At about 4:30 Wednesday two tickets to the Knicks game fell on my lap. Unfortunately due to personal circumstances it wasn’t a good day for me to go. So I tried to unload the tickets. I sent an email to a few writers on my site, but no one was able to go. I sent a second email to a few commenters, again with no luck. I tried to call up a few friends, but to no avail. In essence I couldn’t give the tickets away. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
So I had two options: let the tickets go to waste or go with my daughter to her first game. I really didn’t want her first Knick team to be this one that wins one out of every four games. You really have to be careful not to scar your children. One wrong move and she could end up a Nets or Celtics fan. But in the end I figured that a 8 month old wouldn’t remember the event anyway.
I got to my seat about 25 minutes before game time, and my daughter seemed more interested in the flashing lights than the on court action. Considering the state of the franchise, that’s probably a good thing. The Rockets took the floor to practice first and immediately began with two layup lines. They had two different variations or this excersize. The first a traditional layup line, where the player receives the ball from about the free throw line extended and drives towards the hoop. The second is where a player receives a pass only a few feet from the hoop. The latter operates at a faster pace than the first, as players arrive at the basket nearly one on top of the other. It’s nearly Harlem Globetrotteresque in its speed.
As Houston is warming up, the Knicks enter to applause. David Lee leads the charge and is the first on the court. The Knicks start a layup line of their own, but disperse it quickly for an informal shoot around. In fact it seemed as if the Rockets and Knicks both started their shoot around at the same time, despite Houston begining their warmups a few minutes earlier.
During the shoot around, you can see a stark contrast between the two sides. On the Rockets side, nearly every player is on the perimeter working on their shot, or some sort of move to potentially gain separation from a defender. It seems that on their side of the court, there’s always a ball in the air. On the Knicks end there are only 3 or 4 players that seem interested in practicing while the rest of the team socializes. Zach Randolph is one of the more notable socializers, chatting it up with anyone who’ll lend him an ear. He goes from one side to another, and spends nearly the entire time talking. Meanwhile, David Lee asks a few different players for tips as he practices his jumper from a few different locations on the floor. In lieu of shooting, Malik Rose plays defender and tries to pass some of his knowledge on to some of the other Knicks.
Oddest of all is the behavior of Renaldo Balkman. One of the stars of the summer league, Balkman has been buried on the bench for most of the year on a Knick team struggling to find production at the swingman spot. There’s a lot of questions surrounding his lack of use. Rumors have spread that either Balkman is physically unable to play or has earned his way into Isiah’s doghouse. Balkman barely breaks a jog when doing layups, and spends most of the pregame doing promotional work with some youngsters. It appears that he’s physically unable to play, until he explodes to the hoop for a two handed slam. Balkman then heads to the bench with the rest of the team.
At the introductions, most of the Garden is fashionably empty. Since Yao Ming brings an influx of Rocket supporters, Houston players get a few cheers as they are announced. At least they do until the Knick faithfuls catch wind of what’s occurring. By the third Rocket, Knick fans attempt to drown out the cheers with a chorus of boos.
The first Knick to be announced is Isiah Thomas, whose name is met with a boisterous derision from the crowd. As the players are announced I decide this is a good opportunity to teach my daughter the all important skill of clapping. However I find it hard to cheer for the Knick starters. Quentin Richardson? Zach Randolph? I wrestle with my conscience and decide teaching her to clap is more important than my dislike of Isiah’s choice of starters. We cheer each player on in unison. Last is Stephon Marbury who receives just about the same reaction from the crowd as Yao Ming. A loud mix of cheers and boos.
Unfortunately the action is good, but my daughter is still interested in the bright lights around the arena. As the game wears on, she grows restless. Every parent of a young child knows this is their nice way of saying “I want to go to sleep now.” I give her credit for lasting until halftime. Luckily I live close enough to the garden to know I won’t miss much of the action, and I catch most of the rest of the game from home.
The next day I receive a call from my wife. “Wait until you come home and see what your daughter is doing.” When I got home, my daughter showed me her new skill: clapping.