When I was a youngin’, the Martin Luther King Day afternoon game was always a treat. One, I got a day off from school in the middle of a typically bleak NYC winter. Two, the ‘Bockers always played (or at least seemed to) against one of the NBA’s better teams and occasionally they’d pull off a dramatic and/or unexpected win. Even more enjoyable (to a teenage me) is when there’d be some random act of violence and/or hostility
Some of y’all may recall, the Nix actually played in the first MLK Day game (it only became a holiday in ’86) v/ Philly and the next year took on the awesome and equally loathsome Celtics. A nip and tuck affair, they won it on a last-second, off-balance bank shot by their perpetually undernourished “power” forward, Louis Orr.
Then there’s the infamous game in 1990 when Trent Tucker nailed a rainbow trey with .01 left on the game clock for the win (leading directly to the, “Trent Tucker Rule,” which stipulated that a player needs at least .03 seconds to attempt any non-tip shot). You can see it at 9:43 of this clip. Particularly amusing (but alas, not shown) was Pre-Zen Master Phil Jackson’s’ look of utter incredulity after the ball went through the hoop, his hands grasping futilely at his Late-80’s-era NBA head coach perma-weave hairdo.
But of course, buzzer-beaters aren’t nearly as compelling as all-out brawls, if only for the crushing irony of fists flying on a day celebrating a man who dedicated his life to preaching non-violent resistance. Like in 2001 when Marcus Camby got a little peeved at future Cavs GM Danny Ferry and took a vicious swing at him, only to miss entirely and whomp Jeff “I should really never be allowed anywhere near an NBA brawl” Van Gundy upside the head. This lead to a series of hand-wringing and faux-appalled articles by the tabloids along the lines of “Oh the humanity!” or, “On Martin Luther King Day! Children were watching this game. Won’t somebody please think of the children!” And even, “Dr. King’s legacy/work/words mean nothing to these hooligans on the court!!!”
Honestly though, I’m fairly sure they just recycled the same “think-pieces” they’d written in ’93 when, after a close-fought Nix-Suns game, Charles Barkley, displaying his usual sense of timing and clearly only wanting to have a calm, rational discussion (that in no way involved violence or violent rhetoric) about some calls that he disagreed with, literally vaulted the scoring table to chase down Referee Jim Clark, wrecking a few Commodore 64’s, Wang Laptops (Seriously, there used to be a big-time computer company called “Wang.” Another delight for teenage me. [Wang, tee hee!]), and Apple 11g’s before being forcibly restrained by all-time bad, lumbering backup 7-footer, Tim Kempton.
I hope you all enjoyed this brief primer on MLK Day and the Nix, b/c honestly, I just didn’t want to write about today’s miserable game of basketball. They lost, which will happen from time to time, but if you check the comments in the in-game thread, folks are pissed. Raymond Felton is getting those perturbing Chris Duhon comparisons again. Stat’s soft. D is awful, etc. etc…Basically, all the things we heard and said at the start of the season. I guarantee a ratcheting up of the howls by the unwashed masses plus Berman/Isola/Vescey to, “GET MELO NOW!!!” You can set your watch by it.
In brief, the Knicks were just terrible closing out on three pointers and let the Suns hang around all game. It was odd. I said myself in the comments it seemed as if the Knicks were “waiting to win.” Now, I try not to delve too much into bad sportswriting sociology/psychology (e.g “They wanted it more.” “We weren’t hungry.” “This team has no heart” and on and on.) but in this instance, it seemed as if they felt they were about to go on a 20-2 run at any moment and put the Suns away, but it never happened. There were a few brief flurries, but really the two teams stayed within 3-4 points of one another until the very end. Alas, Stat missed some gimmes in the 4th, the Knicks committed a ton of silly fouls and the ghosts of Channing Frye, Vince Carter and Grant Hill made clutch bucket after clutch bucket. Here’s some more detailed thoughts on our heroes for those of you who are gluttons for punishment.
RAY-RAY: Somewhere, Ted Nelson is smiling. Felton’s been off for a few weeks now. 13 dimes notwithstanding, 3-13 from the field is just not good. Is this a return to his statistical norms or is he suffering from fatigue/overuse or is he hurt worse than he;s letting on? Only time will tell.
STAT; 39 41 points (TOTH to BigBlueAl) is sure swell, but as previously mentioned, he came up small in the 4th. Then there’s his, “I’m not going to contest this shot b/c I can’t get in foul trouble” thingy. I get that, but that shouldn’t carry over to rebounding. How a guy 6’10” who can jump through the roof finishes with only 6 rebounds is beyond me. Maybe I should ask Brook Lopez.
GALLO: He had a solid game coming back from injury, but he’s still got to demand the ball more. Felton too, needs to find him when he’s heating up.
DWTDD: There’s good Toney, who’s a major pest on D, can semi-run the point and cans open shots. Then there’s bad Toney, who takes awful contested runners, turns the ball over constantly, and seems like his b-ball IQ is at Jerome Jamesian levels. Guess which one we got today?
WILLLL-SON CHAND-LA: Not much to say. His some nice shots but also missed a ton of 3’s and wasn’t a factor on defense. It’s these so-so, it doesn’t really matter if he’s on the floor or not, games that make the populace clamor for that guy in Denver. (Of course, it’s these disappearing acts that make it much harder to get said Denver-ite (Denver-ian?).
EXTRA E/BULLY WALKER: Like twin demiurges, they both had some nice moments (E off the dribble, Dubs from downtown), but there were defensive lapses and putrid fouls galore v. Carter and Hill, who both played like it was the year 2000.
LANDRY FIELDS: Dude needs a nickname. Plus, he needs MD’A to play him at the end of the game. He was his usual intangible-tastic, rebounding, spot-up shooting self, but for reasons unbeknownst to your humble correspondent, didn’t play in the 4th till the game was out of hand. When Landry doesn’t get enough PT, the angels weep tears with droplets o f WP/48 inside.
C’est tout, mes gars. There’s a nasty Southwestern road trip coming up, with both the Spurs and Thunder on the docket seeking some measure of retribution. Yikes. This is still a young team, and games like the last two are bound to happen, but to paraphrase/honor Dr. King, “We, as a team, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.”