“And I — my head oppressed by horror — said:
“Master, what is it that I hear? Who are
those people so defeated by their pain?”
And he to me: “This miserable way
is taken by the sorry souls of those
who lived without disgrace and without praise.
They now commingle with the coward angels,
the company of those who were not rebels
nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,
have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them —
even the wicked cannot glory in them.”
I just spent more than 10 minutes searching through the Internet for quotes about mediocrity, because that’s what we’re witnessing night after night, when I stumbled upon that perfect gem coming from Dante Alighieri himself (more specifically, from Inferno, Canto III). He’s talking to Virgil about the cries coming from around the City of Dis, which encompasses the circles ninth through sixth of Hell. These guys, these poor souls, are the ones who were sinners but not in a bad enough way to consent the high devils to rejoice in them, for the lower circles of Hell (where the upper echelon of devilish spawn resides) are far from there, and due to the structure of Hell itself those guys can’t ever go anywhere but there.
Why did I get entangled in the (world wide) web trying to find a scathing quote about mediocrity, you might ask. Well, you know, after last game against Brooklyn I caught myself thinking about the fact that I might have been a bit too harsh on the coaching staff, and wondered why. The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind, but in the fact that it’s very, very hard to endure this endless suckitude without the comfort of knowing that someone, somewhere, knows what he’s doing. This is my – give or take – 45th recap of the season, and while I always watched all Knicks games since 2011, there’s a strange malady seeping in when you realize that you’re supposed to be able to write about basketball and there’s not really much to be said… and there are still 34 games to go. You find yourself willing to blame someone for this abominable spectacle, because if it’s true that the team as currenltly built is worse than terrible, at least a fan should be supposed to find silver linings here and there. When you see pretty much only disparaging scenarios thanks to a multitude of factors, it’s only fair to lose hope in who’s behind the wheel. Appropriately, the warning sign above the entrance to Dis goes like this: “Per me si va ne la città dolente/Per me si va ne l’etterno dolore/[…]Lasciate ogni speranza o voi ch’entrate“, which means, quite literally, “From now on you’ll only see pain, leave any hope behind”.
That’s what I advise for anybody who’s willing to endure those aforementioned 34 games left.
What’s strange is that this game was never a blowout, and we had a good chance to win it (tied at 90 with just 4 minutes to play). It’s not the outcome that was a problem here: it was the general play of the team. There were long stretches, after Frank got out with a groin strain, where it was hard to find anyone who you could root for in orange and blue. Figure this: Burke-Hardaway-Knox-Thomas-Vonleh, on a rare Vonleh off-night. Who do you root for? Who do you care for? I kid you not, Mario was the third most rootable guy for us tonight (Mitch first, your sucker of choice between Trier, Frank and Dot second – I choose Trier -, and then Mario). At the same time, it was impossible to root for them to fail any worse than they already do: they’re bad as it is, what good comes from beating a dead horse? So, yeah. Utter mediocrity.
– I was thinking that maybe… Nah, next question.
– If not for an alarming tendency to pass the ball while already jumping in the air, Damyean Dotson (14 pts, 1 reb, 4 ast, +6 +/-) would have been in the good section and maybe the hero of the night. He was the only one that visibly didn’t give up when the Knicks went down by eleven with nine minutes to go in the fourth. His effort was goodish, as was the willingness to take (and make) a few shots in the period. He just didn’t do anything really heroic, missing three free throws in the same span and turning the ball over with just 2:20 to go and the Knicks down four, giving Wayne Ellington a free lane to the basket. From there, Miami never relinquished the lead and Ellington proceeded to hit two very difficult threes, as if he had been awoken by that mistake. I also don’t know what’s happened to the good rebounding Dotson. Last year, he gobbled 17.5% of available defensive boards. This year he’s down to 12.8%. Over the course of 36 minutes, it’s a difference of 1.3 boards. It might see negligible, but if Dot’s not a good rebounder (right now he’s in the 65th percentile of guards and wings) his contribution on the court shrinks a lot.
– I feel a bit sick, but maybe I have to insert Tim Hardaway Jr. (22 pts, 6 rebs, 5 ast, -14 +/-) here. Apart from his usual putrid plus/minus, where every starter is at fault save for the poor Frank, he at least stuffed a bit his box score and I have to commend him for the boards and assists. He also came through a bit in the fourth, when he hit the three that tied the game at 90. Other than that… I don’t exactly know what to say about him, these days every THJ game goes by in a cloud of whateverness, unless he’s really bad. A very nice idea to give 17 million dollars to a quintessential sixth man from the early aughts.
– Ouch. If I told you that we traded right now Kevin Knox (4 pts, 2 rebs, 33.3% FG, -15 +/-) for a couple of second rounders, would you really be that upset? I mean, I would surely be because it’s crazy to sell so low on half a season from your lottery pick, but his production has nosedived in January, Sixers game notwithstanding. For this month, he’s averaging 12/4/0.8 on 36/28/77 splits, 0.5 AST/TO ratio, 46% TS, 87 ORtg and 117 DRtg. That’s simply a woeful player. There’s something really off with him in the last weeks. Maybe he could use a bit of rest.
– I love the fact that we’re starting Lance Thomas. It’s like we’re going to war with a water gun but, just to be sure not to harm anyone in any way, we never fill the reservoir.
– Some nights, not even Vonleh gives a damn about playing. These was one of them. Hassan Whiteside is not an easy customer, but Vonleh was routinely overpowered and left looking like a small child. Also, while he has showed that he can hit the three here and there, I’m not that fine with him beginning almost every game taking at least two threes in the first four minutes. He’s open, it’s ok that he shoots. But when he doesn’t hit at least one his game spirals out of control, and I don’t like that.
– 24 minutes for Mitch, and he kinda delivered. Six points, seven boards, a lone assist, three steals, two blocks. If only we had someone who knows how to pass the damn ball. Fun fact: Mitch has a higher AST% than Knox.
– Trier got another double-digit scoring game, but was again subdued. His defense is suspect, but I like the fact that he seems to have developed a bit of chemistry with Mitch. He’s also horrible at playing point guard, but we already knew that.
– Burke played again and scored again, but 16 points on 16 shots are not a good thing. When I look at our PG rotation I feel like when I was 18 and opened a Magic: The Gathering pack only to find just lousy cards that I felt compelled to add to my deck to justify my purchase. Those cards were usually the ones who drove me to embarrassing losses.
– Frank can’t catch a break. For the second time in a row he was playing quite an average game, and could just play 16 minutes. This time it was an injury who robbed us of the chance to see what he can do as a starting PG. 6 points, 2 boards, 4 assists and a steal in 16 minutes aren’t that bad, as his positive plus/minus seems to indicate.
– Mario was energetic and gave us a few highlights for the night (most notably being on the passing and receiving end of two separate alley-oops). I feel like he’d be perfect in the All-Star Game, since he plays with passion only when everyone else is paying pretty much zero attention to what’s at stake in a game.
– Since I am clearly a masochist, I also watched the last quarter of Bulls-Cavs. When I saw the lineups chosen to finish the game by both coaches, I thanked whoever is governing our fate for having at least Trier and Robinson. The Cavs were trotting out Dellavedova-Burks-Hood-Osman-Zizic. The Bulls: Dunn-LaVine-Selden-Markkanen-Lopez. Us: Trier-THJ-Dotson-Mario-Mitch. Advantage: Knicks.
See you on Wednesday to rehash our Willy Hernangomez takes!