some point for you. Pickup full court, helluva defensive player, get through screens.
I concur. Like Herb said, you could tell that his instinct when he had the ball was to create for himself, but even if he wasn’t able to consistently get all the way to the rim on the pick and roll, he showed a knack for finding open shooters when the double team arrived. At 6-4 or 6-5, he’s got real nice size for the position and I’d much prefer Toure as the 3rd PG as opposed to the bargain bin lot of FA’s that are remaining. Especially Aaron Brooks. No Aaron Brooks, Herr Grunwald, for the sake of all our mental/emotional/physical health. The general chatter is that he’s got a ticket already punched for training camp.
You’re on a roll, Herb. Keep going
Jennings played well for us. He can rebound the ball, mid-range jump shot, can get to the rim, quick first step.
Sure, all of that.
When he wants the ball in the low post, CJ makes bird sounds.
Our draft pick – I mean the kid we picked up, came out strong in the 2nd half and was really attacking the basket.
This is true. CJ’s shot is cringe-worthy, and whether he’s an undersized PF or a long, athletic SF, that’s the part of his game that’s going to have to improve. It’s a Balkman-esque shot right now, where even the rim seems like a step in the right direction. Actually, a taller, longer Balkman – sans the dreadlocks and vaguely herbal aroma – is an apt comparison.
So that’ll about do it. Vargas has a nice shot, Chris Smith isn’t a point guard, Jerome Jordan looked out of sorts (he only recently finished up in the Orlando SL) if pretty much the Jerome Jordan-ish character we’ve seen in the past, and I can’t think about much to add about Liam McMorrow except he sounds like he should be a tenured professor of Welsh Literature at Occidental or Reed College.
There’s another tilt tomorrow at 4pm. Till then, Happy Bastille Day!