I’ve spent more time in Memphis’ arena than any other arena but the old Reunion Arena in Dallas, where I grew up and was lucky enough to go to about 10 games a year with my Dad, who would buy one of those wonky half-season passes and split the time between taking me or my Mom or a client. Alas, the Mavericks were garbage during most of those years in the early to mid-90s, and so as a boy I found other teams to root for. Never the front-running type, I fell in love with two teams during those formative years, one from each conference: The Seattle Supersonics, whose green uniforms fit my favorite color, and the New York Knicks, the team that finally beat the Bulls every other kid loved and so I, naturally, hated. Let alone that Michael Jordan was playing baseball that year, as a 9-year-old all i knew was that DING-DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD, and the Bulls were finally not in the NBA Finals in 1994. You all remember the results of that series and it was the topic of my very first Knickerblogger article, so I won’t rehash one of the most painful memories in Knickdom, but that’s how I became a Knicks fan and they became my East team.
I know it’s considered sports blasphemy in some circles to have two teams, though I justify it by them playing in separate conferences. Once the Mavericks were good enough to win more than 12 games in a season, I dumped the Sonics and returned to my roots, and to be fair, if the Mavericks and Knicks ever played in the NBA Finals, I would have no second thoughts about rooting for the Mavericks. But there’s another team I have a soft spot for, because I lived in Tennessee during my high school and college years, attending the University of Tennessee with dreams of a future in sports journalism. That team is of course the only NBA team in the state, the Memphis Grizzlies, and in my many trips to that fabulous and underrated city, going to Grizzlies games has always been the highlight of those little respites from the toils of daily life. Their crowd is legitimately one of the best in the league, their mascot is without a doubt the best in the league, and their team is a call-back to old-school basketball from the 90s, the closest thing to those Knicks teams of old we have in the current NBA.
The Knicks were given their 3rd chance since late November to climb over the .500 hump, and failed once again against Brooklyn sans-Melo. I’m not going to call them our cross-town rival because that shitty franchise doesn’t deserve that honor. They might play in an arena close to the Garden, but their geographic proximity is not enough to establish a rivalry. Every time the Knicks get to the precipice of Mount .500, they stagger back a few paces, and tonight could prove to be another set-back if Melo and Kristaps don’t play. Both are considered questionable, but quotes today from Ian Begley on ESPN.com suggest that they will likely not suit up in Memphis.
Kristaps Porzingis isn’t sure exactly how he injured his right shoulder but he was feeling “a little soreness” in the shoulder Friday. Will he suit up vs. Memphis? “Depends on if the doctors let me play or not… if they’re depending only on my decision, I would play tomorrow. So we’ll see what happens,” he said after practice. Porzingis is listed as questionable for the game.
Carmelo Anthony doesn’t seem very optimistic about playing Saturday against the Grizzlies. “(I’m) not where I want to be at this point. It’s only been two days or something like that,” Anthony said after practice Friday. “It’s something I don’t want to linger around if I try to rush it back. If I can go tomorrow, I’ll go. If not, I won’t.” Anthony is listed as questionable. He missed Wednesday’s game against Brooklyn with a sprained right ankle.
This is depressing news in a game the Knicks could really use (and the Mavericks really could use them winning, too), but in a theory popularized by Bill Simmons at the expense of perhaps the greatest Knick ever, Patrick Ewing, the Ewing Theory may be at play. Think of pick-up basketball, or your high school basketball team, when one guy is obviously the best player on your team, and so he ends up taking the majority of the shots. You all want to win, and so you design plays and run the offense through him to give yourselves the best chance. But then he rolls an ankle, or gets a cold, and now you’re playing without him. Sure, on the surface it looks like the team is worse, but for all of you, it means more shots, and thus, more fun. For a game or two, it can be really refreshing to play without a couple of your best players, and the Knicks have a shot at this tonight. Afflalo will almost assuredly be putting on a cape in the locker room tonight in a maniacal effort at hero ball because he knows he is the 1st and 2nd option tonight, but the rest of the guys are going to get a lot more run. Lance Thomas will get to play 30+ and O’Quinn and Gallo will see extended minutes as well. The Ewing Theory is in full play tonight if Melo and Taps don’t go, and from time to time, this is a good thing for the other guys on the team to be able to play more loosely and not have to feed the players that are ostensibly better than them. More shots=more fun, and anyone who plays basketball can attest to that.
This Memphis team has gotten a few very good victories at the hands of Eastern Conference teams we were happy to see them find a way to beat lately, with a 10-point 4th quarter comeback against the Celtics and a game-winner against the Pistons this week. Let’s hope the Knicks can win tonight and not let those L’s by teams jockeying for playoff spots with the Knicks go to waste. We’re only 1.5 games out of the 8 spot as of today, and a win tonight will get us back to .500 with a game against the 76ers all that stands in the way of being over .500 for the first time since a blissful five-day stretch in late November when we first saw signs this team might be more than we thought this year.